On my Facebook page this week I shared the story about how Sara McConnell Photography was born:

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I have loved photography since I was 15 years old. It was on my list of dream jobs but didn’t seem practical or what was expected and so it became a passionate hobby.

In 2010 I had left my job in community mental health and was planning to be at home with my boys and take some time to re-group. I headed out to an event with friends and was taking photos when a business owner asked if I was photographer. Just as I was about to say ‘no’ the lovely woman in this photo nudged me and whispered ‘yes you are’.

I am not a risk taker. I’m cautious and a planner at heart but a week after that event I had a website and business cards.

For that, and so many other reasons, it was an honour to photograph her and her beautiful family last night. I will be forever grateful for her confidence in me and that serendipitous night.

 

 

 

I have a Type A personality.  I’m a rule follower.  I like plans.  I avoid risk.  I’m so averse to suspense and surprise and that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach that I avoid scary movies and roller coasters at all costs.  Five years later I still sometimes wonder how things have unfolded  the way that they have.

My business really was born on that serendipitous night when Andrea whispered ‘yes you are’.  What followed were friends declaring loudly ‘yes you are’ and ‘yes you can’.  The voices in my head that screamed ‘No! Scary! Warning! Off Course!’ were quieted by the voices of people who believed in me.  It’s a wonderful reminder of the weight and power of our words.

When I left my career in mental health it was meant to be a hiatus.  An opportunity to re-focus on my family and decide what type of counselling I wanted to pursue next.  When Sara McConnell Photography was born it was a temporary measure: a stop-gap until my children started school and I could get a ‘real’ full time job.

As someone who has worked as a grief and trauma therapist and as part of an on-call crisis unit I can tell you that being an entrepreneur is no less intense.  Nothing has surprised me more in the last five years than the roller coaster my business has taken me own.   I jokingly refer to it as my fourth baby because let me tell you the tears, sleepless nights, and hair pulling stress are no different than what the journey of parenthood has involved.

So why?  I mean why would I do something so out of character and so obviously not on the path I had chosen.  And how did something intended to be a part-time gig on the side turn into a very successful full-time business.

The whispers that turned into voices that turned into supportive friends, family, and clients.  It’s amazing how confidence inspires confidence.  Having friends who support me, who are honest with me, and who embrace my erratic schedule and the seasonality of my job is priceless.  Because I don’t have co-workers and I work from home I need that sense of community more than I ever did before.

Opportunities offered and those passionately pursued.  I have spent the past five years doing everything in my power to make Sara McConnell Photography a success.  I have brainstormed, knocked on doors, cold called, photographed over 1500 families, emailed, connected, and networked.  Five years has given me the confidence to say it’s not luck or circumstance but blood, sweat, tears, sleepless nights, and a whole lot of damn hard work.

A soft place to land.  My home and my family are my sanctuary.  My husband is the most patient and supportive partner I could ask for her.  I could not have built my business into what it’s become without his input and support.  The hours spent poring over business plans, spreadsheets, and working through ideas.  He is an equal parent and partner in every way and my amazing studio and my sets: totally his incredible handiwork.  My children who location scout, hunt for props, not so patiently and sometimes patiently act as my muses and models.  It is because I want to be home and with them that we lead this seemingly chaotic existence.  When I feel overwhelmed it’s amazing how quickly it passes when I hear them playing next to my office or when I can pop out of my studio to see them when they get home from school.

Humble confidence.  From day one I have built my business my way.  I have been alienated by other photographers, criticized, and questioned, but I did things my way because I knew what was best for me.  At the same time I have never stopped learning and trying to be better.  I am always trying to improve my customer service, my clients experiences, to learn new editing techniques, to master different lighting; I recognize that I am good enough and yet will never be good enough.

No woman is an island.  Until last Fall I was sailing this ship solo and starting to take on massive amounts of water.  There was a lot of gasping, struggling, and screaming for help.  I was marketing, managing all the admin, book keeping, shooting, editing, promoting; like a one-woman side show, arms and legs flailing frantically in all directions.  Recognizing I needed help and asking for help was painful but transformative.  Relying more on my two amazing assistants; handing over all my promotional material and client documents to a graphic designer ; working through my plans and dreams with a business coach; having someone to manage and coordinate all my marketing and social media efforts: all of these women have helped quieted the storm and lifted an immense burden off my shoulders.   I do a damn good job running my business but what I love is shooting and editing.  I want to spend more time with my clients and less time in my office.

But really it still seems like a whole lot of stress and effort right?  I mean there are definite perks to a 9-5 jobs, benefits, and other people to share the burden of work.  So why bother with the chaos and struggle?

Passion.  I love what I do down to the tips of my toes.  I don’t see a crying toddler or scowling child and think ‘ugh, really’, I think ‘what do I need to do to connect with this little person’.  I love talking to my clients and hearing their stories.  I love the goose bumps I get when I’m shooting and when I get to see the photos all over again on my computer screen.  I love tearing up when I see the photos I’ve taken.  I love the hugs and smiles and laughter.  I am so passionate about taking photos that the love for what I do dulls the fear, the uncertainty, and the voices saying ‘you can’t’.