Posted: Thu 17th Aug 2023
Here, the entrepreneur explains how Britain going into lockdown three months after she launched the company led to her creating a new client service she hadn't previously considered.
Laura also outlines how the Amazon Small Business Accelerator e-learning programme has boosted her business skills.
How did you come up with your business idea?
I was tired of being stuck in dead-end jobs and desperately wanted to be in control of my own career while still supporting my young family. I naturally find a lot of joy in expressing my creative side and also love technology.
Having previously worked in the property sector, I knew that this was an area that piqued my interest. I come from a family of keen amateur photographers and decided to focus my efforts there.
I soon found how much enjoyment property and architectural photography gave me and I was told I had a great eye for it too! I formulated a business plan, applied for a start-up loan and began teaching myself how to operate a manual DSLR camera to a professional standard.
My business name is a mixture of my maiden name (Minion) and a photographic term (aperture).
What challenges have you faced starting up, and how have you overcome them?
I tried to get my first paying clients by doing lots of freebies, which also helped me to start building my online presence and community.
Budgeting was difficult in the beginning as I needed to borrow money to get me started, but had to make sure I didn't borrow too much so that I couldn't afford the repayments if I didn't get any paying jobs. I was also working part-time for an employer and needed to make sure I managed my time.
How did the coronavirus pandemic affect your business?
We went into lockdown just as I was starting to get regular bookings. Thankfully, my part-time employment was in a school, so I didn't need to worry about furlough or redundancy.
A month or two into lockdown, I was approached by my main client (an estate agent), who wanted me to create some video tours of some empty properties they had. I'd never done this before, but did plenty of research, bought some extra equipment and jumped in feet first!
My videos were so good that I soon had requests from another business for a whole series of promotional videos that they wanted me to create. This business also asked me if I could build a virtual Google tour for them.
Again, this was something I hadn't done before, but I researched it, bought the right equipment and it was a great success! I've had several requests for these since and Google has also named me as one of its 'trusted photographers'.
The lockdowns made business owners market themselves differently and innovate. This led me to add services to my business that I would never have dreamt of if I hadn't been asked. Necessity truly is the mother of invention.
By August (eight months after registering as a sole trader), I was so busy that I had to decide whether to go back to my job in the school for the new term in September or hand my notice in and concentrate on my business full time.
If it hadn't been for the pandemic, I wouldn't be where I am now in such a short space of time. As a working mum, being able to do a job I love and be able to support my family is a dream come true.
What tips have you picked up from the Amazon Small Business Accelerator e-learning videos?
One area that I've struggled with is content for social media. As a photographer, I naturally have plenty of media that I could be sharing every day. But I've often questioned whether it's always interesting enough to share, or how I could make it more interesting and varied.
The module about building content has helped me to think a bit deeper about what I'm sharing and how I portray it, particularly the 'pain and desire' models and solving problems, getting into the minds of my clients and trying to think about issues that I can solve for them.
The 'secrets to SEO success' video brought backlinks to my attention – something I hadn't heard of before. I turned this new knowledge into motivation to make some positive changes to my online presence.
I met with an independent online retailer, who is also a client of mine, and we've agreed to give backlinks to each other's websites. Hopefully, this will help to boost the SEO for both of our websites!
Which other entrepreneurs inspire you and why?
I discovered an amazing entrepreneur called Chris Do, an Emmy-award-winning educator and creative, who had this to say on X (formerly Twitter):
"If you think social media is for young people and that you're too old to participate, I want to let you know that I made my first YouTube video when I was 42. Forty-two. You have a wealth of experience that we can all learn from. The first step is steep. But take it. Just start."
Chris is also quite openly an introvert, but by pushing himself out of his comfort zone, he has received unprecedented success. As a fellow introvert having a career change in her mid-30s, it is so inspiring to see how successful he's been in such a short time.
What plans do you have for the future?
I feel like a sponge. I'm learning all the time and with that, I can feel my confidence growing. I feel like there aren't enough hours in the day! I have so much that I want to try, to put into place or get out there and do, but I just can't fit it all in fast enough, especially when I'm working around my family and my two young children.
What are your top tips for business success?
Believe in yourself. Be prepared to work for free or very little to help kickstart your presence, your reputation and your experience. Never stop learning and always approach new challenges with an open and positive mind.