Joining me today is Tammy Hawk-Bridges, founder of PhotoCandy, a company that turns memories into custom art pieces.
Natalie: Tell us more about your business, PhotoCandy.
Tammy: PhotoCandy was started out of a deep passion of mine which is the love of photos and memories. What I do is take a favorite picture/pictures and turn it into a piece a customized art portrait that is placed on canvas. It can be made into many different designs ranging from very abstract, pop art style, or in collages made from multiple photographs. It is fully customizable by the client based on their color preferences and their artistic taste.
Words cannot express the feeling I have when I put a canvas that I created in someone’s hands and get to see the look on their face. I create happiness and that feels amazing. I love the fact that something I created is hanging on the walls of their sacred place -their home. It means so much more than anyone really realizes.
Natalie: What made you take the leap into entrepreneurship and what did you do prior to running PhotoCandy?
Tammy: This is my second stint at being a business owner. About 12 years ago, I owned a business called Southern Soap Company. I made handcrafted soaps and sold them wholesale to stores. I had them in over 80 stores in the southeast. For the last 12 years I have been a sales exec, predominately in advertising and marketing for the media sector. What made me take the leap back to entrepreneurship? First of all: THE CURSE. I was born to be an entrepreneur -it is part of my core being.
The past several years have been tough for me. Even in our fast moving world of ideas, imagination and technology, women are still inferior in the work place, overlooked, and not paid equally to men. I am not saying that every company does that but it has been my personal experience. I am exhausted of my ideas and talent being taken for granted and once again ready to take matters in my own hands and to benefit personally from the knowledge that I have worked for all these years. In this stage of my career, my life has become more about meaning than money, I still have the need for the acknowledgment my drive and determination deserves.
Natalie: I always say that making meaning is more important to me than making money so I totally relate. What are the three biggest lessons you’ve learned as a woman entrepreneur?
Tammy: I really had to think about this one to just pick three since there are so many lessons I’ve learned.
- One of the biggest drivers in making my decision to start PhotoCandy is that I had a business before and I made lots of mistakes. I learned my lessons and would not make any mistakes this second time around, right? WRONG. I have made new mistakes. Research ALL possibilities and exhaust them BEFORE making decisions in your business that cost money. I made a couple of very costly mistakes and as a veteran, I thought that wouldn’t happen. All business ventures are different and bring individual challenges. I don’t care if you have owned one business or twelve, treat it like it’s the very first time. Being too confident can cost money that you don’t have to spend.
- Don’t exhaust yourself. I have literally worked an average of 18 hours a day and it wears me down emotionally and physically. This is something I battle constantly, I don’t know if I will ever be able to find the happy medium. When you are exhausted you are very vulnerable. When you are vulnerable you do not make good decisions. Nor are you emotionally equipped to handle things like disappointment and rejection which is something as a business owner you have to deal with almost daily. Unplug yourself and recharge – you will be better for it.
- Find your focal point and stay on track. There are a million ideas -ideas curse me and keep me from sleeping at night so I too have to work at this. But you will never succeed at anything if you don’t focus on what you do the best. Some of the best advice I ever received was, “the jack of all trades is the master of none.”
Natalie: I’m still working on the focus part myself! What is a day like “in your heels?”
Tammy: I get up at 6 am and I get my kids off to school. I start the day by sitting down and going over the list of priorities that I made the night before. Because I am a morning person and that is when I am at peak I like to do my design work to fill orders because it takes careful attention to detail. Lunch is usually a handful of almonds and a cup of tea. I am not disciplined enough to stop working to eat right now… yet I am not any thinner hmmmmm.
I spend the afternoons doing research because I am still new at this venture and I am trying to learn the world of retail which is a very different animal to me. I am also working on social media and doing everything and anything I can do to get the word out about my business. I am also attending networking events every available opportunity. My day doesn’t really end right now. Yes, I take time to visit with my family and eat dinner, do a load of laundry or two but then I am right back up in my office usually well past midnight. I am extremely driven and so passionate that it is really hard to pull myself away, eat or even sleep at this point. My friends call it a gift -I refer to it as “the curse.” 😉
Natalie: Thanks for sharing your story and advice for other entrepreneurs. One piece of advice for you: get some sleep and don’t skip any meals! Thanks Tammy.
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