Creative entrepreneur Nicole Bedard fell in love with photography and never looked back. She launched Nicole Bedard Photography in 2009. MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price spoke with Nicole about her entrepreneurial journey and how she’s adapted along the way.
NAN PRICE: Why photography? And why did you decide to launch a photography business?
NICOLE BEDARD: I’ve always been creative. Even though I was an athlete in high school, I always was the one with a camera documenting everything.
After graduate school, I was living in Massachusetts and working for a software company. I lived close to the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). At the time, I was intrigued by interior design. I ended up going to RISD at night and getting my interior design certificate. That really unlocked my creative side—and I just wanted to explore even more.
A few years down the road, I relocated to the Washington, DC area and I was working as an Intelligence Analyst. During that time, I spent a year walking by the Washington, DC satellite campus for the Boston University Center for Digital Imaging Arts. In 2009, I decided to jump into the digital photography program at the school. While working full time and taking photography classes at night and on weekends, I worked to get photography jobs in my spare time.
NAN: How has your business evolved and how did you find your niche?
NICOLE: From the beginning I’ve always worked with brands. At first, it was more focused on fitness and sports. Now, I work with a lot of creative entrepreneurs. So, if they’re creating something, there’s always some sort of movement. I feel like all my sports background has really helped capture that action authentically.
When I relocated to Connecticut about nine years ago, I was already transitioning into photography full time. I was contracted with Reebok and CrossFit Media and traveled around the country shooting different events. Then I had my son and lost my mom to cancer around the same time. I was fully exploring what my next steps would be and how I would evolve my photography. Being a small business and working with other small businesses invigorated me. I enjoyed staying local, no longer traveling across the country.
Now, I work with some small businesses, but not exclusively. My niche is really anyone that has a story to tell and needs strong branding, whether it’s a solopreneur or a corporation. For example, I work with the University of Hartford on their visual branding and I also work with several small businesses across the state, including my friend and fellow photographer Allegra Anderson, of Allegra Anderson Lifestyle. Everyone wants to know the story behind the brand. My job is to capture that and to help my clients grow their brand and use their social media platforms to connect and engage with their community.
Over the past 10+ years I’ve had the opportunity to work with a variety of businesses from Fortune 500 companies to startups in different industries. For every business I collaborate with, I draw on these experiences to provide unique and creative photography sessions. I further support my clients with brand strategy expertise, which helps them utilize their branding images to their full potential.
NAN: How has your business adapted to COVID-19?
NICOLE: I’m mostly an on-location photographer, so, I don’t have a full studio where people come in and we prop everything out. I normally go to them because I want an authentic representation of their business.
During 2020, after lockdowns started and people began heavily relying on online shopping, I shifted by providing product-based businesses with photography I produced in my home studio.
The other thing that evolved was inspired by being a mom to a seven-year-old who loves photography. I always wanted to create a photography workshop for kids, so at the end of last year, I launched the Photography 101 For Little Creatives Workshop. Now education is a new arm to my business.
Growing that portion of my brand really got me into video, which I’ve been working on for my own branding. It took off and, by the end of 2020, I started offering brands a video option.
NAN: How are you building clientele?
NICOLE: When I moved to Connecticut, I didn’t know anyone. It was important to make connections. I leveraged my fitness photography experience and reached out to local gyms, which led to meeting potential clients and eventually booking photoshoots to support their brands.
I also love doing editorial work, which plays nicely with personal branding photography. I’ve been working with Connecticut Food & Farm Magazine, which enabled me to meet local businesses throughout Connecticut. That’s really snowballed into other connections.
Once my child was in school, I met other parents and other business owners, too. Many times, my connections are personal referrals. For instance, I got to know Entrepreneur Coach Beth Bolton, who works out of West Hartford Coworking, and met other people there.
NAN: As an entrepreneur, what important lessons have you learned along the way?
NICOLE: Recently, someone trying to get into photography asked me for some recommendations. My advice is: Identify who you want to work with and start locally by finding businesses and people that fit into that area of interest. Then start building those relationships. Maybe you follow them on Instagram and start engaging and liking their content. You don’t just, out of the gate, approach someone telling them what you do and how much you charge. Nowadays, you need to build those relationships.
When it’s safe to meet in person again, get involved with small business networking opportunities to get your name out there and build relationships and trust with people. Those are the biggest takeaways I’ve learned on my entrepreneurial journey.