Ask business owner Kelli White about her “why” and she’ll tell you family – spending time with her family, capturing memories for other families, and helping local businesses thrive to support their own families. When she was preparing to have her first child, she made a promise to herself: family first wouldn’t mean work second. She wanted time to pursue her passions and entrepreneurial ambitions while being a mom. To fulfill that promise to herself, she turned what started as a hobby into a growing photography and videography business catering to families and small businesses.
White stepped away from her camera to discuss her business with The Startup Ladies and provide advice on visual content to fellow business owners.
What is Kelli White Photography and why did you start the business?
What path led you to where you are today?
I grew up in an entrepreneurial family, so from a young age I always wanted to start my own project or business. I graduated from IUPUI with a degree in Tourism, Conventions and Event Management and spent time working on events in Atlanta’s nonprofit space for about 10 years.
At many of these events I also was taking photos and I started to pursue my passion for photography as a side hustle of sorts. When I moved back to Indiana, I was expecting my first child and decided I wanted to start my own business. I really value the importance of family photography and I also love working with other business owners to create visual content for their brands and businesses.
Photography is highly competitive. How do you differentiate yourself from the competition?
This is a great question and something I think about all the time. There are so many photographers and while I did start out as a hobbyist, I have dedicated countless hours to education and practice. I’ve studied tirelessly to perfect my craft on both the business side along with the creative side. I also feel that my experience in customer service and working with people gives me a competitive advantage. Some artists are great at the creative side but can lack people skills and business acumen.
Along with business videos, I recently started creating family and newborn films, which is a newer space and something I think people are excited to see. I also am proud to be a female filmmaker in a very male-dominated space, which certainly sets me apart in this area. Video is a wonderful medium to utilize for both business and to document a growing family, and I have enjoyed learning and growing this side of my business.
White partnered with fellow Startup Ladies business Café Baby to produce video content about its product line.
In such a competitive space, how do you handle sales and marketing to reach your business goals?
Some of the best marketing I have done is through building community partnerships. Finding other small businesses that you can collaborate with helps to spread your name in the community and grow your network. I’ve also diversified my offerings to set myself apart and create multiple revenue streams by offering family and newborn photography and films, school portraits, and business/branding photography and video.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received as a business owner? How have you used that to improve your business?
When I was just starting to dream about creating my own business, I went to see one of my favorite photographers Kate T. Parker speak (check out her project “Strong is the New Pretty” – she is amazing!) and I will never forget one thing she said: “The only thing you can control is how hard you work.” That has stuck with me. Creating art of any kind is so subjective and it can be hard to put a piece of yourself out into the world, especially in a very saturated market.
“…I will never forget one thing she said: ‘The only thing you can control is how hard you work.’ That has stuck with me.”
Thanks to my wonderful entrepreneurial parents, hard work has been part of my upbringing, so my work ethic is hard to match. Many people are more talented than me, but very few will out work me. My passion for creating great products for my clients and genuinely connecting with everyone I photograph is a big part of what has made me successful.
What key resources have you used to build your business that other entrepreneurs should know about?
I like to read as well. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert is one of my favorite books and a must-read for creative entrepreneurs.
I use Trello for making lists and staying organized.
Squarespace is great for easily making a beautiful website.
I just started to use Dubsado for client management, scheduling, invoicing, and contracts. I’ve loved it. It was created for photographers, but I know many other small business owners using it.
I think there is also a ton of value in finding other business owners who are in the same space or market as you and connecting. There are a few other members of The Startup Ladies that I have worked with and consider friends at this point. I know I can bounce ideas off them, and we find ways to collaborate.
For business founders, when is a do-it-yourself approach to visual imagery appropriate and what are the signs that it’s time to seek a pro?
I love this question because I think sometimes people assume they must hire a photographer or buy expensive gear to get quality content. I think that social media is a great space to play around with crafting your own content. It is a bit more casual than a website and people expect it to be less polished. For website content, important product launches, or promotional materials, having high-quality content creates a consistent look to your brand and presents a level of professionalism.
Having unique images customized for your business brings authenticity and cohesiveness to a brand. Founders can control so many aspects of the image when they decide to work directly with a photographer. Visual content often is the first impression a business makes, so it is important to make sure it’s properly represented.
You have a niche offering within your company for creating business videos for social media. Founders strapped for time often sacrifice social media when building their business. Why is this a mistake and why is having social videos so important to growing a business?
I think that using video on social media and through email marketing is important because people enjoy consuming this type of content. Facebook and Instagram prioritize video content through their algorithm, so you are more likely to get in front of your customers with a video. You only have a few moments to make impact and having a video makes it easy and enjoyable for your customers to view.
Every video you share doesn’t need to be professionally produced. Start by creating your own videos. Find great light, make sure your audio is clear, and consistently share great content. Social media is a (mostly) free way to market your company. You are missing out if you are not taking full advantage of it.
What tips do you have for fellow entrepreneurs working to build their visual brand?
When sharing images for your company, keep your looks consistent. Don’t use 20 different filters on your Instagram images. Look for similar colors and light (e.g. dark and moody vs. bright and airy) to create a cohesive look. Keeping consistency in how often you share and update your visuals also is important to staying relevant.
Show Your Face
People love to see the person behind a company and hear your story. It helps your customers to know, like, and trust you – which makes them more likely to buy from you. I know it can be hard to have your photo taken or talk on screen, but it can really pay off in relating to your current customers and potential buyers.
Maximize Your Use of Video
YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine. If you aren’t creating some sort of video content, you are falling behind. People also enjoy seeing video content on your website and social media platforms to explain/demo products, tell the founder story, or showcase what is unique about your company.
What’s next for Kelli White Photography?
My goal is to continue growing and eventually be known for my films and video work. After that, the next growth area for my business is teaching, traveling, and mentoring other photographers and filmmakers. I also will work with other business owners to help them grow their companies through great visual content.
How has The Startup Ladies helped support your business goals?
I love learning and connecting with The Startup Ladies group. The meetups are fun and have allowed me to build relationships with other business owners, many of which I have worked with in the past or have plans to connect with in the future. I also love the online Startup Study Hall and the Facebook group. Having other women and men who share my love of business, along with encouraging and supporting each other is truly something special.