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Women in Small Business: 5 Questions with Julie Kubal

Name: Julie Kubal

Julie Kubal is not only an incredible photographer, she understand kids and how to get the best out of them in a photo shoot. She's taken beautiful photos of my girls, making them look serene and contemplative (how did she do it???) I learn a lot from reading her blog posts, which give parents tips for photographing their own kids. I'm so glad I chose Julie to be this month's featured woman in small business, because I learned so much more about her fascinating journey to becoming this family photographer extraordinaire.

1. What led you to owning your own business?

I’ve been a professional photographer now for almost 14 years, but before that I had been in the U.S. Navy for 12 years. As a Naval officer I had very limited choices about my career path. After so many years of working within one of the largest bureaucracies in the world, I knew I wanted to transition into a field that I not only felt passionate about, but that would give me more control over my own destiny. The new life I envisioned was not that of a business owner, but that of an international photojournalist. I imagined an idealistic existence traveling to new places, meeting interesting people, and making impactful images about social issues.

The reality, however, was very different. Though I had successes I am still very proud of, working as a freelancer in a time when newspapers and magazines were (and still are) cutting staff and going out of business was overall very demoralizing. After about four years of struggling to get assignments, pitch stories and get them published, apply for grants to fund projects (or pay for them myself), but not wanting to give up on photography, I did some serious soul searching about how to make it a viable career and decided I had to switch gears in a way that would put me in charge and not be dependent on a floundering industry.

From the beginning of my artistic journey, I had been drawn to photographing children - specifically because of their open, honest expressions of emotion. I knew that I could capture this authenticity in a way that would be meaningful to their parents. This realization gave me the inspiration to start my own business specializing in photographing children.

2. What is your business philosophy?

My goal is to give each and every client a wonderful, personalized experience and more importantly, I want them to fall in love with photos of their own family that mark this moment in their lives, that are evocative images worthy of displaying as artwork, and that they and future generations will truly enjoy for many years to come.

In the early days of my business, I quickly realized that most of my clients had no idea how to prepare for a photo session, how to act during a photo session, or what to do with their pictures once the session was over. The whole undertaking was stressful for them and in the end, even though they may have had amazing images, they had no idea what to do with them and nothing tangible to show for the time, energy, and money that had spent having their family photographed.

I developed an approach to guide clients through every step of our time together starting with our very first interaction. Now I work closely with each family to create something beautiful and unique for their home, taking them through a fun, stress-free, efficient process, helping them design custom artwork to showcase their images.

3. What have you learned about yourself by owning your own business?

Even though I wanted to forge my own unconventional path, I learned that I NEED structure and some predictability in my life. For my business to succeed, it was imperative to develop strong systems and processes that would help make business cycles more predictable.

4. What has been the most surprising thing for you?

In a way, I always knew that I needed structure in my life (part of the reason I joined the Navy), but I didn't truly appreciate the challenge of creating it all from scratch. It took longer than I ever imagined, but I am gratified to say after all these years that I’ve built a structure that is working well and is completely customized for how I want to conduct my business.

5. What advice would you give to a woman starting a new business endeavor?

There are so many great resources out there to guide you as you build your business - so many, in fact, that you could easily be overwhelmed and sidetracked with too much information. Seek out a mentor in your field with a business that looks like the one you are trying to build. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel!

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