By Robyn Graham
Robyn’s passion is photography. She loves being able to make people smile, feel beautiful, and be confident. She is also a personal branding expert. In addition to telling visual stories through photography, Robyn works as a personal branding coach, helping businesses build brands that sell.
But before she was able to pursue her love for photography, she had to make an important decision. This is her story and how she was able to use passion to drive her ambition forward.
Today, we welcome Robyn Graham to the #AmbitiousTribe.
I have loved photography all of my life. But, I wanted a high-power career and did not want to pursue a career in the arts. I went to pharmacy school and obtained a doctorate degree. Eight years ago, when the kids needed me more and my husband’s career became more demanding, we decided that I would step away from my medical consulting business and would follow my passion, photography.
I started a blog and within six weeks, I had my first paying client. She was a musician and I did the photography for her website, CD covers, and more. During the shoot, I realized I had found my passion and knew, without a doubt, that I wanted to work with business owners and entrepreneurs to capture their hearts and souls through my lens and tell their stories.
Finally, Robyn Graham Photography, LLC was established in January 2011. I used my name as my business name so that the business would be recognizable, easily found, and identifiable. My business is located near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in Doylestown, the heart of Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
What do you believe makes your business stand out?
I work with my clients to not only capture them through my lens but to help them strategize the visual content in order to create an incredible story that helps them sell without selling. Creating that visual story enables their ideal clients to know them as professional, clear, concise, and consistent.
Is it always necessary to be passionate about what your business is about in order for it to succeed?
Yes! I use what I call the “brand equation” to help my clients define their personal brands.
The equation is: Values + Vision + Passion = Personal Brand.
Without passion, we have no way of identifying our niche. Passion fuels us to push through to succeed and drives us to be number one in that niche.
How did you obtain capital?
I used my savings to start the business and purchase equipment. I was fortunate that I did not need to go through the process of identifying and selling to investors.
How did you build your customer base? What form of marketing has been most effective for you so far?
For the most part, I have been using word of mouth and networking. However, SEO has played a tremendous part and working the social media platforms, primarily Instagram and LinkedIn, and generated a lot of leads and business.
How do you generate new ideas for your business’ growth?
I read a lot! I also connect with others and watch what people are doing within their businesses for ideas of how I can improve and expand mine.
What kind of company culture are you implementing? What are your core values?
We have a very relaxed, informal approach. We like to laugh and we leave comparison at the door. Integrity, honesty, kindness, and fun are our core values.
How do you deal with major mishaps? What would you say is one of the biggest mistakes you’ve made?
The biggest mistake I made was not creating a visual brand for myself in the first several years of my business. Another big mistake was thinking that I could do it all on my own. That isn’t possible. It takes multiple skill sets and people power to really grow a business. As for mishaps, I take them with a grain of salt, meaning, I fix mistakes and learn from them. I am not afraid of failure because that is how I learn.
What skills do you believe are necessary in handling a business?
Decision making; confidence with humility; business, finance, and budgeting skills, seeing the big picture; setting goals and sticking to them—dedication and adherence; flexibility or adjusting when things don’t work; discipline; communication skills; ability to listen; and willingness to seek help and use it when it is offered.
What would you say are some dos and don’ts in starting one?
Before you open your doors, have a visual brand and a branding plan of action. Create a vision board to manifest your brand and business. Be authentic.
Do not try to copy another business model—get ideas, but make your business model your own via your authenticity. Don’t be shy— network, and get the word out.
Was there ever a time you felt afraid that this might not work? How did you manage this fear?
Of course, yes! There is always fear, but I believe if I let the fear take precedence, I will never accomplish anything.
I believe that when I am afraid of something that is the thing I am most meant to be doing. Fear drives me to push through, with a lot of deep breathing!
And I have convinced myself that I cannot be afraid of failure because so what? If I fail, I learn, pick myself up, and start again. The one thing I’ve learned not to be afraid of is other people’s opinions. There will always be haters and naysayers. If I believe in my dreams, goals, and initiatives, then they are worth pursuing. It helps to remember that people who have achieved success are not going to judge me or criticize me.
Got any business trivia to share?
The vast majority of my headshot and personal branding clients walk in and say, “I am not photogenic. I take terrible pictures!” When they leave, they are thrilled and feel beautiful and confident. Why? Because with the right lighting, the right posing, and the ability to draw out their personalities, they are all photogenic and take great pictures!
Describe a typical day for you.
I get up at 5:50 A.M. to pack lunches and do a few chores. My son leaves for school and I do my daily devotions and prayers. While my daughter is getting ready for school, I work out. After taking her to school, I walk the dog and then begin working. From this point in the day, everything varies. Some days I have photo shoots, some days I need to do editing or orders, and other days I am working on my business instead of in it. Once 3:30 P.M. hits, I am a mom again with the exception of checking emails and finalizing work projects while the kids do homework or are at practice.
How many hours of work a day do you put in? How many days per week?
I normally work six to 10 hours a day, five days a week. I work between two and five hours on the weekends unless I have photo shoots, then it can be more.
What is your greatest fear?
Something bad happening to my children.
What sacrifices have you had to make to get here?
I don’t really feel like I have had to sacrifice. I have worked so that I can maintain relationships and still do the things that make me happy and keep balance in my family. I can’t play tennis all the time like I use to, but I am content with that.
What can you consider is your greatest success?
Outside of raising my three awesome children, I would say accomplishing the 5-star ratings and incredible reviews on Google.
What would you say is the secret to success?
Following my passion and having a positive attitude.
What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
The flexibility to have my own schedule. I love being able to drop by at school to see a play or volunteer. I also love that I can travel and not have to worry about vacation time. I can really work wherever I am with the exception of having shoots locally.
What motivates you? Who has been your greatest inspiration?
My family motivates me. My daughter inspires me to be the best woman I can be. With her, I have a purpose to be the best mom: to raise a strong, kind daughter, who will believe she can have it all—a career and be a great mom, too. I want to show her what hard work means and how it pays off, and how to build relationships while being true to herself.
Where do you see yourself and your business in 10 years?
I see my online programs growing and being a major source of income. I will also have additional staff to be able to service more personal branding clients. I see myself traveling greater distances to work with more clients who want to work on their personal brands. Within the next three years, I want to publish at least one (hopefully, more) books and be published in numerous magazines for my expertise in personal branding and visual content creation for businesses.
Do you consider yourself an ambitious person?
Yes. I like to succeed. I am highly competitive and always want to be the best. I will work to achieve my goals.
Do you think being ambitious helps you in business?
Yes, absolutely. If I hadn’t gone after things and put myself out into the world, I would not have achieved what I have achieved today.
What piece of advice can you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Work hard, stay true to yourself, your values, your visions, and your passions. Always be authentic and follow your intuition.
Edits: Kath C. Eustaquio-Derla | Image and Video Credit: Robyn Graham
Robyn Graham is the founder and owner of Robyn Graham Photography, LLC. As a personal branding expert, she brings together photography and brand strategy. She is also a co-founder and co-host of the 4 Chicks Chatting podcast, and a speaker passionate about sharing the value of visual storytelling for creating personal brands that inspire emotional connection, trust, and engagement.