Our local communities are full of businesses with female founders, owners and leaders. TS Bank wants to celebrate some of those women, along with their businesses, by featuring them in our Female Founders blog series. Third up in the series is Risney Photo & Design, located in Council Bluffs, which is owned by Anne Risney Morgan. Read our interview with her below and stay tuned for additional inspiration from successful women in our community.
Tell me about your business.
My business is named Risney Photo & Design. The Risney part is my maiden name and the photo and design part is pretty self explanatory! I photograph all kinds of subjects, but high school seniors are my favorite. I also really love shooting sports and groups of different types. Corporate head shots, families, pets, and graphic design work round out the business. I recently started a new division in my company called R Legacy Preserved and it is devoted to creating cool products from old family photos. Check out my facebook page called R Legacy Preserved and learn a bit more about it. Don’t forget to “like” and “follow” it please!
How and when did you get started?
Risney Photo has been around for over 50 years now as my parents started the photo business in Missouri Valley, IA when they were first married. After my father died in 1978, my mom continued on with the business until her passing in 2004. At that point I made the life changing decision to quit my full time job as Art Director for Warren Distribution in Omaha – a position I had held for 17 years – and take over the family photo business.
How has have your life experiences brought you to where you are today?
I have enjoyed the art of photography since I was a little girl and would help my dad in his darkroom developing prints. I loved watching the image develop before my eyes and started shooting photos when I was about 12 years old. By the time I was in high school I had a nice 35 mm camera and used it throughout college and beyond. By the time digital cameras started becoming affordable and user friendly, I had already become a pro at using a MAC computer and the transition from film to digital was pretty easy for me. I have a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Art from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln (yes I am a Husker fan) and I majored in Graphic Design and Photography. With digital photos, you can now blend many aspects of graphic design into the creation of cool collages and books so the two areas of expertise flowed nicely into this business.
What do you enjoy about owning your own business?
The number one BEST thing about owning your own business is that EVERY decision you make is always for the good of the company and what you think is going to be best for it so it is very easy to put everything you have into making that decision turn out to be the right choice. When you work for someone else, you sometimes have to do things or work on things that you don’t always think are the right thing to do or a good use of your time, but you have to do it anyway because you aren’t in charge. I love knowing that I am never wasting my time on something that I don’t think is important.
What do you find is your biggest challenge?
Finding the right clients that value what I bring to the table is definitely my biggest challenge. I want clients that can see the difference between just anyone with a camera and a true professional. There is a price tag attached to that and finding the people who are value their family’s legacy of photos are the people I want to get my company in front of.
Even on sports teams and groups, I think it is important to hire a professional to take those yearly pictures. They are a lasting tribute to those childhood years and quality photography is important.
What sets you apart from your competitors?
That is the million dollar question isn’t it? My hope is that they expect to have quality photos and quality products, but what sets me apart is the “fun factor” and the design skills I have. I want to make sure people have a great time getting their photos taken...it should not be a chore in any way. Whether it’s a basic corporate headshot or a full blown family session, all parties involved should walk away from it smiling and glad they came to see me.
What is your motivation? What drives you?
To be creative and see that creativity in products I create cause happiness on the face of others. The absolute BEST part of the entire process is when clients come to pick up their photos and I get to go through them all with them and see their happy faces. The oooing and awwwing is what keeps me at it day after day.
What’s your secret to success?
Well I’d like to think that doing quality work at a fair price and having fun doing it makes people keep coming back for more! I’m also really organized and that helps a lot!
How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance?
I don’t really think I have that part down yet....I work really long hours and constantly strive to work more efficiently to allow for more free time. If someone could wave a magic wand over my head and help out my work/life balance I would really appreciate it! My biggest problem is that I am a perfectionist and all those details take TIME.
What was your biggest life lesson?
Oh geeze, that’s a killer question....I keep learning life lessons every day...I recently learned what YOLO means (You only live once) and that has kind of become a mantra of mine. Time is precious, spend it wisely.
What advice would you give other women who are interested in starting their own business?
Don’t be afraid to do it, but be prepared to work your butt off. It is not easy. Get help with doing things correctly and legally and price yourself accordingly. Locally, the Small Business Development Center at Iowa Western is headed up by a lady named Sue Pitts and she is a fabulous resource for all things regarding small businesses and she is FREE. Use her services! We are lucky to have her in the area.
If you could share one piece of advice for women on the path to success, what would it be?
Cliched as it may sound...Go for it...Follow your dreams...just be smart and work hard.
How can someone get in contact with you?
Call me! I much prefer human interaction as opposed to email or text. Studio phone is 712-366-4226 and cell is 402-616-6888. If you want to do the non voice method, then email is firstname.lastname@example.org. I also have a website www.risneyphoto.com and a facebook business page at www.facebook.com/risneyphoto.