Rachel Pivonka is currently a college sophomore majoring in education. She started with photography four years ago and served as a photo-editor for her high school’s yearbook staff. She expanded her portfolio by taking photos for family and friends. Pivonka operates her business of one off of her laptop and has managed to gain clients such as local restaurant chain Celebrity Bakery.
Why did you start your business?
For me, starting my own business was never really a question of “should I?” I started my photography business because I love photography. I wanted to be able to share my images with others and give them something to cherish forever.
How long have you been doing this?
I’ve been running my own photography business for about 9 months now.
The hardest parts?
The hardest part about running my own business is gaining clientele. A business cannot grow without clients, and word of mouth has really helped my business grow.
What is the most rewarding part?
I love taking photos. By far, this is my favorite thing to do, not only as a “job” but also in my free time. I love being able to capture moments for families. The most researching part is when a client loves my finished product – then all the hard work has really paid off.
How did you build a clientele?
This is definitely the hardest thing for me to do. I’ve found that spreading messages via word of mouth works best. Friends tell their friends and word gets out.
How do you promote yourself?
I do not do much promoting. Sometimes I leave flyers in public spaces (Starbucks) or post to my clients on Facebook. I have thought about purchasing ad space in local family magazines though!
How do you manage your finances?
I manage my finances by myself. When starting a business in general, this can be rather difficult. I have no investors, no stockholders, no one to help me get on my feet. When I first created my business it was a lot of money upfront on my behalf, but I can only hope that in the future this pays off!
How do you balance your schoolwork, your job and your business?
This is the hardest part about owning a business. For me, the business usually comes last. I don’t book photo shoots when I know I have tests, or have to work. Photography definitely takes the back burner to college and being a nanny.
What role, if any, does a business plan play in building and launching an arts company (as a business pursuit)?
A business plan is essential for any new business. It’s my perspective that arts companies are not always the easiest to set up and get on their feet. This is when a business plan comes in handy. When clientele is lacking and I want to give up, I look at my long-term goals I have for the company and realize that in the end, it will be worth it.
What three pieces of advice would you give aspiring artist entrepreneurs about planning?
1. Do it. Don’t wait; don’t say you’ll open your business next year. Or the year after. Do it now. Make a plan and stick to it 2. Don’t give up. As artists, we realize not everyone will love our work, but don’t be discouraged when you are lacking clients. 3. Enjoy it. Enjoy your business so that your clients will to. If you really love what you do, it will be apparent in your work!
What do you believe are necessary qualities, if there are any, for artist entrepreneurs to possess or develop?
Entrepreneurs must have drive. They have this will within them that cannot be found within other businessmen. Being passionate about what you sell, what you make, what you create, defines you as an artist.
Interview by Jehadu Abshiro, B.A Journalism, B.A. Advertising.