Last winter, I found myself in a really bad funk. I won’t go into details, but will say that it’s maybe the worst depression I’ve ever experienced. After a whole lot of soul searching, I realized the one thing that made me feel really great was taking headshots of homeless dogs for The Paw’d Squad.
So in late December of 2007 I sat down and started to plan - really really plan. And in February 2008, Shine Pet Photos officially launched.
I can’t believe this was only a year ago! It’s been such an amazing year and if you had told me even 18 months ago that I’d someday be a full-time pet photographer I would have laughed in your face. I LOVE advertising - I mean really, really love it. I worked so hard to get where I am, and the thought of giving it all up for a side hobby seemed really insane to me. But lo and behold, 9 months into my fun side business I went full-time and haven’t looked back. It was an INCREDIBLY hard decision and after I gave my notice I sometimes found myself sitting at my desk at work, just wanting to go back to my boss and shout “JUST KIDDING!! I’m going to stay!!” But all the support I got from everyone there from HR to the executive creative director helped me realize I was making the right decision.
So here I am. It’s been a year. I’m grateful for all the people I’ve met, the opportunities I’ve had, and the amazing clients who have welcomed me into their homes and trusted me to take photos for them. I’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way and thought I’d share some with you.
#1) Follow your passion
Donny Deutsch came to our agency (the agency he once ran before he moved onto TV) and gave us a really inspirational talk. The one thing he said that really stood out to me was “Follow your passion, and success will follow.” The man has interviewed thousands of successful people, and that was the one constant piece of advice that every successful entrepreneur had to say. It’s true. Which leads me to my next point…
#2) Don’t be afraid to take risks
Sometimes following your passion might seem a little crazy. Trust me, I’ve been there - several times. First was when I was a senior at Penn State, ready to graduate with a degree in Biology. I realized my childhood dream of being a vet or doctor wasn’t really my own. I realized that what I really wanted to do was turn my passion for art + design into a real career. My mom thought I was completely insane. But I graduated with my science degree, and moved 3,000 miles away from home to a city where I only had one friend to start my life over and pursue a career in creative advertising.
The most recent risk I took was quitting a really great, well-paying job (right after launching a well received ad campaign, too) to plunge into the unknown of full-time photography. I miss the money, I miss coming up with ads, but I’ve always said I’d rather be poor and happy than stressed out and rich. And this leads us right back to #1 - “Follow your passion and success will follow.”
I can’t even imagine what life would be like if I hadn’t taken these risks. I’d probably be sitting under some garish flourescent lights, playing with petri dishes. Oh, the horrors.
#3) Work hard and focus on success
My parents came to this country with nothing but $500 and the clothes on their backs. And with their few belongings and the hope for a better future, they built an amazing life - they started their own businesses, bought beautiful homes in great neighborhoods, and sent 3 children through college without a single student loan. My parents are my utmost inspiration and remind me how much hard work pays off. It’s their inspiration that helped me endure 3 really hard years in grad school, and all the trials and tribulations of being a young (female!) art director in an extremely competitive and cut throat (not to mention male dominated) industry.
#4) Think about the positive
When I was halfway through grad school, I almost quit. I really sucked at advertising, and the director of the school told me I barely passed my mid-point review. No matter how hard I thought I was working, it was never good enough. I beat myself up all the time and wondered why I sucked so bad. I decided to stop being so negative, and focus on the positive. I decided to even lie to myself and say “Grace, your ads are awesome. You’re a great art director” even though I didn’t believe word of it.
A year and a half later, I was still in school. I had realized I really wasn’t working that hard, and pushed myself even harder. (#3 Work hard and focus on success!) I also was one of the few people in my class to already have a full-time ad agency job. I won my first industry awards. I graduated at the top of my class. I moved to LA and eventually moved on to work at one of my dream ad agencies. I tell you all this not to brag but to prove to you how much things can change if you focus your energy on positivity. The transformation in my own life still boggles my mind.
#5) Be a person of character
It doesn’t matter what industry you work in — there’s always going to be politics and shady-ass mofos who get ahead by being slimy. Don’t be that person.
A friend of mine recently defined integrity as “What you do when you think no one is looking.” Aint that the truth? You can certainly get ahead if you do weird, shady stuff or shmooze and kiss the right ass. It’s the ugly side of business. But you can also get ahead by maintaining your character, being nice, and playing nice.
My mom is my total role-model. I’ve never seen anyone with such integrity and character in my life. She once told me this hilarious story about how she and a friend went to the food court at the mall. My mom bought two slices of pizza. After she finished eating, she realized the kid had only charged her for one. So she went BACK to the counter, and whispered to the boy to come over to her (She didn’t want to call him out in front of his managers and get him in trouble).
She whispered “Heeeeey! You only charge me for one pijja but I have two!”
The boy whispered back “I know! I gave you one for free because I like you!”
I so want to be as cool as my mom.
#6 Stay humble
U2 said it best - “If you want to kiss the sky, better learn how to kneel.” ’Nuff said.
I guess that’s about it. So happy 1 year anniversary to Shine Pet Photos. Here’s to more fun, more friendships, and more successful years in the future.