On olives, vogue italia and love and photography..

Giulia

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Guilia Zonza set up her business ‘On Love and Photography’ in 2011 with her friend Sophia. She now works as a freelance photographer for weddings as well as for other small businesses including mine.

I met Giulia at The White Closet Bridal Boutique in Manchester 3 years ago when she was photographing their accessories event and I was there with my bridal wear. We got chatting and I asked Giulia if she would take photos of my pieces. We’ve now done several photoshoots together, she also was my wedding photographer and I can tell you she is an absolute dream to work with. I consider myself very lucky to have met her. She has quietly nudged me along with my business several times and styles our shoots perfectly whilst being absolutely lovely. So I was delighted when she agreed to answer my questions amongst her busy schedule.

The thing you must know about Giulia is that everything about her just oozes style. She previously worked as a visual merchandiser and photography stylist. Being a visual person, photography, interiors and fashion are very important to her.

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“My husband Ben and I have set up two work stations in our flat’s spare room, one desk each, one laptop for me a big Imac for him. It’s lovely to share the space with him as we are often working on images at the same time whilst listening to 6 music and drinking millions of cups of tea. There is lots of natural light coming through the windows, this is the lightest room of the flat and it feels separate enough from our living space. I try and keep my desk tidy but also filled with all things that inspire me like prints, images, drawings, pretty stationery, flowers and a scented candle. The environment I work in when processing images is super important to me, the light, the sounds, the atmosphere are all essential aspects of a happy productive work day.”

I’m not sure why but I am always fascinated with how successful creative businesses organise their day, I think its a way of checking I’m on track. There’s often a running theme..they all get up early and work long hours! Giulia is no exception to this,

“I am most productive early in the morning so I generally wake up around 7am have a first cup of tea whilst checking emails, news and social media and then sit myself in front of the laptop for 8am ready to edit and process images. Routine I guess is the best form of discipline. We work on tight deadlines especially in the summer when we just can’t not deliver, I just put my head down and work sometimes non stop for 15 hours a day, but then the satisfaction of hearing the couple’s reaction to the images totally pays off and makes it all worth while.”

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“I think the most difficult bit was taking the leap, believing we could make it work and then getting to grip with all the practical aspects of setting up a business, we didn’t really know how to do it but just took small steps at the time, (we both still kept our jobs at this stage as a safety net). Setting up the website was probably the biggest and most important part of the process, luckily we had a friend who helped us with it and then things just developed and grew organically from there. Having a partner with whom to share the journey was great, I don’t think I could have done it on my own!”

Giulia shared with me some of the hurdles she has had to overcome. Her experiences resonate really strongly with me, small steps are the way to do it. As long as you’re making steps forwards, your business is going to grow. Having an online presence which resonates with your brand whether thats with a website or social media or both is so helpful to get your business known.  The long hours and hard work have certainly paid off for Giulia and she has enjoyed many successes,

“Having one of our very first wedding blogged was just the best feeling, we will be forever grateful to Lou at Whimsical Wonderland Weddings for giving us the opportunity, we got lots of bookings out of the feature and it helped us launching in the wedding photography sphere! We also had images from a styled shoot on Vogue Italia which was pretty cool too! Having our work featured in blogs and publications is still the best confidence boost for us as well as all the lovely feedback we get from our couples.”

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I asked Giulia what her personal and business values are and its easy to see why she’s a dream to work with,

“To be caring, to make sure we offer the best service possible both on a professional and a personal level, being honest and fair, always always giving our all to every and each project we are working on.”

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Before my photoshoots I always look at Giulia’s portfolio for inspiration and always find her compositions, colour combinations and use of light very helpful. It’s important to look for inspiration whenever you can and to exercise that part of your brain regularly. It can turn up at funny times of the day or night so always keep a notepad handy. I love to use Pinterest to search and pin inspirational images onto a private board so that they are altogether when I have time to develop new ideas. I try and keep my mind open to inspiring thoughts, images and ideas as soon as I’ve finished one collection, so that they brew in my head for several months ready for when I am designing my next pieces.

“Inspiration comes from all sort of places, going to exhibitions, watching films. Looking at other photographers work inside and out of the wedding world is very important as it keeps us up to date with current trends and looks. I try and look at as many interesting magazines whether on design, craft, fashion as much as possible as it all feeds into my practice. I also work very spontaneously and react to the environment I am in, often the wedding locations help us come up with ideas for shots. Ideas for the more creative styled shoots are also linked to specific locations, interesting evocative spaces are always the source of new ideas. I love what I do, the challenges, the beautiful locations and people we get to meet and work with are all amazing motivations to carry on doing what im doing and wanting more!”

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I am always interested in how creative business owners utilise their spare time. In the first few months/years of setting up a business it will seem hard to have time off but it’s so vital to keep your productivity, energy levels and overall happiness up.

“As we work from home on weekdays and then away at the weekend, it is very difficult to find time to socialize so whenever I have some time off I try to meet up with friends and family. When I’m not in front of the computer I also like going to places like Chorlton and the Northern Quarter and visiting my favourite shops, going for a coffee and soaking up the cool atmosphere. Picking up some fresh flowers is also often part of the ritual. We try and squeeze in travelling in between weddings too so whenever there is the possibility we love going away. Sometimes the laptops come with us too for some processing in the sun. Once the wedding season starts to slow down I tend to go back home to Italy. Late October is olive picking season so I go home then if possible for as long as 1 month for this very special time. The very physical work involved means I can completely switch my brain off, it’s a very different kind of exhaustion almost therapeutic! This is time for family and olive oil.

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I asked Giulia where she sees her business in 10 years time,

“Wow I haven’t really thought that far, I hope I would still be doing this and I would be doing it even better. Age concerns me sometimes as I don’t want to one day become ‘an old fashioned photographer’ I see old school wedding photographers now and think how they are stuck in the past and totally not in tune with the contemporary look and ideas. Things seem to move very quickly in this field, what was on trend when I started now seems outdated. So yes I guess I hope the business would have moved on and developed with time. The dream is also to set up a sister company exclusively for destination weddings (watch this space) and one day perhaps live and work in a warm country!”

Giulia had some advice to share for new creative start-ups and students,

“Just go for it!!! Follow your instinct and your heart as they know the way, and also ask questions, speak to people who have done the same, find help its out there, do lot of research. Don’t be scared or intimidated by other’s success but see it as an inspiration and something to aim to as I can promise you will get there too! Don’t give up.”

Thanks Giulia for sharing so much with me. I hope you have all enjoyed reading. Please do share with your networks if you think it would be helpful for others.

Warmest,

Marie

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Want to run your own creative business? Sarah Statham from Simply By arrangement tells us how she’s done just that.

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I bet there’s a few of us who have considered a brand new fresh start as a florist, working amongst nature all day, growing and nurturing the most beautiful flowers. It sounds like a dream come true.

Well Sarah Statham did just that. 3 years ago she left her successful career as a criminal lawyer. After 20 years of working in that field, a change of career would seem inconceivable for many but Sarah made the jump and has since enjoyed many successes whilst overcoming many hurdles.

Sarah now runs Simply By Arrangement from her home in West Yorkshire where she creates her floral masterpieces. Along with her long time friend and now colleague Christie, they also hold a fantastic array of workshops which include fresh coffee, cake and a 3 course lunch with wine. The food is all made in house by Christie. So you leave with a new skillset as well as a full and happy stomach.

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I have been lucky to meet Sarah since moving to Hebden Bridge and I asked her a few questions about her life as a florist. I was really interested in her studio space. She described it to me,

“A studio in the garden so that I can be near to any flowers I need to pick up and so that I can look out of the large window and see the hills and trees. I have a huge cupboard for vessels and equipment, heavy duty shelves for lots of buckets and 2 huge sinks. There are 2 adjustable workbenches which were made to measure by George Kidd at Dovetail in Hebden Bridge. They have zinc tops which are great for all the water but also look good as a background for flowers. I spend a lot of time making little patterns with flower heads on the zinc patina when I really should be working! It’s a quiet, calm place and I love being in there.

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I’m always interested in how successful small business owners utilise their time especially how they gear themselves up for work;

“I get up early, especially in summer when flowers need picking before it gets hot. After a pint of Yorkshire tea and some kind of green juice which I kid myself is good for me, I check emails and glance at instagram. I’m also partial to a second breakfast and am addicted to marmalade. A lot of my work happens later in the day once flowers have been in water for a while. If we have a class to teach we start at 10am and the workshop gets filled with flowers and a scented geranium candle.”

Social media is great to show all the positive aspects of having your own business, beautiful pictures, smiling faces. But it rarely shows the difficulties and hurdles creatives face in order to get a business off the ground and then to grow it. On the most part we don’t share the aspects which are very grueling. For Sarah it was getting people to know who they were,

“We started from nothing and I had a very different career. At first we had customers who knew us personally. But gradually, thanks mainly to social media and the free advertising it allows, we have built up a much bigger customer base. Making flowers is a very visual thing. I had no idea how to take a decent photograph but I quickly realized how important this is and did a couple of online photography courses. I’m still learning!

It is overcoming these hurdles and seeing hard work pay off which instills confidence in you to carry on. Sarah describes some of the things they have achieved,

“We’ve done some great things creatively, at places I love. Probably the best thing was a workshop we held at the Bronte Parsonage where we were asked to fill the house with flowers for the birthday celebrations of Charlotte Bronte. We used British flowers which I’m passionate about. Recently we helped the National Trust with a photoshoot at Hardcastle Craggs and I particularly enjoyed working with other local artists there. But on a day to day level, I take more comfort from the fact that we have lots of repeat customers for our workshops and brides who just come and trust us to create them something beautiful because they’ve seen what we do.”

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It can be hard especially in the early days of setting up a business to stay motivated. I wanted to know how Sarah kept disciplined and kept coming up with new ideas,

“I suppose I just love what I do and appreciate it more having spent so long in a different world. I’m very much motivated by whats growing outside and so every new flower that appears must have its day in a floral design of some description. This week it’s apple blossom, next week it will be aquilegia. I’m always thinking about new things to cover for workshops and the same with designs. Weirdly a lot of my ideas come to me whilst I’m asleep!”

I asked Sarah about her personal and business values,

“The values for our business, and for me are probably the same. Keep things simple and honest, work to the highest standard. Be generous especially in sharing what knowledge you can and always encourage others. I love to see people from our workshops go about their own ‘flowery journey’. Oh, and maintain dignity and a good sense of humour at all costs!”

Her creativity also feeds into other areas of her personal life,

“I love interior design almost as much as flowers. I also love fashion and whilst I’m no fashionista I do avidly watch what is going on as inevitably whatever is on the catwalk will filter down into flower fashion. I love gardens and seeing them all around the world and locally. Places like Great Dixter or Harlow Carr are both inspirational and very calming. They’re also a good place to practice photography. I love art galleries too, always places to get ideas from. I’ve always loved books and have several piles all around the house.”

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I finished on asking Sarah if she had any advice to other creative business start ups and students,

“Absorb as much as you can from others, read extensively and practice your craft as often as possible. Find a mentor whose work you admire or look closely at others and see how they present their work. If you can, go on courses and always keep learning. Never become complacent about what you do, the nervous feeling should never go away.”

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