Scholarship Finalist: Monica Gale

Unexpected discoveries and captivities

Not only does ownership comes with a lot of responsibility, but it also comes with management skills, customer service skills, marketing skills, and communication skills. I began my photography business during my freshman year of college, and it has taught me so many things that I never knew I needed to know. For example, managing a crowd during a wedding where time constraints and youthful excitement is abundant is not an easy thing to do. Building lasting relationships with clients in order to create a name and brand for yourself is not exactly easy either. Neither is creating your own brand and selling yourself.

When I first began photography, I was a shy teenager who rarely spoke out.  Since my freshman year of college, I have been meeting with several different people, and I have been learning to manage my photography business alongside of other part time job(s) and school, as well. I am now more outgoing, more expressive, and I love building new relationships all the time! These are things I never thought I would enjoy during my freshman year of college. I have learned so much about what I never thought I was lacking, and I would not want it any other way.

I am now a junior in college studying graphic communications at Clemson University. To date, I have shot weddings, engagements, birthday events, family portraits, maternity, and single portraits. Owning a small business on the side has shaped me into who I am today by allowing me to really put myself out there and grow into a more responsible and approachable business owner. By meeting new people and having them rely on me to capture and produce their essences, I have realized how much I love working with people directly. Past jobs that I have been employed at did not allow me to build rhetoric with clients. Also, managing my clients and getting to know them in order to keep up with being able to efficiently produce for them has made me more aware of the type of conscientiousness I need in order to be not only an effective business owner, but also a better person.

Perhaps the best thing that has shaped me from owning a small business is learning how to market effectively by differentiation and selling myself. I have a vision of how I see life and relationships, and I try to capture the natural and raw aspects I see. I love the nostalgia that I can see within people, such as their love for their spouses or their families, and being able to capture that and sell it is a fulfilling reward. In my opinion, anyone can snap a photograph, but to put the kind of energy I do into getting to know your clients well enough to produce their essences is what establishes the difference between a person who owns a camera and a photographer.

In my two and a half years of owning this business, I have grown so much. When I think about where I was when I first began, I silently chuckle at how young and inexperienced I was. Although I have come a long way, I realize that there is still more to learn and I am still inexperienced. However, I am not anxious or nervous like I used to be; instead, I embrace the challenges I face in owning a small business because I see how much this experience has changed me for the better in such a short amount of time.

This essay was written by Monica Gale, one of 10 finalists for the Small Business Success Student Scholarship Program. Monica and the other finalists were selected from more than 500 applications reviewed by the Scholarship Committee. Three of the finalists will win a $1,500 scholarship to be used toward furthering their education. To vote for Monica or any of the other finalists, visit the Small Business Success Student Scholarship voting app on Facebook.

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