In 2010, commercial photographer Vicky Scesa was pregnant with her daughter, Safi, when she started thinking about moms and all the pictures they take of their little ones. Scesa had worked on and off teaching camera courses, and had particularly enjoyed leading a photography workshop for a moms' group in Miami.
Could she turn that idea into a business?
"I had always taught photography," said Scesa, who lives in Delray Beach. "I thought what a great niche it would be to teach to moms."
Today, Scesa owns Mamatography Photo Workshops. Here’s how she did it.
The big idea
Mamatography Photo Workshops teaches moms how to best capture their children in photographs. Lessons range from basic camera skills to lighting and editing, and are taught in group or private lessons in South Florida, or through webinars, blogs and video tutorials on the web. Students are beginners through advanced. Costs range from $45 for webinars and an eBook, to $50 for a two-hour group lesson, to $300 for a private, customized series of four classes.
Scesa graduated from the Art Institute of Miami in 2006, but she started shooting in high school "and never put the camera down," she said. While in college, she shot photos for United Way. After graduating, she worked as a full-time designer at Carnival Cruise Lines. Finding that she disliked desk work, Scesa began freelancing as a corporate photographer in New York and South Florida, including a stint with the Miami Dolphins. Scesa also has taught a variety of photography workshops.
Scesa did an Internet search of "photography lessons for moms" to see if she had anything different to offer to the marketplace. She researched photography workshops offered by commercial studios and studied price, format and course offerings. She decided to design and price her classes for the mom market: women on a budget with limited free time.
Now a new mom herself to Safi, born in December 2010, Scesa wanted to be able to network with other moms while teaching them about photography. Scesa began offering group workshops in April 2011 to teach camera basics.
The next step was customizable one-on-one workshops, where she took a student from how to work a camera to portraiture, lighting and the editing process. Next Scesa started creating online webinars and tutorials, and started a blog.
"I started a Facebook page, and soon I had fans from around the world," Scesa said. "I thought, 'Why limit to locally, when moms around the world need to learn to use their cameras?' If they have a webcam and an Internet connection, they have everything they need."
As a new mom herself, Scesa also had enjoyed the camaraderie and friendships a women's-only workshop brought.
"Moms are looking to connect with other moms," Scesa said. "As a new mom myself, it feels really good."
In the summer of 2011, Scesa wrote and self-published a book Photo Basics and Beyond: A Camera Bag Companion. It is available as a digital or paper book.
A Facebook page was started in January 2011, which Scesa populates with contests, promotions, news of workshops and free tips. The website went live in April 2011; it contains a blog, class schedule and an online discount camera equipment store. Scesa is active on Twitter, and uses Pinterest to post photos from workshops. "Everything is linked together," she said.
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She has networked at trade shows such as Mom 2.0 and The Big City Moms Baby Shower, sometimes trading photography for show sponsorship. At one show she shot, Scesa passed out chocolate cameras with her cards to mom bloggers.
Scesa also set up a Facebook community page separate from her own, where moms can post pictures and tips and ask photography questions.
The initial investment of $2,500 went to camera equipment, backdrops and a short-term rental of office space. Scesa became profitable this year. In a typical month, she does two group workshops, three series and private lessons in-between.
Keeping up with technology is a challenge "because you need to stay fresh," she said. "New equipment is a heavy investment, but I’m also an advocate of using what you have."
Developing more video tutorials is on Scesa's wish list, especially now that she is developing a teaching app that will link the videos, blog and photo-taking tips together.
Scesa rises about 7 a.m., gets Safi her milk, then checks emails or Facebook. Safi is dropped off to school by 9 a.m., then Scesa returns to her home office, where she prioritizes her projects. She’ll work on her app development, check social networks, write a blog or market classes.
Safi is picked up at 1 p.m. Scesa will do laundry, dishes and housework while her daughter is awake. At naptime, mom races to do work while the toddler sleeps. In-between there are walks, playtime at the park, or reading a book together. After dinner is cooked and Safi is tucked in at 7:30 p.m., Scesa said she enjoys couple time with her partner, Danny Rabinovich, conks out or continues working.
"I’m still a new mom, so I think, 'When does this end?' I'm so tired," she said. "After dinner, sometimes I’m exhausted. So I’ll either quit for the night, or depending how I feel, work all night."
Scesa said Rabinovich pitches in by watching Safi while she teaches classes and styling and posing the baby for mommy’s photo shoots.
"Don't get discouraged, and don't let anyone talk you out of your idea," Scesa said. "Even if you have competition, you might be doing something similar, but you’re doing it differently."