Small Business Spotlight: DearOne Photography

Today I’ve got a great spotlight for you from Stephanie Hillyard, the creative mind behind DearOne Photography in Ontario!

Tell us a bit about yourself:

I have more photos of other people than I do of myself (a true make of a photographer, I’ve been told).

I have two stomachs – one for food and one for dessert.

It is doubtful that I’ve ever been told to eat my veggies. Everything else on my plate, perhaps, but not the plant stuff.

I have a BA in English, as well as a Journalism diploma. I also studied music while at Uni.

I’m a country girl at heart (I grew up on a farm), but fell in love with New York the minute I touched down.

My husband Dave and I have been married almost four years. We don’t have any children yet, but are anxiously awaiting our turn!

Once Upon a Time is my guilty pleasure. When it’s on, no one talks to me.

We have four nephews and two nieces, all on Dave’s side on the family.

I am a huge animal persons – Dave and I even had a chameleon once!

My husband is a chef (yes, a fantastic one!!).

I love kid jokes…. What do you call an alligator in a vest? An investigator!!

I would rather not eat than not have a camera.

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Tell us a bit about your business. What do you do? What got you started?

I’m the owner/ main photographer for DearOne Photography. We’re based out of Northern Ontario we keep moving and we travel all over for weddings and events (and sometimes newborn and family sessions!) that we don’t really have much of a home base anymore.

I’ve always been ‘taking photos’ but moved up in the world when a friend of a friend asked if I shot weddings. I told her I honestly didn’t know if I did, but if she was willing to give me a shot I’d try it out. Before I knew it I had four booked my first year. We’re currently in our second (almost in our second, I really don’t know when our official anniversary is- maybe I should just pick a date!) and have five weddings this summer lined up. My chef husband (when available) acts as my second shooter (and driver and caddy and moral support and business advice) while we both try to balance running a small business and working full-time jobs. It can get pretty intense sometimes.

Each day is completely different (as cliché as that is). Right now I’m balancing time between DearOne Photography, waitressing, working on some business/ marketing/secretary work for my parents (they’ve owned and operated a farm, abattoir, butcher shop and store for the last 18 years or so) and have just been hired on as an assistant videographer for a company working on a documentary about family farms.

 Typically I start my day with breakfast and my Bible, then jump into emails. After that it could be any combination of editing photos, marketing (which includes promotion, products, networking….), research or any of the other jobs above. It’s nice to have a constant change of scenery, but also like that I usually know what’s coming. I’d love to say I have a 9-5 job, but I totally don’t. If I can’t sleep (which happens way too often) I’ll stay up editing or doing research until my eyes get heavy enough. I take odd breaks during the day (sometimes to go do one of those other jobs!) but I’ll sometimes be sitting on the computer literally for hours.

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Where do you work? 

I would love one day to have a studio space. I’m a natural light photographer, so while it’d be great to have a studio for newborn sessions, it would have to have HUGE windows. Right now I work in my bedroom, at the kitchen table, in the living room, and sometimes in other people’s houses- kind of wherever I am. I do have plans for a studio after Dave and I buy a house [we’re waiting until after we get back from overseas,we are planning on heading overseas in the fall to teach English (me) and cook (him)], and thankfully Dave’s all for it (possibly because it’ll keep my photo gear and business stuff somewhat contained!)

What is your favorite thing about running your own business?

 The freedom and the creativity. I love being able to make decisions by myself. If I want to give a friend a free mini-session for their baby shower, I can. If I decide I don’t have enough traffic and I need to change something about my business model, I can. Plus, owning your own business runs in my family!

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What is the hardest thing for you in running your business?

Probably having to make all the tough decisions myself and not being able to blame someone or something else. It sounds odd, but when you have an employer you can totally say ‘it’s company policy’ and not feel bad about it, but when you make the rules you have to be able to defend and stand by them!

What advice would you give to other business owners out there?

 The age-old standard ‘Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life’ is totally true. But you HAVE to work at it. Most photographers only spend 20% of their time behind their cameras and the other 80% editing or marketing or doing other business related stuff. Sometimes it gets hard. Sometimes you totally want to give up and throw it away and never look at it again. But remember why you started it in the first place, and what it is about your business that you love. And make sure to take breaks! Take a day where you aren’t allowed to do anything work related. Or take and afternoon where you can only do one business related thing. It works wonders, trust me, to just relax and not worry for a few minutes.

If your business revolves around some kind of craft, the only way to improve to get out there and practice. And whatever it is you do, you do because you love it. But you’re a business owner, so give yourself the opportunity to fall in love with the business side of things as well!! I never knew I enjoyed certain parts of running a business until I got into the thick of it!

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What do you do when you’re NOT working?

Read everything. A little Lucy Maud, a little Suzanne Collins, a little Ray Bradbury. My parents gave me a Kindle for Christmas a couple years ago and it is filled with all sorts of classics and poetry and even my Bible. I pretty much never leave home without it.

As I type this I’m having a movie marathon with my sister. We’re re-watching the Harry Potter series, but we often find ourselves with the Disney movies we watched as kids or something we found in the discount bin.

If you were invisible, where would you go?

 Apparently the restricted section of the library (like I said, watching Harry Potter!). But I’d love to be invisible during weddings- I could stand right in front of the bride and groom and not be in the way!

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What did you want to be when you were little and do you think you ever will be? 

A teacher. I almost went to teacher’s college, but God changed my mind and I ended up studying Journalism instead. Last year I took my TESOL course and am now planning on heading overseas to teach!

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

 Even though all our family members are blood related, one day my husband and I hope to adopt! I babysat a little girl from Haiti when I was in Uni, and adopted touched my life so much that I can’t imagine it not being part of my life.

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You can find Stephanie on FACEBOOK and on her WEBSITE

Thanks for taking to us Stephanie, especially for your awesome business advice!

Do you know a business I should consider interviewing for an upcoming Small Business Spotlight? Leave a comment or email me with a link to their information and let me know! Wish I would have asked a different question? I will be changing up some of the questions in the future, so if you have something in particular you would like to know be sure to let me know! 

Thanks Everyone! Happy Tuesday!