Recently, I received a message from one of the members of the “Rembrandt Writes Insights®” Newsletter. As a successful business owner and avid traveler, Ralph Velasco has some great tips to share with other entrepreneurs. Check out his interview here and at http://www.rembrandtwrites.com:
Tell us about your business and why you chose to go into it?
I’ve always been an avid traveler, and I’ve always had an interest in photography, so with the advent of digital photography, and all the wonderful ways there are to present slideshows, make photo books and create websites, etc., it was a natural to combine the two, travel and photography, into a business that I absolutely love and couldn’t imagine not doing. Plus, I’ve found that I really enjoy teaching and helping people to make better pictures of their travels, whether around the world, or around the corner.
What has been your biggest challenge starting and running your business?
Just getting the word out on a shoestring budget is always a challenge, but with a lot of hard work and persistence, I’ve been very successful at creating news and buzz-worthy reasons for the press to want to know about my story.
Just a few examples are that I’ve recently finished my first book (“Ralph Velasco On Travel Photography: 101 Tips for Developing Your Photographic Eye & More” – http://www.ontravelphotography.com). It was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever attempted, but it was something that I’ve always wanted to do and was a natural offshoot of the photography classes I teach and tours I lead throughout Southern California, and the world.
I’m bringing a small group of photographers to Eastern Europe in December, and in March I’ll be leading a group on a humanitarian trip to Cuba, a country that has always fascinated me. And I was recently notified that I was #6 overall in the “StartupNation Home-based 100 Highest Vote Getter” category and “Top 10” in the “Most Slacker-Friendly” category.
What marketing and PR activities have you used successfully and why?
One thing I’ve been very good about doing is maintaining an e-mail list of the over 1,000 people I’ve taught photography to over the last year or so. I use Constant Contact to keep in touch with my list, more or less on a bi-weekly basis.
I keep them updated on new tours I’ve developed (I have over 20 local tours, several domestic and several international tours), new classes I’m teaching (I have 3 that I teach now), and any special tours or announcements I need to make, like about my new book.
I also take advantage of every opportunity to speak in front of groups that are interested in photography. I exhibit my work at a number of places, and because the budgets of so many arts programs have been slashed over the last few years, I’ve even developed a photography program for the Boys and Girls Club of the Harbor Area where I volunteer. I want these kids to be exposed to the arts.
What one piece of advice do you have for other people thinking about starting their own business?
Just do it! You can spend a lot of time talking yourself out of it, but one thing that Mark Twain said has always stuck with me:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Endeavor.”
Love that quote!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
This less than ideal economy has actually been the best thing that’s ever happened to me. It forced me to really focus on my business and to get lean and mean, and that’s been nothing but a good thing for both me and my clients and students.
Congratulations on your success Ralph, and thanks for your great tips and insights!
Do you have questions about promoting your business via public relations or search engine optimization copywriting? Please contact me here or at http://www.rembrandtwrites.com. I’d love to hear from you!