Sometimes, you’re not starting a new business from scratch. Sometimes, you’re starting a new business with one already under your wing. This is what the uber-talented Leesha Williams (from Onyx Branding Company) did this January, when she set up a sister brand to her wedding photography business. As part of our series celebrating our new business shower templates (which help you throw – you guessed it – new business showers to celebrate setting up a – you guessed it again – new business), we asked Leesha about the highs and lows of setting up a new business; what she’s done differently this time, and what she’d perhaps do differently again.
Who are you and what do you do?
Hi I’m Leesha, I’m a portrait and product photographer based in the midlands! I own Onyx Branding Co. a female owned branding and product photography business helping small indie businesses elevate their photography content. As a black owned business, I have a special focus on helping other black/brown owned businesses.
Tell us about the start of your business journey.
Onyx really started in lockdown. I usually work as a wedding and event photographer but because of COVID-19 we weren’t able to photograph any weddings. After the events last June and the rise in the Black Lives Matter movement, I began to realise that like me, other Black/Brown owned businesses didn’t feel as if they had a safe space to create and be their true authentic selves, especially in the creative industry. I’ve worked as a wedding photographer for the past few years, but lockdown meant that both my business and income disappeared almost overnight.
What do you wish you’d known when you started out?
So one thing I really wished I’d known before starting out is that running your own photography business or any creative business for that matter is that you really only spend about 30% of your time doing your actual job. The rest is spent wearing all of the other hats! I never planned on working in the photography industry in the way that I do now so I wish I’d done more research in the beginning because for businesses to be successful, you do have to run them like a business so that includes all of the admin, marketing and everything else that goes along with it!
What’s the one (physical) thing you wish you’d had when you were starting out?
One physical thing I wish I had when starting out would definitely have been a good working laptop for editing! When I started out photographing weddings and events, I never dreamed that it would’ve been my full time career. This meant I didn’t necessarily invest in anything early on, so now having a computer solely for editing has increased my productivity so much!
What I would say to anyone wanting to start a photography business is to get to know your equipment and what you have first though and get good at using that. Having the right equipment does help but you don’t need fancy equipment to make you better at your job, your equipment should grow with your business.
What’s the one thing you wished you’d asked for help with?
If there was one thing I really wish I’d asked for help when starting my business it probably would have been help from someone with admin, time management and prioritising tasks. Running the two businesses simultaneously can get quite overwhelming so I find that I can often get burnt out easily!
Being a creative person also means that I can get distracted very easily so I find that having someone like a virtual assistant or even just coworking with a friend or a really good organiser system like Trello super helpful for my business and for staying on track with tasks.
Who are the people that helped you most in the early days?
My friends and family were so helpful in the beginning, I’ve been lucky in that everyone has always been really supportive, sometime working in a creative industry or opening a small business, you don’t always get the support you need or people think that it’s “just a side hustle” or it’s not a “real job” so if you’re ever feeling that way, my advice would be to try and find online groups or communities for other like minded businesses or networking events. Being around other people who are in your industry is such an amazing thing because they understand what you’re going through.
What’s your next business milestone coming up and how will you be celebrating?
I’m very goal orientated so every year I like to write down a set of goals for each business and how I can achieve them, I like to set myself some goals that I definitely must do and then also a set that would be amazing to achieve with a little action plan on how I can go about doing it. If you’re like me and you like to work towards specific goals, I find that way works really well and you can print them off and put them in your office/workspace.
Onyx was only launched in January and it’s been crazy since then so my next milestone for Onyx is to gain five repeat clients before the end of the summer. It doesn’t sound like a lot but because I have such a niche ideal client that I want to work with, I think it’s achievable and will still allow me to focus on my other business goals as well.
Thank you so much Leesha! To check out Leesha’s branding work head to Onyx Branding Co.; to see her wedding photography you can head here. And if you’ve been inspired to throw a new business shower, firstly: congratulations! and secondly: you can find loads of templates and inspiration here.