Briefly describe your daily job duties.
I own and run two businesses. I have a photography business specializing in weddings, portraits and fine art photography. And two years ago, I launched a line of photography inspired yoga mats, under the brand “Dream Yoga Mats.”
As a person who stutters, share the most challenging part of your job.
The most challenging part of my job was deciding to go for it. I’ve long known that I was a good photographer, but my stutter scared me from having to talk to clients, having to introduce myself over and over and again, and having to run a business by myself. I didn’t think clients would be comfortable talking to me or that they would take me seriously.
It took me years of worrying about it to understand that as a photographer I have the luxury of my work doing the talking for me, and while interviews and first impressions are important, at the end of the day if my work is good (and it is) I shouldn’t worry that much. I still struggle during client interviews, but I am more comfortable now than I was when I started.
As far as the yoga mat business, I didn’t have the hesitation I had with the photography, but I also didn’t consider how much talking would be involved in trying to sell a product to a mass market. I still struggle and I don’t think I’m the best salesman, but I still put myself out there. I have auditioned twice for Shark Tank with my Dream Yoga Mats and even though I haven’t been selected yet, I was proud of both my auditions.
Do you self-disclose your stuttering to unsuspecting clients?
My stutter is so severe that I really have no choice when it comes to talking about it. I have found out that bringing it up immediately when I talk to clients works best, because that way they don’t worry about what is going on and I allow them to focus on my work. I have become so good at it that I have an arsenal of jokes or stories to tell when I disclose, and I can immediately see how the clients feel more comfortable after. They get where I’m coming from and that creates a connection right away. Plus, I think stuttering makes me memorable and that is an asset when it comes to competing for clients.
Describe how stuttering makes you a better, more valued contributor at work.
I firmly believe that the reason I am a good photographer is directly related to stuttering. Ever since I was a kid, I was very good at visual arts, first with drawing, then painting and eventually leading me to photography. Communicating visually allowed me to tell stories without words, learning how to transmit emotions and use color to say exactly what I wanted to say.
Stuttering also taught me to be patient, and with photography sometimes you need a lot of patience to capture exactly the moment you want.
What is your proudest moment so far in your career?
Creating a line of yoga mats made me extremely proud as it was the first time I went from an idea to prototyping to making my product real. I had zero experience in this kind of business but after a few google searches, tons of patience, lots of mistakes, and a lot of friendly support, I got it started.
The business is still in its infancy, but I am very proud of the road traveled so far. Having the courage to audition for Shark Tank twice was also a proud moment because it forced me to become a salesman in front of an audience, and while I think it could’ve gone way better, just being there was enough of a confidence boost (and success) in my eyes. Maybe the third time will be the charm.