➤➤ Welcome to the Crazy #MomBoss Series — Inspirational interviews + features of fellow mompreneurs who have started successful side-hustles, or are living the full-time entrepreneur life by growing their online businesses.
Meet Samantha Ong
Samantha is the founder of Toronto-based Samantha Ong Photography, where she specializes in romantic, whimsical, and timeless wedding and lifestyle photography.
I first met Samantha when I was running my previous wedding stationery design business, and was lucky enough to collaborate with her on a styled photoshoot that got featured in several high-profile wedding blogs and publications!
She’s a completely self-taught photographer! In 2016, she managed to turn her passion into a way out of her previous 9-5 job in the finance industry.
Together with her husband (and a little one on the way!), this mama-to-be has built a full-time photography business, and shows us what it takes to make your dreams come true!
What was your life like before entrepreneurship?
My photography business started off as a side-hustle while I was at a full-time job in the financial industry. Photographing my first 30 weddings as well as juggling the demands of my day job was so challenging!
When I first decided I wanted to move into the world of wedding photography, I had to learn everything on my own while saving for equipment. I spent all my personal time learning everything I could ASAP!
- I brought photography books with me to work, and would read on the way to work and during lunchtime.
- My weekends were filled with volunteering for other photographers to learn the job.
- I took jobs wherever I could to get my portfolio going.
When I started my business, I packed a laptop and would find a Starbucks where I could work during lunchtime and until 2 am every day.
How did you decide to start this business?
Escaping the corporate world was always a dream of mine — I always had an entrepreneurial spirit but just didn’t know what to do.
Luckily, I had a partner who supported me as much as possible. I always loved photography so it was my husband (boyfriend at the time) who suggested looking into it.
I thought there was no way I could make a living out of it until I came across people online who quit the corporate world for a life of photography.
Reading others’ success stories was very inspiring, and I became very motivated to make it my life too.
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What were the biggest hurdles you experienced when you first got started?
At first, there were financial hurdles investing in all my photography equipment — Going from zero equipment to getting everything was tough!
Even now, we continually need to update equipment and repair it. It can sometimes be stressful because of how expensive it is. However, we keep our clients in mind and want to give them 100%.
We definitely had a timeline and a financial goal and made every effort to achieve it. Before I went full-time, we were also saving for our wedding, and I definitely wanted to have enough savings “just-in-case”. Luckily, I had the opportunity to work part-time in my last 6 months at my corporate job — It gave me the flexibility to work both jobs while building a comfortable savings fund.
There were also emotional hurdles to overcome, as a lot of people around me were very skeptical about my idea to do this thinking it would not be a secure career. Funny enough, I actually feel so much MORE secure now than I did in my corporate job!
The “security” comes from knowing my success is all in my own hands, and not in the hands of corporate upper management. I’m responsible for my own future, and I love that feeling.
I feel MORE secure now than I did in my corporate job! I'm responsible for my own future, and I love that feeling.Click To Tweet
What does your business look like today, and what are your future goals?
Photography is primarily a service-based business, but we also sell products like prints and albums. We serve our clients in person, but also have an online gallery for people to purchase prints. I’d like to sell more items online in the future to further our reach.
My main goal for our future is to expand our team. I was very reluctant to let go of certain elements of my business despite being overwhelmed with things like administrative tasks, social media, operations, and communicating with our clients.
However, I know that being overworked was not good for my mental and physical health. We’re preparing for a new arrival to our family in 2019, so I have to make the steps to have a healthier work-life balance.
One of the biggest reasons to work for myself instead of a 9-5 office job was to have the flexibility to do all the things I wanted such as traveling and making more time for hobbies. It was difficult to change my mindset to let certain things go and not have 100% control over everything, but instead to find the right people to make my business work for our family.
What does being a Mom mean for your business?
Not exactly a mom yet but currently pregnant and a soon-to-be mom! I’m very excited about the prospect and know that I want my children to have the same spirit in achieving their dreams, whatever they are.
The reason why my husband and I worked so hard in 2017-2018 and took on so much was because we wanted to achieve certain financial goals to find a home to start our family.
What advice would you give someone who’s just starting their business journey?
Find free resources wherever you can! I initially borrowed books from the library, scoured the internet for free workshops and videos, signed up for podcasts and listened to them whenever I could. I would watch workshops while I worked and even in the car.
Following inspirational people is key, but remember everyone’s journey is unique. I know certain people who approach me about having their own journey into escaping their 9-5 job and doing photography professionally, but I find most people don’t give themselves enough time.
Of course, the dream is always to do it tomorrow if we could! But it takes time to develop and grow before you’re 100% ready. I really believe that the first step is to make goals but be realistic with them.
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