Almost two years ago (has it really been two years?!) I received a reply to our House Manager position posting that was summed up with "Simply put, I love bringing people together and making things happen." If you know anything about Francesca, the gal behind the lifestyle photography company Coco Prop Shop, you also know that while much has changed for her and us since 2015, that description of her remains unchanged.
Watching and helping our members grow their businesses is by far the best part about what I do. Getting a front row seat during the process - and having that growth be so intertwined with our day-to-day ops at the House - has been especially enjoyable. From shoots to collaborations and everything in between, Frankie (as we can't help but call her - sorry, Franks!) has achieved what she so whole-heartedly jumped in to do two years ago. She's our glue. I couldn't pass up the chance to interview her myself for her Small Biz Story, and enjoy a little time spent reminiscing about her journey.
Big thanks to Comcapphoto for the shots!
What are you drinking?
Hot coffee (but it's usually cold) - I'm a slow drinker.
Current mood in less than 3 words:
Motivated and ready.
How did you discover that photography was what you wanted to do?
While in college, I was always drawn to creative industries - I knew I didn't want to spend all day at a desk or doing repetitive tasks. I ended up with photography while studying abroad in Italy - I took a course in food photography in Florence. I was always interested in hospitality, and maybe marketing? So I tried working with a commercial photographer after college, traveling all over for a year - with the PGA, on editorial campaigns, major productions, and work like that.
How'd you take the leap from passion to full time job?
I went from having a really unconventional job to something very corporate, so those experiences made me realize I wanted something in the middle: the freedom of my creativity but with structure. And, after working at a resort, I realized that I really wanted to find something that I was fulfilled doing but allowed me flexibility in my personal life. Two years ago, that personal life became more of a focus as I was dealing with a family emergency, and couldn't navigate the politics of taking more and more personal and vacation days. Time was of the essence; I'd been wanting to do it and I couldn't wait any longer.
My plans for what I wanted for my business drastically changed in the first few months out on my own. I had always avoided photography because I was afraid of being stuck in one box; I didn't think photography was realistic for me. It's hard to say "I'm a photographer" - everyone has an iphone, and anyone can take pictures, but having the confidence to own that was what it took to truly start my own business.
What's your favorite part about what you do?
The evolution. Everybody has ideas and thoughts and intentions for what they want to do; I get the privilege of actually making them happen. So the process might start one way, but it evolves into something else which is always better (well, usually!) than expected.
How has Social House helped you with the way you do business?
How has Social House not helped me? My intentions were always to be a part of a community in order to grow a business and I can't imagine how I could have done that without Social House. I found Social House on Instagram and it was on my radar, but it was the job listing for a House Manager that got me to pursue my involvement in the House. I didn't realize I would become a member when I did - I guess you can say it's serendipitous because it was exactly what I was looking for without knowing I was looking.
Any productivity tips or secrets?
[Sigh.] I'm working on it. 17 Hats is actually a really good app for management and organizational tasks. But I'm just not that organized. I believe in organized chaos.
Any tips for other creatives looking to start their own business?
Stay true to yourself. It's easy to get influenced by trends and other brands, but it's always better to be authentic than to follow the crowd.
Also, be selective about the quality of the work you produce and the people you work with. I'm a believer that you get out what you put in.
Finally, don't be afraid to ask for help.
Your ah-ha moment
I was in Atlanta with family helping my sister plan her wedding and the concept of Coco Prop Shop was born. We were sourcing decor and figuring out to get it to her wedding location, following Pinterest boards, coming up with ideas, and so on. I realized there was a need in the industry that we thought we could fill. Even though my focus has changed a bit since then, that was a real ah-ha moment for me - I knew I wanted to do something in the realm of production and events.
What's the most challenging part of owning your own business?
Prioritizing. It's a challenge in general for me, but when you're in control of your own time money and resources, it becomes overwhelming to handle on a daily basis. Maintenance for your brand, digital marketing, social media, client relations, image editing and delivery, production planning, it all rolls into one but they all need individual attention.
What's the most rewarding part of your week:
Receiving a positive response from a client after delivering their shoot. Not that I need assurance, but I really enjoy the positive reinforcement for creating images that represent other people.
Something that has happened while owning your own business that you never could have planned for or expected:
People close to you overstepping boundaries and sometimes taking advantage of or not appreciating your services. The most surprising thing for me is people don't realize how insulting it can be, and unfortunately I've lost friendships over it. It's not about the money, but just the feeling that those who know you best don't realize that you do what you do as work and not as a hobby. I enjoy what I do and it can be really fun, but it's still work and a means to make a living.
What do you wish more people knew about you?
That I'm extremely passionate. I'm an all or nothing person - I either put everything into it or I'm not interested. I don't think much about doing things I'm not really into.
Your dream job
Being the glue. I'm basically doing it, but it needs to be refined...
Your favorite piece of work:
I really loved a beach boudoir session that I shot with a friend and some other Social House members. It was a personal project that I can't share, and was very experimental - it came out completely different than we anticipated, but that was the best part.