Too often in our society, people picture men in their heads when they hear words like, “boss”, “entrepreneur”, or “CEO”. Being a small business owner has put me in touch with so many successful female business owners and entrepreneurs that when I hear these words, I often picture a woman or I just don’t assume anything at all. Women are obviously just as capable as men when it comes to the business world and it is high time that women business owners and entrepreneurs are more visible in the media in our society. This is where the idea for Women in Business was born. Women in Business is a weekly feature that highlights female entrepreneurs and business owners. Not only is it a fantastic opportunity to learn more about small businesses in various fields, but it is a great shopping guide for supporting women-owned businesses.
An Interview with Erica Melissa
In 2011 you started living your dream as a full time photographer. What does a day in your life look like, now that you are a full time business owner?
Well considering my oldest son just started kindergarten and I have a 2 year old, I’m usually woken up by giggles and a very boisterous “Good morning Mommy!” Once we get the oldest packed up to go and dropped off, I come back home for some quiet time with a full cup of coffee and my morning devotional. Essentially, I try to start the day with quiet time because it always gives me a peace, motivation, and perspective that helps me work diligently and with purpose. As a photographer, there’s a lot more to do than just photographing, there’s the actual sorting of images, editing, uploading to galleries, blogging, communicating with clients by phone or email, social media, accounting, and the list goes on! Essentially, this is what my mornings consist of, organizing any and all administrative business details that need to be taken care of in time for homework and dinner. My days are long but I wouldn’t change them. The benefits (ie. being home with my boys and setting my own schedule) far outweigh any negatives.
You travel often for work. Do you have a favorite work related trip you have taken so far?
Oh boy! It’s so hard to pick just one. One of the most recent ones I’d have to say was the trip to China I took this summer. It was an incredible opportunity to photograph some crazy fun events and an amazing couple. Every chance I had, I was trying to learn Chinese! Of course the food was fabulous and the highlights were visiting the Forbidden City, The Shaolin Temple, & The Great Wall of China.
You have an incredibly supportive family and amazing friends. You also have achieved a great amount of success in your career. How do you stay balanced with your career and personal life?
Well thank you! Yes I do! I could not do it without my husband- his encouragement, support, and brutal honesty when he tells me, “Turn off the computer and go to bed!” lol Truth is I need that. I definitely have the tendency to allow work to consume me, so it’s a lot about prioritizing family, the work, my time, and myself. Success doesn’t come without sacrifices, but it all means nothing without my family. That’s who I do it for and I’ve learned to choose wisely and hope to continue doing so the more I continue to grow.
Do you use any apps or programs that help you run your business? Which are your favorites?
Absolutely. My photography software- Lightroom and Photoshop are essential to my editing workflow. Blog stomp, which is just a lifesaver/timesaver for blogging my images! Last but not least, “Iris-Works” which is my virtual studio assistant. This handles my client administrative workflow– everything from invoicing, to questionnaires, to contracts, and scheduling. In short, it just makes my life so much easier!
Where do you normally look for inspiration?
Such a good question. I feel like artists/photographers see things differently. There’s so much LIFE in everyday things that some wouldn’t even take a second glance at. Like in the mornings when you just wake up and look toward the window as the rays of light begin to stream through…you can see the dancing particles of dust and there’s just such a beauty in that.
A good friend of mine once said, “Man you never seem to turn it off…” as he could see the different expressions on my face as we were doing an event walk through. My response, “It’s just the way I see things, and I hope I’m never in the place where I would want to ‘turn it off’.”
When I’m looking for specific inspiration I turn to music and fairy tales. I am a very visual person, and ever since I was young when I would hear a song or story, I would listen to the words and imagine how the piece would play out visually and the story would just take on another life of its own from there! Another kind of random one is Better Homes & Garden magazine. I don’t even know when I started subscribing but it was the happiest day of my life! When I see beautiful color palettes, home décor, or interesting designs, my brain just starts creating.
What was the best piece of advice you were given?
Not to measure my success through someone else’s. In a world of likes and followers, it can be so easy to allow yourself to get caught up in this false perception of numbers and how that may equate to your value. I’m grateful to have some pretty grounded, and brilliant entrepreneurs around me. We encourage, support, and also do the hard stuff…like holding each other accountable.
How do you define success?
Well for me success is definitely a journey driven by love- using the talent that God has given me for His glory. Being a work at home mom is tough. It requires a lot of energy, organization, humility, and raw honesty with myself -not looking to the left or the right, but at the path that I know was chosen for me to follow. My house may not be perfection, but if my family is happy and healthy, if I’m stewarding my time and resources well, and I’m taking every opportunity (big or small) that I am given to be a light to love and serve my clients and others well, that to me is pretty fulfilling.
Where do you see yourself and your business in five years?
My deeper connection with photography stemmed from a personal tragedy. It inspired me to tell stories through conceptual imagery, so my dream is to eventually use those images and others to publish a book of fine art that shares these visual stories of hope. I also would like to see myself owning a home with enough land to build a beautiful natural light studio. 5 years may be ambitious, but I’m hopeful! Otherwise, I see myself content enjoying life and traveling the world any chance I can get with my husband and beautiful boys!