Dana: I have that tunnel vision.
Courtney: She does have that tunnel vision, that’s absolutely the truth.
Dana: I think you’re, it’s a unique story, right? Like I totally understand going saying, okay, I’m going to do this part-time job and you know, wait tables and do this thing on the side. But I there’s very few people that even though they have the businesses supported, that they still take that, that make that decision to open a business because there is that kind of that fear in the back of your mind, or maybe they weren’t modeled that. So is there anyone in your life that model, the fact that you could do this and be successful?
Chris: Yeah, that’s a, that’s a really great question. You know, I was really fortunate. I grew up in a house of creatives. My mom was a famous, uh, wedding dress designer and fashion designer and all through the year.
She did a Kris Kardashians dress when she married Bruce Jenner, like, I mean like crazy kind of high level stuff. So ever since I was like knee-high to a grasshopper, I was surrounded by my mom, like dressing these beautiful women and these amazing gowns. So it was like, sort of in my DNA, kind of to begin with.
And then, you know, their whole life has just been this amazing creative pursuit and they always had inspired us. All the kids. We all lived pretty creative lives, to just really, you know, just go for it. If you’re passionate about it. And you know, people, you know, want to pick up what you’re putting down, then just do it.
So that was definitely the first level of amazing inspiration. And then really at Mama’s fish house, everyone I worked with, everyone was so like supportive of me and really, you know, inspired by like, just watching how hard I was working. So like, let’s say a wedding planner, cause everyone would go there.
Right? So one of my coworkers like, oh, you got to go talk to table two. That’s his big wedding planner, go talk to the table four. Or it’s like, everyone was kind of like on my team. And it just like between like my parents and my background and my friends and my wife, who’s always like, gung-ho about me chasing my dreams. It just, it was this created this perfect surge of just, you know, energy behind me.
Dana: I love that, and I think it’s so rare to live, to grow up in a creative household, because I feel like a lot of people had emphasis on, I dont want to say corporate world, or like the steady nine to five. But like, even, even our parents who are entrepreneurs, it’s not a creative field they’re in at all.
It’s very like a necessity, uh, they see a hole in the market. Okay. I can do this. I can create a living. I can create a life. And there’s a very different approach, I think, to entrepreneurship when it’s not, not like you’re trying to fill a whole industry and not saying you aren’t filling a hole, but that wasn’t the initial reason.
The initial reason is to create something beautiful. And amazing. And I think that is a lot of why people become photographers and florists and maybe stationaries that have that kind of design aspect to it. But I think it’s so interesting. You said that all your siblings are in a creative field as well. That I think it’s neat that it all trickles down to that.
Courtney: I think people like, you know, when you think about American culture, it’s all about like stability and growth, like that growth mindset and traditionally creative fields aren’t very stable, right?
So, uh, it’s hard to push your child in that direction. Right. But you’re thinking, oh, maybe I’m pushing them towards a life of instability, right? Yeah. But I love that there wasn’t that barrier for you.
Dana: And I love that you were able to take something and actually turn it into a successful business. I mean, that’s quite an accomplishment
Chris: That was definitely like, you know, and I’m very pragmatic, you know? Cause I was at the time when I, when I finally quit the restaurant, you know, like I’ve got my wife and my two daughters, you know, and the restaurant was paying for all the health insurance. I mean, there were so many things of like, why. You know, we, I gotta keep this going. Right. But it finally got to a point where I’m like, okay, this month I’m making three months what I’d make at the restaurant.
And that was my final. That was sort of always like my barometer of when I could quit, like the stability. And I was like, okay it, at this point, it’s like, this is working and this is happening and I can’t be sidetracked any longer. So it was at that point either I had to cut the safety rope and just like, and really jump in and go for.
Courtney: Is there any moment, like in that, like you’ve cut the rope and you’re like, oh shit. Like, what have I done? Did you have like a, like a moment of doubt in there?
Chris: I mean, you know, there’s always just like a little bit of like background noise. I, I do succumb to the little tiny voice sometime going, like, what are you doing in this year?
But then I always get that other guy who’s just a little bit louder. He’s like, just keep going. It’s like the little voices in my head, but you know, honestly I think I just, I set it up in such a way, when I did quit and went and went solo, I left the band and went solo, I kind of had all the puzzle pieces all lined up, and Maui has such a unique market where it’s it’s a year round wedding industry.
There’s 30 weddings a day, seven days a week, if not more there. So there was so much work and especially in the beginning. You know, when you’re still on the lower end of the pricing structure, you can, there’s just so much work to be had. You know, so I grew, by the time I went solo, I was doing probably the first year, um, I left the restaurant, did about 17 weddings and then I did like 25 the next year. And then I went to 50 and then from 2016 to leading up to the pandemic, I was doing about a hundred weddings a year between me and my team. Wow.
Dana: Yeah, that’s a lot.
Courtney: Yeah. That is bonkers.
Dana: What was something from the restaurant, cause you talked a lot, you talked about how that really made you understand luxury and how to service luxury clients. So what were some skills that you were able to transfer over into that market of photography. Cause you know, we met you at Engage, which is a luxury event planning conference. And there was a lot of photographers there, right?
There was a lot of wedding planners there and I think there’s very few people that actually truly understand how to service a luxury client. And I’m really curious as to how that experience, you know, with Mama’s fish house allowed you to be successful in that market.
Chris: That’s a great question. You know what it is. It is people just, they want to be entertained, you know, and they want quality and they want service. They want to be cared for, and they want to know that, that the money that they’re spending is worth something intrinsically to them. You know? So, so right off the bat, like, you know, the first thing, you know, the first thing I got to talk about is just when you first meet a client, when you first approached the table, when you first walk into the bride’s room, you’ve got 15 seconds to establish yourself as a safe, trusted professional, you know, person who has their very best interest and their very best experience at hand. So that was like the first thing that I really started to like, to really cultivate there and what made me so good at what I did there. It was just that, that warm welcome that just genuineness, you know, and just looking people in the eye and really connecting with them really quickly.
You know, the second thing is, is, is really just the, the entire vibe that, that you carry with those clients, the, the energy that you’re bringing out for yourself that you’re sharing with them, you know, it’s such a, it’s such an energy like transfer when you’re, when you’re working with people, we’re about to spend a lot of money with you, you know? And it’s like, I just always wanted to be worth it with my photography, you know, and not,
At the restaurant, I knew the product was going to be amazing, the food that they were going to eat with, it’s going to be the best meal they ever had. So how can I make that even better through the experience? I know that the images I’m going to deliver to my client are going to be exactly what they want and they’re going to love them, but how can I elevate that product even further?
It’s the experience and how we got them to those images. And that really is the most important thing, hands down is the experience that they feel, really makes the product that much better.
Dana: I love that. And I feel very strongly about that. We’re actually onboarding some team members this week and I was talking about them.
I was like, you know, my passion isn’t necessarily planning weddings, right. That has, the time of my life has kind of come and gone, but what I feel very passionately about is every single experience that our client has with our company. And that to me, is what I want to invest in. That’s what I wanna spend my time doing.
That’s what I want to, that’s why I love processes and systems. And it’s not because it makes my life easier. Sometimes it makes my life a lot harder because I have I’m very particular, but what it does is it allows me to know that every client is getting a top notch, high level, high touch experience.
And that is what gives you lifers, right? Like, and that’s what you want. And especially, and I think in any industry, no matter how great your product is, if your customer experience sucks, that product has lost its value in the eyes of everybody. And everyone’s had that experience. Like I remember I had these beautiful wooden doors for our house and there was a great price and I loved them.
I loved how they were designed. I loved that they fit in my budget and I was like, you have won me over when I, when I ordered them. It took, I don’t know, five, six months for them to get there could not get anybody on the phone. It was stuck in Kansas for forever, all this stuff, and no one gives you any information.
No one tell you when they’re coming. And then they came and they just dropped them off the side of the road and not in my driveway, which is kind of a long driveway. And I was like, I will never order from you again, even though I love your product and your product is exactly what I needed and it fit this exact thing, right.
I could never order from you because your experience was so absolutely terrible. And I think that’s true for any business like it can make or break your product no matter how great your price.
Chris: Definitely, and especially, it’s just like, you know, why, why do people buy luxury goods to begin with, right?
You know, that you’re buying into a brand or a company or an artisan who has, who’s created something that they really want to last, you know, they, they’re creating this classic iconic piece of jewelry, purse, or body of work, you know, and again, it’s that value. I think it’s the more value you put in yourself for the product or services that you’re delivering, the more valuable those products and services are to the client.
Dana: I agree.
Yeah, did you ever struggle with like imposter syndrome? Where are you felt like I really worth this?
Chris: I mean, I I’m so lucky to have parents who literally, anything I ever did in my life was the best or like the most amazing.
Courtney: But that had to set you up for some disappointment at some point.
Chris: I mean, I have, I would be lying if I didn’t say sometimes I came home from a shoot and I was like, whoa, man.
That one didn’t really go exactly how I thought, you know, but because we’re not machines, you know, all I do know is that I go into every experience, every job, every interaction with someone, the very best I can possibly be in that moment. And sometimes it raises the bar, sometimes it’s out the bar. Sometimes it can be just below the bar, but that’s just because we’re humans. But I know I try my very best.
I don’t know about like imposter syndrome. I just, I always, sometimes I’m not, I’m definitely my own worst critic, you know? So I’ll look at my work and I’ll be like, oh man, I really should have done that. How could I have left that out? Or how can I have done that? No one else notices, but for me I noticed.
You know, so I feel like. I grew up in a really grassroots, organic way. So as I kept going through each stage of my career, it just felt natural to do the things I did. So I don’t think I ever suffered from imposter syndrome. I have suffered sometimes from, I wish I could’ve done something maybe a little better or a little different here on there.
Dana: More of like that perfectionist attitude. Like if it’s just not a hundred percent. Yeah, I understand that.
Courtney: I do think like, just meeting you at engaged, like you’re like an all-in person, like even when you’re in a conversation, you’re in the conversation, like you’re not looking for, I found a lot at engage where people are like, what’s the next opportunity, the next best person that I could talk to, but you’re engaging literally, you know, and invested in that person. So I could definitely see why that would be a benefit to your clients.
Chris: Yeah, it is too is, and I’ve talked about it a lot already just with you guys, but energy is so important for me.
Like when I’m like, when I’m at those events, like Engage. I want to like, do my best to just sort of like gravitate through the room at first. And then like, I can know right away who I’m like vibing with and who I’m not. And it’s like, as soon as like, if I’m not vibing with you, I don’t, I assume they’re also not vibing with me.
So it’s like, I want to like, just keep, just being like the river flowing down the stream and finding my, my pond of people is always super important.
Dana: Yeah yeah. And I think that’s like just really great business advice in general. Like not, not talking about a conference, but just the people you surround yourself with.
Like, whether that’s other industry professionals, or whether that’s, even if you’re looking at who’s, if you’re manufacturing something who’s supplying that material or whatever, like finding that pond of people that you can share that energy with and vibe with. I think it just always creates a better overall quality of life. And I think just the overall product, cause you could feel when you’re looking at something, you know, like, so for example, I love, we love this jeweler. She was on a podcast early on called Palm Sunday and her whole thing is about sustainability and creating a sustainable world and environment.
So she’s very adamant about she only buys gems that were ethically sourced and there she’s into, uh, finding gold, either reusing gold or trying to use alternate things, cause that’s also a big, uh, issue with our environment, whatnot. And so every time that she creates something, right, it’s it is beautiful.
Cause she’s a beautiful designer, but it is so there’s so much energy in that product because you’re like this was ethically sourced. There was someone who was actually getting a great paycheck from this. This is my money, even though it’s a little more expensive and I could probably find a knockoff on Etsy or whatever.
I know that when I wear this ring, like there is this, this vibe with it. Right. And it’s hard to explain, but I, I love that. And I think that, I feel like as a society, Hopefully we’re trying or moving in that direction where, and I think, I think it’s our next generation of people like it’s that Gen Zers or our children.
They really care what they’re purchasing and what that purchase power means, and who are they supporting? Are they supporting people that have that same great energy and that same great vibe? I don’t know. I love that. Yeah. Thing is just great advice in general.
Chris: For sure. It’s just like, you know, everything I do, I have to do it with kindness. I have to do it with authenticity and I have to do it with integrity. And that is just, you know, especially like the more I charge, like again, the more I have to be worth it. I just, it’s so important to me that I am, that I’m always worth it, and that’s really what I strive for constantly.
Courtney: So, which I think really brings up a great point when you are growing a team. So obviously you personally, aren’t doing 100 weddings a year. You probably wouldn’t have a family at that point.
Right. They would split, they would not be on board for that.
So when you have these really high standards, when you’re selling, you know, yourself and your energy and who you are, cause there’s lots of great photographers out there, right?
There’s lots of options. You can know your thing is bringing that energy, bringing who you are to the table. Like how do you translate that to a teammate?
Chris: I’ve always been very, very, very, very selective and that process is so important for me. me growing up as a surfer and being in that world.
You know, by and large surfers have like very mellow, easy going attitudes and are very go with the flow. And one of the things that I’ve really come to find is that surfing and photography, especially wedding photography, or they have this really interesting intrinsic like connection where with surfing, you have to have timing, split-second decisions.
You know, you have to be able to if, you got to bob and weave, like no other sport, you know, I’ve ever been part of it. And most importantly, you have to have the ability to like, I’ll use this word infiltrate, different groups of people in order to catch like a great wave. And with weddings, you got to infiltrate these new groups of people you’ve never met before, instantly assimilate yourself into their vibe to create and capture the perfect.
So between timing and positioning and adapting into new groups of people, is this amazing, like, like just bond between those two things. So for me, everyone on my team, everyone surfs, everyone is like, you know, a pretty good surfer, which is fun, so I can spend a lot of time with my guys. You know, and so that’s first and foremost, cause I know that they’re going to have these innate abilities that are really important to the job. And then I just start fostering their talent, you know? You know, first they start out just carrying bags and then they elevate to having being third camera where there’s no pressure at all.
Just walk around, just start shooting stuff. I would do really, really in depth critiques, and then, you know, you get to become second shooter, which is a big upgrade. And then after you’ve been a second shooter for a year with me, then you can upgrade to be a lead shooter on my big events. Because at that point you’ve done, you know, 25, 30, 40 weddings.
And you understand, like not only the flow of the wedding, the flow and the experience I like to deliver, and that’s all been a really crucial kind of part of what we do.
Courtney: That you don’t necessarily hire photographers. So you’re not hiring them for your talent. You’re hiring them for their personality and your energy.
Chris: Everyone is already, you have to already be into photography when you come. I can’t take anyone who’s never done it before, but if like, you know, most of my guys, they were all, you know, shooting surf photography or like shooting, like, you know, models or shooting, like little product things. Like everyone comes to the table with photography experience already.
So I can just, I just start to fine tune them and like get them into the world of luxury. We’ll do like workshops to like, this is what Louis Vuitton looks like. This is how you can identify a Valentino shoe. This is how, you know, what Christian, Louis Vuitton shoes are. And like these abilities to, as you know, unimportant in the real world, that is when you can connect with the client.
When I walk in and like, oh my gosh, I love your Manolo Blahniks from across the room. I’ve created that instant bond and energy, again, those things I learned back at the restaurant.
Dana: Yeah yeah. Cause they really care about those Manolo Blahnik shoes. Like a lot,
Chris: They spend a lot of time looking for them, trying them on.
Dana: Yes. And they made the decision to go with the real shoe, not a knockoff. Right. And they want people to recognize that that is real. And I think when you can, you’re absolutely right. I think when you can connect with that and, and I love the idea of, obviously they have to have some kind of knowledge, like you need someone who knows how to work a camera and lighting and all that stuff. Right.
But like, what you’re really doing is fine tuning them to get into the world, the wedding luxury world, which is very different than just shooting, you know, a picture here or there shooting surfers. But I love that. And I think we hire somewhat similarly. Like we don’t necessarily, they don’t need to have like a list of achievements of what they’ve done, but it’s like, are you, are you moldable? Like, can you te can you be taught?
Courtney: Like, do you have at least like a translatable skills? Like you don’t have to be like, it doesn’t have to be a like word for word, oh, you fit our job description. And that was your previous job. Because sometimes I honestly think, especially in creative industries, like photography event planning or whatnot, that could be detrimental, you know?
Cause they have this way that they’ve always done things and it should be done this way. But I think having some room for like, this is how we do things I think is helpful, but definitely getting into that piece, that personality, like you can’t train personality, but you can, I’m sure, train like exposure, speeds and camera lenses and all of those types of things for whatever your particular brand is.
Chris: Exactly. You know, I, again, it’s, it, it has to be this like seamless flow where, for me and my team integrate ourselves into that wedding, and into that event seamlessly like three hours in, I want it to seem like we’re 20 are friends with the client and every guest there. I mean, that is like paramount. Everyone’s, at the end of the night, whenever it was like, oh, you guys were awesome. No, one’s even seen a single picture. And we’re already like in their inner circle.
Dana: Yes, it is a hundred percent. Cause I, I just feel like people and you mentioned before, they just want to feel good about who they’re working with. And, and I, I feel very strongly about that because no, one’s perfect. Right?
Like you said, we’re not machines, so there’s definitely weddings or I’ve had some like serious fuck-ups I’m like, holy shit. Like, what am I going to do? But because the client. Like knows who I am, knows my intention behind whatever mistake I made or whatever, and I can fix it. I, whatever that they’re really, they don’t care.
Right. They, they care enough to say like, oh, you fixed it. That’s great. But they’re not going to be that crazy bridezilla. Right. That’s going to start freaking out, flying off the handle because they have genuine feelings for my feelings. Like they really care about how I feel because they’re so connected with me. Right. And I think that is such an important thing when you’re talking about like a service industry as well, and those connections can save your ass.
Chris: The incredible experience will override any mistakes, ever. I mean, I I’ve had some colossal ones, you know, but the experience was so amazing that, you know, the resolve was fair and amicable and there was no bad blood. And that’s, you know, obviously we learned from those mistakes and we never make the same mistake twice, but just the, the power of the experience.
That’s what it’s all about. Right. You know, and when, when people hire my brand, they know what they’re going to get. It’s like, you know, when they’re going shopping for, for a watch, you know, and they want to buy a Rolex, you know, nothing else will do. You know? So it’s like, I just, you know, and, and why is that?
Because this brand has got this huge history, this track record this, more so than just the price and like the flex, you know, that you’re buying into a product that has value, will continue to have value and will bring joy to. You when you use it and you know, and that’s the same thing I want to bring into my brand and teach all my, my team guys.
Dana: I think it’s so like relevant to where we are right now in our world, right? Like where I feel like experiences, what we’re S we’re stuck behind screens so much, and we’re not actually interacting with people in any meaningful way other than through a DM or through a, a comment or whatever that when you can actually create those meaningful connections and create those experiences, I don’t know. It’s, it’s like one of those, it’s just such a delight. I don’t know.
Courtney: I think it’s also nice to, to be at your, at the point in your business where people are hiring you because of your brand and your personality and what you bring, you’re not price shopping you. Do you know what I’m saying? Like, there is a big difference in a client that purchase your services for because of a price as opposed to purchase their services because of the personality and an experience for sure.
Chris: And, you know, I really give social media for all of its other downsides. I give social media, the big plug there where it’s given us all platform to just to show who we are.
And I feel that some of the most successful people in our industry, in almost any industry are putting themselves out, and showing their personality. Like all my stories, every time I show up at a wedding, I always do my little, Hey guys, here we are, blah, blah, blah. Or, you know, and, and that energy, my, my brides will contact me.
Like I just love how excited you are every single time that you’re really into it. And it’s, and I truly am. I’m so grateful. Like I love my time waiting tables, but you know, I dont ever want to do that again. I love what I’m doing so much and I’m so grateful for every single client that puts their trust in me. I just, I really, again, I go back to that idea, I just always want to be worth it, you know? And I’m so grateful that I want to just do everything in my power to ensure that it’s an incredible experience.
Dana: Yeah. I love that. Do you, do you find that luxury clients too, they crave a sense of realness as well? And I asked that because during the pandemic, me and my husband were at, we were renovating our laundry room and I did this whole story. I was so excited about, so I was like storing it on my personal account, not my business account.
And it was just a total total fuck-up in many ways. Right? So like, like I mismeasured something. So then he had to like cut the box and then we get it all in and he’s like, Hey, let’s plug it in. And we had covered up the plug with the cabinet.
And so we’re trying to like cut a hole and sound like storying this and relegating this thing, whatever. And it was like, uh, like two weeks later I was talking to a client and they’re like, what happened to your laundry room? Do you have a final picture? Cause I never actually sent a final picture of it.
Like I have been following along and I’m so invested in what is happening with your laundry room. And it made me realize that there’s a lot of times that I struggle with being really real right, being, not perfectly put together, not I am super organized and there’s parts of my life that are super organized and there are parts of my life that I’m just not right.
And do you find that they crave that normalicy or do you find that they want the, the putting on the airs, like the kind of the everything’s perfect and I’m perfect. And everything’s going to be.
Chris: You know, that’s a really great question. You know, people do crave authenticity and they want the real, but you know, I also think with so much, you know, there’s so much sadness and drama in the world already at hand.
Like I don’t want to contribute, I don’t want to put, you know, a lot of like my like big issues into the world, just because I don’t want to contribute to that. To, to the negative energy, you know, so for me, I’m always going to be real and I’m always going to be authentic, but I do always want to be sharing and highlighting my, my highs, you know, like the, you know, the very beginning, right?
When the pandemic started, I was like, we had just moved from Maui to California. We bought a house that was twice as much as our last house. So if my mortgage was twice as expensive, I had the entire year of work, just evaporated in one week of emails. So I, like, I went up to my roof and I, I went on an Instagram live and I like had a moment.
I had total emotional, like moment and I had never really aired like that kind of energy out into the, into the world. And I was just, I really did receive a lot of love back from it. So people were like, it’s going to be all right. So there was a lot of love and support. But that was really the only time I had that real sort of, that level of like airing, like the negative.
You know, I just always want to keep things like really fun and upbeat cause 99% of the time, like that’s just, that’s just me. I don’t, I’m so grateful for so many things in my life that it’s hard for me to get down on myself.
Dana: Yeah. And I think that’s, I think that’s valid and I think sometimes even, uh, showing the happy, silly, super excited, maybe everything isn’t polished, but I’m like super pumped side of you is it’s still very real and still very authentic. And, and I agree with you. I’m not, I’m not into being a debbie downer, you know, and like, cause there is, there is so much, it’s just, the world is just so heavy and even right now it’s just so heavy and I don’t want to be that.
Chris: Yeah, you should just be beacons of shining lights.
Dana: That’s why where wearing highlighter. I mean, come on.
Courtney: Oh, well, anything fun coming down the pipeline?
Chris: I just did this amazing editorial yesterday with Jess Gordon, which was really fun and moving back to California and you know that, so we just collaborated, did a really creative shoot together. Uh, I’ve got a big wedding in Italy coming up, all kinds of exciting things.
Both my first few jobs in Colorado. So I’m just, I’m really excited about new opportunities and, and everything that I wanted to do when I moved back to California, which, because I had this amazing plan, I was kind of moved back from Maui 2020, I was just going to finish out Maui contracts while building California and like regular and other destinations.
And then I was going, or last year it’s supposed to be all just, you know, destinations and cool new stuff in Hawaii was going to take a back seat. You know, the world had other plans for us. So last year I did 66 weddings on Maui and racked up about 120,000 miles on Hawaiian.
So it was a lot of back and forth last year. So my big plan, my design is now finally happy in this year with events all over and still a lot of stuff in Hawaii, but I’m just branching out to. New environments, new locations, new, you know, temperatures.
Dana: Yeah, I love that. Where can people find you and follow along and all these great adventures and show you some, some love online?
Chris: For sure. So my websites, chrisjevans.com and all the up-to-date stuff is on my Instagram, chrisJjevansphoto, all my stories, my team guys, all of our shenanigans, you know, we, again, we try to make it really fun. Everything is just, you know, what you see is what you get with us. We wear our excitement on our sleeve.
Dana: Thanks everyone for gathering us today to talk about the Hustle. For our episode with Chris, we are drinking a summer old fashion. We hope we get the chance to make it this week and cheers to having great energy. To learn more and connect with Chris. You can find his beautiful work on Instagram at chrisjevansphoto, and you can learn more about his business by visiting chrisjevans.com
To learn more about our hustles, you can check us out on the gram at canddevents at thebradfordnc and at hustleandgather. If you’re interested in our speaking training or consulting, please look us up at hustleandgather.com.
Courtney: And if you love this show, we would be more than honored if you left us a rating and review,
Dana: This podcast is a production of Earfluence. I’m Dana
Courtney: and I’m Courtney,
Dana: and we’ll talk to you next time on Hustle and Gather.