At GotPrint, we have the pleasure of doing business with a variety of different types of people: from small business owners, to printers, to marketers working for larger companies, designers, students, homemakers, and of course, those who are a combination of all of the above! We’re always learning a thing or two from our customers. After all, the warehouse and the office is a sort of a print museum of all types of creative designs, and really great marketing campaigns.
So each month, we like to showcase at least one (or more) of our customers, their businesses, and their promotional products. This month, we couldn’t help but notice Carolyn Spranger. A professional photographer, entrepreneur, full-time mom, student, crafter and designer, it’s hard not to notice the multi-talented Carolyn, who by the way, calls herself a “multipreneur.” It’s a surprise she had a few moments to sit down and share her thoughts and story with us, but we managed to get an insight into the life of Carolyn and her thoughts on entrepreneurship.
Hi Carolyn. Tell us a little bit about yourself or your business.
I’m a Birth and Fresh48 Photographer, Placenta Encapsulation Specialist, and create a line of one-pieces and tees called My Little Advocate. I believe in advocating for and supporting women as they become mothers. My business is something that’s really evolved over time as I searched for my calling. I was a photographer first, photographing anything and everything that came my way. I realized quickly that I can’t be a good ‘everything’ photographer, but I can be great if I’m photographing the things I really enjoy. Being in the birth community is what makes me happy, so my brand changed to only offer what I love doing. I starting branching out to offer other services that support new moms, like Placenta Encapsulation. I recently decided to use my design skills to come out with a line of one-pieces that make all the statements that I believe in, mostly all regarding birth. My inspiration came when searching for a ‘born in water’ shirt for my son, and realizing that there are so few nicely designed one-pieces for birth advocates. I started with a ‘born at home’ design and the ideas kept coming. I know have over 20 designs with a variety of birth statements, and more brewing in my head!
Tell us about your style and what you like most about what you do.
My style is very real, simple, and clean. In a world that’s easily photoshopped, I like to stick with real life. I enjoy photographing the birth of a baby, families bonding with their new baby, businesses at work that support new mothers, and local natural parenting events. Anything where I can be there to document without having to pose or fake a photograph is what makes me happy! I recently did a business session, which I call “stock your website” sessions, where I documented a Chiropractor and her Acupuncturist while they worked. I love that I’m able to give her professional photos for her (new) website and have those photos reflect her brand. They are natural and beautiful. They will show her potential clients what it looks like to choose her for their chiropractic and acupuncture needs. I love helping other businesses have a professional look with good photography. This is one of my favorite images from that session. It perfectly sums up my style by showing the natural beauty of motherhood as she nurses her baby while getting acupuncture done along her cesarean scar.
How do you create a brand? What defines a great (or successful) brand?
I recently became a founding board member for a new local organization (Allied Women Entrepreneurs) where we had the opportunity to create a brand from scratch. It was a great experience to be able to go through that process with 4 other women and business owners. We started by brainstorming what we wanted our organization to look like. Who would we serve, why, and how? From there we came up with a name to reflect our organization, and a logo and branding colors we all agreed on. We formulated a mission and vision, and worked on the things we would offer that would fill a void in the community, and branded names for everything. One of our other founding board members is an amazing web designer and we were then able to take all of ideas and work and turn it public. I work on the publications committee to ensure that anything that’s designed for print or web sticks with our brand and style. Part of what makes us stand out from other business organizations in the area is that we have put together a professional brand before launching. Looks aren’t everything, of course, you also have to offer something that has value, fills a need in the community, and be able to successfully target your intended market. We are just ready to launch, but we are always working to make sure we follow those guidelines so we can have a successful brand.
As a business owner (and artist), what are your biggest challenges?
I’ve faced a lot of challenges as a business owner. I’ve a VERY small business owner because I’m a full time mom (and now student) first. I’m also a military spouse and have had to pick up my business and start over. Being in the photography industry is a challenge of it’s own. When I first started learning about the business of photography in the early 2000’s, it was a completely different world. Things have changed drastically and it’s challenging to stand out in a crowd. I chose to narrow my business rather than take anything that comes along, while adding services/products that fit my brand to supplement the photography. As an artist it’s a challenge to find the client that not only loves your work, but sees the value in it too. Dear fellow artists: It’s OKAY to love what you do and also charge what you’re worth!
What do you rely on to promote your service? What type of print products and why?
I’m a designer too so I LOVE creating marketing materials. I lack self-control, and I order new items any chance I get! I’m a total introvert so I rely on marketing materials and word of mouth to promote my business. I don’t think I’ve ever handed someone a business card randomly though, it’s just not my style. I actually found GotPrint in 2009 when I was finishing my final project for design school and I have used them ever since. I have ordered business cards, postcards, rack cards, stickers, banners, and brochures. For “my little advocate” one-pieces I ordered a narrower business card and designed it vertically so I have the option of using it as a product tag and business card. I use the stickers to seal the tissue paper when I wrap the one-piece order. I leave business cards around town and use the rack cards or postcards in places that allow bigger items.
We all know that customer service is key. What’s your best customer service advice?
Communication! I’m a firm believer that if you have all areas of your business clear and organized, clients are less likely to get confused or be disappointed. For my photography and placenta encapsulation I like to have in-person consultations to go over all the details of my services including when they need to call me (for their birth), when I come, how much they owe and when payment is due, what’s included with the fee, and what they can expect from me. I take notes and if I think there is an area that they’re still not clear about, I go over it again. I have a branded PDF with reminders of the main points from our meeting too. Face to face is much easier than back and forth emails where things get misinterpreted. I want my clients to have all the information they need so they won’t be disappointed in the product/service. Of course, it’s impossible to avoid conflict, so when it happens I take it as a lesson and make changes to hopefully prevent the same thing from happening again.
Well said Carolyn! You can find more of Carolyn’s work on her website and blog.