Today, I'm smiling a little brighter because I am celebrating five years in business! Five whole years of Meaghan Kent Photography!
For any entrepreneur, five years in business is a big milestone. The odds are always stacked against entrepreneurs and small brick and mortar businesses. Did you know that on average, 45 per cent of businesses fail in their first five years. And that's during good, economic stability. The pandemic is a whole other ball game. But let's not digress...
When I started my photography business in July of 2016, I never actually had ambitions to be a photographer. It kind of just happened.
After marrying my husband in 2015, I forced myself to find a hobby (though Jason will boast that it was actually him that told me to take up a hobby). I took up blogging about tourism, specifically tourism in Northern Ontario. My humble blog, The North Junction (I still love that name), gave me an outlet to write about what I cared most about - exploring the great outdoors in my own backyard. It was well received and I was offered a few sponsored opportunities with outposts and outfitters in the north.
As my readership grew, however, I knew I had to improve my photography skills. At the time, I was using a point and shoot handheld camera, the Olympus Tough, which acts like a GoPro in its durability, but has more capabilities as a camera. The camera was good in that it was compact and lightweight so I could pack it in my backpack and go. I didn't need to worry about batteries, lenses, tripods, and all of the other fun gear that comes with a larger DSLR. Even though it was a great camera, it came with a lot of limitations.
I decided to splurge on the Canon Rebel T5i when it went on sale for Boxing Day. I taught myself how to shoot in manual mode, about white balance, and metering all via YouTube. 95 per cent of what I know today is from YouTube.
Unfortunately, after only three months with this camera, my other job as a writer at a local post-secondary institution was put at risk due to rounds of layoffs. I told myself I needed a back-up and secondary income in case I lost my job. I told myself there weren't many opportunities for me career-wise with a Master of Arts in History, so I had to find ways to make income on my own. I turned to photography on a whim.
Was I ready to be a paid photographer? Absolutely not. Did I know what I was doing? Not really. But I took the leap into entrepreneurship in July 2016 (the same week we decided to get a puppy - talk about bad timing) with absolutely no business knowledge and experience. And I'm so glad I did.
I've never once regretted the decision of becoming a photographer. For the first two years, I navigated the field on a part-time basis, learning more about my camera and my capabilities. I took on weddings, events, family reunions, and more. I didn't say no to an opportunity because every opportunity provided me with the ability to learn something new and meet new clients. I used those first two years to build my brand and my clientele. And I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for a naïve entrepreneur in the small town of Sault Ste. Marie.
Fast forward to five years later and I'd like to think some things have changed. I have some business knowledge. I still don't understand anything about taxes, and I've come a long way in my technical skills behind the camera and in editing software. I've found my niche in the industry in newborn and maternity photography in particular, thanks in part to becoming a mom to the most amazingly zany two-year-old, Everett. The biggest change since my humble beginnings: I am now a full-time photographer. I was able to quit my other full-time job to pursue this love I never knew I had in photography. I made the plunge this past December. And even though the industry was at a complete stand-still when I made that decision due to the lockdown and ongoing pandemic, I don't regret my decision in the slightest.
I've held many jobs in my 32 years. And in those various jobs, I've seen people at their worst: frustrated, mad, angry, crying, bitter. But that's not the case with photography. Instead, I'm seeing people at their best: grinning ear to ear, shedding happy tears, and laughing. For the first time in my life, I love going to work. I am welcomed with open arms into people's homes and lives and get to be alongside them for their most important days: when they get engaged; when they get married; when they become new parents; when they adopt a new child; and more. And that's pretty amazing. Plus, I get to go to so many great places (like Jamaica)!
Today, I pride myself as being the "friendly, neighbourhood photographer". I am not afraid to laugh at myself, admit my wrongdoings or when I'm over my head. I'm also not afraid to get out on the dance floor with you on your wedding day - I may even request a song or too (Backstreets Back, alright!)! I do my best to make you feel at home in my presence and that we're the best of friends, even if we're complete strangers. I try my best to support you and your photographic dreams - no matter how bizarre or wild they may be. That's how I run my business. I have fun with it. And I know if I continue to run it this way, I'll still be happy to go to work everyday 20 years from now. How many of you can say that?
So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you for allowing me to capture moments and be a part of your lives for the past five years. It's been incredible to see the growth in my business, but also the growth in your lives. Some families have been with me since my very first month in business and I am still very much a part of their lives. I am forever grateful for the outpouring of love and support and for helping me achieve a dream I never knew I had. I am forever grateful for everyone who has helped me find my true passion in life, and most importantly, my happiness