When Bri Oliver moved to Manitoba a year ago, she left behind a thriving photography business in Vancouver and brought it with her.
Today the mother of three works from her home-based office in Dauphin operating two virtual studios of Luv U Photography – in both provinces.
“A lot of my B. C. clients don’t even know I’m here until I mention that it’s snowing outside or something like that,” said Oliver, who spoke at a technology conference here last month. She specializes in newborn and maternity photography.
Running two businesses in two separate provinces wasn’t in the picture when, while still in Vancouver, Oliver picked up a camera after the birth of her second son. Experiencing a post-partum depression at the time, it was on the urging of her husband, that she took up her lifetime hobby of photography again, she said. Her old self returned as she began taking photos of her young family. Then later on, a business idea crystalized.
“My husband and I were just looking at the photos one night and saying we just couldn’t believe how fast our kids had grown,” she said. They were so thankful for the first unique images she’d captured of very special moments in their young sons’ lives. They looked at each other. Could she capture these kinds of images for other parents too? That was the birth of Luv U Photography.
Four years later, Luv U Photography was a thriving one-woman show, with a clientele built up throughout Vancouver and Lower Mainland B. C. Then Oliver’s husband was offered a chance to purchase a McDonald’s restaurant in Dauphin.
They hesitated, not wanting to leave Luv U Photography behind, says Oliver.
“But that’s when I said, everything I do is digital. I can do this from Dauphin too. I’ll hire staff for Vancouver.”
Within a month, she’d hired a photographer and one additional full-time staff person for Vancouver, then packed up and moved with her family to Dauphin last January. She’s been answering her clients’ calls from her new home-based office here ever since. Having now got operations running smoothly in Vancouver, she’s recently launched her Dauphin business, and is now building up a customer base in the Parklands. All shoots are done in clients’ homes since there’s no studio to visit.
It’s the Internet that brings it all together, says Oliver. She stays at the helm of the business, keeping in constant contact with Vancouver staff doing the photo shoots and sales throughout the city and Lower Mainland. From her home-based computer, she can download all photos from her server for review, contact suppliers, video conference with staff while continuing to take her own training through webinars.
ON THE PHONE
It’s Oliver herself answering the phone, regardless of whether the Dauphin or Vancouver number is dialled, thanks to use of an unlimited long distance Internet phone service.
Many photographers now operate web-based businesses, she says, but she has yet to meet another operating in two separate provinces this way.
“I’m probably pretty unique to be doing this in two different provinces,” she said.
She’ll tell anyone with a web-based business idea not to dismiss it out of fear of the technology. It was not a snap for her to learn about servers and software either, she says. She learned what she needed to learn, and has tech support on call when she needs it. “I’m an artist. I’m not a technical person,” she said. “I do not really like technology but I’ve learned to embrace it.”
Oliver was a guest speaker on a panel of entrepreneurs featured at a rural business conference held in Dauphin last month. This is a third annual event sponsored by Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives and Parkland Community Futures aimed at supporting rural entrepreneurs. The 2009 conference focused on optimizing technology to grow business and expand market reach.
AN EYE FOR BUSINESS: From her home-based business Manitoba newcomer Bri Oliver now operates two virtual photography businesses, one in Vancouver and one in Dauphin.