In our continued series of Q&As with small, local businesses regarding the COVID-19 issues, we’ve been trying to include more than just restaurants and breweries and wineries. Here’s one with local photographer, Allyson Magda. As with so many other local businesses, she’s trying to pivot her business services but again, these shutdowns are really hurting so many small businesses. Check it out and support small businesses!
Matt: How long have you been in the Paso Robles area?
Allyson: It’s hard to believe I moved here 17 years ago, from the Santa Cruz area.
Matt: When did you start your photography business?
Allyson: I started my photography business, Allyson Magda Photography, in 1999 in the Bay Area (Santa Cruz), just after earning my BA in Photography and Art History.
Matt: What did you do prior to that?
Allyson: All through college I worked in the financial industry. I started at Wells Fargo in 1995, and then moved on to working on the institutional side of the fixed income markets. I was lead assistant to a Mutual Fund Manager, where we managed a billion dollars, just the two of us! That was back in 2000 – 2003. Since our working hours were on the East Coast market time, I was able to build my photography business in the afternoons and weekends!
Matt: What kinds of photography do you do? Any other services?
Allyson: For two decades my team and I have been shooting weddings, we LOVE all things weddings!!! When I started my business I primarily shot family and children, I still really love to shoot families and especially kids. In 2018 I expanded the brand to include a fine art photography, I had been shooting and building a body of work for several years at that point.
Matt: How has the COVID-19/ Shelter in Place order impacted your business?
Allyson: It SURE has, like for most, it’s been a bumpy few months! We’ve had events cancel, postpone and just straight up, pause .. waiting to determine what the next step will be for their weddings. I can’t help but feel really bad for all the couples affected. A wedding is supposed to be filled with joy and exhilarating anticipation, this virus pretty much puts a big damper on all of that, not to mention adding a pile of stress to an already emotionally charged event!
Matt: Have you been able to do anything to continue bringing money in? You had mentioned “elopements” in an email exchange.
Allyson: I like to consider this time an opportunity to “shift our sails,” working on projects that were on the table, but maybe a ways out. In our home we have never been bored, there is always something to build, fix, or improve! In 2018 my husband and I purchased a slice of Central Coast paradise off Hwy 46 West, with the intention of opening a wedding venue. The property needed a lot of work, so we’ve been bringing it up to speed. It has two 1944 farmhouses, and our close friend who lives in North Carolina part time had a Tiny House built and put on. We named the property “Avera,” which means “to be / live well, and friendly and kindness.” It’s our intention that our guests and couples experience both!
Avera has majestic oak trees, some of the most gorgeous antiquated trees I’ve seen. While we are continuing to improve the property, and given the recent developments with COVID-19, we have opened up a one stop shop elopement service. The goal is to provide couples with a simple approach to their wedding, but with all the beauty of Paso Robles.
We provide lodging, ceremony site, licensed Officiant, personal flowers, photography, a champagne toast and “cheese” cake! A ton of couples have been forced to either move their wedding dates, postpone or cancel their entire wedding. It’s my personal opinion getting married shouldn’t be complicated, I think a lot of people would agree that simple is often best. It’s our goal to match our services for couples who feel the same, a wedding is about the union and commitment of two lives, choosing to love regardless of circumstance.
“Mini or micro weddings” were starting to become a trend pre-COVID, and now I just can’t see this trend going away, it’s a really wonderful option for bride and grooms!
Matt: What advice would you have for other photographers and/ or small businesses?
Allyson: Always be open to shifting your sails, and avoid tunnel vision in your business. I truly believe long-term success is defined by having the ability to look at the big picture, and knowing that things could change in a heartbeat, as they did for all of us in mid March. However, if as a business person you can keep the entire picture in mind, in the end you’ll likely end up on your feet!
Don’t be short sighted, and shift your sails as needed. Ask yourself; What can I offer? Who needs help and how can I fulfill those needs?
Other life lessons I have learned are; don’t be attached to an outcome and do all things with great love. You might try ten things, and they may all fail, but undoubtedly you learned something while trying those ten things, which are likely lessons that will build and be applied to your next steps in business or in life. If you do all things in your life out of love (even the things we hate doing, for me it would be bookkeeping), look at the tasks through the lens of love, in the end, it’s always makes for a better experience. I love my business and bookkeeping is part of keeping it healthy and accountable, so therefore I love the bookkeeping : )
Matt: How are you doing on a personal note? Hanging in there?
Allyson: Pretty well, starting this new branch of Allyson Magda Photography has been a dream for 10 years, and watching it unfold is a surreal, and very inspiring. I always wanted to try homeschooling, but by the time our daughter was going into Kindergarten, it just wasn’t in the cards. This time has been an opportunity to give that a test run! While I don’t feel like I am a naturally gifted teacher (my husband is a MUCH better teacher), it has been an experience to help Piper and learn more about my own strengths and weaknesses, so in my book, it’s a win. As they say, if you’re not learning, you’re dying, and I choose option “A.”
Matt: Any other general advice you would want to offer people?
Allyson: Always look at what you do have, not what you don’t have. Right now, most of us have our health, at this moment in time (and always) our health is our greatest wealth. Be grateful, count even the tiniest blessings in each and every day, it will keep your perspective in check.
Matt: How could people best get in touch with you?
Thank you so much for this opportunity! I am ecstatic about this next chapter and getting the word out and appreciate your willingness to interview me!
With Gratitude, Allyson