Growing a small business while also growing my family was a journey filled with many twists and turns.
I began my education in an X-ray program in 2008 at a local hospital and was feeling on top of the world. I was optimistic about landing the perfect job after graduation but unfortunately, the financial crisis of 2008 hit and everyone lost their jobs. I remember some of my mentors who had been working for over 25 years lost their jobs, just like that. Laid off. It was so sad and terrifying.
Fast forward to October 2009, I had recently sworn off dating so I could focus my attention on finishing school.
Then, in walked my future husband, Aaron. We both had very busy work and school schedules but we made sure to prioritize our budding relationship on weekends and evenings. After graduation in 2010, jobs were starting to open up but the pay was discouragingly low. The job market was not where it was when I first started school. I graduated from an MRI internship early and started working full time with another per diem job to make some extra cash.
Aaron and I got married in September of 2012 and bought our first house together. Aaron was a volunteer firefighter and spent a lot of time at the fire department to learn new skills and gain the trust of his fellow firefighters. I quickly realized that working all day, coming home to 2 dogs, and watching TV at night with no additional hobby wasn’t enough for me. I’ll never forget a conversation I had with my friend, Amanda, who started a very successful body scrub and candle business. I told her I was thinking about starting my own business but I didn’t know what to do. After talking with her about my love of crafts and taking pictures, she suggested I start a photography business.
That was the night that I started my Facebook business page without even having a camera.
I would not recommend it but we all start somewhere, right? I started asking family and friends if I could photograph them. I bought my first camera secondhand from my brother while still working my full time job and my per diem one with on-call hours, I started doing model calls and figured out what I liked to photograph. Safe to say it was a very busy time in my life.
By the end of 2013, I finally made it official with my business. I still attended my other jobs, so photography filled all my other free time. I did not have a studio at the time so everything was done outside or in a lifestyle setting in the client’s home.
By the end of 2014, Aaron received orders that he would be deploying to Kosovo.
I was home with 2 dogs, working a lot, and I felt completely burnt out. I decided to leave the per diem position and only work the full time position 5 days a week to focus my weekends on photo shoots.
When Aaron was on deployment, he was allowed to have either 4 short vacation days, where he would have to stay in Europe, or he could have 1 long 8 day trip where he could come home to the United States. We wanted to see the world and our goal was to have 3 big trips before having kids so we met in Macedonia and traveled down to Greece to have a 4 day weekend. That was when we conceived our first child named Christian.
I’ll never forget saying to Aaron during breakfast one morning when I just kind of felt a little flutter in my tummy.
I said, “But what if I’m pregnant?”, he told me I was crazy, “You’re not pregnant, there’s no way you can tell if you’re pregnant now.” *Read that in a joking /loving tone. We always laughed when thinking about that trip, but I kind of knew it and I even said to my mom who picked me up at the airport that I thought that I was pregnant. A woman’s intuition right?
Sure enough I was pregnant.
I was home alone for 6 months until Aaron returned from his deployment. I was still working full time and doing photoshoots on weekends. I was also starting to do more weddings so it was a very tiring first pregnancy experience. I was also extremely sick. I remember one of my coworkers telling me that week 16 was the week that you would start to recover from the nausea and sickness. She was right. I started to feel better on the 16th week to the day. I was shocked. After that, I felt like a whole new person. I felt like I could enjoy this pregnancy more and I really did.
When we had Christian, we both decided that I would work less and at the maximum, part time, because childcare was more than our mortgage.
My photography business was growing very nicely, slowly, but nicely and we could use it as additional income.
In 2017, I stopped nursing Christian at 13 months, got my first period, and then was pregnant right away.
We were absolutely shocked. I was not ready to have a second baby. I still had not slept through an entire night without my son waking to nurse. I was in denial.. I did the normal course of taking the supplements and seeing the doctor but it never really felt like this was a true pregnancy until I started feeling him kick around 5 months. By October 2017, we had a beautiful baby boy named Cole. Life just got even more chaotic after that.
Life with two under two was fun but very crazy.
So crazy. You’re trying to entertain the toddler, while you’re trying to nurse, while you’re trying to run a business – it was a constant overload of emotions.
It was at this timeI realized that I had postpartum depression with my first son and didn’t even realize it. I felt so different after having my 2nd son, like I could go out and see people and I was OK asking for a babysitter or even just taking a shower while Aaron watched the kids. I felt like I was less of a helicopter mom. I also felt like I wanted to go out more with my 2nd. I was outside all the time and I just felt like a peppier and happier person.
At this point we were now moving into our bigger and better studio which really exploded my business to where it is now. Aaron is my biggest cheerleader and if it wasn’t for him I would not be where I am today. He has let me follow all of my crazy dreams, puts together props, stuffs marketing materials, which has now brought us to a 6 figure business, two employees and my dream studio that is built in my backyard.
As much as it was chaotic from 2015 even up until today when I sit here reflecting and writing this, I would never change it for the world.
God sent me my friend Amanda to tell me that I needed to build this business and to do something more for me, other than working for someone else.
A little tip for moms with children who are trying to start a business is scheduling out time, either during the day, during naptime or in the evening after the kids go to bed. Get a plan going.
It also does not have to be perfect from the get go.
Just getting started helps you learn what works, what doesn’t work, and what you need to improve on. I remember when I started doing photoshoots, I would bring a sheet into someone’s home to use as a backdrop to photograph their kids. Now, I’m more into the lifestyle backdrop. I love the light and clean and airy feel of the studio. I want my clients to have an experience from the moment they look at the website, to the moment they get their products from their session. It is an entire experience that has taken almost 9 years to perfect. In that time – I have grown, experimented, changed and learned.
When my kids were young and I didn’t have a babysitter, I would nap them at the same time and do at least 30 minutes of business work before moving on to dishes and laundry. I also didn’t get down on myself if something didn’t get done. The dishes are going to sit there, the laundry’s going to pile up, and as we speak, I’m looking at a pile of laundry sitting right in front of me that is screaming to be folded. I have found that it’s okay to let it scream.
I’m sitting here writing this because I want every single mother that is reading this, who is thinking about a business, who wants to start a business but has nowhere or no idea where to go – just start.
Write down the ideas, talk with your spouse, your family and friends. Even if they don’t think it’s a good idea now, sit down and talk to them and tell them this is the idea, this is how you will execute, and this is what you need from them. I feel more fulfilled than I could have imagined and I thank my friends and family for their unwavering support in my journey to grow my family and my business. Go after your dreams, you won’t regret it!