Introducing, Stefanie Kamerman of Stefanie Kamerman Photography and the monthly subscription box company, Shopswatchbox.com. I was interviewing another local entrepreneur who recommended that I get to know Stefanie as we both share a love of hand-stitched crafts and knitting. I reached out and here we are.
Stefanie is a busy lady. As I mentioned, she has two businesses. She is a photographer, specializing in photographic support for creative small businesses in Loudoun County, VA, and lifestyle photos, and she runs a subscription box service for makers out of her home. (Shazam! I’m a maker!!! Total score!)
Managing both businesses was somewhat of a natural fit as her photography visually supports the subscription business. She explains, “With social media, I’m taking the pictures and I write the copy. It all works hand in hand. It’s nice as I can let my photography clients know that I run a small business as well.”
On the Shopswatchbox.com side of her life, she likes to find high quality small businesses that are not well known “yet”, and selects their products and puts them in a collected box. She loves getting these lesser-known brands into boxes to build awareness for her vendors.
She began her businesses a year and a half ago. She explains, “I became a photographer by accident. I began taking pictures for events at church. It just became one of those paths where I needed a better camera, now I need a new lens, I want to learn how to do this… And before I knew it, people were saying you should become a photographer, you should get in the business.” She hired a business coach last year to help lay the foundation, and is really working to take it to the next level.
Before the birth of her businesses, Stefanie was a new mother finishing up school as an English major. She reflects, “I was writing term papers and developing my business while I was in school, so life was chaotic, I think. I mean it’s crazy. You’re trying to get through school, be a mom, be a wife, and building a business…. But it was a good kind of chaos. Now I’m working two small businesses! I’m mean how did I handle school!?”
Stefanie gains inspiration from Instagram, as well as an online Facebook group called Rising Tide Society that promotes community over competition. She says, “That’s how I meet people for my subscription box business and how I meet other photographers and say, “I love your work.”” She’s found that she’s really inspired by learning what they do in their community and how they inspire other photographers too. She laughs, “Facebook groups are great for interacting with other photographers, because you have to have a sense of humor when you’re in business. You really do! Things get crazy and sometimes you just have to let off some steam with someone who understands. And of course the Internet is full of really hilarious memes, so there’s never a dull moment on there.” (Y’all know I’m a huge fan of a good meme. LOL)
Stefanie wants her business to be more of a “grassroots thing”. As an English major, she looked a lot into American history and the setting. She was drawn to the mom and pop mentality of business where it’s not all about the money, but it’s about having a heart to serve others. And that, she says, is where her business is; it’s grassroots. She adds, “I hope that other people will do the same. I always think about those general stores where the owners would not charge someone because they knew that they were in need.” She admires that small town mentality especially in our big town world.
Her short-term goals are simple. Stefanie would like to book a shoot per weekend. She says, “Nothing too crazy; either a portrait, commercial shoot, or lifestyle. I’d like to grow both businesses and give back to the community; find ways to bless the community.” She was clear in mentioning that she doesn’t have a monetary goal, like making a million dollars or even having a monthly monetary target. She truly doesn’t want her business to be about making money. She says, “I want it to be about enjoying what I do and providing quality photography for people who could be on a budget.”
Although she has always been apprehensive about weddings, recently she has started to get the “wedding photography bug”. Long-term, she would love to be a wedding photographer. And although money is not her driving force, she would like to make enough to pay off her student loans and to “give back”. She says, “I feel that God has given us a lot and I want to give back with what God has given me. Making more from my business would allow me to do that.”
I always love to know how the reality of one’s business differs from their dream. Stefanie answered, “Well, you think, wow I’m going to produce great photos and people are just going to come to the bar. And all of a sudden, it’s crickets. And it’s slow, and it’s a slow build.” She adds, “And people say, if you have a dream you have to work really hard at it. It’s cliché, but it’s so true. You can’t just expect a handout; you have to work for it. “ She continues, “ I come from the millennial generation, too, unfortunately. Even though I’m one of the older millennials, I still maybe have that mentality, but I’m excited to push myself to the limits and to inspire the generations after me, that yeah you’re going to have to work hard, sorry.” She found this especially true with her subscription box service. She thought, “Wow, people are really going to want this; they’re going to sell out, but it really hasn’t been that way and it’s humbling, so humbling, and it’s just what I needed. The slow growth is where I’m supposed to be and I tell myself that every day.”
I found it interesting that what Stefanie was most proud of professionally was being able to call herself a photographer. Recognizing that she has a talent and that she wants to use and share that talent. She reiterates, “Again, it’s not about the money or getting the big clients, but it’s about believing in yourself.”
Personally she is most proud of her daughter who is nine, who is funny, and sweet, and caring, and humble. She says, “Because at the end of the day, it’s about family. And that little person is going out in the world and she’s not a jerk.” (Love her!)
Stefanie believes that life is about being humble and serving others, and using the gifts that you have to make the world a better place. She believes that business is not about money, but about believing in yourself and helping others.
* Photos by Bethanne Arthur Photography.
**Photo by Stefanie Kamerman Photography