I met Jean Kercheval of Kercheval Photography almost two years ago on a networking platform called Alignable. Jean and Sandy Stamato (featured on the blog last month) are the two best things to come out of Alignable. They have become rock-solid friends and supporters whom I cherish. Jean and I are natural referral partners for each other – my clients need jaw-dropping branding photography, and many of Jean’s clients are looking to improve the look and functionality of their websites. Networking and referrals for the win! We also both love to dance and are always looking for opportunities to get out and cut a rug together.
Last fall Jean hired me to redesign her website – it was my first site in Squarespace, and I think we did a great job. Her photography makes everything look amazing! You can also find her on Instagram, Facebook, Youtube and LinkedIn (dang – she’s everywhere!).
First things first – what would your walk-on-stage music be?
I’m Coming Out by Diana Ross.
When did you start your business, and why did you create it?
I started my business eight years ago. I created it for a few reasons. I felt adrift and like something was missing in my life. My three children were in their teens and still needing me, but I had a lot more time on my hands. Meanwhile, everyone around me was telling me to “follow my passion”. Well, I had carried around a lifelong desire to follow my passion of being a portrait photographer, but had felt imposter’s syndrome for years as to whether or not I could actually run my own business – or if I was good enough to sell my services. It took me some personal work to get over that, but by following a mentor and actually doing the work and getting positive feedback, I overcame this initial hurdle.
Tell us about your business and what makes you unique in your field.
I am passionate about helping women 45 years old and beyond see their own beauty as I see it through the lens of my camera. I am a personal branding photographer and also specialize in creating beautiful women’s portraits. I work closely with my clients to help make their vision come to life, including a branding workbook, wardrobe assistance and a Pinterest mood board in our pre-shoot consult. Nearly every person who comes into my studio is nervous to start with, but after just a bit of time, relaxes and gets comfortable with my guidance and the relaxed, fun nature of my photoshoots. People often ask me “how do you get such authentic expressions out of your subjects?”. I tell them, “it just happens – it’s like magic, every time”. I think that part of that magic happens due to our connection and the trust built up before the photoshoot even starts, plus the fact that I create a safe space for the client and I just play and create, one on one, in an easy atmosphere.
What do you feel makes your audience special?
The people I work with often turn into my friends. We connect before the photoshoot and there is a mutual respect for each other. I let them know that I understand their insecurities regarding being in front of the camera and that I’ve heard similar concerns many times before – things like feeling overweight, less youthful than their last photos, not being “photogenic” enough, unable to pose or be comfortable in front of the camera, and so on. I see them as they are – beautiful right now and with no need to change. And I show it to them in their final images. They are typically women building or rebranding their businesses and in need of branding photos for their websites, social media and marketing, or women celebrating themselves and/or milestones, and/or gifting loved ones photos of themselves.
If you could magically give all of your community members one thing in this world, what would it be, and why?
The confidence to feel worthy of all of the things that they so deserve in their lives.
Has anything surprised you about starting a business?
It has surprised me that 80% of what I do is business and probably only 20% of what I do is photography. Also, your business can only develop as far as you can personally.
Why did you decide to hire out your website?
I hired my current (new!) website out to Cory, and she did an excellent job. It is not WordPress. It is Squarespace. I decided to hire out my website because I had no idea how to create a less static, more appealing and modern site that would showcase my work well and show off my brand to its best.
What were your thoughts or beliefs about hiring a web designer before you hired me?
I was worried about design skills – if the designer’s skills and tastes would match up with mine, if they would be successful at helping me with defining my brand via my website, and if I would get a long-lasting site that would be worth the money I invested.
What is possible for you and your business with your new website?
People Google me and when they find me, I look professional and stylish and modern. They will understand my target audience easily and who they are working with before they contact me. My work will be showcased well and look great. But most of all, I will look highly professional and like I have my act together.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about investing in a larger web design project for their business?
Use Cory! 🙂 You need to find a designer who you feel will listen well to your needs. Look at their portfolio of past work with clients and see if you like their style. Your website is a cornerstone of your business. It is worth the investment. Your potential clients will go to your site to check you out, to compare you to your competition, and to do their research. If your website is old, meh or poorly branded and designed, it will make you look bad and possibly even turn people away. They may not take you seriously if they see you do not take yourself seriously.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about starting their own business?
Give yourself time, it cannot happen all at once. Take baby steps, otherwise the big mountain may paralyze you into doing nothing. Get a good business coach, including getting help with your branding. Find a group of other entrepreneurs to talk with on a regular basis, or at least one of two friends who have their own businesses and understand your lifestyle and issues. Learn how to network with your target audience.
If you could go back in time and do something differently, what would you do and why?
Clarify my brand earlier, including my target audience and network for that audience specifically.
Do you have an email list? If so, did you start it when you launched?
I do, but never have used it.
How do you promote your site?
Through networking, word of mouth and social media.