I never set out to start a business. I had been a store manager in retail since I was 18 years old (It had been 12 years) and the thought of ever actually owning a business of my own hadn't really crossed my mind. The year I started Infinite Focus Photography was the year I hit my breaking point.
I enjoyed retail. I loved my staff and my customers. I enjoyed the ins and outs of a business and at the time worked with an owner that took the time to actually explain the business side of the store I was running which I am convinced changed everything. Actually understanding profit margins, conversion and turn rates helped me to understand what it took to keep a business afloat. Despite all of the great things about my work environment, I felt constant guilt. If I was at work, I missed my kids. If I was home, and my store called at night and I couldn't take the call I felt guilt for not being available for them at every moment. If I took the call, I felt guilt for working during the little time I had at home. I missed my daughter's Kindergarten graduation that year because I was out of town for a conference. The guilt was never ending. On top of that, I was in my senior year towards my elementary education degree. It was exhausting. In my dream world, I would have more time with my kids and have the career without the guilt. And there would be a sense of fulfillment. That feeling you get where you're excited and hopeful for the future. I needed that.
I had purchased a camera a couple of years before and did sessions for friends here and there when time allowed. It was actually therapeutic. Those few minutes using my creative brain instead of my "mom brain" or "manager brain" were so relaxing. I would come home and edit the images late at night when everyone was asleep and I should be sleeping but this was enjoyable. Photography was my tiny escape.
That summer as I waited to begin my student teaching at the end of my bachelors degree program, I decided if I didn't take the time off then, I would enter another career without having ever taken a breath. I quit my managing job without a plan. It was irresponsible really and a huge risk. All I had was a tiny hope that photography would supplement my income until I landed a full time teaching position. I went in full force. I had nothing to lose really. I had already quit my job. This business could fail and I would still be working towards teaching in the near future so it was now or never.
The next year changed my life. I went in hoping my business would just supplement my income for a small amount of time and that year I had more than doubled my salary from the previous years without feeling like I had worked a day. Every day I knew my actions directly and immediately affected my business. I needed that confidence. Everyday I chose which direction the business would go in. I needed that freedom. Everyday I chose how little or how much I worked and when I worked. At this point in my life, I needed that flexibility. Everyday I knew the possibilities were limitless. I needed that sense of hope.
The mom guilt is always there, but these days I feel in control.
Starting a business isn't ideal for everyone. I know this. Maybe the changes needed to be made to fulfill you are nothing like mine. My hope is that you aren't afraid to take a risk. That when you don't feel satisfied or fulfilled or like you're working towards the life you've always wanted, that you stop and re-evaluate. You wont regret it.
I don't know if photography will be forever (though I hope everyday that it is) but I know that at this point in my life....I needed this. It saved me. I found myself in this business and now, I am fearless.