Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in photography but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Suzanne Merritt, founder of Curious Soul Photo School, located in Boston, MA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
The Curious Soul Photo School offers workshops to amateur photographers longing to create images of the beauty of their life. This intuitive approach to photography guides photographers at all levels to a place where their inner and outer experiences of beauty connect. How you see the world, what you notice, and what brings you joy are the secret keys to creating images that bring beauty to life for yourself and others. There is a deep sense of satisfaction when we are able to translate our experience of beauty into an image. This is the experience we strive to offer our clients. If you handed your camera or smartphone over to your Curious Soul, what photos would it take?
Tell us about yourself
I am happy to share what I have discovered in the past 35 years as a photographer, Polaroid creativity expert, and philosopher. My desire is to help people take better pictures and express the beauty of their own life. After spending 15 years at Polaroid and then running my own creativity training business for ten years, I felt it was time to focus on the one thing that makes me feel most alive. That is the experience of beauty.
I see photography as a contemplative path to creative self-discovery that reconnects us to the beauty and joy of life. The Curious Soul Photo School is founded on the philosophy that BEAUTY is essential. Experiencing and photographing the beauty of life is good for our health and well-being. It reduces stress, increases engagement, and basically makes us feel more alive to create something of beauty through images.
We have discovered this has little to do with fancy cameras or technical skills and everything to do with creativity, curiosity, and mindfulness. It is a way of being in seeing. I have been designing and delivering these programs for 11 years and still love seeing people light up with delight when they discover how extraordinary the ordinary can be.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My sense of accomplishment comes from the moments when the photographs were taken by the photographers I have mentored eclipse my own work. Then I know they “get it” and can share their discoveries with others. Knowing this work takes on a life of its own through those who discover it is what I find most satisfying. When people discover the beauty in their own backyard, in the most ordinary moments of life, I feel a deep sense of accomplishment.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
I am in such a small niche market it is rare to find someone else to talk to about this work. So I often feel very much on my own. Finding the right words to market this work is a challenge. This approach to photography can be practiced with any type of camera, even a smartphone. So “real” photographers might not take it seriously. I have to be ok with that. As a business owner, learning that not everyone will want what you have to offer has been a hard lesson to learn. When you believe in what you offer, you think it can really benefit everyone. But that is not true. Not everyone is interested in what I have, even if I do find the perfect words to describe my service.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
Focus. Be crystal clear about the one thing your business is about and who will benefit most from your work. Write this on a big card and keep it visible at all times. On days when choices get blurry, refocus and make all decisions based on if it moves you toward or away from focusing on your purpose.
POV: Make it a practice to change up your point of view and vantage point. When taking the photo, I always move around and consider the subject from all angles until I find the best perspective. This is a helpful mindset for business as well. There is always more than one way to see the situation. Seeing with fresh eyes creates new possibilities.
Delete: To grow the business, sometimes you have to delete what is no longer working or serving you. Once a month, I review my images and delete the weak ones if they can’t be edited and improved. Make space for what you may discover tomorrow.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Running your own business gives and takes a great deal of energy. So be sure you really love what you do. You don’t have to love every part of it, but you have to truly believe the world will be a better place because of what you do. I have created a book called Flow-tography that teaches the basics from the Curious Soul Photo School as a good introduction to the method. You can check it out on the iTunes bookstore. Enjoy!
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email email@example.com; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
Feel inspired to start, run or grow your own subscription business? Check out subkit.com and learn how you can turn "one day" into day one.