January 26, 2017

My First Showit United Experience with Jasmine Star, Katelyn James, and The Ashleys with Kay + Bee.

You likely know and LOVE Jasmine Star

If you clicked to read this blog, you likely know Jasmine Star and I'm not surprised. Jasmine has over 180K followers on Instagram and over 200K followers on Facebook. Jasmine has been my teacher from the very first day I picked up a camera and told myself I was going to become a photographer. It was back in 2013 when my church was having the band, For King and Country, come perform and they needed a photographer. I volunteered a month before they were to play, rented a camera from BorrowLenses.com, and spent the next month googling anything and everything photography related. Really, I volunteered and knew NOTHING about photography. In that month of figuring out how to work my rented camera, Jasmine Star's name just kept popping up; and I soon felt like she was a friend that I had for years. Albeit through a computer screen.

I fell in LOVE with Photography (and Jasmine)

Over the next few years, I went from doing photography as a hobby to being so busy I had to quit my full time job and do it full time by 2016. I knew it was officially time to make an investment into my education because I was running a business on a passion, and had seen many businesses fail by running it on passion alone. I was looking online and found some information on The International Academy of Wedding Photographers and through that stumbled on an event taking place in Tempe, Arizona, put on by a familiar website company called Showit. The event was called United, and guess who was going to be a speaker? My "friend", JASMINE STAR!

Fast forward to the conference during the first part of November. I just came out of the busiest month that I had ever experienced in my life. I felt burnt out, and I even questioned photography as a career. I was emotional and had been lacking in my quiet time with the Lord and for the first time in a while had been missing church on Sundays to travel for shoots. I needed a church sermon - a good one, a gut wrenching one! I wanted that more than going to a photography conference, more than rooming with someone I didn't know (especially because I'm an introvert), more than having dinner or attending a ball with hundreds of people I didn't know, more than learning new photography tricks. Honestly, photography was the last thing I wanted to think about.

I went to United and got the gut wrenching, Sunday morning service that I was needing

I arrived a day early to United for a chance to be alone in a little Airstream camper that I rented in someone's backyard. I landed in Phoenix early that morning and decided to rent a car because I couldn't check into my Airstream until 3pm. I jumped in my little compact car, punched "best coffee shops in Phoenix" into my malfunctioning iPhone, and it died. Oh no, and I didn't have a car charger. I decided to be spontaneous and just drive until I found something. Not a smart idea considering I'm from Montana, and we deal with absolutely no traffic at all, and the interstate terrified me. I was overwhelmed with fast-passing semis and no directions at all, so I pulled off the interstate to buy a car charger... somewhere.

I luckily found a Walgreens type store and bought a car charger for my phone and I navigated to a coffee shop. Oddly (or maybe not too oddly) google maps failed me and I ended up in a prison parking lot. Ironic, because I actually volunteer in the prisons back in Montana. The thought even crossed my mind that I should just walk into the jail, forget United, and spend time doing something I loved that wasn't photography related - mentoring people incarcerated.

I gave it one more shot and was FINALLY navigated in the right direction to a very cool coffee shop connected to a downtown farmers market. I grabbed breakfast, charged up my phone battery until it was completely full, edited photos that I brought with me from the dreaded month of October, and waited until I could check into my Airstream a few hours later.

Later that evening, once I checked into my Airstream, I took a much needed nap, woke up, and jumped on to the United Facebook group to see if anyone was meeting up for dinner. I had a much appreciated offer from a local photographer, Ryann Lindsey, to come with her and the two Ashleys for dinner. I didn't know Ryann or the "two Ashleys," but they seemed cool and I was hungry, so I agreed (I later realized that most of the United population was an Ashley). However, the two Ashleys I met for dinner were business partners from Kansas.

Ashley Knolla and Ashley Burbank with Kay + Bee were the two Ashleys I spent that evening with.

The Ashleys had spunk and an excitement that I questioned in the back of my mind. I was so exhausted and I wondered how they could be so excited about their career - the same career that I had.., that I chose! I remember a specific time over dinner that night when I got really sad thinking that I had fallen out of love with photography. That is until something clicked, The Ashleys had each other and oddly something came over me that felt so comforting that it was almost supernatural. The thought of having a partner!

I couldn't sleep that night. I prayed before bed asking God 'how and who?' My exhaustion turned to excitement, and that excitement had me wired. I'd close my eyes in an attempt to sleep and my (future) sister in law, Tiffany, kept popping in my mind. I'd shake that thought off because she lived in Ohio - 1600 miles away from me. There was no way SHE could be the one. Besides that, she wasn't a photographer.

The next day I called my husband and told him about my night. He knew how extremely exhausted I was before the conference so when I mentioned to him the thought of having a partner, he was excited! Then, I told him, "This is probably going to sound crazy, but Tiffany has been on my heart!" He responded with encouragement and said it didn't sound crazy at all. However, I shared with him that I really didn't know how that could work out with her being so far away. We hung up, I gathered my note pad, and I headed to the next speaker.

I was heading to the next speaker and the most random thing happened...

I received a picture text message from Tiffany, my sister-in-law. The picture was of a CAMERA... no joke! To be honest, I really hadn't done a good job of keeping in touch with Tiffany, and seeing a text from her in general was a surprise. But a text of a camera blew my mind. Her caption was, "Look what your brother bought me! An early Christmas gift - something I've been wanting for a long time!" From the exhaustion, and the presence of the Lord in that moment, I cried... in front of everyone!!! No lie! I'm sure there were several other United attendees that figured I was just a little "off," but truth is, I was off! I didn't feel like I was myself at all during that trip due to all the things the Lord was doing in my life at that time.

That night, I called my husband to pray before bed, like we always do, and we prayed in agreement that God would really seal the deal and make it even more obvious if I should partner with my sister-in-law in this business of mine! My husband had clearly said that he agreed, that it sounded like the Lord was up to something, but we just didn't know how it would play out or if Tiffany was even interested in working with me.

The next day is when it came full circle during the Katelyn James speech.

On my walk to the morning session, I sent my sister in law and brother a text just saying I wanted to "pick their brains about an idea I had," and they both seemed excited to chat. I called my brother over my lunch break and told him all that was happening. He said the timing was perfect and he wanted to talk more about it after my trip. Well, that was encouraging! I couldn't help but slip into a fantasy land a few times that day thinking about what it would look like. I envisioned Tiffany and me being at United together next year like The Ashley's. I also thought about expanding my wedding photography to Ohio (where she lives), and me traveling back there to train her. I also got really excited about her doing all the dreadful editing for me. Most of all, I thought about next October. I pictured what it looked like to love my job again, to not be burnt out and exhausted because of her partnership.

Later that day, I met with a website designer over my lunch so I was running late heading to the next speaker, Katelyn James. However, when I got to the lobby, everyone was inside already, and Jasmine Star - you know, my "friend," was standing in the lobby. I clearly wasn't the only one that thought of Jasmine as a "friend" due to the long line of women getting pictures with her. I stood there in the lobby and paused. I thought, "Do I wait and say hi? No way. She doesn't even know me. What would I even say? Maybe just tell her how inspiring she is? Wait - isn't that what everyone else has been doing? Is she tired of it? I mean, she is just another human and probably needs a breather. If I said hi, would hi even come out correctly. Worse yet, will she remember my face from earlier in the day when she spoke and I snuck in early to drop my bag in the front row to save my seat? Yeah... all those thoughts in the matter of a few seconds. I vividly remember her glancing my direction in those few seconds. And... I bolted! Something just told me to move on and trust God for another chance. So I prayed under my breath, "God, if she needs to hear something encouraging, give me the words and another opportunity; or if we're supposed to meet just give me another chance."

I slipped into a back row and sat with a couple of United volunteers that I had met earlier in the week. Soon after I sat down, Katelyn James was introduced. I'm fairly new to this whole photography world so people were shocked when I hadn't heard of Katelyn James until that week. She started to talk and I was immediately drawn into every single word she was saying. I felt hypnotized by her stories, and there was no snapping out of it! She touched on things so personal to me: about being overwhelmed with work and knowing when to outsource, about having a marriage mentor, something my husband and I have in our lives. Then she proceeded in telling a story, in tears, about how she hired a photo editor. It just so happened that it was her sister whom she hired! Then and there I lost it! I was in tears in my seat, and my makeup was a mess! I knew this was God speaking directly to me in a crowd of hundreds of people.

I was seriously so emotional that I had to slip out to the restroom to clean up my mascara. And guess what?

I turned for the doors and there was Jasmine Star again. I was so embarrassed! Not only did I sneak my bag in the front row to hear her speak, and awkwardly bolt from the lobby just 30 minutes earlier, but now she may have possibly seen me crying like a baby in the back row of the auditorium. Again, in the bathroom I prayed for God to heal me of humiliation and to also give me another chance if necessary. I came back, took my seat, and by the time the afternoon session was over, Jasmine was no longer sitting in the back.

Later that night we all got dressed up and attended a ball for the presidential election. I didn't spot Jasmine there so I assumed she had left the conference, but toward the end of the night I spotted Katelyn. Everyone was clearing out for the night, and there were a few girls surrounding Katelyn. So I prayed for God to give me a chance to share with her how He used her to speak to me earlier that day. I waited in line until she was free, but she so sweetly apologized to the few of us waiting for her attention that she had to get to bed because she was so exhausted. I totally didn't blame her! She was pregnant, had to public speak, was all dressed up, and it was late!!! I was kind of relieved because truly, the way the week had gone, I might have stood in front of her and just cried. Awkward! ; )

The next day the conference was over and we all went our separate ways. I was in the Phoenix airport and my brother sent me a text asking me to FaceTime him and Tiffany. I sat at a restaurant and my brother shared how they were so excited for the opportunity and wanted to know more of what I had in mind. I told them that it was new and I really didn't have a plan on what it would look like, especially since my wedding season didn't pick up until spring. But I was willing to get the ball rolling in some small way once I got back. Then, something cut me to the core when my brother said, "How did you know?" I was confused when he asked that, but he went on to explain that he and Tiffany had just sat up in bed about a week earlier talking about Tiffany going back to school or even do something similar to photography so that they would have additional income for their family. I just told him I couldn't take credit. The whole week seemed so orchestrated that the only one who deserved credit was God! I knew because He knew!

I came home from United and was excited, but really overwhelmed. I learned so much and wanted to implement it all right away! I knew it wasn't realistic to do it overnight, but slowly, I started to give small projects to my sister in law. I've been able to pay her, not a ton, but I believe it's been helping them a little. It's also been helping me MORE THAN SHE'LL EVER KNOW! I'm believing that with her help, I'll start to grow my business more without killing myself or losing my love for photography. She has already learned social media, copywriting, blogging, BlogStomp, Pixieset, and so much more! I haven't been able to afford to fly back to Ohio, yet, but that's because I recently had to buy a plane ticket to San Francisco. Actually, I just got home on Saturday, because guess what? God gave me that second chance to chat with Jasmine Star as soon as I returned home from United.

I was accepted as a live audience member (1 of about 20) for Jasmine Star's Marketing & Branding Your Business class.

I came home from United and caught a cold, so one day while I was laying on the couch, and for the first time ever, looked at upcoming speakers for Creative Live It showed Jasmine Star! I immediately applied for the class, but after not hearing anything for about 2 weeks I thought, "I just came off of an emotional week, sick, and was on NyQuil, so maybe I didn't apply correctly so I applied again and explained that they should disregard if I had already applied. But I was just doubling up in case NyQuil played a part in me not filling out the form correctly the first time. Much to my surprise, I received an email message from a producer at the Creative Live Studios offering me a spot in the live audience! How faithful is our God?!! Once again, I cried. Obviously, I was happy for a chance to be in this audience - but more than that, I cried because God has really been guiding me and I had seen evidence of it. My whole business is because of His blessings being poured out. Whenever I just talk to Him and ask Him for opportunities or guidance, He has never let me down!

So there you have it. That's why I was in San Francisco last week! I sat through an entire day of live recording and learned very powerful information from Mrs. Jasmine Star. I was too shy to stand up and ask a question during her class, knowing it was live, but we had a cocktail party after class and I finally introduced myself. I oddly confessed my awkwardness at United and thankfully she didn't notice me in a puddle of tears at the conference. It was much easier to do when it was just a few other people standing around compared to a few hundred at United. There were zero disappointments. She greeted me with a big hug, recognized me from her Insta180 class, looked me straight in the eye, and told me I was killing it and doing amazing things. She encouraged me and gave me another hug. She'll never know how much I needed that encouragement from someone that "gets it," and I really do feel like I can come out of my shell (not just online, but in person too) and do great things in 2017! If you haven't had a chance to check out her newest class on CreativeLive.com, do it NOW! We are currently going through 30 days of assignments that will challenge us, but will help us grow our businesses in HUGE ways!

Jasmine Star, Katelyn James, The Ashley's, and Tiffany, THANK YOU ALL for your inspiration, motivation, desire to grow, and ability to fall back in love with my job again! God is using you in ways you don't even realize just by doing what you love and doing it well! My pastor once told me that photography is my microphone, and I'd say the same for you. What you're doing is your microphone, so keep Rockin' That Mic!

Advocates For Great Marriages & Simple Living