Lady Bosses I Love: Nichole Howard
I was introduced to Nichole, brand photographer extraordinaire, through master networker Ashley Owens, who thought the two of us would be great professional connections for one another. As soon as Nichole and I got on the phone to chat, I knew that our connection went well beyond the professional realm. There's just something about Nichole that I loved immediately, and I am almost positive I hired her on the spot to update my brand photos. Our first shoot was the first time we met IRL and it felt so comfortable and easy. I had gained some weight during the pandemic and I was self-conscious about being in front of the camera. Nichole helped me tap into my confidence and within 15 minutes I felt like a supermodel! The end result of our time together was equally as impressive; the photos from Nichole are some of the best ever taken of me. Even better? She and I have become great friends and are champions of each other's successes and there to troubleshoot when times get tough. Nichole is also one of the hardest working women I've ever met, having spent the past few years building her photography business as a side hustle while she had a full-time job as a project manager in the corporate world. Impressed? Wait until you hear the rest of her story.
Nichole Howard: Nichole MCH Photography
What is the name of your company and what do you do?
I run Nichole MCH Photography. I am a personal brand photographer who focuses on supporting small- to medium-sized female-owned businesses. I help women feel confident in front of the camera not only so we can take amazing photos together, but to also promote their personal brand. Great photography can help business owners build their “know, like, and trust” factor.
I also love family and engagement photography, so I do at least a few of those types of sessions quarterly as well.
How long have you been in business?
I started in photography about 7 years ago, but I have been in business for 4 years (and I officially got my LLC last year).
How did you decide to launch your own business?
I think of myself as an accidental entrepreneur. I received a camera for my 30th birthday and literally cried happy tears when I saw it. I started taking pictures in the Philadelphia community, and my work was featured on a few Instagram accounts for businesses, which was mind blowing to me. Then I had a few colleagues and friends ask if I could take their portraits - and I thought “Why not?” And I kept investigating and staying curious about where photography could take me, all while working full-time as a global Project Manager. (So far, photography has taken me all the way to Cancun, Mexico for a brand shoot!) After about 2 years, I started to trust myself more and was able to see that that photography could really support my life. With photography, I can impact the lives of others in a positive way.
What challenges did you face in the process of launching your business?
I had a hard time advocating for myself and my business - really OWNING my business (this sounds so silly to admit) and knowing my worth.
I started off thinking I could never own my own business! I grew up with a pretty fixed mindset and thought owning a business was too BIG of a dream and I didn’t think I had any talent worth pursuing for most of my 20’s. But I have done a lot of personal development over the years - including reading Carol Dweck’s “Mindset” where she teaches you how to shift more into a growth mindset to be more open to learning and possibilities. I think that work really helped me see the potential in myself and stay curious enough to keep going.
Did you feel as though there were resources available to you, specifically as a woman business owner?
Yes, I was lucky enough to find mentors and coaches that could help support me when I was feeling stuck or doubtful in my talents and abilities. I also was able to watch other fempreneurs like Jenna Kutcher and Jasmine Star, who both started as photographers, grow their businesses into empires and thought - I could do that too!
I have also been incredibly lucky to connect with other like-minded female entrepreneurs--like Hilary!--who have been so supportive and helpful as I move forward on this journey.
Also Google is my best business friend!
Do you have a mentor?
Yes, an amazing woman Betsy Barron. She is photographer in Malvern. She is an incredible talent and amazing soul. She helped me feel confident that I could be a photographer full-time while still supporting my life because I was able to watch her do it. She also let me come shadow her as an assistant, when I was first starting out.
Any books you recommend?
So many good ones, but these are my must reads for anyone looking to go into business:
What do you love most about running your own business?
Creating my own dream schedule is definitely top of the list! I was working crazy hours as a global project manager (my role before I decided to go full-time photography) and some days would start at 5:30am and not end until 8:30 or 9pm. I love that I can choose what challenges and creative adventures that are interesting and will help me grow as an entrepreneur and a person, while also helping others. I also love that I am empowered to create my own definition of success.
What is your least favorite aspect of running your own business?
Being a solopreneur. I am Marketing, Accounting, Sales, Customer Service, IT departments, etc. It’s a lot of balls to juggle and sometimes it’s frustrating when I run into problems I can’t solve quickly and easily on my own. I also had a hard time figuring out how to price my packages so I could best serve my niche market, while also staying solvent as a business!
What is your best piece of advice for other women who are thinking about launching a business?
Get a coach, build your network with like minded people, take your time; patience is key. Do not rush the launch (you WILL know when you feel really ready!), get your finances in order (save 3-6 months salary, if you can) as a buffer to get you started.