Last Sunday, Jack and I traveled to Richmond, Virginia to participate in the final month of the Katelyn James Business Journey. For those who don’t know, Katelyn James is a wedding photographer and educator based in Richmond. Since December of 2018, I have been on a business journey with over 600 other wedding and portrait photographers from across the world. Education is extremely important to me and I strive to learn more every day to create the best experience for my clients. Katelyn has changed my life in more ways than just business, and I wanted to share a little bit about our year and trip this week.
Over the past 11 months, I have taken in over 36 hours of educational content from Katelyn and implemented it into my business. This not only includes the technical side (portfolio, website, etc), but the personal side as well. I’ve been following Katelyn’s personal journey since 2016 when I first came across her education. She has dealt with so much over the past few years and it has only made her stronger. Seeing Katelyn share her personal struggles while running a full time business is what really drew me to her in the first place. I had never seen someone be so open, honest, and down to earth with her followers. I truly felt like I knew her, even though I was just reading her stories online. When she opened up her business journey course, I signed up immediately. I knew she would change the game for me. I also prayed she would teach me how to be more open with all of you. Well, she did that and so much more.
The first month of content came out when I was sitting with my dad in the hospital. He had just been diagnosed with end-stage kidney failure and that’s all we knew at the time. I was on the overnight shift of staying with him, and saw the email come in. The first month was Personal Branding. I dove right in to try to distract myself from everything else going on. This first month showed me exactly what I needed. My why. Why I was on this journey as a photographer. What fires me up and keeps me going. It’s like she knew somehow that I needed this guidance at the time. Every month after showed me the next step in my journey and I knew this would change my life. Not just in my business, but with dealing with my dad and where I wanted to go next.
Katelyn recorded new lessons each month, all while pregnant with her 3rd child. How crazy is that? She took the time to get to know her students and cheered them on through each step. She would also hop on and have live video chats with the group to be even more involved. I was in awe. The admiration I had for Katelyn grew stronger and stronger each day, but not because of what she was teaching. She cared so much for others and truly wanted to see them succeed. Katelyn could have just released a course, made extra income for her family, and be done. But, she didn’t. She wanted to change people’s lives and be involved in the process.
As the month of October started, Katelyn was preparing to open this journey up to the next round of students. We were the original group, but it was time to release the class to the public. I received an email from her team saying that they were looking for feedback on the course. I opened up the survey, and poured my heart and soul into the feedback. It was important for me to share the impact she made on my business and personal life. About two weeks later, I received an email from her husband, Michael, that they wanted to FaceTime me and talk about the feedback. I was in shock. Why me? What could I have possibly said that was different from everyone else in the group?
Katelyn called me the following Monday and told me that they were talking to a few others in the group, but I was the first. She explained that the story of my dad really hit her hard. She couldn’t believe that I was going through this journey so well during the hard season of my life. Katelyn was in awe of the change the course brought to our lives and what we were able to accomplish through all of the doctors appointments and other nonsense that was happening.
After talking to her for almost 30 minutes, it was time to say goodbye to her. Before she hung up, though, she told me that she was praying for my dad and he had been in their prayers since the day she read my email. I lost it as soon as she hung up. I haven’t had much faith or belief in God since my god brother passed in 2006. My mindset shifted when my dad was hospitalized, and Katelyn saying that she was praying for him showed me how much of an impact faith can have.
Fast forward to December. When we first signed up for this business journey, we found out that the last month of content would not be released online. Katelyn wanted to meet all of her students and teach the final month in person. The event was to take place in her home town of Richmond, Virginia. Richmond was also a partial home to me. I lived in the town for 3 months during my internship at the Virginia Repertory Theatre in 2015. We have gone back almost every year since. When I read the information, I turned to Jack to ask if we could go, and he didn’t hesitate.
We made our arrangements to go to Richmond and texted our best friends in the city immediately to tell them we were visiting (almost a year out, but we are planners). Jack and I piled in the car on Sunday, December 1st, to head to Virginia. It was a terrible idea for us to drive on a holiday weekend, but you know us and our road trips! A little more than 13 hours later, we arrived in Richmond and waited for the most eye-opening experience of our life.
**A separate post about our adventure in Richmond will be coming soon, but I really wanted to focus on this journey today**
On the day of the conference, Jack and I walked up the steps to Main Street Station in Downtown Richmond. It was such a gorgeous venue that overlooked the city. As a true train station would have it, we even had a pigeon guest for the event. We were greeted by Katelyn’s entire family, as they help run her business. They were so sweet and gave a warm welcome to everyone who came for the event (400 of the students!!).
Sponsor tables lined the front room and she even had her own Katelyn James cafe (delicious coffee and tea from her longtime friends at The Mix House). So much thought and planning went in to this final month to make it truly special for those who came to listen to her speak. Inside the venue, gorgeous flower arrangements sat at each table, along with an itinerary of the day and branded notebooks and pens for each attendant.
Michael opened up the event by “fangirling” his own wife. He couldn’t believe what she was able to pull off this year and was in awe watching her every step of the way, just like the rest of us. He also played a few rounds of “Katelyn James Trivia”, and you would be shocked at how much we all knew about their lives. Having her open up so much really connected others to her. Katelyn came out on stage to talk about the final month of content. None of us knew what it would be going into the session, but it really hit home. December’s content was about protecting your passion.
Passion is something I really had been struggling with for a while this year. There was so much going wrong in our personal lives and I dreaded doing anything at all. Honestly, I didn’t want to be around others. I just wanted to hide away in my room. I had started losing my passion for my work too. Realizing how I was making an impact on other people’s lives just wasn’t there.
Katelyn spoke shifting our mentality in life and being honest with ourselves about where we are. She discussed celebrating even the smallest wins in the day, whether it was personal or business related. This is something I had been having a hard time doing this year, and Jack as well. Katelyn mentioned that we could be stuck in our lives because we are unaware of the depth of our problem. She gave examples while opening up about her personal struggles in life, such as losing her second child with down syndrome at 32 weeks. She spoke about how she had to shift her mentality and love on this boy as much as she could while they still had him.
Towards the end of the event, Katelyn and Michael completed an on-stage coaching session with their life coach that they work with twice a month. They were vulnerable with each other in front of 400 strangers, and shared how they best work through their issues as a couple and a business. It was eye-opening to see that we are not alone in our problems.
At one of the breaks, I found Katelyn in the room and she gave me the biggest hug. The fact that she remembered who I was genuinely shocked me. She thanked us for coming and immediately asked how my dad was doing. I lost it. I started crying and had to thank her for being such a huge distraction this year. For really teaching me so much and for praying for him when she had so much of her own stuff going on. She hugged me again tightly and was just there for me. I was a COMPLETE stranger to her, but her genuine personality and thoughtful personality knew how much she meant to me. Impact comes from authenticity and Katelyn truly showed us this through this business journey.
Katelyn told us that something super small can either derail us or change us for the better. This is my goal for 2020, and I hope it can be yours as well. Don’t let that small rock in the road derail you. Allow it to change you and push you in a new direction. This business journey has changed my life both professionally and personally in the biggest way this year. I don’t know where we would be without it, and we are so thankful that our clients have been so accepting of our new journey in life.
To see more of our adventures, click here!