As a business owner, you work hard to build a successful business. You wear many hats, like customer service rep, CEO, CFO, manager, errand runner, etc. and people don't often get to see the behind the scenes struggles that come with running a business. I recently had the honor of being interviewed and featured in VoyageDenver Magazine and was asked to share my story about starting my business and building Sarah Lindsay Photography from the ground up. Keep reading the article below or see the article on VoyageDenver's website here.
Today we’d like to introduce you to Sarah Lindsay.
Sarah, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
When I was young, I would carry around my mom’s old briefcase and pretend that I was the CEO of some large company, conducting staff meetings, taking notes, typing numbers on a calculator that no longer worked… you know, the usual childhood make-believe games that ten-year-olds play. I didn’t put the two together at that point, or even years after, but that was the first time I remember wanting to be something more than an employee. I wanted to be the creator of my own success.
Fast forward to 2015. I had recently graduated from college and was bouncing around from job to job. I felt lost and frustrated that I couldn’t find a passion that made me want to get out of bed in the morning. My brother had done it – I swear he was born wanting to be a police officer, and at that point, had recently been hired onto the Fort Collins Police Department. My dad had done it – he had been a pilot for 25+ years at that point. But since I was raised to walk down an expected path: graduate high school, go to college, get a degree, get a career, stay at the same career until you retire, I had forgotten that I had wanted to start my own business and be my own boss in the first place.
This lifelong dream of being my own boss was bubbling up but I hadn’t noticed it because I was too consumed with the thought that I was failing at life. So, when my (now) husband gifted me with a DSLR camera one Christmas, it opened the door of opportunity and gave me the tool I needed to make the jump and start my business.
So, I started photographing things like flowers, water droplets, and my pets. Then, for some crazy reason, I decided to apply for a wedding photography internship (with absolutely NO experience whatsoever). To my great surprise, they took a chance on me and hired me as their intern wedding photographer! I gotta be honest, I was so scared my first day – I had no clue how to work my camera. The company told me they would teach me how to be a photographer, but when I asked what settings they used on their camera, they told me they shoot in (dun, dun, dun…) AUTO MODE! I was flabbergasted! So, I made it my mission to teach myself how to use my camera to it’s fullest potential. After about a month, I was in full manual mode, had multiple lenses, flashes, and felt like I finally was good at something. From there, photographing people and empowering women through my lens grew into a passion and I started Sarah Lindsay Photography.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It seems like a lot of people think they can start a business, get a website, and ‘poof!’ they’ll be rolling in hundred dollar bills the next day. But in reality, it’s not like that at all. Building and running a successful business is hard work. It’s a daily grind, albeit one you actually enjoy doing, and takes a long time to become profitable.
I never could have predicted how rough the road would be, and to be honest, it’s still rough sometimes. I’m constantly “failing” (as a Type A perfectionist, that’s really hard to admit!). However, without failure, success will never follow. You will never know what doesn’t work, and therefore what will work until you fail.
I’ve had my fair share of roadblocks: starting my business without knowing how to use a camera or run a business for starters, but also not knowing how or when to say ‘no’ to a client that I know, in my gut, isn’t right for me.
I clearly remember one client, a few years ago, when I was still photographing weddings. After just our first conversation, I knew she wasn’t going to be a good client. However, I was new to the industry, needed the money, and hadn’t learned to trust my gut yet. So, I took her on as a client. But soon, she started pushing for discounts, freebies, and more things that she hadn’t paid for. She would say passive aggressive things and critique me, knocking my confidence. She was a bridezilla.
That was the last time (ok, fine, the second-to-last time), I didn’t listen to my gut.
There are also daily challenges that come with running a business. I feel like today, with social media, people only see the “rainbows and butterflies” side of your business and think that running a successful business is a piece of cake, but in reality, it’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Accounting, marketing, customer service, CEO, operations manager, professional photographer, are just some of the hats I have to wear on a daily basis.
Running a business is hard work. Running a successful business is even harder.
But, you know what? I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Sarah Lindsay Photography story. Tell us more about the business.
Sarah Lindsay Photography is a Denver Luxury Portrait Photography studio who specializes in high-end High School Senior girls and Family photo experiences.
I am passionate about empowering women and girls to be confident, feel beautiful, and achieve their dreams. This is the driving force behind my business. Coming from experience, women never think they are enough. Well, I am in your corner, saying, “Yes, you are enough. Yes, you are beautiful in your own unique way. You are smart, confident, and able to achieve anything you put your mind to.” We are also passionate about giving back to the community and donating to deserving causes, like the Rose Andom Center and the Police Unity Tour.
I have built Sarah Lindsay Photography to be a nationally recognized portrait studio and my work has been featured on the cover of Shutter Scene Magazine. My work has also been featured on major photography websites such as ShootDotEdit and Miller’s Professional Imaging and has been nominated for the City of Northglenn People’s Choice – Business of the Year.
To our clients, your time is precious. I understand that and I want to make your experience as relaxing as possible. I will guide you through the entire process, from your initial consultation to your final artwork pickup, I’ll be by your side every step of the way.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
Good luck has not played a major role in my life or business. I strongly believe that I have created my own success from the ground up. However, bad luck has recently played a role in my life which has, in turn, affected my business, so this seems like a very fortuitous question for me right now.
When you’re a business owner, your personal life spills into your business life, there’s no way around it. You are the only one responsible for your success. You are the only one there, doing the daily tasks necessary to keep your business afloat. This became very real for me recently.
I had four family deaths in the past year and a half. Two were somewhat expected as my grandparents were getting old and their health was declining, but two were totally unexpected. Like, punch you in the chest with a red-hot iron, type of unexpected. I felt like I couldn’t stand up without getting knocked over by another blow to the heart.
This caused me to retreat into myself and fall into sadness. I didn’t want to get off the couch, I didn’t want to eat, and I didn’t want to work (coming from a self-proclaimed workaholic, that’s a big deal). In a way, I was lucky that the brunt of the depression hit during my slow season because my business suffered and I didn’t book a single client for months.
I’m still dealing with the grief, but, thankfully, I have gotten my business back on track and it is thriving once again! My studio is ramping up for High School Senior season this summer and have been booking clients months in advance.
A huge thank you to VoyageDenver for interviewing and featuring local business owners and showing their audience that running a business is not always sparkles and unicorns. However, I do want to say, running your own business is one of the most rewarding things you will do. So if you're considering it, go for it! Don't let fear get in your way.