Exactly three years ago today, I woke up with the same thoughts as any other day. Wake up, go downstairs to work (I was working at home for my corporate job at the time), make dinner for when Colby comes home, finish the baseboards in the living room of our relatively new home (bought 3 months earlier), watch some tv and go to bed. To this day, I can’t tell you what sparked me deciding to start my business that day. I was taking that semester off of school because my husband was graduating that May and I wanted to have the house done before all of our guests arrived. Whether it was my determination to have more in life than what most people give themselves, whether it was my drive to be something more, the security of building a brand while earning a steady paycheck, I’m not really sure. That night while Colby was finishing the baseboards, I said, “I’m going to start a business. Tonight.” My husband admitted later that he never thought I’d stick to it and that he thought it was probably just something that seemed exciting at the time that would later fizzle out. That night, I went to the IRS website and signed up for a tax ID to start my business. I had an AA in business and a technical certificate in business operations so I was somewhat well versed in understanding the processes of running a business. But, then the hard part came. What would I name my business? I must have sat on that couch for two hours thinking about it. My husband gave a few suggestions, one of which stuck. He said, “Well you love stars. Why not Starlight something or another?” When I started my business I wanted to be an art and design company who also sold my fine art prints. I wanted the name to have “Art & Design” in the name. Before I knew it, my company was officially Starlight Art & Design. In the coming days, I worked tirelessly to come up with a logo, business cards, and other branding related material. In the coming months, I went through web designs like diapers. I have to admit, my web designs were pretty lame back then, but there was one thing I had to remember. I believed in myself, regardless of what other people said or thought. What was important was that I thought I was good which drove me to pursue it vigorously. I signed up for ifreelance.com and got a few design jobs. I VERY quickly realized that I hated designing for other people and that photography was all I wanted to do.
I remember it like it was yesterday. I let Jayda outside to chase a squirrel and somehow she tore out her dew claw. Since we were still fairly new to the area, we hadn’t established a veterinarian, so I called the only place I knew of, the Bandfield Vet at PetSmart. While I was on hold, I got this idea to ask the manager if I could come and do a weekend of pet photography for their store. Before I knew it, my photography career was born. My first gig EVER was at PetSmart in September of 2008 during the PetSmart adoption event. I used duvet covers and speaker stands as my backdrops/stands and a cheap-o lighting kit my husband bought me for Christmas in 2007. I had designed my own release forms, ordering system, etc. I can’t say, compared to now, that I was the most organized, but I had a vision, a dream, a determination, and I NEVER gave up on myself. That weekend I had 55 clients come through for photos. It was non-stop both weekend days. It wasn’t long after that that the manager of PetSmart who initially hired me asked if I would consider doing weddings. I sent her a proposal and she accepted! I spent the next 8 months looking for second shooter opportunities, finding and following photo blogs and industry leaders, etc. When I started just doing photography, I then became Starlight Creative Photography. I later decided I wanted my name behind my brand. In April of 2009, I became Jen Shannon Photography.
I have a TON of memories from how everything came about. Here I am 3 years later and I am so overwhelmed with joy and happiness that not only am I still in business, I’m building my brand in a new location (Jacksonville), networking with piers, vendors, and potential clients, and I’m doing it full time.
As a side note, I was recently at a Jacksonville Pictage User Group (PUG) meeting where they had a guest speaker. The speaker asked us to close our eyes and fill in the blank to the following sentence. “If I just had more time, I would____.” For the first time in my life, I couldn’t fill in the blank and all of a sudden I was overcome with feeling God’s grace and blessings in my life. With Colby sitting next to me, the weight of how blessed I am really hit me. I wanted to go full time with my business and I did. I didn’t want to work my corporate job any more and I was laid off. I wanted to move back home and I did. Now with all of this time I wanted to network and I am. I wanted to finish my BFA and I’m working on it. I wanted to learn the Italian language and I am. I wanted to invest more time in my friends and family and I am. I wanted to work out and become healthy and I am. I wanted to start a life and living blog and I did. Really, will there ever be another time in my life that I will be so blessed to not be able to fill in that blank? Yesterday, I had a realization. My afternoon class was cancelled and I was excited about the idea of coming home early and diving into all of the work I needed to get done (photo editing, blogging, finishing my fine art site, etc. Then, that morning in my drawing class, I get a text from one of my friends asking if I wanted to go to the beach because she was at UNF doing research and would be finished at 1. My first inclination was to say, “No, I have too much work to do.” Then, I had the realization. There will likely never be another time in my life that I can just pick up and go to the beach with a friend, or jump at the opportunity of doing something spur of the moment. So I said, “Sure!” I had a really lovely afternoon relaxing by the beach. I’ve learned that with every blessing comes responsibility, but that God also allows you comforts and leisure to see the beauty in life. I’m going to enjoy the time I have now because I may never have this chance again. I don’t want to take it for granted.
So, what does Jen Shannon Photography have in store for the future? I’m glad you asked. I’m currently working on an updated business plan which will include expanding my fine art business. I will be primarily focusing on weddings with a limit of 2o weddings that I will accept per year. I don’t want to give a lot of details away, but there will be some additions to the business, including, in some capacity, charitable opportunities, community work, streamlining processes to include advances in technology, and a few other things that I’m keeping quite for now. I’m so thankful to God for bringing an idea the size of a mustard seed to fruition and blessing it into existence. I’m really excited for the future of JSP. I can’t wait to see how things unfold.
Before I go on, I just want to say, if you are thinking of starting a business, maybe not even a photography business, NEVER give up on your dreams. You’ve heard that a million times but it’s true. NEVER give up on yourself. Don’t let people push you down and keep you there. Remember, for every success you have a thousand failures. There have been times when I wanted to throw in the towel. I have a lot of people to thank for keeping me motivated to not give up, including the wonderful photographers on the Pictage forums. They were a huge support system for me when I was going through my seemingly endless limbo. I know I was put here for a reason. So whatever it is you want to do, don’t give up on yourself, no matter how tough it gets. Find a support system. Find people who love you and will tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly. Continue to grow yourself and keep your eyes on your desires. Additionally, I recently started reading the book “The Secret” and it really is an amazing book. It inspired me to make a list of the things I want in life; the things I want materially and what I want to accomplish in life. I will likely never reveal those things to the public and I will likely continue adding to the list, but having defined what I want has given me a clearer focus and idea of what I can do now to make those thing happen.
My last note before I get to the giveaway. My husband of almost 5 years (been together 10) has been the greatest help to me that I could have ever asked for. He deals with my moods, my complexities and he never gives up on me. He tells me the truth, whether or not I like what he has to say, because I know what he is saying is true and that he only says things to help. We may disagree here and there, but ultimately, I’m so thankful and blessed to have him be a part of this. So to Colby, I love you and thank you.
So, to celebrate Jen Shannon Photography’s 3rd birthday, I’m giving away a free 16×20 fine art print of the below image. It does NOT come with a frame. In my opinion, frames are super personal and you should find one you love that suits your home. Maybe someday I’ll change my mind on that and offer a few frames, but that’s to be decided later. I will say, this camera painting makes a BEAUTIFUL canvas. I have one hanging over my bed and I just LOVE it. To enter, just leave a comment on my blog (NOT Facebook) and I’ll pick a winner at random on March 31st.
To commemorate the path that’s lead me here, I decided to put together the below to show all of my branding throughout the last 3 years. I can’t say I’m proud of it, but everyone starts somewhere. I rebranded for the last time in December of 2009 and I love what I’ve done for myself, hence why I still use the same logo. I love that it is super versatile. Thanks to all of my blog readers who have followed me and encouraged me throughout the years and I hope my story encourages you, motivates you, and lights a fire in you. Here’s to 3 years! *clings glasses together and takes a sip of sparkling grape juice!* haha!