This week on my Mums in Business series I’m delighted to be featuring Karen from KW Photography who had been dreaming about doing something creative her entire life. Being made redundant was a blessing in disguise and allowed Karen to invest in equipment and set-up the business. Since then the business has been booming, winning awards, and Karen now has the added flexibility to be at home when her children get home from school. It’s clear that setting up a business is hard work, but allows you to do something you’ve always wanted to do. Have a read of Karen’s story below, plus take a look at her social channels, her newborn and maternity photo shoots are gorgeous.
Tell me a little bit about you, your background and KW Photography?
I left school at 16 and began a course at Portsmouth Art School, studying three-dimensional design. Part of the foundation year involved studying photography (although back then it was film photography rather than digital!). I loved spending time in the darkroom watching images emerge onto the paper, but didn’t decide to pursue photography until much later in my career.
When I was 18, I was offered an apprenticeship at a small reprographics firm. And this taught me the skills to get a job, aged 21, as a ‘four-colour planner’ in a larger magazine print company based in Poole, Dorset, where I’ve lived ever since. Print is predominantly a male orientated industry, and it was highly specialised work. I was one of only two women who worked there on the shop floor, but despite this, I loved the job.
I moved into different roles over the years but remained with the company for 22 years! It was in 2011 that I left when I was aged 43. I was a department manager then and was made redundant, along with 106 others.
That was when I started my photography portrait business – KW Photography.
What were your drivers and motivations for setting up KW Photography?
I had been taking portraits of my two children and portraits of my friend’s children for years, but it wasn’t until I was made redundant that I began to consider it an option as a career.
My children were my motivation. I wanted to do something that was flexible around my family. I also had a yearning to do something creative and artistic, since that had been put on the back burner after leaving art school. I had always loved photography, so it was the perfect option for me.
I used the money I received in my redundancy package to invest in the equipment I needed for the business and converted my garage at home into a photography studio. The business grew by word of mouth and after a year, I decided to specialise in newborn baby photography which was popular in the USA and was becoming more so in the UK.
I am now well-known for my maternity, newborn and baby, children and family portraits, as well as ‘cake smash’ photography and outdoor lifestyle photography. I’ve won many major international awards for my photography over the years and am committed to making my sessions fuss-free and enjoyable for all the family.
How do you balance the business around family and childcare?
Working for yourself, it’s long hours but I do the school runs and make dinner and all the things that were becoming impossible working full time. I work between 10am-2pm, then edit and run the business after 7 pm when the kids are settled. Although now they are getting older, I’m often ferrying them around in the evenings to keep their social life on track!
Since setting up the business what’s been your biggest success to date?
It’s been a brilliant six years. In photography terms, it was a thrill to receive the ‘People Photographer of the Year’ award and the overall ‘Photographer of the Year’ title from the Guild of Photographers in 2013.
In emotional terms, I’ve managed to create a successful business that allows me to spend time with my children; to be home when they get home from school and to be there for them, which I see as a huge win. Not all working mums have that luxury, so I’m really grateful for that.
What’s your top tip for anyone who is thinking about setting up their own business?
I would strongly recommend that if you go into business to act like the CEO of your company, and to run it like a business. I would say, work out your cost of being in business before you start and pay yourself a set wage, however small, and not just what’s left in the account.
You also need to charge enough and to take time off! I’ve learnt the hard way that not having a balance between work and home makes you unhappy. It’s taken me a few years to get this almost right.
Thank you so much Karen for taking part in my series, it was lovely to interview you, and I wish you the best of luck in the future.
If you would like to be part of my Mums in Business then just drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or have a nose at some of the other businesses I have featured in my series: Get Ahead VA, Tartan Blanket Co, and Matchstick Monkey.