Disclaimer: I will certainly be periodically talking about Define, but I have no intentions of making this the new Define blog. Instead, any photography lovers can follow Define’s Tumblr here if you’d like.
When I made the leap to build and launch Define I was such an idealist. And, I think that ended up being of benefit because had I started out a skeptic and run into the roadblocks I’ve run into I would have shelved the idea… oh three days in.
You know all those inspirational quotes out there like this one that are about pursuing your dreams, living outside your comfort zone, embracing failures, etc, etc? I think there is a lot of truth in those. Really, I do. And, I like to have them sprinkled throughout, living on my desktop, my Pinterest, my office, my home. But, when building Define I learned something I didn’t know before:
Building something new, living outside your comfort zone and making peace with the possibility that all your efforts are being spent in vain is HARD. Hard as in scary, tiring, complex, complicating, filled with rejection, laborious, tempestuous, grinding, merciless and unrelenting (and yes, I got all of those words using Thesaurus.com).
Unrelenting feels like the most accurate word. It truly was two steps forward and one step back with this venture.
There were days when I felt overwhelmed with excitement and other days when I closed my computer, threw it under the bed and swore to never open it again.
I would like to be able to say that the reason I kept on pushing ahead and not letting anything (or anyone) get me down was because of my own kickass’ness, but that’s not the case. There were many moments when I felt dry and in major need of some help and in those moments I had some amazing people surrounding me.
When I first got the idea about Define I emailed my friend Deb Schwedhelm. Over the next two or so months she was the ultimate confidante, helping me make decisions, challenging me to think about some things differently, emailing me notes filled with exclamation points of enthusiasm and more. The beginnings of this project would have felt so lifeless if I hadn’t had her there.
Four years ago I met Cyndi when she hired me to photograph her family. I ended up spending EIGHT hours with them on the day of our shoot. I ate breakfast and lunch with them and just about stayed for dinner. She is a professional consultant and I demanded that she hear my idea and give me her honest feedback. There were some things that she said in the beginning that SAVED this entire business. I remember looking at her totally perplexed in regards to some of her warnings and holy crap, she was RIGHT. Smart, smart lady.
I considered using a template for the website since getting a custom site built can be expensive. But, when I started looking I realized nothing would allow me to have what was living in my brain. So, I emailed Jessica Rose at Volume 25 to see if she did freelance design. She did not, but highly suggested I contact Hey, Sweet Pea. I stalked them on Facebook for days and then finally sent an inquiry. They immediately won me over with how easy they were to communicate with and said they could definitely build the site I had in mind. Their prices were also VERY reasonable (for a fully customized site as detailed as mine) so I said a prayer and took the plunge.
I now feel like I won the lottery to be able to call Scott and Elise from Hey, Sweet Pea friends. There were numerous days when I strongly considered not moving forward with Define and almost always I would receive some type of encouragement from Elise (We are 100% behind Define and KNOW it will be awesome!). Those are words that always seemed to come at the perfect time. This is why I coined us the #DreamTeam. Really, they’re the Dream Team and I’m the 3rd wheel.
If you are considering rebranding I would HIGHLY suggest contacting Hey, Sweet Pea. Elise’s extensive process of getting to know her clients (think 20 page document + 2-hour initial Skype meeting) is so rare nowadays. They will brand your business in a way that will make it stand out. And, standing out means more money for you.
My dear friend, Rebecca, a freelance writer, spent HOURS listening to me ramble and then writing all the text for the website. When she would send me proofs for text I would go bug-eyed at how well she understood my vision and put it into words. At one point I told her she was a magician! I like to write, but y’all know I write like I talk and I talk like a country folk. The site could not be as professional as it is without all her hard work and I am soooo indebted!
Celeste came on board early on as my executive assistant and has been the breath of fresh air I needed when all the work seemed lonely. She would sit with me through long lunches and take notes while I rambled on and on. She has always been a huge support and taken her job seriously and for that I am grateful.
My friends and family (you know who you are) were invaluable to me during all of this. Most of them don’t know the photography industry at all and that was a blessing in disguise. It was always great to get a unbiased, outside perspective on the business side of things, the relational side of things or just giving me reprieve from talking about anything relating to the camera. Our nanny is a part of this mix. We are so fortunate to have someone so responsible and flexible and loving to our children. I kept Lola with me as much as possible those first three months, but when I needed a nap or a quick workout Laura was always ready to help in any ways needed. She’s always been that way and I would be a hot mess of stress if I didn’t have her a part of our family’s life.
All of the teachers that signed on to Define are courageous pioneers in our industry. They took the plunge and signed on to something they had no idea if it was going to be a success. Their trust in me and the vision I have for this school means more to me than any one of them will ever know. I have goals for this school to grow and make a positive impact on artists and our world at large, but no matter how big Define gets they will always be the most remembered teachers I ever hired. I posted this video on Define’s Tumblr in honor of them. I am grateful they didn’t leave me dancing alone. (Thank you Elise and Scott Grice, Michael Wilson, Jonathan Robert Willis, Michelle Gardella, Kristie Serra, Shannon Sewell, Krysta Manthe, Lukas VanDyke and Kellie Hatcher.)
And, of course my partner in crime, Corey. Corey has had to step in and make a lot of sacrifices in order for me to pursue this dream. There were many nights I slipped off to work, many nights he got up with Lola because I had stayed up working so late and many (make that every) days he was the most rational sounding board I didn’t always know I needed. I know this goes without saying, but I truly married up. He is an amazing human being and I can’t believe he’s mine.
So very thankful,