21 Apr Finding Rebirth on Your Business Journey
The journey of entrepreneurship is not always a smooth one. In fact, it is often riddled with challenges and setbacks. However, if you are able to find rebirth in the midst of these struggles, then you will be able to push through and reach new heights.
I’m excited to share today’s guest, John Mollura, Owner of John Mollura Photography who will be sharing with us all about how to navigate life changes and find your passion along the way!
How John ended up working with NASA
Personal changes that support career change
Positive change is possible
You might not understand when you're in the midst of struggles but have faith that looking back things will make sense.
Serving others is one of the best things you can do.
John is a multi-award winning portrait photographer specializing in empowering and creative portraits that create personal transformation. He has worked with globally recognized clients such as countrymusic star Jimmie Allen and Fortune Five Hundred Companies, such as Proctor & Gamble as well as hundreds of individuals to have the human-side of their stories be told in a creative and impactful way.
Studying under celebrity portrait photographer and global humanitarian Jeremy Cowart for almost five years, John has developed a unique creative and philanthropic process and whose work shatter’s his clients preconceived notions of how powerful a portrait can be. John is sought after by those that desire to have the human side of a story shown in a creative and compelling way. His photographs and projects are routinely featured in media, such as National Geographic and Country Music Television. As an award winning portrait photographer and humanist he can help men and women at cross-roads in the middle of their lives feeling a lack of self-worth and confidence to experience transformation into seeing and believing the incredible that inside of them when he creates their empowering portrait.
He has probably taken some pictures that you might have purchased off of the internet, which I just learned, which is so neat. But he made the leap, the jump that most of you listening or watching that you've probably made, I know, I lived a double life for about 10 years, and then made the leap to being full time entrepreneur and owning a business, which is not easy. But the job that he has is something that I don't know, little kids just like look up to it. And it's like, Oh, I'm gonna go to space one day. And so we're gonna get to hear that today and hear John's story. So I'm super excited. So John, welcome to the show.
Hey, thanks for having me, Angela.
I'm excited. Okay, so before we start talking about photography, and the the luxury portrait market, like tell us your journey to even starting your business. But of course, like, how did you get to go to space like, oh, my gosh, it's just so many give us a little backstory?
Yes. So one of the deals that my well then fiance gave me who's now my wife, whenever I took the job working for NASA contractor was I was not allowed to go to space myself. She said, that's, that's a deal breaker. So fortunately, I never had the opportunity to go to space. But I did work on numerous projects that went to Mars. And that's actually what I got hired to do as a test engineer, to make sure that these million dollar projects that we are zipping across to our next planetary neighbor, didn't crash and burn literally. The surface. That's stressful. Yeah, yeah, it was. And the job that got me into that was because I taught rock climbing for the Boy Scouts. I wasn't a Boy Scout. I didn't know how to rock climb before that summer. But I was planning to work for Disney as an internship at the Disney Imagineers when I was I think a junior in college at Penn State and mechanical engineering, and had all the plans to work there. And it's down to me and one other person I so confident I had no plan B which you'll see as a theme in my life. Plan B. And long story short, didn't get the internship and I was so dejected. Just sitting down on my couch. Whenever I got the phone call because this is back in the 90s. So like the phone was attached to the wall in my in my rooms. Yeah, there was no like, you know, in some cool coffee shop getting the bad news. It was I was just sitting in my room and the guy living in the room next to me in our fraternity house walked by and Bill said, Hey, you're right. Melora. I said, No. I said I don't know what I'm gonna do this summer. So he worked for the boy scouts out in New York City and said, you know, you want to come and work up there. You can work in the maintenance crew, and then we'll teach you how to, you know, be a director of something or other you're outdoorsy. I said, Yeah, sure. So I spent the first probably six eight weeks working for the maintenance crew and I was the unskilled laborer. So I'd carried everyone schools and I got saddled with the very unglamorous jobs like pulling the mice that had fallen in the toilets in the cabins. During the course of the winter, my job was pulling them out. Oh my god. It was awful. Terrible. I can't think of a greater stand school message than pulling dead mice out of toilets, you know, for your job. So when the opportunity came to teach rock climbing for them, even though I had no idea how to do that, I said, Yeah, sure, sign me up anything but that and I think actually the time when they asked me, I was like scrubbing rust off of like a propane tank out in the sun. And I'm like, yeah, yes. Get me away from the dead mice and the you know, canisters of explosive gas with me with a metal brush scraping them I'll do anything. Oh, yeah. Yeah, so they sent me to class it was super intensive is like a week they were like 14 hour days. And I learned everything I needed to to hopefully not kill any young scouts. spending their vacation summer vacation with us in the Catskills. So we successfully ran a crew all summer we had, like, I think seven 800 kids from inner city, New York scouts come up that we, you know, had them rappelling and rock climbing and just having the time of their lives. So I put that on my resume whenever it came time for me to graduate a few years later. And I was doing a phone interview with a company that did the spacesuit and other thing for NASA. And they said, What is this about rock climbing? Why is this on here? And the director of engineering was a student often said, Hey, hang on, there's someone I want you to talk to. Because I was interviewing for like a project manager job. Which knowing what project managers do now I would be horrible at it. Often, like schedules budget, like the stay on track. Yeah, not my thing, man. So he said, Hang on, I got something you want you to talk to. And like it was on mute. And again, like this is the nine isa like, I'm on like my cordless phone now. The big like metal antenna? Yeah, because that's how I wrote and this nasally voice gets on the phone after I was on hold for like what seemed like an eternity this nasally voice goes, Hey, what do you think about rock climbing on Mars? And leaving the you know, proverbial smartass that I am I go, Are you going to pay my airfare? Because if not, that's a deal breaker. I said that. Oh, crap.
That's actually hilarious.
But like, in that moment, like I got that like cold sweat, like when you pass a state trooper going, like, way too fast. And you get that? Yeah, that's how I felt. I'm like, I just, I just believe this. Oh, my God, this this mystery voice on the earth to get them down here. And I was like, okay, so I came down. It was like a six hour drive from Penn State. It's the companies in Delaware. And this guy's name was skip. And he was like the lead test engineer for the systems that landed robots on Mars, like from the 90s on. And wow, when they saw on my resume that I had decent enough grades in engineering, but that I had, like practical skills that you could send out in the field and not get themselves killed. That's what perked this guy skips interest because he was a former Special Forces veteran to test operations for the Air Force for like 20 years. And now he's leaving. He's NASA missions. And he's like, I don't need some Egghead that can do calculations. I need some pseudo a CAD that I can send down to the real world. So that's how I ended up testing things that like I said, eventually landed on Mars, we did the Spirit and Opportunity. Mars rovers for NASA, the Beagle lander for the British space program. And I did that for 15 years worked on anything with high tech fabrics. So I've worked on everything from advanced fighter jets to they sent me an article once and I'm not sure if they sent me there to get rid of me. I eventually made my way back. But yeah, I found myself in just these wild situations all because like I had this job where I was tired of pulling dead mice from toilets. That's pretty much what set the course for the rest of my professional engineering career. Which, yeah, sorry. I sound like Walter Mitty, like when I tell these stories, like everyone's getting in full crap.
But it's all it's all relationships, you know, it's like, you're the guy in the frat house, you know, walking by and what if he hadn't walked by, you know, it's like, timing is everything. And so, it's like, everything happens for a reason. So then, okay, so then you're doing that for like, 15 years, and then where does the love for photography? You can come in?
Yeah, so the love for photography, like, started when I was I think on my seventh or eighth birthday, because stick with me here, Angela? Yeah, I wanted a hamster. Okay, that's what I wanted. And my mom and her infinite wisdom thought John doesn't have the follow through to take care of a hamster like no way so on a lark she bought me a camera and this is like 1984 So it was like an old school little Kodak film camera had like The Flash bulbs that would expire and I just I fell in love with it. And to this day my mom's like I've no idea why I got that for you out there and you like being creative and I thought this will be techie enough that he's not going to bother me about some damn hamster so so in photography had always been my just a hobby I just loved creating I just I could always just see things people always be like how did you see that went to take that picture? I'm like, How couldn't you so it's just something that's always come naturally for me. And traveling extensively for my engineering job. I always had my camera with me so I looked at it is like you know in my little like dream world I had I was going to do these cool engineering things but I was always be like, This must be like working for like National Geographic. I'm going to Antarctica or something. Me to Hawaii I'm on my way to China. So I like put myself in these little like photo assignments like when I, I love it. And it eventually became like this like safe haven for me because the company I worked for was bought by venture capitalists and it really changed how the whole philosophy involved with the company from like a small family run company to like, hey, let's see if we can do this next technological thing to you know, how much how much profit are we going to make on this? Sorry, I don't mean bad connotation with the word profit but
oh, no, no, no, it's all good.
It's all good. But it and I was watching these like major layoffs happening around me like multiple rounds. And it was like the, you know, anyone who's worked a corporate job, it's like, there's no way they'll build it. You know, Bob ago. Holy crap, did you hear they just let Bob go? It's like, Oh, shit. But yeah. So I started doing photography more seriously, probably in like 2014 2015. Like, join the local Art League and sold like my first like art pieces, little five by seven, like black and white. And I thought it was so cool. I got paid like $30. But that's when I really started ramping up my photography is because I really needed something to focus on that had a lot of positivity, because I had gone through tremendous amount of personal change in my life starting, like in 2009. And then it really just coincided with my company changing focus. And photography really just came something that kept me afloat. spiritually.
Yeah, do you like to shoot? Like, I mean, when I think a National Geographic, I think of like, South Africa and like, animals and nature? And was there something that you were like, just naturally drawn to? Or was it just anything,
I was always drawn to the stories that like National Geographic told, and I can remember the first time I saw National Geographic magazine, I think it was from 1987 or 88. It was a, it was an issue on like Pompeii. And I remember looking at my grandparents coffee table, like the, you know, old steel town I grew up in, in western Pennsylvania. And like just seeing these like fantastical stories of like, places I'd never seen, like I've been to like where I grew up, and like we'd go to Cape May, New Jersey for vacation every year, but like I really had not gone anywhere else. And I can just remember looking, you know, inside the National Geographic and be like, wow, there's like a whole world out there. So I started out just taking pictures of landscapes, you know, sunsets, clouds, all that kind of stuff. And I always said, absolutely no way that I ever want to take pictures of people. And, you know, anyone who's a student, I've caught that I do luxury portraits now. So that all really ties into the amount of like, personal growth and change that I had. Because, you know, even though I had like a literal wall, if I wanted to hang everything up of like, commendations from like Department of Defense, and all these other NASA and alphabet soup agencies, I never believed any of that had huge case of impostor syndrome. You know, despite all these, like, tangible accolades. So the desire to not want to ever photograph people back in the day was just a manifestation of that, because I didn't want to appear like, foolish or like, I didn't know what I was doing. So once I got past that through a lot of personal development and soul searching, and this took years, by the way, this isn't like a switch flipped. I really was drawn to being able to help people tell their stories and showcasing like the amazing things that are inside of people that they don't believe because I know how that feels. Not believing what other people tell you. And that's a pretty, that's a pretty low place to be. So I take great pride in having being able to use the gift that I have, I have no formal photography training. I have no bachelor of fine arts or anything like that. I'm just able to connect with people very well.
Which is not easy for everybody. So but how did you like Did something happen at your job? Or did you like plan this? I feel like I know the answer. That happen, where it's like today's the day that peace out corporate world and I'm starting my business like because there's a lot of people that like listen and watch the pod pass that. I mean, I lived in healthcare and luxury wedding world for a good 10 years. And there was an opportunity like something happened that presented itself to make me within 24 hours to have to make a freaking decision. Like, do I want to jump? And do I want to try this thing and I can always go back. Or, you know, I felt like the opportunity had to be that way, because I wasn't like a quitter. And I didn't want to like quit anything, even though it was like asinine what I was doing, but like Did something happen? Or like you planned it out?
Yeah, you I'm sure you know that. There's no way I planned it out, right. That's not my that's not my thing. My My wife is the peanut butter in the relationship. And I'm very jelly, just yeah, all over the place. But no, it was more of a slow fade, overhears years. That I just wasn't content with what I was doing. I didn't it didn't inspire me anymore. Because I I used to be so gung ho and really believe in what we were doing. And when the company really switched, really to just like a profit focus. And like, we are almost berated for taking on these technological jobs. It really just killed my inspiration to work there. And so I went and found another engineering job because what self respecting father of three and husband, you know, quits their job working in like rural southern Delaware to go be a professional photographer and leave like six figures behind. Yeah, so I went and worked at this other job, it was still in the aerospace field. You know, I worked with great people again. And you know, they would fly me like meetings in China and like, first class and like, I mean, it was like, on paper is fantastic. And my soul had never been more dead. I remember it was a day it sounds like you're having in Nashville right now. Like just rain and like awful weather. And we're in coastal Delaware. So like, it's always 100% humidity, even in the winter, and like 35 degrees and rain, like that's pretty miserable. But I can just remember walking into work one day and the rains like going down back in my jacket. And I thought, thank God, I'm getting paid so much money to be this miserable. Yeah. And like that hit me like a two by four to the eyes. I'm like, like, what kind of example am I setting for my kids? Right? Like, if my friend came to me and said, You know, I, I don't feel satisfied. I don't feel fulfilled. You know, what should I do? I'd be like, well, let's come up with a plan dude. And like, do something different. I'm like a modeling for my kids. That's okay to like hate every moment of your waking life at work, which was like nine to 10 hour days of course. Just for like a huge paycheck. So I said to my wife, I'm like, you know, I'm a miserable she's like, no shit John. Anyone with a pair of eyes can see that you have the power of like a wet ashtray. So I was like, why, you know, I got these photography skills I've been blessed without know how to sell it and went to a networking meeting. And finally like, oh my god, there's like, people out there that like network and get no you can get your your business in front of people and refer each other and Oh, my God, like blew my mind. Because a whole nother world. Yeah. Right. Like in the, you know, government engineering world. Like, that's not how it worked at all. No, it was like 180 from that. So once I found out about like, all these different opportunities, and they're like, Oh, my God, people actually meet and have coffee at meetings and aren't in some test site in the middle of the Mojave Desert. Right? Yeah. People do that. And she's like, You got to take this chance. She's like, if this doesn't work out, like if the photography thing flops like, you can get another job. She's like, you're already left one job because I looking back on it. Like he said, Everything happens for a reason. I left the job that I had been at for 15 years to get to this other job which by the way, I lasted nine months before I you know, wrote my resignation letter, Dear Mr. Dolan nine John Mueller, senior systems engineer. Design, I didn't make it a year at this place. And so yeah, on April, April 7, I think of 2017 was my last day working in the corporate world.
How'd that feel though? Like, are you like finally, I want I'm gonna do something different.
Yeah, I mean, there was there was a ton of fear because If I left I had zero clients lined up. I think the first client I got paid me like, I don't know. $425. And I immediately took $350 of that and went invest in Jeremy cow works like photography program. Guy.
Yeah, I know Jerry. Yeah, yes, it's brother. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. I worked with his brother, okay, years ago.
Gotcha. So, yeah, invest in Jeremy's thing. He's like you spent how much money you just earn. But his course and just the way Jeremy approaches photography was such that humanitarian heart is how I've really structured my business and have created projects and, you know, gotten to know Jeremy, you know, over the years, and, you know, we photographed each other, and he's helped me develop various projects through some of his things. So, you know, it's all meant to be
what would you say to someone that is thinking about, like making the leap? Would you say, plan it out a little bit better? Or would you say, don't wait so long, like, just fucking jump and do it?
I think a hybrid of those, one of the things that that really saved us was we had we had, we were savers, you know, just financially. So we had a pretty nice padding, to absorb that initial shock, for sure. Because that, that allowed us to, and allowed me to be a little bit more selective and not just jump on anything that came along. So that's a huge thing. Try to if you can, you know, try to have some kind of financial cushion to do it. And then really, it's that fine line, you have to walk when you're an entrepreneur of do I how far down do I want to niche down because a niche down niche down niche down a lot, you might not know what you want to do yet. Having an idea of what you want to do, you know, understand might take some time to develop, but the biggest thing I can recommend to people is I don't know if you're affiliated with a coaching program or not, but like coaching, coaching mentors, they are worth their weight in absolute gold. Yep. Like these people have gone through the wringer and, like, gotten the bruises and lumps and bumps and contusions. Like that $500 is going to be so worth it. So worth it. Yeah, mastermind groups, all that kind of stuff is so instrumental in making these kinds of giant leaps.
Yeah, they always say, like, find someone who's doing what you want to do, and then follow them. But to your point about what you just said, a lot of people don't really know. And, like, for me, I was, I think, like floundering as an entrepreneur for about a year. And then a friend of mine, who was a lighting designer that I worked with a lot. He's like, there's this thing called entrepreneur organization, and they have a thing called Catalyst. And he's like, you're gonna die of a stroke, you work too much like this is just crazy. And they teach you how to do it differently. I'm like, I don't have time for that. And it was an 18 month commitment. And like, I don't know, five grand or something at the time. And it wasn't even about the money. It was about the time. We had money in the bank. It was just, I wasn't busy doing the right things. And I was so young, in owning a business. I didn't even own a business, I had a job because I was allowing my clients to dictate my schedule, which really is a job. And I mean, I always say like that group, and my forum, my business group that I'm still in today. 12 something years later, it I mean, it probably saved my life, because I just didn't. My parents were entrepreneurs. I mean, I grew up my family had entrepreneurship, but they lived on the Gulf Coast. And so I wasn't around it all the time. And you just don't know what you don't know. And so I agree wholeheartedly. It's like, every year I get a new mentor. And I stay in that business group and we all help each other none of us are in the same industry. It doesn't matter what industry you're in, we all have the same challenges because we we own a business and so so fast forward to now and you've been I will say like now your dream job but it's like leaving what most people would think is a dream job to you know what you're doing now what? What are your favorite things to do? Like what are you doing now? And like what's coming Next for your business.
Yeah, the I love telling people's stories. So, you know, doing their portraits, and also finding theirs. They're the stories like behind them, like I just did a project when Jeremy helped me develop called the refigured project where we took photos of people's it started out with like, photos of their physical scars. And about a year ago, my friend, Ashley, contact me her husband had major surgery to remove like a couple of 102 cancerous tumors out of his body. So like, they split them from like stem to stern. And she said, you know, Monty's like scared to go to the beach and like scare children? And she said, Is there any way that you could create portraits of people with scars to help them flip the script on that victim mentality and show them as celebrations of survival? And so, so we did, we launched the project, and I forget how many people we've we've had come through in about a year because it's close to like 20 or 30, where we create these portraits. And other photographers we're picking up but across the country, like someone did a shoot out in like, I think Bakersfield, California, like the other end of the country, just to tell these people's stories. So it's been amazing. Watching the power that photography has, because when you see a picture, especially when it gets printed out, it's like, wow, like, this is how people see me. Like I've had people say that they're like, You made me look so beautiful. Like I pushed the button on the camera. I'm like, this is this is you. This is how I saw you walk into my studio. And this is how people see you know, you have proof of how you look and how other people really see. So that's one of my favorite things about doing portraits.
That's so neat, though, like, I remember, through EO we had a speaker come he his brain is called the daymaker. He owns Aveda and a bunch of salons and he was living in Hawaii and had a lot of pain in his hip. He was a surfer and went to the doctor and they're like, you have bone cancer, you're gonna die real soon. And so, you know, he told his staff and everyone that worked there, you know, knew somebody who had had some type of cancer. And they pulled together just people in their Rolodex of like, what doctors could he get a second, third, fourth opinion. And, you know, he ended up documenting this, what most would say is like, horrible, horrible journey of going through this cancer and losing just all of his hair. And I mean, he's like own hair salon. It was just so weird. And he like, you know, has all he speaks all over the world now, you know, sharing his story, like don't give up. But that's one of the photography projects that that just really sticks out. Because that photographer it was it was so emotional, and but it was like a beautiful thing. Because his kids and his family like got to see like, this is where you started. This is what they went through with treatment. Here. Were, here's what we were told, here's some options, if you're not okay with that option, keep looking and searching for more answers, because it isn't always the ultimate answer. And he documented all that through photography, and it was really, really powerful. Like, you know, never forget that. And, but, but he's like, it was hard being a leader in the beauty world, and then completely stripping, you know, everything off, and being very vulnerable. And he's helped a lot of people, you know, because of it. So there are some, like, beautiful things. And I love that because when you see, especially children, you know, when they outwardly when they if they've never been exposed to like scars or if someone looks different than the norm of what they see like at home or in school or at church or the gym or wherever your kids are. It's like how do you teach them to be more understanding and how to approach uncomfortable which may be uncomfortable for them. But you know, if you have photography, and you can explain it to them, or a movie or something like that, it it really helps. So I can tell now like through what you're doing already, and I mean, I don't know you that well, but it's like, you enjoy telling those stories that brings you passion and that fills your soul, which is way better than what you were doing. So it's like just follow the purpose. Would you say that that's a I mean, that's a fair statement, I guess is like if you know that there's something more like move and keep going to like don't stay miserable for the money.
Yeah, absolutely don't seem miserable for the money. And it doesn't always have to be an all in right off the bat. I mean you like it Got a lot of steps, you know, like you said it was there something that happened where I mentioned that I was like, Screw it and you know, resigned on the spot. It wasn't. It wasn't that but I had been like building up this like side hustle for for years and found it really brought me joy, and also brought other people joy. So that's the common thread, that's always a big piece of advice I give to people is you might not know the specifics about something, but try to figure out that common thread that runs through everything that you really like. And that that can help you navigate your passion slash career in relationships. There'll be some kind of common thread like I, I love being the first to do something I love coming up with with that idea. And I probably need help launching it because I'm not so good with the production phase. Yeah. But that's also really important to know that I'm not good at that. I'm not good at scheduling things. And coming up with a post today like that not not my thing. Like, I need help with that. And that's really important to understand your strengths and your weaknesses, where they call that. SWOT. Yep. SWOT analysis, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Yeah, those are super helpful, you know, self assessments to go through?
Well, and as you were, like, making all these changes, there's all these personal changes that that will lead you to quitting your job. Would you say that? One of the biggest it sounds to me like one of the biggest cheerleaders is your wife, and she was like, do it. And so, even going back to happiness, because we've planned and done 1000s of weddings, world, it's like, you know, I tell couples, so often, like, if the happiness of your partner isn't there, like you can't complete each other. And I don't even like it when people say like, oh, they complete I mean, it's like a freaking Jerry Maguire movie. But I'm like, No, you need to like, be whole yourself first before you like bring somebody else into like the mix and then get married and like start a life together. But would you say that like the people around you, like your support system is just as important? Because what if she wasn't that supportive? And then you were stuck in that job? Like, was that really important to you? Like, what were some things that happened? That were like, all the signs are leading to you quitting? Or resigning? Like, would you say that your wife really was the one that like, showed you in the butt and was like, Oh, you need to do this. Like, the people are important.
Yeah, absolutely. My wife packs a punch when she kicks me in the ass. She's a black belt. So that's amazing. Yeah, yeah, she's she's a force. But that that's absolutely the pivotal moment when so I guess to answer your question, that pivotal pivotal moment was not necessarily something that happened at work. It's one my wife said, go for it, which was so out of character for her as I mentioned, she's the peanut butter in this in this relationship, not, not her thing that usually, like just say, we'll just go for it. You know, you won't die when someone has a plan. It's like, she she's got she's the she likes to have a destination. Uncomfortable just having a direction. So to her have her say like, go for it. I'm like, Oh, shit. Now I have no excuse,
huh? Cuz you have the support? Yeah. So how have like over the past five years, like for your family of three kids, like, what has changed over the past five years?
Whenever Whenever, like business would get slow and like I would, you know, get bummed out my wife would be like, Dude, look at everything else. Like you're able to, like make the kids breakfast every morning. Like drive them to school kind of and then, you know, be there right when they get off the bus and like get the happenings for the day before they're like, You know what happened? What went down at school before they're like too tired to like talk or just anyone to care. I don't care anymore. She's like, you get to hear all that. She's like, before when we both worked full time because she's my wife's a high school teacher. Closer.
Yeah. She, you know, like, we would like scrambled to get the kids out the door like, out the door like 6:50am and we're talking like a one year old, a three year old and a five year old. Oh my god drop them off at daycare. You know, get to work work or nine to 10 hour days. Like try not to be the last parents to pick them up at 530 in the dark in the winter. Come home, feed them dinner, give them a bath read a story. Go to bed and then,
you know, do it all over again.
She's like, dude, like, you get to like, hang out with them. She's like, I come home most days. You're like throwing a football with our son. Now Graham, I have a photoshoot later that night or something to do. But she's like, look at all that time you get and thank God I had I had the flexibility I did during COVID Because being a teacher, like my wife was like in zoom hell, like figure all that out and like March and April 2020 Like trying to get her feet under her and, and doing all that. So like, I was able to go through the because I wasn't really working. No one's really doing commercial shoots, which is what I used to do, like April 2020. Yeah, and that was that was kind of stopped. So like I was able to like be my kids school teacher. And science lessons. Were like tons of fun with dad like out there like here's how you mix this and this together and it'll go boom if you put in a two liter soda bottle let's go try that
for you doesn't blow up everywhere.
I used to handle explosives it's all good as you know Alka Seltzer is are nothing totally in my wheelhouse. But yeah, the past like, like since COVID. Like Thank God, I had the flexibility I did. And then like even like what their wonky school schedules, like two days in person two days off, Wednesdays are off. But you know, you had to be there to like answer questions. Like, I could be there for all of that. Like looking back on it, like even just saying this now it's like, Man, what a blessing. Like on those days where like, and there have been days in entrepreneur world where I've literally been crying on the floor, like curled up in a little ball, not knowing what the fuck is gonna happen now? Yep. You know, it being captive, my own my own ship, so to speak, to be really cheesy is, is awesome. And I'll just conclude with saying I would probably be a horrible employee, you know, working for someone else. I think we both pretty unemployable now. Yeah. Pretty straight up unemployable?
I think a good thing. Yeah, it's
definitely a good thing. Because then I feel like if it were that easy, then the world of small business and creatives like we really would not be thriving. You know, if it was, if it was that easy. But it sounds to me, like a lot of what you worked through was personal development, and working with coaches and mentors, and having a positive outlook to everything. And instead of playing the victim, like, Oh, I'm so you know, pissed. And a lot of people I mean, I watched people are my parents that went to the same cube cubicle every day and hated their life. And they had a beautiful house drove a nice car, and it's just, it's not worth it. But until you get older, at least for me, I didn't really understand like, what all that meant, because for so long, it was in drilled into my head of like job security, job security, job security. And it's like, Well, why not create your insecurity? And then if you do have downtime, or anything like that, look at it from a positive angle, like your wife said, like you have all this time with your kids where you can never buy that time back. It's so precious, and it's so valuable. So I just I think, like, when I mentor people, and they're like, When should I quit my job? when's the right time? I'm like, it's never the right time. You just have to know the right time. For never, it's never the right time. Like, just just do it. Do you have like one favorite project that that you have shot in the last five years that just really stands out?
I think the that refigured project that I did last year, really. It was so eye opening for so many reasons. Because it illustrated the amount of weight that some people carry on their shoulders, and their knees aren't buckling. It was amazing. Like some of these stories I would hear a girl that was like, going like going to be a model. And when she was I think 15 Someone thought that their boyfriend had a crush on her. So slashed her face with a straight razor. Walked up on the street, outside of Coney Island, New York and just slashed the hell out of her face. I forget how many hundreds of stitches she had. But she came in for refigured shoot, because she wanted to show people that beauty is she coded her grandma. Girly Belle was her grandma. That's actually what she ended up naming the makeup company, she started to show people that beauty is only skin deep. And she said she wanted to come in and partake in the refigured project because she wanted to have a record or that and really show people that. Wow, so just hearing those stories was a is amazing, but it also helped me because I thought how could I ask people to share their you know, these like very personal and intimate stories if I wasn't willing to so I always wanted to be a soldier growing up. I always wanted to be a pilot, Navy SEAL type, type high speed dude. Only problem was I was born with clubfoot. When I was born, they said your son will be able to walk likely. But running and athletics are probably not in the cards for him. And here's my dad, who is a standout collegiate football player at the University of Pittsburgh. Here he talks about his like firstborn only son. So my parents never let me be that a deterrent but and then they never told me I couldn't do anything. So I became a black belt myself, ice hockey player. But I always had this in the back of my head because that's what prevented me from doing my my, quote, dream job of being in the military, like just straight up wasn't allowed. I was disqualified. I always, you know, looked down on my rifle because it's like, it's like disfigured. And it's like two sizes smaller. And I have this like giant scar running up the back of my calf and all the surgeries I had as a kid. And I thought I can't ask people to be a subject in the refigured project if I'm not willing to share this very little known thing about me. So I photographed myself. And I was actually I was the first subject.
Okay, so this all makes much more sense. Yeah, this was way closer to home.
Yeah, so and that was never the intent whenever I started if someone asked me to do this, and those photos I took of myself, or what I think of like, if I lose my balance doing a Beachbody program or something I, you know, get frustrated and be like, Oh my god, stupid, bad right foot. But then I think back to the pictures I took on myself. It's like, yeah, you lost your balance. Look at your foot, like it's shaped like the letter C backwards, like. So that project not only how it's helped other people, but about how that hits so close to home for me and has really helped reframe. And that's actually where the name came from refigured because I looked at my foot when I saw it in the back of my camera, I thought, like, God, I'm like a disfigured freak is what I thought in my head. And I said, You need to stop that shit. Yeah, like you need to refigure you're not just figured you need to refigure how you say that how you think about yourself. And that's where it came from. So helping other people, and then I in turn, ended up helping myself who knew?
That's amazing. That's such a great story, though. Thank you for sharing it. I mean, it means so much more when you help yourself and you know, something bad or happens around me or my business or something. I mean, coming from mental health and working in a mental health hospital. You know, in the back of my mind, I'm like, shit could be so much worse. Angela, like, don't be sorry, don't play the victim. And don't be sorry for yourself. Like, it could be a lot worse. But then there's a lot of people around me, especially my family, they haven't been exposed to any of that. And they probably never will. And so sometimes when they're having like, a knock down, drag out, like, Oh, my God, these are coming doing it. You know, just, I mean, even yesterday, my niece is texting me about a tick tock that she posted that my mother didn't like, and I'm like, Oh, my God, this is not a big problem. And I don't have time for this right now. Like, it's a trending sound mother, like get off the 19 year olds case. But you know, for them and their community that you know, is a big deal. So I have to sometimes take a step back and remember, like, not everyone has the same experiences as we do to, you know, put things into perspective. And it helps me respond a little bit better than dismissing it, you know, like, stop and address it, especially with the kids, you know, like trying to teach them so.
Yeah, that's really it. where they're at is so important. Yes, it is so important where they're at, and you know, loving on them and understanding and you know, I might not get everything in my eight year old son's Minecraft world that just blew up. But he's upset about it. So like, I'm talking about the creepers and whatever else just tap in that I don't get. But just showing that empathy, people and man what a world we live in if people really have more empathy for each other.
It's one thing I struggle with, like I did strength. Have you done Strength Finders?
I've done like, yeah, like the angiograms and all that stuff? Yeah,
I just straight finders, it's like, I think it's like 30 something and you like have the top five, and then like the bottom five. And they're like, focus on the top five, because that's what you're good at. And all the the 20 something like outsource that. My very last trade is sympathy, like, Oh, that's not so good. So it's something that I have to work on. But what set me up for that is working in a mental hospital and having that mentality of like, listen, should is not bad right now. You think it's bad, it'd be way worse not to compare or anything. But again, it just puts things in perspective. So if people want to, is this so the project that you're talking about? Is it public? Somewhere? Like, can people go online? And like see it? Or is it a book? Or where can people check it out?
Yeah, it is on Facebook and Instagram. It's refigured, our EFI GUR Ed project, they can put it in there and just read some of the stories that we've had. Yeah, I think I'm getting ready to do the final two, just because, you know, we've had some volunteer changeover because we'd professional writers that would then volunteer their time to craft the stories as they meant to be crafted. So the project had a had a pretty good run of almost a year. But you know, if anyone wanted to pick it back up, like I said, there have been photographers and writers, I've done it all across the country. But yeah, just check it out. refigured project on Facebook and Instagram.
That's awesome. And if they want to connect with you, what is the best way for them to connect with you?
Yeah, so I also am on Facebook and Instagram. They're JAMA, Laura, photography, and have a website Melora photo, which is being totally rebranded right now. So that's exciting slash terrifying. The they can reach out to me through social media or my website.
That's exciting. Well, thank you so much for sharing your story today. And thank you so much for your time.
Yeah, thank you so much for the opportunity. Angela. I'm glad brandbuilders brought us together.
I'm so glad we'll talk about that in a second too. So we're in this group together, y'all it's it's a phenomenal group. The founders, one of the founders was in my old EO forum on shore organization before they had two kids kind of backed back. And I was actually at an event just a couple days ago with them. So it's, it's pulled a lot of just really, really talented people together to help bring clarity, I would say to like the difference between a company company brand and a personal brand. And so Roy and I, people in our EEO form, they're like, do you guys do the same thing? We're like, No, we don't do the same thing at all. We understand like the digital marketing world, I'm like, but I worked with companies and, you know, really, in the hospitality space, specifically. And then, you know, they work in a personal branding space. And what I've learned, though, even through really successful entrepreneurs is that they don't know the difference, because it's never been really presented to them. And so it's been a really, really great program, just to get clarity around what needs to be in a personal brand. That needs to be a whole nother podcast. I talked about that the other day, right? Like, that's one thing. But anyway, we'll get to that next. But we'll put all of your links in the show notes and share it out with everybody. And just thank you so so much for sharing. This was awesome.
Yeah, thanks for the platform, Angela and keep doing the awesome stuff you do.
Yay. And y'all thanks for watching and listening today. And be sure to tune in next week to another episode of business unveiled
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