Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in photography but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Lisa Haukom, Founder of Thegoldenbrand.co, located in Florence, OR, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I have carved out a unique path in the photography and visual content space, specializing in remote photography for personal brands. I also founded the Self Portrait Studio, an educational membership helping hundreds of women learn to love, heal, and accept themselves through the art of self-portrait photography. My clients are women between the ages of 30 and 60 looking for visuals that reflect who they truly are and their unique place in the world.
Tell us about yourself
I’ve been in the branding and visual space for about 25 years now, although it wasn’t until 2020 that I launched The Goldenbrand Studio to focus exclusively on photography. My first career was in museum curation, working at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Although I learned valuable skills that I still use today, it didn’t take long for me to realize that I would be happier in a more creative role. A few years in, I signed up for classes at the Culinary Institute of Los Angeles to follow my passion for food as a creative outlet. I was working at the Getty Museum by day and attending classes by night 3 to 4 times per week. Since I was working a very traditional day job, the kitchen was where I could take risks, express myself, and connect to others by sharing a good meal. I learned many lessons about myself through food and cooking.
After working in pastry for several prominent Los Angeles eateries, suffering third-degree burns on my arms while the head chef screamed at me to get back to work, I knew I needed something different. That’s when I launched my first business, a catering company where I could set the tone for a supportive, inclusive culture. It was so much fun in the early days, catering intimate in-home events, cooking the food I love, and working with an incredible staff. It was also exhausting, and I was completely unprepared for the intricacies of running a business while fulfilling the roles of chef, client support, bookkeeper, food sourcing, and event planner all by myself. What was a fun time quickly turned into serious burnout. I was staying up all night to get everything done and then on my feet during the day, hustling to meet deadlines. Physically and mentally drained, I made the decision to sell the company. It was then I also learned that it could be a slippery slope to turning your love for something into a career.
This is why I was so slow to embrace photography — it took a pandemic to motivate me to go all in. With the sting of burnout still fresh in my mind, it took fourteen years for me to launch the Goldenbrand (there was a clothing line in between) and name photography as my focus. Often when I am pulling images for a client project, I’ll come across an image that I just have to recreate for myself — whether it’s an inspiration for a self-portrait or a delicious palate of food that has me running to the kitchen. For me, it’s all connected. And as much as I loathe the term, I am a multi-hyphenate at heart, for better or for worse.
The Goldenbrand started as an account driven by my dual loves: photography and creative development. These two interests offered me a sense of purpose, a creative outlet, and a deep sense of accomplishment. The business was born out of my own self-discovery, self-education, and curiosity. At the time, all I wanted was to learn, share, and find a community of like-minded people. With the Goldenbrand, I found all three.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I didn’t grow up with entrepreneurial female role models. As I moved through my career shifts and pivots, I was fortunate to have a strong network of peers to lean on, from women who encouraged me to see the value of sharing my own self-portrait journey to other entrepreneurs who hired me for those first virtual sessions, trusting my vision and skills. Without their encouragement and support, I might be in a very different place today. I am extremely proud of creating a business and thriving brand out of my own personal journey.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
There are always challenges when growing a business, even if they aren’t the more expected struggles such as scaling, hiring, or financing. My struggles were more internal, specifically self-kindness and mindset. I found myself in the process of launching a business and trying to figure out who I was while also needing to be visible at the same time. You never forget the first moment you truly see yourself. What once began as a secret self-portrait journey with a tripod and my iPhone has transformed into a return to self-kindness and acceptance, with all parts of myself finally at ease. They have also given me community, friendships, and creative growth. They have allowed me to become an educator, mentor and have been a highlight of my journey so far. Self-portraits taught me how to care for myself. They taught me I was worth caring for. I will never stop reaching for them when I need reconnection. I will never tire of seeing a woman transformed and in awe of truly seeing herself for the first time.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Be human first in everything you do. I try to be a human first and a photographer second. I’ve learned how important it is to put the camera down and simply be present with a client. When I speak vulnerably and with honesty, I am able to connect on a deeper level with the people I photograph. It is always my goal to make a personal connection — to find common ground so they will trust me enough to reveal their truth. I’ve learned to honor and respect the people I photograph as they trust me with their stories.
- The biggest problems require creativity and change. You can’t become revolutionary without imagination. It’s important to ditch perfection and approach creativity with a “work in progress” mentality and remove the notion of perfection. Instead, tap into your own creative sensibility and cultivate your inner vision. The notion of perfection can limit your potential.
- No one can tell your story quite like you can. I think a challenge many of us share is becoming secure in ourselves and our worth and learning to wholly love and accept who we are. Many of my challenges in life would have been minuscule if I learned those things sooner.
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.
Turn your craft into recurring revenue with Subkit. Start your subscription offering in minutes and supercharge it with growth levers. Get early access here.