Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Jennifer Hulley, a therapeutic art coach, and photographer based in Burlington, ON, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
As a photographer, I create abstract fine art photography for the home and fine art branding photography for entrepreneurs and businesses of varying sizes. As a therapeutic art coach, I work with creative individuals to overcome perfectionism, limiting beliefs, and interfering habits through creative exploration, play, and positive psychology. I do this through 1:1 coaching programs, group workshops, and digital experiences. I also connect with the creative community through my Youtube channel, social media, and podcast.
Tell us about yourself
When I started my education way back in 2001, I focused primarily on early childhood learning, brain development, and play. I entered the workforce in 2006 as an early-year and primary school teacher. During my 15-year public teaching career, I began to specialize in special education through a focus on mental health, behaviour therapy and supporting diverse learners with autism through arts, cooking, and multi-media, working with individuals across ages, from middle school through young adults.
I've worked overseas in London, England, and locally in Ontario, Canada. Alongside that process, I was developing my skills and business as a photographer. I created a substantial side hustle as a commercial photographer working with brands in the food and lifestyle industry. In 2021 I stepped aside from working in public education to build my own business, starting first with content creation and business coaching. Through a long twisting road of self-discovery, I found myself in a space that combines my love of psychology and arts, and in my work today, I have two parts that create a full circle:
- I am a therapeutic arts coach helping highly sensitive, perfection-oriented minds to heal and find their inner peace, voice, and personal power through intuitive art-making. I currently offer virtual therapeutic sessions for individuals and small groups from my creative studio in Burlington, Ontario, Canada, and have plans to expand to in-person services in the future.
- I am a visual artist creating fine art photography prints and commercial branding, and product shots. I sell my fine work online in my shop and take on a select number of commissioned commercial projects for entrepreneurs, products, and businesses.
What keeps me going every day is being in a space where I can honestly say I love what I do. I believe in the power of creativity and art as a healing modality and have lived a multitude of first-hand experiences that make up my business values and model. I tried a lot of different business models over the last ten years as I found my way, and things really clicked into place when I moved away from a head lead space and landed in a heart-led space, pursuing what I feel passionate about.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Getting to a space where I felt brave enough to move away from what was expected of me. To stop doing what I thought would work and begin to lean into my passions as an individual. Walking away from a business model that was working financially but not filling my bucket emotionally to begin to put together something I absolutely love and firmly believe in.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
There is a lot of freedom that comes with owning a business, and the flip side of that is a lot of responsibility. It is all on you, every day, to keep the wheels turning, chart the course and ensure you are moving forward while doing the work, taking care of yourself, and remembering to enjoy the ride.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Tap into your unique skills, strengths, and interests first. Approach it not from a perspective of what can I sell but more "what am I excited to offer the world?" there will be a lot of times when the going gets tough, and if your business model is firmly rooted in an intrinsic "why" it will be easier to motivate yourself through the challenging periods.
- Make time for yourself. When you move from a traditional 9-5 or a job that has a structured setup, you can easily forget to schedule things for yourself, like breaks, lunch, and holidays. It's not only ok but imperative that you take care of yourself. As a business owner, your mind and spirit is the fire that will keep your business going, and you have to prioritize keeping yourself in the best space possible so you can do the work you are here to do.
- Have some fun with it! Break the rules. Change your mind. You left a traditional job for flexibility and freedom, so make sure to allow yourself that!
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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