Sarah Jordan is a photographer, wife, and mom to two little ones. She started her business, Miles of Smiles Photography part-time back in 2010. Read on to find out how she started her photography business with no professional experience and has managed to grow it into a thriving full-time business.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your entrepreneurial journey.
I am a mother of two littles. I was born and raised in the Midwest and have lived in Austin since 2004.
The entrepreneurial spirit has long been a part of me, as my journey began when I was a little girl and ran my own rabbit business in small town Iowa. (I sold them as pets, not as food.) I bought my first rabbit at a horse sale for $1.50 and had no idea that it would be the start of my business career.
I've always known that I wanted to be a mother and also that I wanted to work, but I had no idea how much of a struggle working a full-time job would be once I became a mom. Being out of the house over 50 hours a week and trying to keep up with life, home, and family was simply not working. I knew I needed to make a change because I was slowly falling apart and my family (and myself) deserved more.
Quitting my full-time job
In January of 2010, I moved into a part-time position even though that meant losing my salary and benefits. Although I still work pretty much full-time between that job and my business, it is much more controlled, and the quality time I have with my son and husband is worth more than any money could provide.
I've been involved with photography since I was a little girl. I grew up on a farm and took photos of my animals and entered them at the county fair. I truly had a passion and such creativity for it, and I kept finding myself saying, “If I were not a fitness professional, I would be a photographer.”
Becoming a mother to Miles inspired me in ways I cannot even describe, and I knew that it was time to make Miles of Smiles Photography a reality. I realized that the only person holding me back was myself. It is so wonderful and fulfilling to provide affordable and convenient services to people and also to turn my creative vision into beautiful photographs for my clients to enjoy for years to come.
The most exciting thing for me is seeing a mother’s reaction to the photographs I give her of her child(ren) because that very thing is what made me start this business.
How did you fund your business?
Slowly! I can honestly say that I have become “Jack of Many Trades” from what I have learned in starting my businesses. I did almost every project and task myself, including my websites. I would not recommend this to everyone, as the hours are intense and the learning curve is very steep. But since I am a “do it myself-er” by nature and money was tight, this worked for us.
To pay for part of my camera and lenses, I used savings bonds that I won in grade school from an essay contest. I continue to fund my business one step at a time and use some of the income from photo sessions and my fitness presentations to do just that. It is slow but steady, and I am so excited to be living out my dream!
What did you do before launching your own business?
I worked full-time in Austin – coordinating one of the largest university fitness and wellness programs in the country. I was fortunate enough to move into a part-time role there and coordinate the group exercise program.
How many hours do you work a week and how much is spent in your home office?
Currently, I work approximately 20 hours at the university managing the group exercise program. I work another 15 hours a week on my business from my home office. It isn’t quite the ideal schedule yet, but I know it will only improve.
How would you rate your success?
Although things are going really well, it is definitely a juggling act to balance family, a part-time job, and growing my business. I am working very hard to find little ways to find balance, and believe that with more time and experience, it will come. I am beyond grateful for the great response that my photography business has had, and all of the lovely people and families that I have gotten to know because of it!
What has been your biggest business struggle as an entrepreneur?
Fitting everything in. It is essential to get all of my tasks done in the various areas that I work, and growing a business is incredibly demanding. But it is equally important to make sure I am giving my family the time and energy that they need and deserve from me because they are truly what life is all about.
What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur?
1) When you are starting a business, passion and organization are essential to success. Make sure you are truly passionate about what you are pursuing because that passion will drive you through the challenges that pop up along the way.
2) Create an organized and purposeful business plan, road map, and goals for your business, and refer back to them often.
3) Use your resources! Austin has incredible resources and programs for small business owners. (And many of them are free!) I have attended several classes, marketing sessions, and conferences put on by these organizations, and I am grateful to live in a city that places so much value on local businesses. See if your city has anything set up and if so, make good use of it.
How do you manage all of your personal and business activities?
1) Organization. Creating an organized and realistic to-do list each day.
2) My son’s amazing daycare provider. Knowing that he is 100% happy, healthy, and loved when he is not with me allows me to do the things that I do. But picking him up and seeing him run toward me shouting, “Mama! Mama!” is also pretty darn sweet!
Juggling work and family demands are quite a workout in and of itself! But I take it on as a challenge. If there is one thing that I have learned from motherhood, it is that perfection is a thing of the past. Do the best you can, keep your priorities straight, believe in yourself, and life will be very, very sweet.
Thanks, Sarah Jordan for sharing your story!
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