Xinia : Tell us about yourself and your business
Jonnie: My name is Jonnie Henriquez and I’m based out in Washington DC. Since 2009, I have been intrigued with the art of photography and have set out to perfect my craft through hands-on projects and experiences from behind the lens. My work ranges from lifestyle photography to weddings and from kids photography to family portraits.
X: When did you decide to start your own business?
J: In 2009-2011, I began my photography business, but only devoted part of my time to it because I was so busy with a full time job I had in order to save to purchase my photo equipment. I worked my butt off and I did not enjoy it! One day, I came across a quote by Tony Gaskins – ‘If you don’t build your dream someone will hire you to help build theirs.’ And those three years of my life I was hired to build someone else’s dream, I realized that my dream would never be its best unless I give it my full attention and time. So I quit my part time job and began to focus on my business.
X: Why photography?
J: I used to always love to change my background on my desktop and laptop to the point where I desired to be able to take photos professionally. So I began exploring the camera field and once I bought my first camera, I would go out and play around and shoot everything I would see. I then began to critique my work and would get tons of feedback from friends; they would constantly tell me that I should be a photographer, which motivated me more to look into it. Sooner than I thought my skills and quality reached the point where I realized it was time to make a living off it.
X: What role, if any, does a business plan play in building and launching an arts company (as a business pursuit)? Did you have a business plan?
J: I actually didn’t have a business plan my first couple months and that is why it was not successful at first. All I did was build and launch a site. I just had a portfolio and expected customers to come through word of mouth. Through time, I began to link up with successful business people and get ideas. I created a plan and to save money I did the entire graphic design and printing myself. To start a photography business you first need the right equipment and need to know who your client is, because photography can vary which means so can your equipment. So first, I’d say, know who your target market is, then get the right equipment, website, business cards, get connected with bridal shops (since my focus is weddings). Through time I’ve realized that in order for my business to keep on running I need to market myself daily and I do that now with Facebook, Instagram, and shops.
X: What three pieces of advice would you give to aspiring artist entrepreneurs about planning?
J: Honestly, something I carry with me everyday is that in order to LEAD you have to learn how to FOLLOW. So you have to be willing to take risks and what I mean by that is internships, and constantly meet with people who are in a position you would once want to be in, and that might mean you taking them out for a coffee. Knowing that you don’t know it all and are weak, because it is when you are weak that you allow and leave a door open for improvement and growth. Business companies usually fail because they think they have it all under control and don’t realize they have competitors. Never be content in your business.
X: What do you believe are necessary qualities, if there are any, for artist entrepreneurs to possess or develop?
Be open-minded, have FAITH in your business, and be willing to take risks.
X: When you first started with your business, were there any days when you would think, “what if this does not work”?
Everyday. That’s a comment you have to deal with because if I was successful yesterday that doesn’t make me successful today. If that were the case then I would just stop here.
Find out more about Jonnie on his website:
Xinia: Thank you for help! I would like to first obtain your permission to publish the content of this interview on the SMU blog (http://blog.smu.edu/artsentrepreneurship/)