Laura Novak was in demand: She had celebrity clients and regularly spoke at photography conferences and workshops across the country. But something was amiss.
“It was so heavily about me, and I wanted to create something bigger than myself—something that wasn’t just about one person as a brand, but about a collective, a team,” Novak says. “I asked myself, Wouldn’t it be neat to take what I know about servicing families with photography and turn it into a retail concept? So I took this very personalized service and figured out how to make it more retail.”
Today, she’s the CEO of Little Nest Portraits, a photography studio franchise with two locations, plans for two to three more studios this year, and eight to 10 locations in the works for 2016. “For me, the entrepreneurial dive happened twice—from a hobbyist to the sole proprietor of my photography business, then again to the CEO of a franchise company,” Novak says.
“As an independent photographer, you’re limited by how much you can work. Now I don’t have to be there every day. I’ve taken two maternity leaves during the course of growing the retail business, and those were some of the best months of the company,” she says.
Novak credits her team members with the company’s success, and she emphasizes the importance of their professional growth. New employees starting as junior-level photographers can ultimately become educators certified to teach, she says. “I want to create a great opportunity for those who are serious about their photography careers to be mentored and to mentor others. A lot of my time at this point is spent developing people to develop other people.”
Novak still makes time for her own development. Through the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, she met an important mentor who became an investor. “It’s really been beneficial to meet others who are in the same position as I am.”