Ingrid Owens, Camera Shy & Beginners Photography Blog
Ingrid Owens is a native of Monaghan, Ireland where she managed her own photography store for 6 years. Now in Atlanta, Ingrid runs two successful websites, Camera Shy and Beginners Photography Blog. Married to her Smyrna, Georgia-native husband whom she met when he walked into her photography store in Ireland, Ingrid is a Women 2 Watch teaching Atlantans to capture life one picture at a time..
FG: What was the inspiration for starting CameraShy?
IO: I’ve been teaching photography since 2000 but that was mostly in Ireland and through my family business which is a photographic retail shop. I moved here to Atlanta in 2006 to marry my husband, and after a brief spell in the corporate world, I realized I just had to get back to doing what I loved and to work for myself. Teaching photography was the natural thing for me to do: I love it, I can work on my terms, be at home with my daughter during the day and people love my service. CameraShy was born!
FG: How did you first get into photography and what did you do before you got into the field?
IO: Well I’ve been in the photographic industry all my life in the family business in Ireland selling camera equipment and doing photo processing. So I’ve always been around cameras and photos. But I think like everyone who comes from a background in family business, you have a desire to move away and distance yourself from it. I attended university at Trinity College, in Dublin and attained a business degree. I worked in finance for a few years, traveled the world for a year and then found myself back in my hometown running the family business by my own choice. Its funny how we try and deny what we are meant to do, but it keeps coming back to us eventually. That was me and photography – we’re destined to be together!
FG: What were some of the challenges you faced when getting your business of the ground in the States?
IO: I never closed the business back home. My dad still oversees it and we have put other staff in place to do the day to day running of things. I thought it would be so difficult to start a business over here from scratch and there’s no doubt that it’s a lot of hard work but not impossible. The main challenges were the lack of network and contacts over here. I had to develop new relationships with all the various people who I would have to work with in my business dealings – from my bank to my printers. Back home [in Ireland], I had a network of associates whom I’d been doing business with for years. Here I had to research everyone and everything and make myself known to people- both vendors and prospective customers. But I’ve really enjoyed a lot of this side of the business. Networking is the only way to go in a big city like Atlanta! My advice to anyone starting out is to start with the network you already have – your friends and family. You’d be surprised how many people you know through them.
FG: In the U.S. there are many opportunities for female entrepreneurs; what is the entrepreneurial climate like for women in Ireland?
IO: At the moment we’re going through a very tough recession in Ireland, much worse than here in the US. Staying in business right now is difficult never mind starting a new one. But that being said, I think that it is during these times that the entrepreneurial spirit thrives. If you can catch the economy on the upswing then you’re shooting for the stars! Irish women have always been entrepreneurial and there are lots of government run programs [in Ireland] in place to help entrepreneurs of all kinds. If you have a good business idea and are willing to put in the hard work, then there is definitely the support there to help you – free or low priced business courses, advice, mentorship programs and small business loans. Even though I had my business degree I took advantage of everything I could when I was there and what I learned has stuck with me to this day.
FG: What are some tips you can give women that are contemplating leaving their job to start you’re their own business?
IO: I guess the first thing is be absolutely sure you are willing and able to give the time and the hard work required to make your business a success. A lot of people think that when you run your own business you can work when you want to leaving behind the drudge of the 9 to 5. That’s true once you’re well established but until then you have to know that you will eat, sleep and breathe your new venture. Be prepared to pull long hours. You also really need to have a good savings fund in place to support you through the start-up phase. Cash-flow problems are one of the main reasons why small businesses fail early on.Thirdly, make sure you’ve got the full support of your nearest and dearest. You will need their support to carry you through the tough times.Lastly, do as much groundwork that you can while you still have your job. Do your market research, think about branding, and put a business plan in place. All this can be done after office hours before you quit.
FG: What are some of the tips you have for business women who are struggling to keep their business thriving during the recession?
IO: I think in order to survive in the recession we’ve got to be really creative with our budgets. Carefully analyze your accounts and really cut back on any extra spending you might be doing. We have to be frugal in our businesses as well as in the home so always be on the lookout for coupons and deals and learn how to do certain tasks you would have previously outsourced e.g book-keeping, do-it-yourself product photography, internet marketing. Google is your friend! Everything is learnable!
FG: You met your husband after he stumbled into your photography storefront while he was visiting Ireland. It almost sounds like plot to a romantic movie. How do you now balance work and family?
IO: Sam [my husband] is very supportive of me and my business so that is really important. He understands and takes care of the baby when I’m teaching students on the weekends and some evenings. During the day though it’s tough, especially now my baby is in the toddler stage and running all over the place. But I always remember why I’m doing this and the main reason is so that I can be at home to raise my daughter and create a flexible lifestyle for my family. Right now I work early in the morning before she wakes up and late in the evenings. I catch up on emails, make quick calls and do smaller tasks during her nap-time. It’s all about organization and also realizing you cannot live in a perfectly tidy house! Somethings gotta give and for me it’s usually the ironing.
FG: What is a spiritual mantra or philosophy that you live by?
IO: “You’ve only failed when you’ve failed to try.” You’ve definitely got to be prepared to fail in business – you’ll never know if somethings going to work unless you put it out there. If it’s not a success, it’s been valuable research.
FG: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
IO: My dad always told me that “there is no money at the end of no.” He meant never refuse to do something just because you think you can’t or that it’s not worth your while. You never know where it might lead you; a new venture, a new contact or a new product. But if you say no, then that’s the end of that!
FG: What would you tell your younger-self if you knew then what you know now?
IO: Be careful when you’re working retail – you never know when your future husband is going to walk into the shop!
Finish this sentence….
FG: Women should stop complaining about_______________and start______________________.
IO: Not knowing how to do something and start Googling everything. We live in this wonderful age where EVERYTHING is learnable online. Google it!
For more information on Ingrid please visit www.camerashy.info or call 404-247-8079 for more information. You can also check out Ingrid’s blog at www.BeginnersPhotographyBlog.com where you’ll find loads of photography tips, techniques, tutorials and her new online photography courses.