Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in photography but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Tony Taafe, Founder of Tony Taafe Studio, located in Scottsdale, AZ, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I have two headshot photography studios, one in Los Angeles and one in Scottsdale, AZ - my business supplies headshots and marketing materials to business professionals. My clients are business professionals and business owners who take themselves seriously - and don't kid themselves that a cell phone selfie isn't marketing self-destruction (because we all know it screams lazy). My clients are professionals who don't want the boring, stuffy business headshots that we've become accustomed to. They want something modern, engaging, with confidence and approachability. Something that shows some life, some personality.
Tell us about yourself
I grew up in Liverpool in the UK. Via Spain and then London, I arrived in Los Angeles with $1300 in my pocket and the offer of a work visa which never materialized (that's a whole other story).
I managed to acquire a journalism visa. A strong, strong determination not to leave a country I'd fallen in love with led me to a career in photography. First as a photojournalist, and then I went into headshot photography. I have a headshot photography studio in Scottsdale, AZ, and one in Los Angeles. I've visited 46 states in the US, almost all for work; I'm very fortunate that my clients value what I do. I can't begin to explain how much I value their trust and the opportunity that the US has given me. It changed my life.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
During the COVID pandemic, a different company I own (a photography agency) organized a US-wide initiative where we offered 10,000 unemployed workers in the US free professional/LinkedIn headshots. It all happened on one day in all 50 US states. July 22nd, 2020. It was right at the time when people were being laid off from their jobs, left, right, and center. We still get nice messages to this day from people who we photographed. Unemployment is something that affects individuals, families, and whole communities. It really meant a lot to my 200-strong team and me to help those affected.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
This question took me the longest to answer. Being a professional headshot photographer in cities like Scottsdale and Los Angeles is a privilege. Who am I to complain? I don't feel like I have anything that I can call hard. Not because some things aren't difficult, but they definitely are. But If you're an ambitious business owner, you go in with your eyes wide open to the unpredictability (financial and otherwise) of the long, long hours, no days off, and the fact that there are zero guarantees that anything will pay off. But if you navigate those things to the best of your ability, the freedom that comes with it is priceless. You're working like crazy because you want to, not because somebody else is telling you that you have to or you're fired. I wouldn't change that for anything in the world. But you do have to love working like crazy; that's a non-negotiable.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- If you don't produce the best product in your market, figure out a way to produce it.
- Listen to your client; they'll always indirectly tell you how to evolve your business.
- Don't overspend. One good year doesn't do good business. One bad year can toast you.
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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