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Becoming an empty nester made Melinda finally pursue her lifelong dream of photography.

There were two things that pushed Melinda Frabrici into finally creating her own business. Her three sons had finished high school and she was becoming increasingly unhappy sitting in front of a computer screen at work.

So she began pursuing her lifelong passion for photography, with a feminist edge. Her studio, MISS Portrait, would cater towards women.

Melinda tells Mamamia how she put her idea into action.

Tell us about MISS Portrait – What is it?

MISS Portrait is a one-stop photography studio set up solely for women. We specialise in business and personal branding, corporate headshots and more personal Portrait experiences for women of all ages. Mums and daughters, sisters shoots, BFF’s and milestone birthday sessions are my favourites.

What were you doing before you went into business for yourself?

Aside from working in IT in the not for profit sector, I’ve been busy raising three amazing young men. Is it any wonder I have made the choice to revolve my business around ‘all things girly’. Lace, sequins, makeup and power suits… it’s all so pretty.

What made you want to start your own business?

Starting my business didn’t just come from a love of photography. I knew I was getting nowhere really fast sitting in front of a computer screen at work. My boys had all finished high school and I found myself needing to fill that empty nest space with something substantial. I was so unhappy in my job and I had always wanted to pursue photography. I am awed and inspired by so many women out there doing it for themselves, so what the hell was I waiting for?

It’s the transformation, watching a nervous, shy woman, relax and stand in her own natural gorgeousness and pose proudly in front of my camera is something I have loved to do since I first started my photography journey. The emotional response I get from my clients when they see their images is so humbling that I find myself moved as well. It seems there are a lot of women looking for reassurance like me!!

 

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How did you come up with the name?

MISS – it’s kinda strong and straight to the point. It depicts a four-year-old in a tutu – with attitude. It can show the innocence of a leggy 14-year-old struggling to find her place in the world. It represents a 30-year-old celebrating her birthday with a glamour shoot with her three sisters and a hairdresser and her team delivering an amazing experience in a funky salon, then there’s the 80 year old family matriarch – queen of her family – who doesn’t want an amazing photograph of their beautiful grandmother? There’s no limit to what this word represents to a woman.

What was the single best piece of advice you got?

Absolutely the best piece of advice I have ever received is to ASK. If you don’t ask, you won’t receive. You want to work with a photographer you idolise? ASK to! If you need a great website but you can’t afford $5000 to make it happen ASK if you can contra your services for part of the price. If you need backdrops painted because they cost thousands to buy – ASK someone to help you! I have literally saved myself thousands on education, insurance, design work, even pilates. What’s the worst can happen? They say ‘no’?

Always be genuine. Most people can see straight through you if you’re being fake.

Sleep. And eat well. Nurture your body and mind. If it stops working properly, so will your business.

Find your tribe and surround yourself with only with people who lift you up and encourage you. Lean on them.

Never. Stop. Learning. Stay up to date with the latest.

Podcasts are so much better than TV. You can work while you learn and get inspiration.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give yourself if you were starting over?

Stop thinking things need to be perfect before you get yourself out there. New equipment, shiny websites, logos, expensive cameras, studios and the like, will not make the ship sail faster. Part of your success will be about the learning journey, the relationships you build and the rapport you have with your clients – NOT whether you have the most expensive camera.

At Mamamia we have an expression “flearning: – failing and learning. What have been your biggest flearnings since you have started your own business?

I am ‘flearning’ everyday. No, you can’t work from home, walk the dog, go to the gym for 2 hours, have brunch with your girlfriends, travel the world, enjoy weekly facials, babysit your niece and run a successful small business at the same time. Well, not when you’re starting out anyway. Maybe one day? I got so caught up in the whole idea that if I painted this picture of awesomeness, that it would all fall into place! Epic flearn!

It’s taken ages for me to work out how disciplined I need to be with time, and how important it is to have a dedicated work space to get down and get dirty with all the tough stuff that won’t do itself. Procrastination is the devil, and must be kept under control.

 

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What do you do when you’re feeling like you’re in a hole emotionally?

I’m a venter. I need to talk about where I am at when things aren’t going according to plan and I am so lucky to have a network of family and friends who are good listeners. A typical seven (The Enthusiast), on the Enneagram scale, the times I typically find myself in that hole of burnout, resent, regret and battling with my imposter syndrome, is when I have too many balls in the air at the same time. That’s exactly when it’s time to find a beach, a strong extra large flat white, and put my toes in the sand for a few hours.

What’s the biggest misconception you had about starting your business?

MAKE NO MISTAKE. THIS IS THE HARDEST JOB I HAVE EVER DONE. I actually thought I could do it all for the love of taking photographs, but that’s the easiest part.

Marketing and strategy plans, client consultations, viewings, product sourcing, packaging, webinars, podcasts, assignments, mentoring sessions, design, location scouting, finding make up artists, hairdressers, collaborating with dress designers, cake decorators, framers – hell just the relationships you need to juggle are a lot of work. You want to be a good people person to even consider being in business. Editing, networking, scheduling your social media posts, sourcing content for those social media posts. The list is so overwhelming when you’re starting out. For every day in the studio with one portrait client, it seemed I needed three full days to make that happen. The first few years, it was two steps forward, and one step back…. No sleep, head down, bum up, RELENTLESS HARD WORK. But I have thrived on it.

Tell us about your proudest moment.

My 26-year-old son Dan, walked up behind me sitting at my desk last year, put his arms around me, kissed me on the head and told me how proud he was of me. It was a bit like a bolt of lightning hit me. I had always felt proud of my family, but I hadn’t really ever felt proud of myself.

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Remember the biggest goal on my journey was about filling a void in my life with something substantial. Something that filled my cup and made me feel worthy of love and respect like motherhood always did. I had so much more in me but had never stepped off that precipice. I’m really proud to be able to say that I am doing that.

What would you recommend to someone who wanted to start their own hustle?

My go-to hustle recommendations are:

Suebryceeducation.com – for aspiring portrait photographers. WOW! What can I say? Sue has changed my life.

Jennakutcher.com – all things marketing and motivation! She keeps things so real, and her resource of podcasts, downloads & business strategies are second to none.

Mamamia.com – for help with content ideas! There are so many articles, podcasts, references, links and resources that inspire me on a daily basis.

Bni.com – networking your business can bring big business. Getting business referrals from other small business owners is a great way to lift your profile when you are starting out.

To get in touch with Miss Portrait’s services you can visit her website or follow her on Instagram @miss_portrait_melbourne.

Been thinking about taking control of your life and becoming your own boss? Interested in becoming a Lady Startup yourself or know someone ready to chase their own bus? You’re invited to join Mia Freedman for this online course where she will personally take you through every step and give you every resource to go from idea to launch. Enrolments are open for a very limited time starting now. Find out all about the Lady Startup Activation Plan here.

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