Wednesday, 23 January 2019
KATHRYN WILLIS is an award-winning professional photographer trading as Kathryn Fell Photography. She is also the manager of the Henley Business Partnership and is an ambassador for Make it Your Business. She has photographed several famous people, including Prince Harry and Theresa May. Kathryn lives in Sonning Common with her husband Richard and their son Jake, five. In her spare time she enjoys cooking, walking and listening to music.
Describe your business
I’m a photographer specialising in family portraits, weddings and newborn babies. I also do commercial photography and teach photography for both digital SLR camera and smartphone users.
How many people does it employ?
What did you do before you started this business?
After studying art and design in college, I worked as a graphic designer at a greetings card company and studied for a degree in marketing. For eight years I was an own brand product manager for what was 3663 First for Food service, now known as Bidfood. Then I became marketing manager at Ella’s Kitchen before going to work at Weight Watchers’ UK head office. I undertook a professional portrait photography course while working and gradually started to build up a portfolio by photographing friends and family.
When did you start your business?
In 2011 but I didn’t become self-employed until 2013.
What was your objective?
After 13 years in a corporate environment, I was becoming disillusioned and thought that I’d rather work for myself and enjoy what I was doing. I had wanted to be a photographer for almost as long ago as I can remember so I went for it.
Who or what influenced you?
My friend Celia, who was terminally ill with motor neurone disease. She told me that I should always follow my dreams. We shared a passion for photography. Sadly, she has since passed away but her advice had a profound and lasting effect on me.
Do you have a mentor or role model?
My parents have always been very hard working, which convinced me to do the same. My husband is very supportive. More recently, I have started being mentored by someone who advises and encourages me.
What would you do differently if you started again?
Initially I struggled to do everything within my business while having a very young child. I should have sorted out more childcare support sooner than I did.
How is your business doing?
I’m having my best year ever.
How do you market your business?
I’m well supported by word of mouth and I attend several networking events. As well as being involved with the Henley Business Partnership, I run Sonning Common Business Collaboration. I’ve exhibited at the Henley Show and some Christmas events. Social media is key.
What’s the best thing about running your own business?
Flexibility — it enables me to attend Jake’s school events and do the school run. And knowing that you only get out what you put in.
What’s the most challenging aspect?
There’s no routine and some jobs come at short notice. Cash flow can be an issue as commercial clients are often slow to pay.
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?
To put my hand up if I’m not comfortable doing something and to ask for help or advice. You can’t be good at everything.
What would you advise someone starting a business?
Get the right advice from the start, e.g. get a good accountant, have impactful logo/branding, see a business advisor and network.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?
Probably not having started sooner.
What three qualities are most important to success?
Resilience, being a good listener and having passion for what you do.
What’s the secret of your success?
Hard work, people skills and getting involved in lots of things.
How organised are you?
Very. I enjoy organising events.
How do you dress for work each day?
Very smart if I’m doing a wedding or event and comfortable and casual if I’m doing a family shoot outdoors.
What can’t you be without every day?
My mobile phone, sadly.
Lunch at your desk or going out?
If I’m out I’ll have to get something but I’ll eat at home if I’m doing editing.
Do you continue to study?
I go on photography courses a couple of times a year.
What do you read?
I read cookery books, the Daily Telegraph and the Henley Standard.
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