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Inspire Me Friday Interview #19} Sarah Petty

I am elated to be showcasing the amazing Sarah Petty (part 2) for this weeks installment of ‘Inspire Me Friday’! Sarah Petty – (say it out loud, remember it, it’s a name worth knowing!) is a powerhouse of a business gal! Her photography evokes a wonderful emotion but as incredible as her work is, it’s her business sense that leaves me always captivated! Sarah is the marketing guru of photographer’s, when I was explaining who she was to my husband, he smiled and asked, ‘you mean you’re not?’
‘I don’t even hold a candle’ I responded! Sarah has one of the most successful studio’s in the country according to PPA and she made that happen within the first 5 years of opening her doors. Amazing right? When we started the interview, I told Sarah these questions were harder than usual but it was only because I knew how much we had to gain from what she had to say!

That’s because Sarah is also the founder of The Joy of Marketing which we talked a little about yesterday! And you’re going to get to hear first hand from her on Monday with our very impromptu audio interview.

Will you tell us a little about yourself?
I have 3 children who are at really fun ages (9 year old twins and a 7 year old) and I have a super cool hubby, too. My husband also owns his own business (he is an architect) and we live on 3 acres where we spend much of our time stick farming (you know, walking around the yard and picking up the sticks that fall from the huge trees). I grew up in a small business family and I am passionate about small business! When I am not enjoying my family, I eat, sleep and breathe marketing.

Incredible photographer, marketing genius and brilliant business gal… How is the right and the left brain working so conjointly?
I am in love with the Pantone book AND Excel spreadsheets. I have no idea where I came from. My mom started me in art classes at 3-1/2 and I never met a calculus class I didn’t like.
Were you a photographer or a business gal first?
Business gal and for sure, I will always be more of a business person than a photographer. While photography may be what I do, running two small businesses is who I am (of course, after being a mom and wife).

How long have you been in business?
I started officially in 1998 but went full time opening a retail, boutique studio in 2001 (2 weeks before 9-11)

What’s in the bag?
Well, the bag is a “Jack” bag from Jill-e and there is EVERYTHING in it. My 17” macbook pro with a red cover, tons of cables and gizmos, my Canon Mark 5D Mark II, 70-200, 100 mm macro, 85 1.2 and lots of flash cards. If I were stranded on a desert island, this bag and my family would be all I needed. Well, and maybe a good power source…
What advice would you give to a new photographer looking to get their name out?
Be known as the best at something. Then, start to network in your community by partnering with other businesses as well as local charities to get exposure. The more you can help others in small business, the more great things will happen in your business.

I know you can find so much about this on your website, but for those who are just being introduced, what is a boutique style business?
Boutique businesses focus more on the experience rather than providing the lowest price. These owners have a stronger relationship with their clients and create new products that thrill them. They also give attention to detail in every aspect of their business from bag tags to the design of internal forms. Check out our free ebook at where I go into detail about the 5 ingredients of a boutique business.
What’s been your best Marketing Idea?
Probably my favorite marketing idea is gifting my best clients. We do something each year for our very best clients to reward them for being our clients and encourage loyalty. These gifts always showcase our photography and range from leaded-glass ornaments to custom note cards to small pop-out canvasses.

What’s been your worst marketing idea?
When I very first started, I thought it would be fun to do these gorgeous images of kids in their Halloween costumes. I sent out a little mailer and it was such a flop. The few kids who came in were in cheesy, store bought costumes.
Three common mistakes you see new photographers making? (thanks for the bonus!)
– Failing to invest in a strong brand. I see many people using more than one logo and inconsistencies in their marketing pieces. This creates confusion in the mind of the consumer.
– Trying to start a business on “a really low budget.”
– Focusing too much on working in the business and not enough time working on the business.
– Many businesses owners operate in a reactive way instead of a pro-active way. Planning is your friend!

What’s your favorite current indulgence?
Spa days with my Chief Joy Officer, Erin. We live in different cities and when we are together at a conference or workshop, we take a day and hang out at the spa receiving massages and having food brought to us. The best part for us is that we get more work done on these days than the rest of the year because there are no phones or computers allowed. Is that sad that my favorite indulgence revolves around business planning?
What books/products have been instrumental to your business success?
Oh my gosh. I am a book junkie. My favorite books are listed at because I am such a fan of so many. Probably my favorite is an oldie but a goodie by Ries and Trout, Positioning the Battle for your Mind. They talk about positioning being not what you do to the product, but what you do to the mind of the consumer. A must-read for any new business owner!

Have you felt effects from the economy in your business, how have you handled it?
Sure, I think we have all felt the fear in peoples’ voices and the strength with which they hold on to their purse strings. But, I have never had a down year in my combined two businesses and never plan to! As business owners, we have to continue to create new products for our best clients as well as deliver more value. Does this mean we may have to work a little harder or smarter? Sure!
If you could speak on one subject, for one hour to one million people. What is the one word to describe your talk?

For new photographers there is so much to invest in and so much to be lured by, where do you suggest they invest their money and in what order?
CAPTURE – A good camera, lens and a reflector. That is all you need.
CREATE – A good computer and Photoshop
SELL – A good projector and ProSelect.
POSITION YOURSELF FOR SUCCESS – Good education (such as Café Joy or coaching with the Joy team, for example)
What has been the highlight of your career?
I haven’t had that one yet! Erin (my chief joy officer) and I joke is that “it isn’t the Assembly Hall.” It is my dream to speak at a space the size of the Assembly Hall in Champaign (where the University of Illinois teams play). I love speaking and changing people’s lives by empowering them with knowledge and confidence. I feel so lucky to be able to do what I love and help so many succeed. You think you could meet me there with a million of your friends for just an hour???

What’s one simple idea to really give the “wow” factor?
Embellish – to make your things stand out, you must do the things that the big chain stores won’t do. From your packaging to your products to your marketing, add some personal love to each thing you do.
What’s one key oversight you often see made when building a brand?
Logo, logo, logo. Did I mention LOGO!?!? I can’t tell you how many small business owners have several versions of their logo or change them with the seasons. People don’t know who you are if you keep changing the face of your business.

Will you tell us about how you like to give back?

I love to give back. Last year, we raised nearly $24,000 for Operation Smile which pays for almost 100 cleft palate surgeries. Right now, we’re putting on a free event, The Small Business Marketing Joysummit, where we’re donating $1 for every recording of the event sold to, which provides lending to entrepreneurs in order to eliminate poverty.

We also just created our own donor advised fund, called lovingly, The Petty Cash Fund. This is a fund created to give back to my community and it will continue in perpetuity for my kids and grandkids to manage. We also donate to many auctions and local fundraisers. I think my spirit is fueled by my philanthropic pursuits.

The inspiration won’t be stopping. Come back Monday for the
impromptu audio interview with Sarah Petty!



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