Being a small business owner is not exactly the easiest thing in the world. I wasn’t a small business owner before I have kids but I know how difficult it had been to break into a market that seems so saturated while not having the time, money, or energy into it that I would like to. Money is meant for diapers, clothes that my kids will only fit into for 3 months, and food that seems to disappear before I even get it home and into the pantry. Time is made for random nightly wake ups because of bad dreams, trips to the library for new books (plus time to read those new books 20 times each), and helping the kids and Jared with, well, life. Energy is made for races and tickle sessions, working out, and cleaning (sigh). So, with my time, energy, and money spent– well, the business doesn’t get to grow as quickly as I would always like. What also isn’t going as quickly- my reading list. BUT, I am on my 3rd book of 14 so I’ll take it. To see my 2019 reading list, click here. 2 of the books on my list are 168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam and Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs. I highly recommend the family version of the second but READ BOTH. Especially if you are a momma like me! While reading each of these I realized something very important about myself. First, I have more time than I think to make everything I want to happen. Second, I have a greater ability than I know to make everything I want happen. So, what do these two things have to do with community over competition you may ask? Everything.
As a mom of three small children (4, 2, and 9 months) I have come to realize how important time is; quality time that is. When I am with my children 100%, they can tell. We are laughing, learning, and making memories together–we are a community. When I am with them but mentally else where, the recognize this also which usually eds up with tears, frustrations, and not enough attention to go around– we are competition. Being a mom has always been my dream. I love being a mom even when it’s way too loud, the house is a mess, and my stash of chocolate has run out. It’s the hardest, best, most exciting thing there is! But, I also need to be me. My photography business is a big part of who I am. It fuels my creativity, desire to learn, and need for growth. A couple weeks back I was listening to a podcast from ‘3 in 30 – Takeaways for Moms‘. Rachel was guest hosting Crystalee Beck, co-founder of The Mama Ladder. They talked about letting go of the idea of work/life balance (click to listen- no really, click it). I’d always seen my family on one side of a scale and the business on the other. Crystalee talked about giving up this idea of balance. You know what? I have. And it has been amazing. I no longer feel this inner struggle to need to work while my children want to play. Do I still get work done- you but. Do things get done as quickly as I’d like, no. But allowing myself the freedom to be an active mom and an active business women has been so fulfilling. One of the way I have been able to do both is by making work an active part of my family life. Henley got to come to work with mommy when I was visiting a new venue here in Oklahoma- Sweetbelle Farms. Henley couldn’t stop talking about the big white house she wanted to live in, the pretty lights, yummy food, and all the big trees. It was a dream location for any 2-year-old or any bride. We ate donuts together, met new vendors, and danced to the music on the patio. Tank has come location scouting with me a hand full of times and even to a few shoots with little kids who need a silly something to laugh at. Jared has been a second shooter more than once and is always behind the scenes helping on the business side of things. When I allowed my family to be my first community, I no longer felt the competition between work and home.
The second part of community over competition goes beyond the walls of my own home and outside the bounds of my own family. When I began photography I didn’t really know many professional photographers. I wanted to go from “my friend with a camera” to a professional photographer. I didn’t know who to reach out to, what educational courses would be worth taking, and how to move forward. That’s when I found Amy and Jordan Demos. They are educators and professional photographers who believe in this idea of community over competition. Why you may ask? For one- everyone needs help in the beginning. For two, specialized professionals have things they just don’t shoot. A network allows you to bless the lives of others with work when it is something you do not do. In 168, Laura Vanderkam talks about the importance of outsourcing what you are not good at or do not enjoy doing. Doing these things may be important but may also be a huge waste of your time if you can easily out source them and have extra time to invest in other things that are your strong suits. As a photographer I get inquiries from a wide variety of potential clients: weddings, products, newborns, families, commercial, business and more. Some of these things I may not know how to do well but in a community I can generally give a referral for someone I trust who can not only accomplish the clients needs but exceed them. Just over a week ago I had the opportunity to meet up with some amazing women- all of which I would be confident referring out to if I am unable, unequipped, or am no longer taking a certain area of sessions. None of these women would be in my life if not for this ‘community over competition’ idea that Amy and Jordan believe in. Amanda, Amy, Maggie, Michelle, and I are all at different points in our business, some of us have one or two years under our belt while others have 9 or 10 years. Some of us are from Oklahoma and some of us were brought here by design. Some of us want to specialize in weddings while others are families, seniors, or newborns. Being able to meet with other industry professionals, walk through and perfect portrait systems, bounce business ideas off of one another, find out about each others business specialties and goals, and gain confidence in referral opportunities is immeasurable as a small business owner who is very much still learning and finding my footing. Community over competition has enabled growth in my business quicker than I could have dreamed even if it does feel slow at times. Slow but right is far more important than quickly and wrong. These women are incredible. Because of them I have not only a community of photographers I can grow with but I also have formed friendships that will last for years to come.
P.S. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, Katiebugs in OKC is seriously THE BEST!!! It’s the perfect place for a meet up, post date night, or just because spot for hot chocolate, tea, and coffee. Katie and the crew are AAAMMMMMAZING and all of their stuff is to die for– especially their lavender hot chocolate. It’s my favorite. Like, my FFFFAAAVVVOOORRRIIITTTEEEEEE ever.