Like most entrepreneurs, today’s Small Business Saturday owner took a hobby she was passionate about and turned it into a thriving business, but Mary Ellen Pollard is no ordinary photographer.
“After my son was born, I began to pick up my camera more and more and found that the passion for capturing every little milestone in his life was greater than it had ever been. It was that year that my son was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and we discovered that other photographers just weren’t willing to work with us to create the same level of images that they did for children who were able bodied. So in 2009 I began to build my professional portfolio and by the end of that year I stopped teaching and started Lighthouse Photography.”
Stopping time for busy families for just a moment so they can relive it for years to come is something Mary Ellen does best. “Our children grow up so very fast, and I like to capture the little things – like how they crinkled their nose when they laugh or what they looked like when those first teeth broke through,” says Pollard. Lighthouse Photography specializes in newborn and children’s photography but can also grow with your family as they transition to different stages of life.
Something that sets Lighthouse apart from other photographers is Mary Ellen’s volunteer involvement. “I volunteer as one of the Area Coordinators for a non-profit organization called Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.org. Offering beautiful remembrance photography services in a compassionate and sensitive manner is the heart of this organization. The soft, gentle heirloom photographs of these beautiful babies are an important part of the healing process. They allow families to honor and cherish their babies, and share the spirits of their lives.” NILMDTS is currently looking for volunteer photographers and photographer assistance. An informational night is scheduled for March and you can contact Mary Ellen by email for more information. She also volunteers for Operation: Love ReUnited, a non-profit, fully volunteer organization that offers professional photography sessions to military families and members who are getting ready to deploy, who are currently deployed, or those who are coming home.
What kinds of entrepreneurial advice can you offer to other small business owners?
Educate and protect yourself about how to run your business. Find a mentor and learn from their wisdom. I am a member of several professional photographer associations and hold personal liability insurance for myself through them and I’m constantly pushing myself to learn. I attend workshops and seminars to make sure that I’m growing in my craft and work very hard at not trying to copy someone else but to allow my vision and heart shine through in my work.
Balancing being a full-time mom as well as a full-time photographer is the biggest challenge I find as a small business owner. I tease and tell my friends that I am a hybrid Mommy because I have to be able to do 2 photo sessions and make it to pre-school carline all in the same day. But when you love both so very much it makes life busy but fun!
What is your favorite thing about owning your own business?
Owning my own business gives me the freedom to spend a little extra time to get to know my clients and what they truly want in their images. I get to do what I love and be my own boss but still be a wife and mother. My schedule is based on my clients needs, nap-times, and due dates – NOT a time sheet. When a family hires me to be there for the birth of a child or to capture those first few days of life it is an honor that I take seriously. I get to follow a baby from their first breath into this world all the way to the first time they get a taste of that 1 year-old smash cake and beyond. I also can make time for my clients and never make them feel like a session is rushed or they have to hurry because someone is next in line.
“I cannot say enough good things about Lighthouse Life in Pictures! My shy son had a very pleasant experience. He was comfortable with Mary Ellen from the start, and so remained throughout the entire photo session. She truly captured the essence of his personality and just let him be himself! The pictures were above my expections and a really great value. I recommend her to all my friends.” – Angie Frizzell
With Spring right around the corner, now is a good time to call Lighthouse Photography to book pictures in April or May! Mary Ellen is giving away a $50 credit for one lucky RCM reader so check below to register.
Stephenie has worked with and around books and authors for over 12 years, both at retail booksellers and public libraries. She is a rare Huntsville native, mother of two high-energy teens and two ridiculous dogs, spouse of one incredible guy, and eerily addicted to community volunteering. When she's not being the Executive Editor for RCM she likes to stalk her favorite authors online, cook with way too much butter, and conduct freelance marketing and SMM work.