Female photography and styling duo Jade (pronounced “ha-day”) Soto and Marianne Bell used the pandemic as an opportunity to collaborate. They decided to merge their talents and passions and, in late 2020, they launched Lost Lands Collections, which provides fairytale photography and styling. MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price spoke with Jade and Marianne about their entrepreneurial journey.
NAN PRICE: How and why did you two come together to create this business?
JADE SOTO: Marianne and I met a couple of years ago. At the time, I was doing photography and headshots, but there wasn’t any je ne sais quoi. There was no magic. When I began working with Marianne, things just fell into place. We have a lot of creative chemistry and I felt like collaborating we were able visually and photographically create magic. We both saw it as a business opportunity.
MARIANNE BELL: I spent years doing photography and making little fairy tale worlds for fun—but the dream was to do something like that full time. When the pandemic happened, I stopped working as a nanny and got a job at a beauty supply shop. Last year, Jade and I started talking about combining our talents. The more we talked, the more I felt like the door was opening and then the timing was right. I quit my job and we went for it and it’s been magical ever since.
NAN: I’ve interviewed a lot of married couples and close friends who go into business together. There’s obviously an emotional connection there. How do you stay in alignment?
JADE: A year ago, when we first started talking about starting a business, I was nervous. Marianne and I are such good friends. Every couple I’ve seen working together, I’d seen it really degrade their relationship. I didn’t want to hurt our friendship. But Marianne convinced me that we could work through anything. So, I was hesitant at first, but I think it’s really strengthened our friendship. It’s been good for us. And now, we’re saying the same things, we’re thinking the same things.
MARIANNE: That’s pretty much what I was going to say!
NAN: You both have a creative lens coming into this, but Jade, with your experience, you have a little more of a business lens.
JADE: I’ve definitely pulled from my experience working at the Women’s Business Center at the University of Hartford’s Entrepreneurial Center (EC-WBC) and having my own photography business. And the EC-WBC been very helpful for us starting this business, of course.
As we’re finding Lost Lands, we’re reassessing everything. Right now, I’m in the process of overhauling our business plan and going more in the direction of having a product and gearing more toward bigger-budget clients. The goal is to make Lost Lands more high-end so we have the resources available to bring our artistic visions to life.
NAN: You have a very specific niche. Who is your target audience?
JADE: Our target currently is young women ages 15 to 30 who love fairytales and want to bring to life that beautiful, magical experience. They hire us to style them and take them to a magical location where we photograph them and create beautiful images.
NAN: How are you marketing? Is it mostly through social media?
MARIANNE: Right now, it’s mostly through social media. Our Instagram is doing really well.
JADE: We’re looking at other avenues to market, like possibly getting agency representation. It’s challenging because you need to be booking big clients before an agency will consider you, but it’s hard to get those big clients unless you have that representation.
NAN: It’s a chicken and egg situation.
NAN: Does being in Connecticut play a significant role in your business?
JADE: Both of us grew up in Connecticut—and, admittedly, we used to always think we would leave! But working together, especially during the pandemic, we’ve done so much exploring in Connecticut and found all these little magical spots. It’s inspired our work. And people from outside of the state often comment about how we live in such a beautiful state.
I can’t imagine Lost Lands being born anywhere else. So, we’ve really come to love and appreciate Connecticut. It’s a part of our brand. Connecticut is our birthplace.
NAN: Let’s talk about future goals. What’s next for Lost Lands Collections?
JADE: Lost Lands has a very distinct visual mark and we want to create that into more of a brand that does styling and photography. One of our goals is to get into doing styling for films. Ideally, we’d love to be doing the type of work where we’re receiving funding to travel and do our styling and photography. As Marianne mentioned, we’ve been growing our social media following and we’d love to have that influencer-type job where we’re being paid to go to specific locations and create brands.
Sometime in 2022, we’d like to launch a product and then use our photography to do more personal projects that market and include our product. Whether that will be some sort of clothing or jewelry, we have a few options in mind. There’s a lot that goes into it, so we’re doing some research now.