I am super excited to be a finalist in the Creative Entrepreneur Category for the Ausmumpreneur Awards
Back in 2019, at an incredible gala dinner in Melbourne, I got a bronze gong for NSW Business Excellence, and here I am, back two years later for a chance at the Creative Entrepreneur category for NSW/ACT. Entering awards helps to boost your personal brand and provide a visual credibility to your hard work behind the scenes.
Here are some highlights of my interview with the panel…
What inspired you to start your business?
I wanted the flexibility of my own hours; the challenge of creating my dream lifestyle; the ability to be a lifelong learner; the chance to flourish as I enter different stages in my life as a woman and to not feel stuck in one role; the chance to collaborate with other businesses; the gift of using my talents; and the fulfilment of living to my full potential. I had been working for another photographer when my firstborn was 8 months old, and I literally caught the photography bug and just so loved the thrill of witnessing the love and connection between family members and their shrieks of excitement when they viewed their photos. I also liked my boss’s lifestyle of starting around 10 am after a swim or spot of yoga and that she took a lot of holidays once her team was up and running. I could not wait to create my own products and charm my very own clients!
What do you love about being a mumpreneur?
I love that I am able to network with other women in business, that I can still go to school pick up or an assembly if my child is winning an award, that I have a business that allows me to photograph families who are going through the same life stages as me. I am enjoying that as I get older I can use qualifications from past careers to tutor young children and that everything I have done up to now makes complete sense. I also love that I can bring my personality to my job and laugh a lot and remain professional at the same time. I get to be a kid and goof around as I make children smile and then when I am tutoring I get to delve into the mindset of a 10-year-old.
What has been your greatest challenge & how have you addressed this?
One of the biggest challenges over the last 12 months and unfortunately again at the time of writing this, was/is the cancellation of events due to Covid. Lion + Cub’s entire calendar of bookings was wiped out, with weddings, corporate events, and family portrait bookings cancelled.
Along with every other business in Australia, I adapted. I quickly realised that this was an opportunity to work on the structural elements of my business, and I undertook a comprehensive upgrade of my branding and online identity. I commissioned a new web build to include greater functionality and a customer experience that is both educational and inspirational, and I invested time and money into more sophisticated marketing collateral.
A collaboration with a local business Healthy Habit Fitness, which provides outdoor fitness for new mums and includes childcare, provided scope for a community-based marketing campaign detailing the need to continue exercising while meeting new mothers after being in lockdown. The offer was for four weeks of training coupled with a family photoshoot; this gave mothers the chance to meet new women with young children, an opportunity to exercise – known to improve our mental health and calm feelings of anxiety – and beautiful memories of their family.
Moving forward, I plan to collaborate with other local businesses in a similar way as I believe that people genuinely like supporting locals in their area. Sydney’s inner west has an extremely high percentage of artists and people love the creativity that overflows into the streets with murals, music, festivals and great parks and cycleways. I have always used these vistas in my family and lifestyle photography because there is a powerful connection to the local environment and my knowledge of them gives me an advantage. In addition, my collaboration with the artists at Tortuga Studios gives me an important platform to expand what I offer to include an even greater creative element, already seen to be a significant driver of business.
What have been your top 3 greatest achievements in the past 12 months?
My goals over the last year were to improve my active and passive marketing strategies to reach new audiences and provide new and varied services to both existing clients and more broadly within my community. The first achievement was completing an intensive marketing course for photographers; secondly, I upgraded my websites to include greater functionality and a customer experience that is both educational and inspirational. Thirdly, I increased my prices and produced marketing collateral that lays out my products and services in a way that is enticing and drives results.
As a qualified Visual Arts/ English teacher with the NSW Department of Education, I also wanted to contribute to the education of children during this difficult time. I started tutoring young children in photography and visual arts to help give them a break from screen time and create new ways of interacting with their environment while developing an interest and enjoyment of the world through ideas, aesthetic and context. My students develop artworks and photographs through critical reflection, and gain new skills that prepare them for high school. This fosters the sense of well-being and achievement that artmaking brings. I have also worked with children attending after-school care at Newtown North Public School, providing portraiture workshops and painting murals and ceramic pots.
What do you wish you knew before you started your business?
It took me years to realise how important a growth mindset is to really make progress, and that you need to cope with falling down over and over. I also wished I knew how important it is to know your numbers and that learning accounting software such as Xero (even if you outsource it later) and the ability to accurately forecast your earnings for the coming months really takes you to the next level.
I also wished I knew how much software I would need along with how many different marketing strategies I would have to run concurrently. You need to be prepared to do the things that scare you!
What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting a business for the first time?
I would say that you need to be prepared to take risks, to wing it and be brave and open-hearted. You will also benefit so much from networking and surrounding yourself with a group of women you can bounce ideas off, collaborate with, and learn from. Be prepared that to make it a success you will have to give it every inch of your resolve and willpower and that you will have to put it lots of time while your children sleep, but that you will be rewarded with a sense of achievement that living a life of purpose brings. This purpose amplifies your uniqueness and that can be your gift to the world.
Why do you believe you should win this award?
The services that the branches of my business provide are unique within the scope of both my competition and what I provide to the community I live and work in.
Lion & Cub Photography has another branch of personal branding for small-business marketing. This strand of my business focuses on female-centric businesses and local companies. Corporate headshots, event and award nights photography and also working with the NSW Training Awards (NSW Department of Education) have been highlights.
In addition to this multi-focused approach, I am a teaching professional and this educational knowledge and experience plays an important role in the success of Lion & Cub Photography. Through my teaching, I am continuously learning and passing on my skills to assistants, students and sometimes clients, via educational blog posts, photography workshops, student tutoring and more.
My business operates from a well-known artist-run initiative in the inner west – Tortuga Studios – and this too offers an important point of difference. Tortuga is housed in an old brick factory in St Peters, and its industrial aesthetic is both much-sought after and on-trend. The large-scale photographic studio on the premises and external warehousing as a backdrop provides my clients with many different looks in one shoot. And this location has the added benefit of being opposite Sydney Park, the inner west’s best-kept secret and a firm favourite for family shoots.
I believe that I should win this award as I am in my ninth year of business and I have evolved creatively over the years with great humour – I‘ve survived my office flooding; along with an unplanned high-risk pregnancy at 43, which was the year I set up my studio! I have expanded my portfolio to service women and families of all stages and ages; established my private tutoring and continually learnt and grown while keeping true to my passion of being an artist with a burning desire to create.