This past fall we came upon an opportunity that spiraled into something so beautiful and perfect for the path of our life right now with a booming business and active family.
Eight years ago we bought commercial land in Fishers, Indiana and built the most perfect, gorgeous studio to provide a place for our clients to retreat and our business to grow. Then we bought and fixed up a perfect, beautiful “forever” home that our family has thrived in and made memories in over the last four years.
We never thought we would ever again announce the exciting words: WE’RE MOVING!!!!
We didn’t think it could get any better than where we’ve been, but a completely unexpected opportunity came along this last fall that made us start dreaming of something even bigger than where we’ve been and where we are now.
BRAND PHOTODESIGN has moved and expanded and changed so much over the years… from our home, to a small office space, to our first studio in downtown Indianapolis, to the custom-built 7,500 square foot studio space in Fishers that was designed for us to continue to grow into. Dan and I have grown with it. We’ve learned so much, been surprised, been let down, been ecstatic, matured, laughed, cried, and absorbed it all in. And our business is still growing. We hope it never stops! But our business hasn’t grown into the studio space. It’s grown in parks and down old urban brick roads, and on farms. It’s grown in local private preschools. It’s grown where people in Indiana want photos: outside.
Last year around October I wrote a private journal entry that I never intended to share, but it sums of recent life with the Brands. Here I pour my heart out late one night at the beginning of our busiest season yet:
We’ve officially entered busy season. It’s as important to our business as water is to a fish. Every year I know it’s going to be fun and it’s going to be crazy and every year I know we’ll get through it. We NEED it. We LOVE it. We don’t like standing still. We crave busy. Dan trucks through it like a champ, shooting, editing, shooting, editing shooting, meetings, consultations, ordering, packaging, on and on for hours and hours. Everyday. He often only sees the kids when I bring them by the studio for a quick (carry out) dinner. I balance keeping the kids alive with scheduling meetings, appointments, designing canvases and cards and albums, marketing, newsletters, working with school directors, entering and paying sales tax, income tax, property tax, bills, paperwork, and maintenance for a commercial building.
Tonight my friend Kristi asked me how on earth we do it every fall and I replied “Oh, easy. Starting about September I PANIC because our schedule is fairly empty and by the first week of October we are so busy that I cry 12 times a day, thank God for the business and then wink at him and ask if he wouldn’t mind spreading it out through the year just a little more, swear Dan and I will be divorced by December if one of us doesn’t kill the other first, my wrinkles and skin age about 10 extra years per month for three months…….. then we have a wonderful Christmas and see our family in January……… and then wonder if we can stretch out the profits to pay the bills and rent and mortgage and business insurance and health insurance and feed our kids over the next 9 months.” EASY. PEASY.
So what’s so busy and stressful, you may ask…. Well, the BUSY and the STRESSFUL are two different things. The busy is FUN. The STRESSFUL is, well, self explanatory.
The BUSY is photographing over 800 children between 10 different preschools, making kids laugh, getting notes from parents on how much they love their photos, and having a new side of our business we never dreamed we’d do — and it’s amazing. The STRESS is planning for outdoor photos for six weeks straight without rain, which means being on the phone with a director and owner at 7:30pm frantically trying to make calls on the 50%-chance-of-rain-forecast and what will make parents least inconvenienced — rescheduling so last minute, or trying pictures anyway and knowing if it rains parents will have to dress kids twice and handling all of the communication – emails – flyers – notices on doors- that goes into making all of that happen. All while our own kids sit in the car waiting on us and Holly is crying because it’s 7pm and no one is fed yet and we, AGAIN, cancel a fun dinner out as a family that we promised the kids because it’s just too late and we’ll try to do it again tomorrow.
The BUSY is designing a new line of holiday cards every year. My absolute favorite thing to do. Knowing everyone is looking forward to the new designs (that inevitably each year I kick myself for not starting earlier) brings me joy and motivation to try my best to make them new and exciting. I LOVE putting the new cards together. After working with a design for so long, when it finally comes together it’s like the HALLELUIAH chorus starts up right in my office! The STRESS is driving home half awake and walking in the door at 2:00am after working 19 hours straight and feeling like none of the designs are coming together (they will!) and then realizing that — despite the fact that Dan did all the dishes and took the laundry upstairs and got through all the homework with the kids and swept the floor and read to Holly and got them all snuggled in bed, the lunches still need to be packed and paperwork signed and life at that particular moment in the wee hour of the morning seems like it will always beat me — that it’s an uphill battle I will never get ahead in. And then when my alarm goes off four hours later I’m so tired I think I may throw up.
The BUSY is booking about 30 holiday specials on top of normal family and newborn sessions each fall. In Indiana, people want FALL photos. For the leaves, the holidays, for gifts. We meet new clients, see favorite clients, have three full days of photographing families back to back in a fast paced environment with lots of laughs and great times in the midst of having many regular sessions and we are SO STINKIN GRATEFUL for the business and relationships. The STRESS isn’t even in all of the consultations that happen before the sessions, all of editing, the viewing sessions, the late nights…..
…the STRESS is in putting our family last, especially for these three months out of the year. We typically are sending the kids to before-school care AND after-school care and missing activities, we don’t eat healthy, we don’t sleep enough, we send sick kids to grandparents’ homes because we have no other option, and more than anything, we tuck in young children who have big tears in their eyes because “when are we going to see daddy again? Will he ever come home again?”
How do we do this? How can we make this work better? How can we have our business and our family? We want both. Is it possible?
I used to take the kids to the studio every night during busy season. I would leave the studio at 5:30, drive to the school/daycare, pick them up, stop at home to grab food or get fast food, then drive them all the way back to the studio to stay for 30 minutes of quality time with their dad before driving back home, leaving us just enough time to get into bed. But our kids are older now. They have nightly homework, Girl Scout meetings, soccer practice, gymnastics…… we can’t afford the time it takes to get them to their dad for a visit before starting the evening routine at home. Sometimes they go days and days without even seeing him.
I believe in putting things out into the universe and listening to what comes back. Usually life decisions aren’t clear, aren’t easy, and aren’t certain. But within days of writing this journal, we suddenly found ourselves being shown a property completely out of the blue that started a series of questions and new dreams and goals that brought us to this place:
We have just purchased four acres of beautiful land, right in the middle of Fishers – the friendly city where we are grounded and happy and at home. On the land is a house, built as if the walls were created for our family of five, and ready for us to renovate into our new “forever” home. This house is not only what will become our family’s home, but it has a completely separate space with private entry that opens to a studio space for our clients. With our contractor, we are making plans to add to the space and renovate the entire area to be our clients’ new studio home. With a great shooting space, north light windows, a viewing room, consultation area, restroom and changing room, and Dan’s office all in one place, it will be the perfect set up for what we need to continue growing our business through the years. We are going to add landscape (tall grasses, fences, paths) to the property to create multiple outdoor shooting spaces to offer our clients something special and unique in addition to traveling to parks and other locations, which we will certainly still do.
Dan will have a private access door straight into our home… to come in and eat dinner with the family every night, to be able to take 15 minutes without driving to tuck in those sweet children’s faces every night when the season gets busy. And he can go right back to work. Every day. My office will be inside the home so that I can watch over sick kids while I’m working, meet the kids at the bus after school everyday, and never have to drive back and forth to give them time with the family.
Four months ago we would never have guessed that 2015 would bring a home sale, studio sale, new property, a combined move, and so many new house projects for us to start… We are thrilled to get started! And we look forward to all of you following through this crazy journey with us! Happy New Year and best wishes for big dreams to come true!
iPhone picture of our new soon-to-be space…