From Law School Dropout To Small Business Owner: Kate Max Brings Pretty To The Stock Photography Industry
The dream of turning a passion into a career is one many of us share, but the ability to turn that dream into a reality is the turning point that separates dreamers from entrepreneurs. There is no one path to entrepreneurial success and through our Community Spotlight series, we want to share the unique stories of the bad ass people creating their own definitions of success and the journeys they took to get where they are today.
Chances are you’ve seen one of Kate Max’s photos and didn’t even know it. The small business owner and mama of three prides herself in creating “simple and clean” stock image photography that is sure to stop you in your Instagram scrolling tracks. After noticing a gap in the marketplace for modern, feminine and pretty images, Kate started Kate Max Stock in 2014 and has grown it to the thriving business it is today. As a small business ourselves, The Scope is one of Kate’s many clients!
In this interview, she’s sharing more insight into her entrepreneur journey, the tools she and her team live by and how social media helps her connect with her customers.
How would you define yourself/your business (self-employed, freelance, solopreneur, small business owner)?
Small biz owner - I'm the founding owner and creative director and have the pleasure of having some great ladies on my team working with me to make this ship sail smoothly!
How long have you been operating your independent business?
KateMaxStock was founded in January of 2014! Can't believe it's been that long!
What prompted you to branch out on your own? Did you have an aha moment?
I did my first styled shoot for a friend as a favor and instantly noticed a gap in the market for styled stock photography. There was a huge need for cohesive, feminine images and resources.
What experience in your field did you have before you started your business?
I've been photographing in some form or another for so long - back in another life I was a wedding photographer ;)
What steps did you take to prepare for branching out on your own before you launched your business?
I have been an entrepreneur since dropping out of law school! I realized quickly that the day-to-day of an attorney was not going to give me the level of creativity and autonomy I was looking for in my life, so I jumped into entrepreneurship. Starting off small allowed me to learn along the way what it took to own a business - from marketing and position, to quickbooks and legal stuff!
Did you ever experience doubt before starting or during the early days of your business? If so, how did you overcome it?
Oh, yeah! Honestly, who doesn't experience doubt along the way? I've always tried to limit my consumption of content of all forms and work towards increasing my creative output of all forms. Comparison can be paralyzing.
I try to not be too hard on myself when I feel anxiety,
instead focusing on being grateful for my strengths and blessings.
Shifting my mindset to one of gratitude and positivity helps me then focus on ACTIONS - what to do next to incrementally move forward. I push myself to act - even if I don't know if I'll be capable to achieving whatever big, abstract goal I have for myself. With baby step and a smile, we can achieve anything!
What was the biggest lesson you learned from your first year of operation?
Oh man, that first year I learned SO much. I'm continuously learning, but there's really nothing like that first year. I think one of the key things was learning the value of experimenting, creating, and just "doing it," rather than overthinking it so much to the point of paralyzation.
How would you compare your first year to where you are now?
In my first year, there was so much "figuring it out" - Who are our core customers? What services are we actually going to provide? What is our product mix going to look like? What tools are we going to use? Now that we are approaching our 5 year year anniversary, we have reached the point of knowing ourselves and where we fit into the market pretty well and now we are focused on incremental improvements: How can we make our website more streamlined? What collaborations will help reach our fabulous customers? What fun, fresh innovations can we incorporate?
How have you used social media to help grow your business?
Social media has been a great tool for us. With the nature of Instagram and Pinterest being so visually driven, both platforms are a natural place for us to showcase our photos and service. I love using Instagram to connect with our members and future members - so many women will chime in with specific photos they would like to see and that's so cool to be able to have that direct conversation with each other. I love IG Stories and the conversations that always ensue from hopping on there quickly, too.
What is the most important tool that you use for your business (Instagram, your camera, calendar, etc.)?
The entire KMS team lives by Trello! Hands down, it's one of my most used resources. Google Drive is, of course, another fabulous tool. Obviously, my camera and Lightroom are two workhorses in this biz, and Instagram, Pinterest, and email newsletters are some more "hard-to-imagine-work-without-these" tools.
What key milestones helped shape your business? Are you most proud of?
Our biggest milestone was when I determined to completely overhaul our website in 2018. My goal is to always keep improving and sometimes that has meant hours and hours of development work - even for small changes. In order to make the sweeping improvements we wanted to provide for our customers using our shop it meant building an entirely new site from the foundations up. There were plenty of all-nighters spent in development, rearranging the shop structure and tagging images before the big launch - and it was all worth it!