Alyssa Peek | Founder, Peek Photography, LLC

"I love the freedom of being an entrepreneur. I make my own appointments, set my own schedule and take on those clients with whom I want to work.

How do you start your day? 

My husband serves me a hot cup off coffee in bed. After that, it’s either direct onto social media and checking emails or going to a networking meeting.

How has your passion fueled your business?

My business is based on my passion for finding the inner beauty in people. It comes from my own insecurities of feeling invisible—and through my lens I can help other people feel not only beautiful and handsome but confident.

What made you decide to become an entrepreneur? 

I always knew that I would someday have my own business—just like my mother. But the truth is, I was laid off from my corporate job, and I knew deep inside that I could never go back to an office setting or work in an industry that I wasn’t passionate about. My mother started two successful businesses and I knew I wanted to do the same. I have always had a passion for photography; it was an easy decision for me. Scary, but I just followed my gut.

What was the tipping point for realizing you had a good business?

When I knew people where talking about me.

What has been the key to your success?

When someone becomes my client, I believe they become a part of my life. I will always be thinking about them, of ways I can help promote them. I am not a “head shot” photographer—I am a photographer who takes a photo of a beautiful person in front of my camera. I make my clients feel comfortable, and become their friend. I also believe that connecting with people and then making introductions is very important. This is a regular practice for me that really pays off.

What lessons have you learned along the way, ones that you wish you would have known at the beginning of your start-up career?

Be careful who you decide to partner with, and make sure that they are aligned with your brand.

What challenges did you face in the early days of being the Founder of your own business?

Finding the value in your work and your time is the toughest challenge. Establishing a pricing structure was also a challenge. Job coaches recommended that I charge much more than I was comfortable with. So, I started out low, not making much profit, but I slowly proved my worth. It was then I felt I could raise my prices. It’s important to believe in yourself in order to establish pricing and place a value on your services.

What is the biggest mistake you have made in your business to date and how have you moved past it?

Not thanking people properly when they sent me referrals. I have learned that it is very important to be grateful and appreciative to those who think highly of you and refer clients. I now have a system of sending a proper thank you and gift for any referral.

What was the biggest challenge you have had in your business to date, and how did you pull through it?

My biggest challenge has been the financial obligation to my husband. I lost my job after being married for only four months; losing my six-figure salary was a blow. Not that my husband cannot afford to support me, it just wasn’t in our plans. But I also knew I had to pursue my dreams of owning my own company. So, I persisted, and I networked morning, noon and night. I put myself out there and business came back to me. It was important to me, and to my husband, that I contribute to our finances. I was determined to make it work, and it did!

How did you start your business?

I am a self-taught photographer/artist and I just went out and told people what I wanted to do. I attended my first networking meeting and secured my first client. That client brought more clients and it continued from there.

When self-doubt hits, what do you do?

I step away from work or what I’m struggling with. I take a break, see friends and regroup. Then I keep going! I also read testimonials from clients and remind myself that I am making a difference in people lives. It’s much bigger than the photographs I capture; it’s how I help my clients transform and realize their beauty, worth and power.

What is your biggest fear as an entrepreneur?

The idea of growing the business to the point that I need to hire employees, and then it turns into a job. The thing I like the most is my freedom to set my own schedule. I don’t want my business to start running me.

What aspects of being a start-up entrepreneur do you like/ dislike?

I love the freedom. I make my own appointments, set my own schedule and take on only those clients with whom I want to work.  What I dislike is the loneliness and feeling overwhelmed and knowing it’s only me who is going to get it all done!

Which books, articles, blogs have helped to shape your business and / or leadership style?

I love following Paula Lacombre on social media, because she speaks to the women I generally work with. I learn a lot from what she is doing and she inspires me.  Also, Cynthia Greenwalt, of Sea Change Networking, has been extremely useful – she teaches how to work your network. Paula Rizzo’s “Listful Thinking” is also great! I also read lots of blogs on Facebook, but don’t necessarily follow them religiously.

Are there any go-to resources that you have found useful to run your business?

Nancy Snell, of The Distracted Executive, has helped me immensely. She’s helped me to set-up systems and procedures that make my business not only feel more “real” but also protect my business. I use for ideas on how to run a photography business, and Sue Bryce as an inspiration for focusing on women.

What is the most important attribute a female entrepreneur / business owner can possess?

Number one: confidence; number two: seeing the value in your work.

What do you do outside the office to help you stay focused/productive?

I like to spend time in nature, exercise and go to museums. I enjoy art and love to see new works, even if they don’t pertain to what I do—it is always interesting to see someone else’s creativity.

What would you say to another woman who is considering taking the leap to start her own business?

Not everyone is made to be an entrepreneur. You have to be confident, persistent and hungry. But if you are passionate about what you want do, then it’s not work…it’s living your dream.