A self proclaimed crazy dog lady, Grace Chon grew up wanting to be a Veterinarian. She majored in Biology as an undergraduate and volunteered in animal hospitals to really test drive the profession before committing to vet school. Her Korean immigrant parents were auguring for medical school so Grace could be a physician for humans instead of animals but in the end Grace surprised everybody and opted for art school and earned a Masters of Fine Arts.
Little Doggie Lips
She had a very successful career in a huge advertising agency in Los Angeles working on campaigns for national brands including Panda Express, Saturn cars, eBay Motors, Shutterfly and The San Francisco Giants, to name just a few. As an Art Director, she was responsible for full-scale guerilla marketing from websites to TV commercials and everything in-between. The work was exciting and fast paced but after many years it left her stressed out, unbalanced, and unhealthy.
As a way to relieve her stress, Grace began to take photos of homeless dogs at the local animal shelters in order to help them find loving homes. As an Art Director, she developed a wonderful eye and worked with photographers regularly so she knew the craft even though she was not formally trained in the medium.
The hobby morphed into a sideline business and Grace began working early mornings, late nights, and weekends on her photography in addition to her ad agency job. She was clocking over 70 hours per week and received a significant raise at the agency after launching a popular national television campaign. But after 9 months of the cottage industry business and the grind of the day job, Grace quit the ad agency to focus on her photography full-time. This woman, in love with organic gardening, old books and little doggie lips recognized her calling and took the leap.
Do You Zig or Zag?
Grace’s background in advertising gave her the perfect set of transferable skills to launch her new business and make it a successful full-time venture. She designed her own website, developed her brand and marketed the business in order to attract clients. Grace uses social media resources to spread the word about her business including a blog http://www.shinepetphotos.com/blog/ that has become very popular with clients.
While Grace capitalized on her own self reliance she also knows the importance of distinguishing herself and her work. Since the time Grace launched ShinePetPhotos, over 70 new pet photographers have popped up in the Los Angeles area alone. She continues to be strategic and tap into her business sense to differentiate herself and separate her business from the pack.
At the ad agency she learned how to serve clients well and to solve problems. Advertising is not just marketing a product or a service, it involves solving real life problems and this has helped tremendously in her new business. Grace knew it wasn’t just enough to identify her passion for animals in the form of photography – she had to monetize it in order to make a livelihood out of this new venture.
A Clear Picture of Success
When I asked Grace to distill her personal brand down to a few works she responded with modern pet photography. Her images are beautifully real and capture the relationship of the animal and their human families as well as the unique personality of each furry friend. She aims to capture the pets in their natural environment, with gorgeous natural light, doing their favorite things.
The adage that time is money is even more applicable according to Grace who now works from home. She goes on location for her photography shoots but her days are filled with hard work managing and building the business. She does find time for gardening and cooking which was not always possible when she worked at the ad agency.
Grace feels more balanced, healthier, and has a sense of calm in her new work that everyone around her has recognized. Working with dogs and cats as your subjects takes a lot of patience. Although Grace considers herself impatient with most things in life, she has developed a sense of serenity and peace with the animals which makes for a good photo shoot.
The accolades are piling up and Grace has become widely recognized in a short period of time. She is the official photographer of The World’s Ugliest Dog Contest, has cover photos showcased in The Bark Magazine and her shots were in a feature story about Perez Hilton’s dog, Teddy. Grace was also named LA’s best pet photographer two years in a row by Tails Magazine.
Grace’s grit and determination have helped her transfer the ad agency skills into her own business. She is committed to doing everything she can with character and integrity and has built her business on those values. She finally feels like she is doing what is right for her and has a sense of contentment about the new career that she is designing.
Coming Full Circle
As a little girl, Grace knew she was passionate about animals. Little did she know then that many years later she would develop a business to celebrate her furry friends and capture their essence with photographs.
Grace’s friends and colleagues thought she was crazy to quit a lucrative job in the midst of a recession but she kept her eye on the prize and never looked back. In 2 years, her business has grown exponentially. She operated in the black her very first year and nearly tripled her intake during the second year. Working full-time while growing the business was one of the most challenging things Grace has ever done but she earned her dream career with sweat equity, business savvy and the wisdom to know the importance of distinguishing herself from the competition.
And needless to say, she has the most lovable furry clients to work with on a daily basis so life is grand.
Grace’s Advice and Action Steps:
- Identify your passion – then monetize it!
- Be strategic and learn how to differentiate your personal brand to separate yourself from the competition. Identify your niche market.
- Know that if you start a new business you will have to work extremely hard and manage your time wisely. It’s all up to you.
- Learn how to connect your transferable skills and experiences with a new opportunity.
- Develop a plan.
“If you are more excited to leave your job on Friday than you are to come in to work on Monday, something is wrong.” Donny Deutsch
Shine Pet Photos www.shinepetphotos.com