Today, our Real Women Report features a girl gang that’s producing all-female workshops for photographers in the wedding industry. Sound up your alley? Yep, we thought this would be a #RealWomenReport you’d find interesting. These small group gatherings of ten women are equal parts community building, retreat, learning and enjoyment. The workshops take place over four days and are filled with shooting, editing and inspiration, with a focus on women supporting one another through a growing network of small businesses.
With ladies joining in on the action from all corners of the world, the Hey, Sista community is diverse and welcoming. Here’s the story behind these events, straight from the founders of this sisterhood.
How did HEY, SISTA come about? What was the inspiration behind it?
Allison: HEY, SISTA was a little dream that started on a roadtrip from Seattle to Portland when Lauren turned to me and said, "I wanna host a workshop with you." I just laughed. I honestly thought she was joking. But then we started talking about all the concepts we believe in--like solidarity with others, women supporting women, that community can't be found behind a computer screen. We aligned on every level and really let ourselves dream about what could be. And that's when I knew we were onto something.
Lauren: I'm an introvert who loves people--what that results in is having a strong desire for intentional relationships and community. Allison and I met through a little community of ten photographers in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex and the benefits of having a group of people who you really know and really trust who could share in the experience of owning your own business was and is truly wonderful. We both believe that you're stronger when you let other people help you instead of strong arming it on your own. True strength comes from befriending someone instead of being jealous of them, showing grace and encouraging others and sharing information and referrals and holding things with an open hand--that's what makes you strong. That's what we wanted to focus this whole thing on--a sisterhood. A safe place where you could come for creative refresh, where everyone was seen on the same level. A place where we give really specific and thoughtful encouragement to each girl, and create and share and eat meals at long tables. And then Madison (our florist--shout out to Hart Floral for being the most genius and hilarious person in the world!) and Meagan (our hair and makeup artist who is incredibly talented and can be friends with anyone she meets) came along and it was the most wonderful, easiest thing ever. It just fell into place. We just want to be friends with everyone. Also OMG I can't stop talking. I just really love Allison and our sisterhood and Meg and Madison and all that this thing has become.
Take us through the process of starting your own business. For every Girl Boss, there are always highs and lows.
Lauren: Honestly, I have loved taking photos since I was in elementary school. It just was always part of my life. So much so, that I didn't ever consider it as something that you could do as a job. It really fell into my lap and all the doors swung wide open. I'm a believer, so I feel like the Lord provided a lot of opportunity. Of course, there are definitely always highs and lows--I think as artists it's difficult to stay inspired. To really find and commit to your own voice and not let social media bog you down. Remember, no one has a perfect day every day. We're all in the same boat, mountain tops and valleys. The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time--my husband always says that and I think it's the best advice probably ever. Haha.
Allison: In a lot of ways, I feel like my business found me. I was just shooting because I felt like I needed to, and then a business was birthed out of it. But because of that, I was super wishy washy about it. I felt like I needed to really find my calling and that wedding photography was just a small step toward that. It was a few years ago that I actually just had this lightbulb moment and realized, "I am doing exactly what I want to be doing." Then I dove in. And it shows! Once I started committing my mind to this as art and as my dream, everything changed. And through that process I realized that I needed to be surrounded by other women in this business that I trust--I couldn't be this lone wolf doing everything on my own. THEN, when you go through the natural highs and lows of owning your own business, you're at least going through that with people who can encourage you out of your funks. But honestly, it's just been such a dream to be able to do this--to work for myself and be a part of such an incredibly time in people's lives.
What was one of your proudest moments?
Allison: Looking around at our first HEY, SISTA in Austin and then looking at Lauren and saying, "This is really, really happening." This is the most fulfilling part of my life as a photographer and girl boss and being able to see all of our dreams come true was sooo surreal and so beautiful. That's what I've learned in this job--no features or achievements are as satisfying as you think they will be. But to be investing in people's lives like this...it is the greatest honor in the whole world.
Lauren: I so agree with Allison. That definitely was a rush. At our last Hey, Sista, on the last night, we celebrated one of our co-boss-sistas(Meagan) birthday. We all sang happy birthday and sat around and had birthday pie from some little pie shop in Manzanita, Oregon, and there were all these candles lit and the girls talked about their experience and how encouraging it had been and how free they felt to create and try new things and we toasted Meagan and a couple girls teared up talking about things that had impacted them and a week later I was sitting at home and it just hit me like, wow--this is such an incredible gift that I get to do something I love more than anything as a part of my job. I get to tell other artists what their strengths are and have really sweet conversations with them and see their work grow and them pursue and realize their dreams, too.
Anything that you ladies would tell yourselves in the beginning of your business journey?
Allison: Definitely to just roll with the punches. Things get thrown your way in the beginning stages of running your own business and you just have to take them one day at a time. Especially in the beginning there can be unhappy clients or unmet expectations--and as you learn how to manage those, you find out how to never let those things happen again. The tendency was always to get discouraged, and I wish I would've spent less time feeling like I was failing and thrown that energy into creating more good work. Oh, and definitely to stop comparing myself to others. But I'm still telling myself that.
Lauren: There's a quote that a friend shared with me once from Jon Acuff-- "Don't compare your beginning with someone else's middle." So that's probably my biggest advice. It takes time to get to where you want to go. And sometimes that process is frustrating, but honestly we are all constantly going to be growing and changing so in a way, you're always going to be heading toward a goal that feels like it's evading you. And that is a GOOD thing. You want to keep growing. You want to keep getting better. So keep banging your head against the wall and eventually you'll start to see through to the other side little by little. Don't worry about what other people are doing. Stick to your guns. Don't worry about fads or trends. Create what resonates with you. That's a lot of advice haha I think I'm probably over-talking.
Any exciting projects or workshops coming up that we should keep on our radar?
Welllllll, we just sold out another workshop, and we're heading to The Enchantments in May! We're staying in a rad house in Leavenworth, WA and we cannot wait to meet our new sistas!! And then the next workshop will be launched relatively soon after that, probably in the fall/winter of 2017. We do have an email list available for those interested in being first to hear about our next HEY, SISTA. Just go to heysista.co/apply to reach out and get put on the waiting list for our next workshop.