Client Spotlight: A Little Photo Studio

by | Jun 4, 2020

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If you're a business owner, I bet you’ve been told you should be forecasting. This traditional advice suggests that there is a specific model to follow or a manual to use. However, as you and I both know, the reality is that when life gets in the way, your forecasting...

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Any small business professional could tell you it’s a tough gig in any climate. Throw the pandemic into the mix, and the job suddenly becomes that much harder.

In order for companies to endure the COVID-19 challenge, they will need to be tough, smart and creative. Fortunately, My Small Business Pro client A Little Photo Studio, headed by owner Melissa Salvatore, has all three qualities in spades. Hear how she got her start, and how she’s been managing during the pandemic (with the help of MSBP).

MSBP: Please tell us a little bit about the history of A Little Photo Studio—how did you get started with photography, why did you decide to start the business, when did you open, and who are your key people?

MS: I opened the studio almost 7 years ago. Working in the field of photography was really all I had done and been exposed to since I was a little girl. My aunt was an established, professional photographer who inspired me and made me see that I could work towards this interest as a profession. I started in elementary school with photography clubs and continued from there into high school photography and studying photography in college in coordination with a business degree. I worked for other photography studios before making the decision that I was ready to open my own studio and bring my individual ideas into action.

The studio team has continued to build over the years as our brand developed and matured into more of a lifestyle brand with a full-service photography studio. Truly every single person that is part of our small team is a key player. We have a production manager and an assistant manager who are both skilled photographers themselves, but also are skilled in everything that happens after the photograph is taken (from processing to digital organization/storage to printing). We have a front of the house who is the first person people interact with (and usually the last), and then myself, the head photographer. We have an assistant to the photographer who keeps the shoots running smoothly, the kids happy and all the equipment organized. Finally, we have an Event Coordinator who runs a business all their own to plan and host private and community events for our clients. We host many first birthday parties, baby showers and kid gatherings!

What were some of your biggest obstacles in getting your company off the ground?

Really it was money. Having the financial backing to get your service and products out to enough people. We had to build slowly over the past years by using grass-root marketing and word-of-mouth.

What sets A Little Photo Studio apart from other similar outfits in the Chicagoland area?

Melissa Salvatore, owner, A Little Photo Studio

The people, the experience and the product. We all strive for perfection and we truly want the entire process to be fun along with being serious. It is easy to just say “oh photographing kids must be so much fun!” Which it is, but when you are also serious about making sure that everything in the experience is perfect, it is also hard work.

Beyond that, our space and community events really set us apart. We try to always be a step ahead of what everyone else is doing and are trying to think of the next idea.

Let’s talk about life before MSBP—what was your financial situation, and what were some of your finance-related challenges?

Oh man, this is an easy one. The books, which should have been simple, were a mess. We were bouncing around between “professionals” who were truly “screwing us over” for a lack of a better term. We were being promised the world and then being forgotten. There was little to no communication and there were many tax and financial mishaps that left us literally paying for it for multiple years after.

How did you come to be in contact with MSBP? Please tell me a little bit about your relationship with the company early on?

Oh my, I can’t even remember how I was connected with Daliah and MSBP! But, I am grateful that I was. We had about 3-5 months of working through workflow and what our business needs were and how she could service those needs best. Once we worked through those growing pains and kinks, we have been smooth sailing. There was great communication back and forth as we worked through the needs and always a blunt, yet professional approach that was very honest. I appreciated that after all of the false promises beforehand with other service providers.

In what ways (large and little) has MSBP helped change your small business for the better?

The biggest part is allowing me to let my guard down on what is happening with my bookkeeping and knowing that if there were red flags, that I will know about them. I have the confidence in handing over my PL’s and Balance Sheets at the end of the year to my accountant and I know they aren’t going to complain or need anything further from me.

In addition to this stress-reliever, by organizing a bi-weekly meeting, I am able to set aside the needed time to spend time looking at the books and being able to bounce any immediate questions off of Daliah and get answers. The meeting time is very important and valuable to me, otherwise I am constantly in motion and often don’t force myself to pay attention to the books as closely as I should and need to as a business owner.

Were there any specific problems MSBP helped you untangle?

My financials when Daliah came in weren’t making a lot of sense as far as helping me get the right numbers to run my business (there were a lot of journal entries). She helped to organize [them] in a way that worked for me and made sense to me so that I could look at my reports and know what to do with that information.

What are your business’s goals for the future (both short- and long-term)?

Continue to grow and expand within the same studio space (I have no interest in multiple locations) – We have been forced to rethink what business will look like in 2021 and years following since COVID and so some of the original goals will need to pivot. For example, the event portion of my business, which brought in 10-20% of my income. We have begun to build a second branch to our photography services, which services brands through commercial photography. The small team, Field Creatives, will continue to grow as we gain larger companies’ attention. Field Creatives is a long-term goal of mine to elevate the brand and the studio space.

What would you say to a small business professional who hasn’t yet engaged with a financial services outfit like MSBP?

[MSBP] allows you the opportunity to take control of the aspects of your business that you originally fell in love with. It gives you the space to continue to create and work on new concepts or projects. Even though, with many software programs, it seems “easy enough” to put it on auto and ignore. That usually doesn’t pan out! And even if it does, in the end, the personal oversight of the books and the engagement with real-person advice outweighs anything a machine-driven site can provide.

As our relationship continues, the more insight MSBP has into my business, the better the advice and small suggestions that help me rethink if I am moving things in the smartest direction for the company.

In honor of A Little Photo Studio’s great work and to thank Melissa for being an amazing client, My Small Business Pro is donating 20% of ALPS’s monthly fee to RefugeeOne, an organization that benefits refugees fleeing war, terror, and persecution, helping them build new lives of safety, dignity, and self-reliance. Melissa has donated her photography services to the organization since 2015; if you’d like to join her in supporting the group’s incredible work, click here and give what you can.

Each month, MSPB will continue donating 20% of the monthly fees for our client in the spotlight to their favorite charity. It’s our way of saying thank you for your business, and of giving back to the community. If you’re interested in learning more about this program or finding out how MSBP can empower you to be in financial control of your business in even the toughest of times, reach out to me at Daliah@MySmallBusinessPro.com

Traditional forecasting can be a losing endeavor  

If you're a business owner, I bet you’ve been told you should be forecasting. This traditional advice suggests that there is a specific model to follow or a manual to use. However, as you and I both know, the reality is that when life gets in the way, your forecasting...

Understanding Financial Accountability  

"I'm not here to give you the good news."  I say that phrase to clients much more often than you might think. Because I ultimately want to celebrate their business's success with them, I’m there to tell them the actual state of their company's finances and guide...

Trust and Commitment in a Remote Team 

A couple of months ago, I made my first overseas trek since 2017 – not for vacation – but to meet with the rest of the Fritz Financial Solutions team of accountants in the Philippines. It was important to me to show these women the time and attention needed to...

Client Spotlight: Andrea Freidman 

As a business owner, one of the most significant challenges to overcome is work-life balance. This dilemma has only been exacerbated over the last several years and forced many "traditional" industries, such as the legal profession, to change their ways. Long before...

What solution can Fritz Financial find for you?

Schedule a meeting with Daliah Fritz