Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in photography but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Vincent Ledvina, a professional aurora chaser and photographer based in Fairbanks, AK, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I'm an aurora photographer and graduate student living and going to school in Fairbanks, Alaska. I am currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Space Physics, focusing on launching sounding rockets into aurora to study their properties. I run my small photography business, selling prints, merchandise, and NFTs to art collectors and licensing videos, particularly timelapse clips, to media agencies and museums.
Tell us about yourself
I've been interested in the natural world for as long as I can remember. My parents, especially my dad, brought me on many camping trips as a kid. I fell in love with the outdoors and always had a natural interest in science. Growing up in Minnesota, I was introduced to aurora during the "Halloween Storm" of 2003, witnessing a magnificent display of northern lights above my house outside St. Paul. Although I was only a toddler, that memory became a focal point for my motivation as a scientist and photographer in the years to come.
Around the age of 16, I became fascinated with the aurora after seeing them again while in Iceland. I only had a basic point-and-shoot camera at the time, and that experience made me realize I needed to learn more about photography and how the northern lights "work," but most of all, it inspired me to share my experiences with others through art. Since then, I have devoted my life to the science and art of the aurora, and being able to share that experience with others is what fuels my passion to create and discover.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Seeing my work being installed in a museum was the culmination of my photography career. This year, I had the opportunity to display a real-time video of the aurora borealis from Alaska in the newly-opened WNDR museum in San Diego. The exhibit features a surround video experience where guests are transported into the aurora, creating an emotional experience that helps communicate what I felt in person underneath the same display. Being able to transport someone into my shoes is so exciting for me - the feeling of seeing a massive auroral display dancing all around you is surreal beyond words, and it's something I hope everyone can experience in their life.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Since I am a full-time student but also want to run my photography business, time management and finding a reasonable work-life balance are the two biggest challenges in what I do.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
To keep it simple, I would say that you need to find something you're passionate about - that's the biggest tip. Also, if your business feels like a chore, it's not going to work, ever! Creating your own business means you can create something that is sculpted to your interests, passion, and career goals - working should be fun. If it's not, something went fundamentally wrong, or your idea is not a good one.
Finally, make sure to separate your personal life from your business. One dangerous thing that can happen with a small business is that because your work is most likely tied to something you're already doing in life, like a hobby, it can bleed into your personal life and free time. Make sure that you can set aside time to do business-related things and also enjoy what inspired you in the first place.
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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