Who is Sarah Sims, could you please introduce yourself?
I’m a Professional photographer who helps the families and small businesses of Oakville and the surrounding area tell their stories with relaxed, authentic photos. I’ve lived in Oakville, on and off, for over 30 years. (I’ve also lived in the UK, St Louis and Chicago). I feel deeply connected to this community, having volunteered in many local organizations. I have three kids (now all teenagers) and feel so blessed that I’ve been able to raise them in Oakville. The kids couldn’t be more different from each other, which certainly keeps me on my toes. My commitment to them meant that I started my business on a part time basis, but now work fulltime, striving to grow my business by offering new services and maintaining a standard of excellence in all my work.
What is your business and when did you start?
My business is a full service professional photography studio, specializing in the visual story-telling of families and small business in Oakville and the surrounding area. I started Sarah Sims Photography in 2011.
What inspired you to start your business?
It was volunteer work with my Dad that inspired me. I’d been a hobbyist photographer since I was a child, always taking photos of my family and friends. My Dad was a full-time volunteer with the Oakville Red Cross and often asked me to photograph their events. Having seen my images of so many events one of his colleagues actually assumed that I was pro and asked to hire me for their own event. It was a “light-bulb moment”. A career in photography was what I was meant to be doing.
What were the challenges in the initial stages of your business and how did you overcome them?
Before I started the business, I went back to school; taking the Digital Photography part-time program at Sheridan College. (With 3 small kids, part time was the only option.) This helped build my confidence in my skills and set me up with some foundations of running a business. My biggest struggle once I was “live” with my business was spreading the word – trying to get my work in front of people. My referrals were strong, but that takes time, especially because I could only shoot on weekends when my kids were with their dad. I made use of social media as best I could, and worked on being brave enough to ask for referrals.
What motivates you about your business?
I love making great photos for my clients. For families that means being able to create stunning photos of the kids that showcase their personalities, playful images of the whole family that illustrates their love. I make photos that are proudly displayed on the walls of the family home. Launching the This Is Me Teens specialty service allowed me to highlight a stage of childhood that often goes by less photographed. This is a pivotal time for kids, really the end of childhood. It’s a time when they are starting to forge their identities and are ready to make a statement to the world about who they are. For businesses, great photos mean telling the brand story, helping entrepreneurs connect with their clients in a visual way. I know that my images can be a defining part of a brand identity and communication strategy.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Be willing to seek advice from those with more experience, both within your industry and in the wider community. Delegate / hire where possible. Boot-strapping is often a necessary starting point, but be aware of when you should start outsourcing. Consider what your time is really worth, and are you really doing the task as well as it could / should be done.
Interesting fact most of the people do not know about you?
The 5 homes that I’ve lived in during my 30 years in Oakville have all been within a 3km radius of Downtown Oakville! My mom still lives in the first of those homes.
The best business advice I ever received was…
You can’t over communicate. Also, be prepared to pivot.
My definition of success is…
Clients who are thrilled by the experience of working with me, because of the images I have produced and the way I made them feel.
If I could go back in time when I started my business, I would tell myself to…
Not be afraid to ask for business. Also, to outsource earlier.
Three books I recommend for entrepreneurs are…
“Playing Big” – Tara Mohr
“Building a Story Brand” – Donald Miller
“You Are a Badass at Making Money” – Jen Sincero
My personal tagline is…
“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic.” – Jack Layton