Welcome to the Mom Owned Business Spotlight. In each installment, I will feature a new Mom Business Owner. I am so excited to show how different each business is as well as how everyone has different experiences and lessons that go along with entrepreneurship. As an entrepreneur that started my business when my daughter was born, I am passionate about business ownership, as well as honoring the mom experience while growing your business.
Today, I am asking Lauren Benson of Lauren Bee Photography 10 Questions!
Tell me a little about yourself. Who do you share your life with?
I share my life with my husband of 19 years, 3 kids, 2 cats, and Jesus.
How did you get into business? Did it just happen one day? Did you have an exit strategy from your day job? Do you still have a day job? I love to hear how women got their start in business!
I started my business on a lark. I thought it might be fun to make a little extra money. And I had gotten a new camera for Christmas. A fancy one. And it would be fun to just take photos all day long. It sounded like a win-win, getting paid to have fun. Boy was I in for a surprise!
What makes you excited to “go to work” each day? What helps you push through the long days?
I learned pretty quickly that having a photography business had a whole lot more to do with marketing and crunching numbers than it did “taking photos”. I tried but I’ve really never learned to enjoy the business side of things. I struggled so much, for so many years with that aspect. Meanwhile, I fell in love with the artistry. It became so much more than just earning some extra cash or taking photos. I began to want more for myself (and my clients); I wanted to take good photos, beautiful images. And I discovered an emotive aspect to my nature which appeared in my work, and others responded to. So I invested in better camera equipment and dove into educating myself on photographic principals and manual settings, drawing from on what I’d learned in college as a fine arts major, and teaching myself new skills. And oh boy, then I *really* found myself as an ARTIST — and my business became something I never imagined it could be: a source of purpose and calling. And that, more than anything, lights a fire in my soul and propels me forward.
What is the hardest thing about being a mom and being in business for you? What tradeoffs do you make when trying to balance both?
I actually homeschool our kids, which means I’m with them pretty much 24/7. I (and they!) have had to learn when it’s okay to interrupt me (NOT while I’m on the phone with a client) and when it’s better to leave Mom alone (like when she has that look of devil-concentration on her face during a mad editing session). It’s been such a hard balance, this kids + work thing. Ultimately I’ve had to prioritize and create a home + work environment that is truly unique to our family and our pace of life, one that will balance my kids’ needs and my sanity. Understanding that my husband and kids come first is really difficult for an artist who really just wants to make pretty things all day — but making that heart-mind connection has been vital to answering my higher calling of mothering my three amazing kids. Putting my self aside to stop and laugh with them, watch Disney movies with them, read their essays, and even admire their latest artwork (and holy cow can my kids draw!), THAT comes first. Always. I can make art after they go to bed; the witching hour is better for artists anyway.
Tell me about your business! What do you do/make? Who are your ideal clients?
I have, only just recently, decided to take a step back from the traditional photography business (the family/kids/seniors/lifestyle portrait sessions that we’ve all come to associate with the “photographer” title) and jumped whole-hog into conceptual fine-art. I realized I am simply not one to fit into the basic box — a blessing and a curse. Curse because it’s not easy finding clients who “get” my vision or understand what I’m talking about when I describe what I do (a mixture of my emotions and the client’s soul, tossed amid some fantastic lighting, and tinged with some drama). A blessing because now that I’m no longer trying to fit into a well-defined box, I feel so free! Doing what I love is really sort of miraculous in itself. I’m living my dreams — and in doing that, I have actually found my tribe of soul-focused women, fellow-creatives who dive into the mystery of life and truly respect and sojourn with my vision. The cosplayer, the storytellers, the Doctor Who fans and lovers of dragons and unicorns. These are my people. And I am theirs.
Where can we find your business online? Please include your social media links as well!
Where do you work geographically? Do you work from home, have an office?
Most of my conceptual sessions take place near Huntsville AL, but I also travel wherever the winds (and ideas!) take me. You’ll most often find me in the woods, camera in hand, in search of light and depth of shadow. I create props and costumes from Goodwill and thriftstore finds, or my clients have costumes of their own they’d like to incorporate. After the on-location session is done, I edit at home on my trusty Macbook pro, sitting at the dining table alongside my kids as they do math or geography. We break for lunch sometime between 11A and 1P. In the afternoons, I cart them to dance and piano, taking my work with me, often performing the minutiae of business (emailing, chatting with clients, etc.) in my car. I’m a sort of traveling artist, I guess!
For someone considering starting their own business, what advice would you give them? How would you encourage them to start out?
I can really only offer vagary because entrepreneurship is so different for each of us. Understand that you don’t understand, haha! Be willing to give yourself grace when you fall (a LOT!) and get used to the proverbial scraped knees and bruises you’ll acquire at School Hardknox. It’s gonna hurt to get back up on that horse, time and time again, but do it anyway. Do it until you know your horse like no other. Fight for it. Define YOUR place, your worth, and stick to it. Small business is hard. Really, truly difficult. But once you battle a few giants, you’ll get the hang of it — or, like me, you won’t, BUT you’ll have a solid idea of who you are and what you don’t want for your life — and what you DO want. Listen to the people who know the stuff… but also listen to yourself, because no one knows YOUR stuff like you do. This path you’re on, it’s totally worth walking because it’s yours and no one can walk it like you do.
What do your kids think about your business? Do they think what you do is awesome?
Words like “awesome” and “nice” are bandied about. My oldest thinks my PhotoShop editing is “pretty cool”. They’re really not that effusive about it, to be honest. They just want me to make them mac and cheese for lunch today.
Lastly, if you had to do it all over again, what change would you make, if any?
I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s easy to whine when you’re in the thick of difficulty, but I believe we learn from our mistakes; regret is a powerful teacher. I am the sum of my parts, failures and battles won. No, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these 10 questions, Lauren. As you can see, everyone has their own relationship with business! Do you have any questions for Lauren? Ask them in the comments! Thanks for checking out this installment of the Mom Owned Business Spotlight!