The Hiscox “MyStartUpStory” series features entrepreneurs offering small business advice and discussing their own start-up experiences. In early May, we met with Hiscox customer Ryan Struck, a 29 year old self-taught photographer and entrepreneur who quit his job at an advertising company to follow his dream of becoming a photographer. In just one year, he’s gone from having a regular day job to traveling the world and working alongside top celebrities like Justin Beiber and Tom Hanks as the owner of his own photography business. Check out our interview:
What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
Ryan: At an early age I realized that everything I wanted in life – driving, going out with friends – it all cost money. I started working at 16 stocking shelves and have been at it since then. But, I always imagined becoming my own boss.
You’re still quite young. Did you study business in school?
Ryan: Actually, I started off with a focus on Marine Biology, but graduated with a degree in history and a minor in archaeology. Like many people, as I neared graduation, I was unsure of what exactly I was going to do professionally. I was fortunate to have a professor that was a supportive mentor to me. He wrote me a recommendation for me for the Peace Corps and then when I went in the opposite direction he helped me land a job at an archaeology company.
How did you get into photography?
Ryan: Believe it or not, this all happened because of surfing. I love surfing and, when I was in college, I would hit the waves with my friends frequently. I brought a camera along with me and started snapping pictures of my friends while they surfed. From those moments photography really grabbed my attention. The rest is history
What part about launching Ryan Struck Photography required the most courage?
Ryan: Deciding to leave my steady paying job at an advertising firm was challenging. I worried about how I would pay my bills, frankly. I also had some anxiety about calling myself an entrepreneur and a photographer – I wondered whether people would take me seriously.
As I think about it, becoming an entrepreneur has forced me to face a lot of my own fears. I am proud of that.
What was the hardest part about launching Ryan Struck Photography?
Ryan: There were times when I had to take jobs that I did not like or find interesting I took a lot of jobs simply because they allowed me to use a camera. Working those jobs enabled me to make money which I was able to invest in my business – my website, new gear, and marketing efforts.
Another challenge is that, as a small business owner, I basically play every role at my company –marketing, finance, operations, booking…everything. It can be overwhelming at times, but has taught me the value in working hard and to never give up.
What has been the best part about launching Ryan Struck Photography?
Ryan: Hands down- it is the lifestyle. I’ve only officially been in business for one year and I’ve had the opportunity to travel to different countries to shoots, photographed a magazine cover, and learned more about business than ever before.. Recently, I had an opportunity to be on set shooting still photographs for a music video featuring Justin Beiber and Tom Hanks, some of the biggest celebrities of our generation. It was a very different experience all made possible by photography. I enjoy meeting people from all walks of life.
What are your thoughts on small businesses insurance?
Ryan: Business insurance is absolutely essential. Recently, while on set, I had a camera, a lens, a battery and a flash stolen from me. It devastated me– in part because I’d never had anything stolen from me, but also because it felt like my livelihood had been taken. I filed a police report and called my insurance agency, Hiscox, who were able to help me quickly replace everything that I had lost.
What advice do you have for fellow entrepreneurs?
Ryan: Stay hungry. I’ve been making photographs for a while, but I only took the leap to running my own business a year ago. I could never have imagined where it would take me. You’ll never know what could happen if you take a risk and decide to do your own thing. It’s possible that you too could meet Tom Hanks. Haha!
Liked this post? Check out “How to Start A Photography Business“.