What if you were able to turn your hobby into a career? Would you take the chance to ditch the 9-5 life for good? Stacey took the chance, and has no regrets. Today’s MoneyMak(her) interview chats with photographer Stacey Doyle about how picking up her dad’s old camera changed her life, what helped her grow her biz the most, and why she believes it’s important to support business owners who are in the beginning stages.
1. How did you get started in your industry? What led to your passion for your career?
When I was younger, I was extraordinarily shy.
Like, I couldn't make eye-contact kind of shy.
My dad had dabbled in photography and had all these Time Life photography books that I loved to pour over.
I dusted off his old Minolta T-101, grabbed a few rolls of film from the drugstore, and started playing.
It was sort of magical: by placing a roll of film inside this mechanical device, I could take aim at the world around me and 'abracadabra!', I was able to create these tangible permanent reminders of life's fleeting moments.
The camera became my shield.
Where, once, my shyness had held me back, now my camera allowed me to safely enter into the world that I had so desperately wanted to be a part of and explore without hesitation.
The camera helped me feel safe, made me feel bolder, allowed me to experience and interact with ease, and slowly my shyness faded.
Like MAGIC (kind of)
(And, bonus, taking photos was fun! Still is!)
While I'm not that super shy little girl any longer (though I prefer a relaxed gathering with close friends and family over a crowded event anyday) at larger social gatherings, I'll be the one exploring and enjoying, behind the safety of my trusty shield.
Telling stories is important to me. Letting people know and realize that their story matters is important to me. Whether it’s the story of their relationship(s), their story of their business/product, their story of themselves: everyone has a story, and all stories are worthy of being told.
2. What were some of the bigger challenges you experienced in getting started?
Figuring out the ‘how’ of business: how to set up a business, how to prepare books and taxes, how to make money from the business, how to market properly, how to be a great customer service rep, how to work in and on my business and that balance, etc. There were loads of classes and workshops on “how to” take better photos or use light or composition etc.
Learning the art of photography was, while not easy, there were loads of resources available.
Learning the art of running a profitable business felt more tumultuous and full of missteps and big holes.
It was much more challenging to find all the proper info and learn how to apply it.
Lots and lots (and LOTS) of trial and error.
3. How has your life changed now that you’re pursuing your passion and living your dream?
Well, I’ve been at this for close to 20 years.
Not having to sign a timesheet or work under someone else’s schedule is very freeing.
I used to do the ‘punch a clock, be at work in an office from this time to this time’ job.
And it was quite stifling.
I knew in my younger years I could not sustain that lifestyle and be happy.
So I took a chance, and the chance has (mostly) paid off.
Running your own business has its own set of challenges.
There have been many events and gatherings missed due to work and building my biz.
You need to realize that you’ll be sacrificing and compromising while running your own biz.
And that’s okay!
Because there will always be sacrifice and compromise, in every facet of your life.
I prefer this, because I get to create my own schedule, my own balance, my own way.
I documented weddings for years (over 15 years - all the weekends working!) - and that worked for me. Until it didn’t. And when it didn’t I decided to pivot and adjust.
Being able to take the reins and adjust course is challenging, scary and so so important.
It has taught me a lot about myself, my strengths (and weaknesses) and that change is okay. Change is actually your friend.
Rebuilding and restarting my business in a brand new state and new area (hello West Coast) was wicked scary. But I pulled on my strengths, recognized (and worked on) my weaknesses, and shifted my focus to the type of work and clients I wanted to align with.
It was a semi-clean slate, walking into CA with my skill set and knowledge.
The Pandemic helped me to really focus on what I wanted to do, how I wanted to create.
And who I wanted to create with.
I have a renewed sense of excitement and newness to my photography, and the connections I am making are amazing.
4. What’s your favorite part about owning your own business/your career?
I’ve been running my business for close to 20 years.
For the majority of that time I was based in Rhode Island and the New England/Tri State area.
I slowly built a following and my business started thriving via word of mouth. When I came to CA I knew I’d have to hustle and get my name out there.
I had the skills, and I had the know-how. I simply needed to make connections.
And I think that’s one of my favorite parts, connecting with others. Hearing their stories, seeing their passions, getting to create and capture them to help them tell their story to the world.
My clients are hella (wicked) cool (can I say hella yet? Have I been in CA long enough?) - I am really lucky that I work with and attract extremely intelligent, creative and positively cool humans.
Their boldness, their drive, their commitment to doing their life their way and creating a life they LOVE is inspiring, and I love sharing and being part of their stories.
And I’m not a huge fan of humans lol I prefer cats and dogs - but I am absolutely lucky with the clients I attract. They’re all simply awesome, and that’s definitely my fav part of owning my biz. Being able to connect with all these fabulous humans.
5. What does supporting women-owned businesses look like to you?
Support to me means: sharing their posts and their info with my audience, paying them for their skill set and experience, sharing their name with those looking for their product/services.
I also like to support by helping those who are in the beginning phases. I don’t have a specific way I do this, but I am not shy when it comes to offering advice and guidance with building & running a business and offering info on photography and lighting.
When I first started out in my biz (and in photography) it was really difficult connecting with others who were willing to simply talk through their challenges and their how-tos.
There was a lot of “I can’t share my secrets” with you.
There are no secrets. Especially these days: you can find EVERYTHING on The IntraNets and The YouTubes. Seriously. There are no secrets. So I told myself back in the day, if/when I get to the point where I can help offer info, I will.
No one is going to steal my clients or take my work. That can’t happen.
Because no one can be me. That is a job that only I can do.
No one can be you. That’s a job only you can do.
And that’s the beauty of it, you bring a uniqueness to everything you do, you are your own Special Sauce. No one else will ever be able to replicate that recipe.
You can even give them your specific recipe and it’s not gonna be the same! Ever!
And that’s awesome to me. Build each other up, support each other, because everyone deserves to share their special sauce (wait now this is sounding creepy lol).
The more I support others, especially other women, the more I support myself.
Because I create a space and a world where support is at the forefront.
You know that feeling when you’re sure someone absolutely has your back? No matter what?
That kind of support helps you stabilize, and create more freely.
Because you know you are not alone.
Support for a small business, especially women run, is like sunshine and water.
Support and everything (and everybody) flourishes.
Hide your ‘secrets’ and everything withers and fades away.
I’d rather work in a flowering garden than a dark cold cubicle, anyday.
6. How has your brand/packaging/website changed or improved your business?
My website and branding has been ever changing over the years.
I was one of the first of my photo friends to have an actual functioning website (my god I believe I still have a cd somewhere with that old website on it - phew! Haha it was funny!)
Seriously I started my biz before the internet was very popular (can you even imagine?!)
Before social media, before everyone even carried a cellphone (and if people did, back then, it was a flip phone or that little Nokia baby. With that little snake game… anyway, I digress)
Unlike some of the people around me when I first started out, I knew that the internet was going to change all the things, how we connect, communicate and most importantly, how we market and run our businesses.
I’ve learned over the years that keeping things simple is usually the best course of action.
Overcomplicated graphics and designs and marketing messages can get messy and turn people off very quickly.
And nowadays, we’ve only got like a couple seconds to grab someone’s attention before they swipe right, or left, or up or whatever. My current website is a site created by a photographer for photographers. It has a very robust built-in SEO. When I moved to CA I knew I had to get that SEO and the Googs on my side. So I ditched my very expensive custom created website (because it was kind of pretty but the back end was a disaster! Like Google sent me messages warning me my site was no bueno! yay!)
I went with this simple template with a solid SEO foundation built in and within a couple months of the new site being up, Google rewarded me and removed my site from its doghouse.
I’m in the process of changing up my site to showcase more of the work I definitely want to do (branding, products, headshots) and remove or hide the things I no longer want to document (weddings, engagements).
I’ll be adding some new branded material from the most awesome and amazing Quixotic Design Co :) so I’m excited to couple that with the website redesign and refresh!
That boost will help me realign and rework my message to make sense to those searching for the type of work I create.
Know of someone we should interview for our MoneyMak(her) series? Send us an email here.