Julie Staley is the founder and lead photographer for Old South Studios here in Charlotte, NC. Her incredible formula for success and her bubbly personality make this woman a total powerhouse. She built an incredible team, established a brand with incredibly high standards and made a name for herself in Charlotte and beyond. After 13 years of shooting weddings, Julie is now planning for her retirement as she recommits herself to pouring into her family and cherishing the precious time she has left with her (almost) grown daughters. In this episode, we will dive into all sorts of fun topics from working with your spouse to hiring and the ugly truth behind scaling. Be prepared for an honest conversation that will leave you feeling inspired and empowered!
Julie graduated from the University of George with a degree in nutrition. She went on to become a dietitian and then a pharmaceutical sales rep. After her second daughter was born, the reality of two kids in daycare hit and Julie knew that changes needed to be made. She and her husband Andrew decided that she would stay home with their sweet girls, who were one and four at the time. That lasted a year before she felt the drive to work resurfaced. And, from their dining room table, Old South Studios was born!
When her younger daughter was off to kindergarten, Julie dove into entrepreneurship full time. With encouragement from friends, she picked up a camera and never looked back! A few years into the business, Andrew joined her to create systems, run the books and build the powerhouse that would set the industry standard in our market.
Julie’s (not so) Secret Formula
The Old South way is not rocket science, but it works! From the beginning, Julie established the venues and vendors that were aligned with her brand and extended sincere partnership to them. She offered photos without ever being asked, she had a quick turn around and she was always there to lend a helping hand. While other photogs were griping about vendors requesting images, Julie used it as an opportunity to be a market partner. She turned the tide on demands, use it as a gift and an opportunity to build future relationships.
She also developed true relationships with her clients. After one bride saw how far Julie and her team bent over backwards to make their wedding day a smashing success, they couldn’t help but refer their sisters, bridesmaids and family friends to Old South Studios! The formula is simple. Be kind and over deliver.
Building a Team
A few years into the business, Julie started expanding her team. First with an office manager and then associate photographers who could shoot weddings on their own under the Old South brand. Even with a whole crew of talented women, Julie says that there was never any drama in the hen house. She attributes this to hiring the photographers that are willing to grow and adapt, hiring for the personality and work ethic and teaching the talent. Knowing how time consuming and sometimes overwhelming the back end of this business can be, she gave her associate photographers the opportunity to shoot weddings and create a relationship with the client while not working about the rest of the work that needs to be done.
When Big Got too Big
Its the truth, bigger is not always better! As Old South Studios grew, Julie began to realize that she was trading time with her family to success in the workplace. Her CPA was giving her high fives, but Julie was running ragged and missing out on the family time that she would never get back. There is a difference between being successful on paper and feeling successful and fulfilled. She looked into selling or franchising, but both options would mean even more work to grow the company before handing it off. Precious time with her family was ticking away as her two girls were approaching college. Julie truly began to realize that time was not hers to own. She’d worked hard to create a wonderful life for her family and had set an incredible example for her girls. They would never see a glass ceiling and would know, deep in their hearts, that anything is possible with a little bit of grit and grace.
The price of anything is the amount of life you trade for it.
-Henry David Thoreau
Julie’s Tips to Building the Life and Career that Serves You
-Leave margin in your life to get quiet. When you are running at full speed at all times, you do not have the time to look to one side or the other and evaluate as you move forward. Leaving margin gives you the opportunity to check your gut and make changes when it suits your life.
-There is no one size fits all for your business. Do not look to others to see what is right for YOU.
-There’s light and shadow to all situations. Its finding the balance that suits you that truly matters.
-Its ok to find joy in a new path even if you miss your old one.
Thank you for tuning into this episode of the Biz Balance Podcast! Before we wrap things up, I want to remind you that every month we will be partnering with a new charity or initiative that is doing good in our community. For every review and subscription we receive, we will be making a donation to that month’s organization. For more information about the programs we partner with, visit www.karengreenoe.com/giveback
Julie is a graduate of the University of Georgia with a degree in nutrition. She worked as a registered dietitian then pharmaceutical sales rep for many years in Atlanta. After a move to Charlotte and after baby #2, she left corporate America to have more time at home with my 1 and 4 year old daughters. After 1 year of full-time SAHM status, she began pursuing her photography hobby more seriously while the girls were in preschool. By the time her youngest went to kindergarten in 2006, she was working full-time as a professional photographer. Eventually, she was able to grow Old South Studios to one of the largest wedding photography studios in the Southeast with a commercial studio in Charlotte, 8 photographers on staff. They have captured over 400 weddings in 5 different countries since 2011. But, after their biggest back-to-back wedding seasons (2016 and 2017), Julie intentionally began slowing the business down to find more work/life balance. She let her team go at the end of 2018, closed their studio in April 2019 and will capture my their wedding in December of 2019. 2020 and beyond will be solely devoted to her family.
September 2, 2019