Always an art lover, Melissa decided to use digital photography as a creative outlet.
After doing some volunteer photography of babies for a local medical center, one of the moms called and asked, “We love your photos . . . how much do you charge?” That session, photographing twin babies, was the start of MAK Images.
Word about Melissa’s sparkling personality and fresh approach to photographing babies, children, and families spread quickly by word-of-mouth, and soon she expanded her session offerings to include high school seniors and weddings. By 2011 Melissa was considering leaving her secure career for the risky world of self-employment.
“The only thing I knew for sure was that I had to be all in or all out. My main concern was whether it would be possible for me to replace my income through photography. Ryan had calculated that I would need to double my sales in order for the business to replace my bank income, and I knew that I needed knowledgeable guidance to create this kind of growth.”
In a timely twist of fate, Melissa crossed paths with Mark Weber at a family wedding. Mark, who had photographed Melissa in his Omaha studio when she was 3 years old, was now working at Marathon Press. He suggested that she attend an upcoming workshop that he was conducting at Marathon.
“The workshop really helped me to understand how much goes on behind the scenes of running a full-time photography business,” she says. “At that point I was photographing everything on location, which was very time consuming, so Ryan and I recognized that we had to commit to building a studio in our walkout basement as part of the choice for me to take the photography business full-time.”
Committing to Monthly Payments
With these decisions out of the way, things began to move rapidly for Melissa.
“I left the bank on a Friday and joined the photography Marketing Advantage Program (MAP) the next Monday. It was a bit scary to commit to monthly payments, but I realized that it was not an option to just sit there and hope that the business would work. I knew I could not do it alone. It wasn’t enough to hope that people would continue to talk about me and come to see me. I needed someone to guide me along the way.”
Creating a Business and a Brand
By February, Melissa was keeping regular appointments with her facilitator to achieve a clear direction for her branding. Since Marathon’s headquarters was only a few hours away, she traveled there to work with facilitator Tina and designer Angie. Melissa explains:
“We started with the logo I already had and I told Angie I liked blues and browns and I wanted my design style to be colorful and funky, but versatile enough that I could use it across numerous product lines. As I looked through samples, Angie began to work with graphic elements and refined as we went. I love the final designs because they are kind of retro. Plus, we’ve been able to use blues and creams for weddings and bolder colors for seniors.”
In less than a year, Melissa proved just how much a one-woman business can accomplish with focus, hard work, and taking the best possible advantage of the guidance, structure and marketing consistency provided by the photography Marketing Advantage Program (MAP). Not only has she created a memorable and meaningful brand that is displayed in Marathon marketing materials for all of her major product lines, she also has created relationships with local mom-based businesses as well as the Knot in Omaha. Consequently, Melissa is well on her way to replacing the income from her former career.