Celebrating 2 Years of Full-Time Entrepreneurship

Today is a celebration. Today I’m celebrating 2 years of being a full-time, self-employed entrepreneur. Even saying those words brings a smile to my face and an insane amount of joy and gratitude to my soul. 10 years ago, I never would’ve seen myself here. 5 years ago, I would’ve laughed at this possibility. 3 years ago, I was praying for this dream to come to life. Each year has built upon itself to get me here and I truly can’t believe it most days.

I haven’t shared my full story here on my blog before, so now is a good time! In 2015, I graduated from Georgia Tech with a BS in Building Construction. I originally studied Architecture at Tech, but I changed my major after my sophomore year once I realized I didn’t want to design buildings and I was more interested in the business and management side of the industry. After graduation, I went into the commercial and residential construction industry working as a purchasing coordinator, an estimator, and a project manager for two general contractors here in Atlanta. I was working 40 hours a week in corporate America and devoting my nights and weekends to my photography business. To say it was draining would be an understatement! I invested pretty much everything I made from shoots back into my business through buying gear, going to workshops, and all of the other startup costs related to a photography business. By summer 2016, I was so eager to jump into full-time photography but I was unsure of how it would all work out especially since I didn’t feel like I had the client base to sustain me income-wise. I had just started a new job that summer that was much more demanding and time-consuming than my last one, and I was completely spread thin. I was constantly stressed out and tired from working all the time, and I remember telling myself that I should probably give up on my photography so that I can focus my time on my day job. That was a low point for sure, but I’m so glad I brushed those thoughts away.

In November 2016, I went to the doctor because I was having chest pain, headaches, and struggling to breathe and sleep at night. They didn’t tell me anything serious was wrong, but rather it was probably stress-related. That was scary, and I remember crying in the shower that day feeling overwhelmed, helpless, and like I was drowning from all the work I had in both my day job and my business. My journal from that time actually reads, “I feel like I’m sinking in a really stormy ocean, trying to catch my breath, almost there, and then sinking and gasping for air again.” It was bad! My health was being affected by how unhappy I was at my job and how burned out I was on trying to juggle so much in my life.

Then November 7, 2016 happened. It was a Monday and I went to work like every other Monday. But around 3 pm, I got called into a meeting and was let go from my job. It was awkward and embarrassing and uncomfortable to sign some HR papers and pack up all my stuff and leave, but I remember driving home after that thinking, “I should be a lot sadder than I am right now.” I immediately felt peace and happiness knowing that the cause of so much of my stress (working a full time job that I was no longer passionate about) was gone. That night, my chest pain was gone and I slept beautifully.

On Tuesday, November 8, 2016, I woke up very happy and very peaceful. I woke up knowing that I didn’t want to find another full-time job—at least not one in the construction industry. I woke up so dang excited to be able to pursue my dream as a photographer and business owner full-time. I was 100% nervous and yet 1000% sure that I was where I wanted to be and where God planned for me to be. Since then, it’s been a whirlwind of the best 2 years of my life so far. I’ve seen God’s favor in incredible ways as he’s guided my path and my business into opportunities and places and levels I couldn’t have imagined. I wake up every day with a hustle in my heart that fuels me to keep going in this crazy entrepreneurial world. I’m thankful for every thing big and small that’s been a part of the past two years—rejections, triumphs, magazine covers and features, taxes, failures, plane tickets, interns, Instagram likes, lazy days, missed opportunities, new friends, industry relationships, workshops, and more. Every single piece has molded me into the business owner I am now and will continue to be!

FEARLESS - my word for 2018. A word that makes me squirm as much as it makes me hopeful. When I chose this as my word for 2018, I wasn’t think of it as me being “without fear,” but more so “fearing less.” I’ll be the first to admit that I can easily be crippled by fears and doubts which leads to what-ifs, excuses, letdowns, and talking myself out of so many things in life. So, I challenged myself this year to just inch toward minimizing my fears, coming to terms with what exactly are the roots of my fears, and then facing them head on. Baby steps. Doing one thing every day that scares me until the fears slowly go away.

Photography by Kelley Raye // kelleyraye.com

This image represents so much to me. This is one of my favorite views in all of Atlanta. The Bank of America building in the background represents a landmark of home to me. Whenever I’m lost in the city (which thankfully happens less often now than it did before), I always look for that building to point me to what I’m familiar with. To point me back to North Ave, Midtown, and Georgia Tech—three places that hold so many memories and comfort for me. The Beltline, Ponce City Market, golden hour, a warm fall day, and Kelley Raye on the other side of the camera make it even better.

Photography by Kelley Raye // kelleyraye.com

So, this shoot from just last month is in celebration of the last 2 years and in anticipation of the next however many years I get to do this dream job of mine! It’s also dedicated to everyone that’s supported me in any way over the last 2 years. THANK YOU so much. I don’t ever want to take this time, this life, this dream for granted. And another huge thank you, Kelley, for capturing me in a way I’ve never seen before and for being my friend and cheerleader over the years too.