Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in photography but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Mason Graves, founder of Mason Graves Photography, located in Jackson, MS, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Wedding, portrait, and event photography are my business. The majority of my customers tend to be couples who want engagement or wedding photography and families getting together around the holidays who want high-quality portraits of their family members.
Tell us about yourself
I was born and raised in Mississippi, graduated from Belhaven University with a B.A. in International Studies and a Master's in Healthcare Administration, and worked full-time in healthcare. Photography has been something that I've always had an interest in since young age. However, I decided to take the big leap of faith and pursue it as a part-time venture in 2015 in addition to my regular full-time job. It was very nerve-wracking at first since there were all sorts of fears and doubts going through my mind, including what if I don't succeed, don't make a profit, will people actually like my pictures, would there be enough time during the day/week to build a photography business in addition to working a full-time job, etc. The investment aspect of it was also daunting since good photographic gear isn't cheap! Many people out there don't try new things because they're afraid of the very real risk of failure. At the end of the day, though, I believe that the thing which motivated me every day the most was that I had a genuine interest in pursuing photography as a form of art and a way of meeting new people, which eventually became too obvious to ignore anymore.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment as a photography business owner is simply being capable of providing a service that brings long-term joy to others. There are many consumer products that we purchase, and within several years become either outdated or worn out, and we replace them with a similar or different product. Photography is a unique service, however, because it captures moments that can never be replaced. A newlywed couple's first kiss, a cake smash at a toddler's one-year birthday party, somebody getting down on one knee with an engagement ring to propose to his/her boyfriend/girlfriend. As a business owner, I'm always trying to find ways to grow my business and would like to see yearly bookings increase, but I consider the actual accomplishment of owning a photography business as being able to capture special moments which can never be replaced.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
After having taken the leap of faith to start the photography business, I would say that one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner is the personal resolve to keep doing it every day. There have been many days when I could think of ten reasons to quit and only one reason to continue, but your one reason to continue has to remain more influential than all the reasons to quit. For me, personally, my reason to keep doing it is in answer to the third question. Honestly, the photography business didn't make a profit during the first couple of years, and even after that, the profits were meager after factoring in expenses like new photographic gear, supplies, marketing/advertisements, etc. I realize that my situation may be different than a lot of other photographers since it's never been my full-time job, and I don't have to rely on earning money at photography to eat. The point is it was really hard to keep pursuing the photography business when the number of reasons to quit outnumbered the reasons to keep going, but daily faith and prayer enabled me to keep pursuing it.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
What has worked for me may not work for everyone, but here are three mantras that have enabled me to get through difficult times (including the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown):
- If you want to do something quickly, then do it alone, but if you want to go far at something, then do it with people.
- You can learn a lot by watching Youtube videos.
- Success depends much more on learning from failures than never making mistakes.
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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