If there’s one thing I’ve learned at my time here at Stone Ward, it’s to give credit where credit is due. With the recent induction of our very own Millie Ward into the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame, we’re taking time each month to appreciate the entrepreneurs that surround and inspire us – both nationally and locally. These fearless leaders take risks while others play it safe and they see success & push the industry forward because of it.
I got the opportunity to chat with a personal idol of mine, Jasmine Star. While you’ll never hear her tell you herself about her many accomplishments and awards, she built her own wedding photography business from the ground up along with her husband, JD, and has since been named one of the Top 10 Most Socially Influential Photographers by Huffington Post. Couple that with featured images in some of the biggest publications in the market, and you’ll have a pretty decent picture of Jasmine Star. It’s no surprise to learn this when you see her massive Facebook following of over 130,000 people.
In an industry that is incredibly competitive, you’ll find Jasmine posting daily on her blog that is overflowing with tips, tricks, and how-to guides for every photographer. Jasmine is committed to pushing the photography industry forward and fostering community over competition. Jasmine once stated, ”I faithfully write blog posts because I’m supposed to leave the photo industry different than I found it. If I share, it encourages other photographers to share and when they share, it encourages others to follow suit. The more information available for photographers to get better, the industry, collectively, will get better. And that couldn’t make me prouder.”
To say I was a bit intimidated (and more excited than I know how to put into words) to interview Jasmine would be an understatement, but she kindly answered some questions about her experience as an entrepreneur and gave some advice to those just getting their start.
B: What made you take that first step to become an entrepreneur?
J: I wish I could say something a little bit deeper or more glamorous, but it was really just life pointing me in that direction. The short story of a really long story is that I was in law school in 2005 and I wasn’t very happy, but I had worked very hard to be there. Then my mother was diagnosed with a relapse of brain cancer and so I decided to take a medical leave because her prognosis was not good and I just wanted to be with her.
It was at that time that my boyfriend of eight and a half years proposed so that my mom could be at the wedding with us. The doctors said that my mom wasn’t going to make it, and if she was going to make it then she wouldn’t be able to walk. And against all odds, my father and my mother walked me down the aisle and I married my best friend. And she was there for all of it. And it was amazing in that it was a wedding and our lives were changing, but it was even more amazing because we had a wedding photographer, and I don’t think he realized everything that was going on at the moment, but when I see his pictures I don’t just see the day of a marriage – I see a miracle, and I see how life can change in such a quick amount of time.
Image source: jasminestarblog.com
I think it was my mom’s life that made me rethink things. At the time I was 25 and she was 50. I thought to myself, maybe it was a bit of a middle life crisis, but I thought, “If I pass when I’m 50, do I really want to spend the next 25 years being a lawyer?” And the answer was NO! The answer was hands-down, positively no. It forced me to ask some really hard questions. I was on full scholarship to UCLA and it was time for me to go back and reclaim my scholarship. I just remember being so unhappy and I was crying and JD looked at me and said, “If you could do one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?” and I said, “I think I want to be a wedding photographer.” There was a slight pause and then he said, “Well…You don’t even own a camera.” I said, “But if I did, boy would I work hard!”
And then he said something that changed the whole trajectory of my life. He said, “I would rather see you fail at something you love than succeed at something you hate.” And with that I had the permission to start a business. We ended up getting the business off the ground and it has since been running full-steam ahead. The best part about this rather long story that I promised would be a short story is that my mom is still with us today. I believe she was there as a bit of a wake-up call to me to remind me that life is short and to pick what you really want to do and be passionate about and be successful. And that’s what happened.
B: Since starting your own business, what has been your most rewarding accomplishment:
J: I don’t think it’s anything tangible. I don’t think it’s been a single moment, but it’s more of a series of repetitive reminders of how fortunate I am to have the freedom, yes to do something I love, but there’s also freedom in that, being an entrepreneur, you get to make your own hours and you get to take risks knowing that the person it impacts the most is you. But if you’re okay with that, you can run with it. And that’s been one of the best things about running a business.
B: What does an average day in your life look like?
J: There is never a day that looks like the one before or after. It’s crazy because the things I longed for the most in my life were stability and repetition. I love schedules and I love predictability, but being an entrepreneur does not afford you that luxury. I know that the days spent working in the studio are a little more linear. I wake up, work from home for the first two hours of my day, and then I take a break to walk my dog and I have a workout and then I’m actually seated in front of my computer by 9:30 or 10 in the morning. I’ll work through the day until around 6:30, and that’s usually spent on editing, blogging, and social media. And much to my husband’s chagrin, I do quantify social media as a part of my job! The days spent not in studio are on days that I’m shooting, and they really just vary according to where it is that I’m shooting.
B: How do you handle mistakes?
J: I think that mistakes will come. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. The thing that I’ve learned is to own up to mistakes. As embarrassing as it is, it’s better to admit that you messed up and do everything in your power to fix it. You also have to learn from your mistakes. If you simply admit to it and apologize but you don’t take the lesson to heart, you’re not growing as a person and that mistake was for nothing.
B: If you could go back and do it all over again, what would you do differently?
J: I would have taken bigger risks, I would have invested more without worry, and I would have spent less time focusing on what other people around me were doing and I would have focused more on improving myself. Comparison is the thief of joy.
B: What’s the best piece of advice you have for young entrepreneurs?
J: First and foremost, trust your gut. I think you’re going to hear a lot of different things from a lot of different people. People who unabashedly support you and those who are highly critical. But as entrepreneurs we have this compass inside of us, and if we just have enough chutzpah to stay true-North then we’ll be ok. Keep taking big risks. Don’t keep looking back, just stay focused on what’s ahead and you’ll do great.