Okay, Women of the Wedding Industry Wednesday. On time and under budget!
No but really, I got some great feedback last week that yes, these blogs are a little too long for the liking, and I also suspect most of you want to cut right to the chase and get on to reading about the dynamic, creative, bright women that are the subject of these interviews.
So here we are, Women of the Wedding Industry Wednesday. A little revamped. A little 1,000 word cut to make it palatable, and a fun part of your morning coffee/scroll/blog routine.
If I'm being honest, this interview with the Cheermeister + Truth Teller + Girl Scout Most Likely to have an Honesty Badge while sharing her Samoas with You is well timed.
February was a hard month business wise. Every month as a business owner is hard but this feels like the final stretch in what has been a marathon of a winter.
Like most first year business owners, I made a ton of mistakes when it came to my "off-season". Not having a full-time, seasonal job lined up. Taking on too many creative projects just for fun. Not budgeting well for all of the continuing business expenses that come up.
With spring teasing it's way into my northerly world, I can see the return of busyness and business, and honestly I feel a little sad that in some ways, I wasted a perfectly good and beautiful winter stressed about all of the ways I failed or felt like I was failing. I know in my head that these last precious weeks before my wedding season kicks off should be filled with rest, and guiltless naps, and guiltless time with friends, and yet I can't shake the need to hustle from my shoulders.
The thing is, if I hadn't of opened up about this vulnerability, and these feelings to at least 10 other small business owners I know and trust, I would have felt so alone, and so isolated. Instead, I discovered that this, all of this, is so so normal.
Perfection is boring. Businesses take time to grow. Business owners are human. Authenticity can't be achieved unless you are willing to admit vulnerability.
Sounds cliche right? And yet I feel like we (and especially me) search for ways to shortcut the work when we are surrounded by successful, happy, well-paid creatives who have gorgeous offices and branded products and lovely lunches and lattes every damn day of the week.
The secret? None of that reveals the work that it took to make it happen. None of it speaks to the day to day life of the creative entrepreneur. And it'a lot harder to be and stay inspired when you are laying low, and doing the work.
So for this week, I got to sit down with the responses from a woman who inspires me daily, and I don't event know her. I have never met her.
And yet, the corner that Alora occupies in this world is essential. It is the corner of a self-taught creative who is willing to admit that not only does entrepreneurship require a lot of comfort with not knowing what you're doing - but admitting you don't know what you're doing. There is a time and a space for being Captain Fake it Till You Make It, but let's be honest. That costume wears out with a few washes. And underneath is whatever you really are. A multi-passionate, restless, ever learning, ever failing, imperfect human. What if you're barely making it, and you don't want to fake it?
Alora is IT in terms of being a gal dang industry darling. Hardworking and successful yet endlessly open about what it is she does. A hella good photographer who openly shares her process and mentors others. The 'Don't Share All of Your Secrets' mentality doesn't seem to concern her. A lush and merry personality. A vivid and dynamic storyteller. A rare breed of bird who is as good in front of the camera as well as behind it.
She is the brand of photographer we have come to love. And seek out. Someone who makes everything look like a Sunday at sunset. Someone who adds a generous warmth to her images. A nouveau aesthetic who seems to direct the quality of moments and experiences so gently, so perfectly you'd think anyone could do it. But they can't. You might call it a preset. But I think it's a person that takes the imperfect, and makes it just good enough that we all want some.
I find you incredibly encouraging and inspirational. Yet you also are open about your insecurities. We’re living in an age where that balance makes for good business, but I don’t think it always did. Can you talk about why being vulnerable with people is an asset these days?
Growing up, I had no idea how people saw me. I didn’t know that people thought I was “killing it” or “had it all together”. Knowing myself, I was in a constant state of comparison and naming my countless insecurities. Then, I turned 25 and realized, hey this is who I am and these are my imperfections, and that’s ok. When I realized that I had a platform to show people, that I am REAL and want the best for them, I took advantage of it.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s tempting to have people think you are much cooler than you really are, but is it the truth? Nah. I have always been an advocate of authenticity while never taking myself seriously, and I wanted to show people that whenever possible.
People want to see humanity, not perfection. Perfection is boring.
You have a podcast! I feel like such a tool for not listening to it yet but (very guilty) I am not much of a podcaster. What would we learn if we tuned in?
Haha, yes I do! It’s a little bit of everything! Sometimes I talk about real stuff business owners or women go through, share about my life, or offer some free business tips here and there. I am such an awful blogger, but, podcasting gives me the ability to spill it all as I want it to be said without worrying about proper grammar and such!
Alora's Podcast, Of Heart + Hustle is available on iTunes and Spotify.
I LOVE your personal style. The first photo I saw of you was a portrait with your family and it was like seeing a modern/historic era Interception type thing. You dress in an era of sheeeer class in your photos. Do you take joy in creating personal aesthetic as much as photography aesthetic?
Oh my goodness thank you! I am actually obsessed with Audrey Hepburn, but also West Elm, and Zara. A modern minimalist is what I call it, so I guess you can say you definitely nailed that one! I am drawn to sort of statement elegant pieces but, also everyday basics as well. I studied Fashion through extensive research in high school and college. So I am aware of what types of materials & styles work for each body type, and I sometimes use that to help people choose flattering pieces (I used to watch “What Not to Wear” religiously). I just think it’s amazing how much weight you can lose instantly by wearing the right clothes for your body!
So, yes fashion is a subtle passion of mine
What is your love story?! I so appreciate the way you weave family into your presence so much.
Our love story is SO LONG. But, to give you bullet points, we met in the third grade, played Simon says and became friends. We became close friends when we were able to text in middle school (that virgin mobile flip phone ayeee). We didn’t date in high school as I liked other people but, in college we hooked up when we realized we were like, perfect for each other. He proposed in -13 degree weather and popped out of a tree. Why he wanted to give me a heart attack was beyond me but, here we are!
He was and always will be my best friend and it’s been such a relief starting this business with him being so supportive because he was there for ALL OF IT.
I felt the need to share my family for my future clients because that’s how they really connect with me. Connecting with the person in their bio and not just “I picked up a camera at three years old” gets old after awhile.
Photo Credit: Northern Native Photography
Your videos of sweet/sassy Ella are sometimes the only reason I watch Instagram stories. She is so funny and cute. Can I be so honest? I want to start a family so bad but I feel like I don’t understand how this would work as a small business owner. What are you up against as a mom? As a business owner? In this industry?
Oh, Ella, she is so hilarious sometimes I can’t even record because I am laughing so much!
Well, I am NOT going to sugarcoat it at all. It is time-consuming, and it is just plain hard. Make a schedule for yourself (on top of a feeding schedule for the new one, right?) and stick to it.
Working hours vs. bulldozing through your work to get it done is an easy way to burn out with your job and as a mom. How do I know, because I have done it. I cook, clean, mentor, edit, and etc.
I would say when you know you are ready to have that baby, build a rockstar team and delegate here and there. Releasing control of everything so I can be a better mom & wife was a crucial step into removing stress from my life. We as women can already multi-task so much, but you can totally do it. Give yourself grace, make mistakes, and learn a lot along the way. You will be perfect!
Photo Credit: Northern Native Photography
What does it take for a photographer to have an amazing wedding experience? To deliver on what they promise?
Underpromise and overdeliver. Set low expectations with your clients then surprising them always results in them bragging about you to everyone. Also, I know people sometimes book anyone and everyone for money and are usually left feeling empty. I say, post what you want to to create and you will attract your match!
Tell me about your clients and your weddings. I’m way the heck up north and love everything I see from Detroit.
My clients are just the SWEETEST. I love them all so dearly, I attract a lot of introverts, which I love because they allow me to enter into their world which is such a huge honor for me. Detroit weddings are pretty awesome, it feels like New York down here and I am constantly seeking new locations to explore and discover. I mean everything is beautiful down here!
Is the Detroit wedding market becoming a destination market as Detroit continues to be an international tourism mecca of the Midwest?
It’s funny you ask that because I have so many brides that are from different states coming to Detroit for weddings, it does seem like a popular destination spot. Also, there are a lot of families down here so that really helps as well. I am excited about all the new venues that are starting up here soon too!
Who do you want to make a portrait of, living or dead?
I honestly would ABSOLUTELY DIE if I was able to meet or photograph Joanna Gaines. I mean....even to document her family in a photojournalistic way? Would be the biggest honor, I am getting nervous just typing this. *goosebumps*
She is such an awesome girl boss that also takes care of her family and that’s a huge inspiration to me. Not to mention, she and Chip started the whole “flipping house” trend!
What about weddings gives you joy?
Honestly, I love the moments that are happening AROUND the couple. I love the family reactions, the kids playing, and just the feeling of the day. I want my images to convey how it felt more than what it looked like if that makes any sense.
A moment between the Grandma's at the wedding.
I remember the day you hit 10k followers, congratulations!! How are you enjoying the swipe up feature?
So, I literally had an anxiety attack when it happened, I deleted the Instagram app when I was at 9,999 followers. It’s so weird to dream about something for so long and then to have it happen was like...ok ok I need a second to process this!
Then Ken and Ella made me a 10k cake and it was really good (considering he’s never baked before)
The swipe up feature is so legit! I honestly only wanted it for my podcast episodes so it would be easier for people to access it, is that boring?
No that is not boring, that's awesome. I feel like you are very Insta positive in general. What do skeptics need to know about this platform and it’s business implications?
Social media is hard folks, no seriously. It’s so so so hard not to compare and look for people’s insecurities so you feel better about yourself. But, first, that’s wrong. And you really have to try hard to change your mindset about social media. Use it to make connections, use it to spread a positive message, USE IT FOR GOOD. And then get off the app. I did a podcast episode about Followers not paying your bills, because we become so obsessed about things that just don’t matter, and also, the things that aren’t REAL.
Take breaks to keep your mental clarity, and enjoy life as it was meant to be lived.
You lament sometimes that people ask about gear. And tech. And the tools of the trade. I love that. You encourage lots of experimentation. Tell us about your experimentation with photography.
When I first started out, I learned that you needed to reach out to someone you respect and love, and ask them to intern for them. So when I did, the first question the photographers would ask me was “What is your gear? You must have THIS and THIS” and that discouraged me because, I was a broke college student, willing and wanting to learn but, I didn’t have the proper tools, therefore, I wasn’t a “good photographer”Now don’t get me wrong, you NEED to have some basics to get started but, in my experience: lenses matter much more than the camera body, using manual separates you from most, and PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!Do I wish someone told me to rent lenses on the weekends and rent to own or something similar? Probably, but, I think knowing how to use what you have can get you so far. My first 10 weddings were shot on a crop sensor and 3 entry-level primes. My advice: you gotta start somewhere, keep practicing, and keep improving.
To me you look like the epitome of a creative success! Yet you’re so open and honest that a lot of times it doesn’t feel like enough still. So that feeling never goes away?!
Well, I am an Enneagram 3 and that means we are success driven, so much that we don’t see or enjoy what’s happening around us, even our own successes which is a huge bummer. I never know if I did something amazing or even right unless someone tells me. And being open about that opens the conversation to people that they’re not along if they feel that way too.
A favorite Alora photo of mine.
You mentor! Is it photographers primarily or other creatives? Does mentoring help you solve problems and meet challenges as well? Who are you proud to have mentored?
I have mentored photographers and business owners in general!
I am pretty knowledgeable in marketing for being 100% self-taught and I love being able to help people and answer any questions they may have for me about business, being an entrepreneur mom, Instagram, Marketing, etc.
Uhm, there is a huge list! I have mentored so many!! But, I am the proudest of a girl boss that reached out to me, her name was Myriam. She was so afraid to really put herself out there and being able to help her make some small changes in her website and Instagram felt empowering. And watching her grow has been incredible. I love being able to lend a helping hand in watching others succeed, it’s so humbling as it’s just a good genuine feeling.
Favorite Target store location?
Every Target is my favorite because there is a difference in prices for each store. Not to mention the certain days that there are sales & clearances. Oh yeah, I am a real Target fanatic, not just for Instagram
Favorite Thai food restaurant?
Bankok 96 in Dearborn!
They also have a street food restaurant in Detroit Shipping company I am obsessed with their Thai pizza there!!
When can we go?
Tuesdays & Thursdays girl I gotchu! I am ALWAYS up for some good Thai food!!
Alora is based in Detroit at Alora Rachelle Photography.