My Startup Story: Turning a Photography Hobby Into a Startup

April 14, 2016

It takes courage for anyone to quit a steady job to launch a small business. To leave a steady job right before your wedding… some might even call that reckless. But it’s exactly what Hiscox customer Richard Storm did in 2013 when he launched his photography business, NYPhotoNY.

We recently spoke with Richard as part of our MyStartUpStory series, which features entrepreneurs offering small business advice and discussing their own startup experiences. Check out this interview to find out how Richard turned his hobby into a thriving startup right before he walked down the aisle and why liability insurance for photographers is so important. Got a courageous story? Send us your story at [email protected] and you could be featured in our next MyStartUp Story!

Hiscox: Every entrepreneur has their own startup story. What led you to start NYPhotoNY?

Richard Storm: I had a steady, but boring, job writing blog posts for a startup auction company. It was a typical startup, where everyone was overworked and taking on multiple jobs. After a while I realized I needed to make more money and asked my boss for pay increase. He declined, saying that they just didn’t have the funding. Because one of my side jobs was managing the books for the company, I was pretty confident he was not being honest. That’s when I decided to pull photography full time. I decided to quit my day job and pursue photography full time. I was getting married that year, I had no clientele, and no capital whatsoever. I just had my camera and a couple of lenses. It was pretty scary.

Hiscox: With only a few months before your wedding, how did your fiancée feel about you quitting your job to launch a startup?

Richard Storm: Her support was critical. She was believed in me, but we also came up with an agreement that if my business didn’t take off in two years, I would have to take the first job that offered me benefits. Three years later I’m proud to say that I’m able to support both of us while she goes back to school to further her career. It’s a great feeling.

Hiscox: Did you already have a background in photography? What was your educational background?

Richard Storm: Growing up photography was a hobby for me. In college I studied television and at the time I was pretty confident that I would be the next Martin Scorsese. That didn’t happen and after college I ended up working in retail. I started to see my photography hobby as a way to make extra cash and quickly became the number one person to go to if you needed cheap headshots.

Hiscox: What was the biggest risk you took when starting your small business?

Richard Storm: Definitely quitting. For me it was balancing finding work, creating my portfolio, and saving for a wedding. Looking back on it now, it’s crazy to think I got away with it. I knew I had to make it work because there was nothing else I could have done.

Hiscox: What was the hardest part about starting your small business?

Richard Storm: The market for photographers in New York City is unbelievably saturated, so finding clientele during the first year was extremely hard. No matter how good you are, there’s always someone that’s better. Going from enjoying photography as a hobby to being a professional photographer in New York was like going from a high school basketball team to the NBA.

Hiscox: Was there ever a moment when you felt like you made it?

Richard Storm: Last year, I landed a very lucrative and consistent gig with a luxury shoe company. When I received my first check, that I realized I was on my way to becoming a successful photographer.

Hiscox: How important is courage for small business owners?

Richard Storm: Very important. You need a great deal of courage, especially for most small business owners and for anyone who's trying to do something creative. The bottom line is that you need courage to put yourself out there.

Hiscox: What are your thoughts on small business insurance?

Richard Storm: It’s essential. When I first started my small business, I was the low man on the totem pole. I started out assisting a photographer and was able to learn while watching. He explained to me that he had insurance, and that it’s necessary as a photographer to have it. As a photographer it’s one of the best things you can do as an investment in your business. You’re carrying around expensive equipment and you have to get into so many different shooting locations. Without insurance, I wouldn't be allowed to get into many of the buildings in New York City where I take photographs.

Hiscox: What advice do you have for people who are thinking of starting a business, but haven’t made the leap?

Richard Storm: Regardless of the situation you are in, you have to be 100% committed. Through commitment will come that light at the end of the tunnel when you can finally see success. The more work you put into something, the more you will get out of it. You will be frustrated, you will get into arguments, you’ll be late on your bills, you may even get into debt. But, if you’re really driven to get to your end point, all of these things will just make you stronger.

For inquires on Richard’s business, you can contact him here or visit him on Twitter and Instagram.