This week on my Parents in Business series I’m delighted to feature Susan who created Kingshill Studios a specialist maternity, newborn and family portrait studio. Susan set up the business after her love of photography grew when her children were young. There were no iPhones and the trusted camera was used to capture all the photos, and I’m sure that some of us wish that was still the case today.
The business is now a huge success and allows Susan to work during the school day and be around for her boys when she needs to be. Her top tips are something that every business owner should take onboard especially the point about watching the pennies.
Tell me a little bit about you, your background, and your business?
My name is Susan Renée and I’m 47 years old. I’m mum to two boys – Spencer who is now 18 and Cameron who is 15. I brought them up as a single mum for many years, but now live with my partner in sunny Aberdeen! I worked for many years in Education, first as a primary school teacher then as a headteacher and then into senior management overseeing over 20 schools.
Now, I run Kingshill Studios which is a specialist maternity, newborn and family portrait studio in Kingswells, Aberdeen, with both boutique indoor and outdoor space (5 acres of beautiful countryside!).
What were your motivations for setting up your business?
When my eldest son, Spencer, was born in 2000, I picked up a camera like many mums do. I wanted to capture photographs of him as he changed and grew. This was when I started being interested in photography.
But there were no iPhones back then, so it was a real camera and there was a steep learning curve. I enjoyed taking photographs and my pictures got better and better over time, but it wasn’t until I attended a course called ‘The Art of Pictures’ that I realised I could make photography a career.
Although I enjoyed my career in teaching, I liked having a creative medium and loved the idea of taking pictures for other families. I wanted to create professional-quality family portraits that would bring them great joy.
It all happened pretty quickly from there! Within just a year of starting the course I had learnt so much, had made lots of contacts in the photography industry and had established a website! The photography was something that I did on the side initially. I did weddings at the weekends and some portrait sessions on Sundays. Basically, I worked 18-hour days, 7 days per week!
But when I knew that my business could stand on its own two feet, I decided to go full-time in the photography business.
How do you balance the business around family and childcare?
Now that I have my own studio, I take my boys to school every morning and pick them up every day. The studio usually opens at 9am when they’re in school, and I close it to pick them up at 3pm.
Luckily, my studio is in the grounds of my house, so on busy Saturdays I can pop home and check that they’re out of bed, fed and not glued to their Playstations (the joys of teenage boys)!
Since setting up your business what has been your biggest success to date?
I absolutely adore helping my clients to document their growing families in beautiful portraits, whether that’s inside my cosy studio or out and about in the fresh air on a location shoot. Knowing that the pictures I take for them are capturing memories that will be enjoyed for a lifetime makes my job incredibly satisfying. Long may it continue!
But I think the best thing of all is being able to be more present for my boys. I get to take them to school and pick them up and that was always my biggest ambition. My two boys are my world, and I want them to know I am very proud of them indeed.
What are your top tips for parents who are thinking about setting up their own business?
I’ve actually got a few tips to share:
- Invest in business training first and foremost and surround yourself with knowledgeable people. Every industry is different, but in the world of photography, it’s not enough to just be able to take good photos. Business training is very important so that you can learn about pricing your photography and how to get clients.
- Market your business. I recognise that marketing is fundamental – without it, I wouldn’t have a business! You need to be up-to-speed and active on social media and in other forms of marketing to keep visible and to keep consistently attracting clients.
- Define your niche and ideal customer. I believe it’s important to be clear on what you are offering your customers and to not try to serve everybody. In the case of a photography business at least, having a defined artistic style is really important and it’s what you become known for.
- Finally, watch the pennies!
If you like what you’re reading and would love to be part of my Parents in Business series just drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or have a nose at some of the other businesses I have featured in the series: Super Mum Society, Christine Gouchault, and Nano Spanish