Name: Nicole Hope

Occupation: Wedding photographer, COUTURE by Nicole and Nicole Marie Hope Photography

When did you know starting a business was right for you? Tell us about your business: I was so frustrated not being able to find a job with my Bachelors Degree at our new duty station for so long. I started feeling depressed because I was paying off student loans for a degree that wasn't making me any money, so I finally settled for a job that was barely paying minimum wage. I hated this job already and was even more miserable because of a schedule that was so strict. My husband had recently come home from deployment, and I wasn't even able to take the time off to spend with him after missing so much precious time together.

After one too many times of me coming home in tears from work, my husband looked at me and said, "Why are you working for someone else? You are smart enough and creative enough to run your own business. Please quit your job." BAM! He didn't have to tell me twice. Shortly thereafter, I put in my two week's notice and began absorbing every book about the legalities and art of running a photography business. I turned my part time hobby into a full fledged operation, and am now a full time wedding photographer! My business is Nicole Marie Hope Photography, and I specialize in photojournalistic style wedding photography (www.nicolemariehope.com). I recently launched a new luxury portraiture brand for women called COUTURE by Nicole (www.couturephotostudio.com).

I love what I do! I set my own schedule and can work around my husband's if I have enough notice. If I know he is going to be deploying at a certain time, I make sure to not schedule work in the couple weeks before he leaves. If he will be traveling for work to a place that I'm able to go with him, I organize my schedule to allow me to travel out of town with him. Four day federal holiday coming up? Yeah, you know I'm taking that off as well. I'm in charge, and I work for myself. I've never been happier or more fulfilled with a job :)

What is the most disheartening thing you have encountered in your career as a military spouse?: I have always been so proud of my husband and his job. However, when it came time to job searching, I had to pretend to be as disassociated with the military as possible. Potential employers may not be legally allowed to ask if you're married to a service member, but its not hard to figure out that a female in her mid 20s who just moved to a town outside of a huge military installation who also doesn't have a great reason why she left her previous job is in fact, a military spouse. I finally started taking my wedding rings off at interviews so that they wouldn't know automatically that I was married. It made me so sad to do that.

What career challenges have you faced because you are a woman?: I honestly can't think of anything specifically related to being a woman!

What advice would you give a woman, in particular a military spouse, interested in staring her own business?: If you have any inclination to start your own business, go for it!! But remember, your passion for business must be at least equal to your passion for the industry in which you will be working. I LOVE photography and every aspect of my job. But I also LOVE working for myself and being able to control all aspects of my business. I spend more time learning about accounting, advertising, marketing, social media, website SEO, taxes, law as much as I love composing beautiful images. And if I didn't... I would be out of business already. Someone who just loves to take pictures has a hobby. The person who succeeds at make a livable income though has to be passionate about and committed to learning everything else. That person has a business.

Nicole Hope is a wedding photographer and Co-Founder of The Milspo Project. Her business Nicole Marie Hope Photography is based out of Southern Pines, NC.

Nicole Hope is a wedding photographer and Co-Founder of The Milspo Project. Her business Nicole Marie Hope Photography is based out of Southern Pines, NC.

What is the most challenging thing about being a military spouse and business owner? What is the most rewarding thing?: The most challenging aspect of running my business and being a military spouse is the CONSTANT networking. I will never be able to relax knowing that I can take a break because "everyone knows me." I have to continually jump in, make friends, expand my network, meet new business contacts, volunteer in the community, and keep working to get my name out there. The most rewarding aspect of all this? The friendships I have cultivated and incredible people I meet every day.

How did it feel when you made your first sale?: It was terrifying making my first sale! I felt so responsible for their happiness and was so afraid of letting my clients down if they decided they didn't like my product. However, they are amazing and even years later, have been some of my favorite clients I have worked with.

What is one obstacle you have faced as a business owner, or on a personal level, as a military spouse, that you would have never expected?: One obstacle I have faced is being on the other side of someone else's "networking." Since I work for myself and have different clients every weekend, it can get quite lonely. I have been disappointed many times when people I thought I was making a genuine friendship connection with at a networking event never seemed to want to "take our relationship to the next level" LOL! I call it friend dating... taking people out for coffee hoping there's a spark, only to end up trading business cards and never hearing from them again. Oh my, I hope that doesn't sound weirder than I intended for it to sound. Hahaha.

What is one business goal you hope to accomplish by the end of this year?: My business goal for this year is to gross as much money as my husband. BAM! It's the little things :)

As a military spouse, or business owner, I know one thing for certain. It is . . .: There is no such thing as a 40 hour work week. These days, I'm lucky if I get a 40 hour sleep week.

What strengths do you possess, that you did not know you had, until you became an entrepreneur?: "Thrown-together-last-minute-gourmet-meals-with-leftover-ingredients-because-I'm-too-busy-to-go-grocery-shopping meals."

My biggest fear is . . . : Being in a situation in which I might have to save someone and failing.

My greatest accomplishment is . . .: I'm pretty proud of my business that I have created. I've become a more stable, responsible, and creative person because of it.

When I grow up I want to be . . . : Governor.

In 2050 I hope women are/can/have . . .: ...the confidence to pursue their calling without worrying about what other people think.

What is your legacy?: I hope to be remembered as a go getter and as someone who always saw the glass half full.

Connect with Nicole on social media!

Facebook: www.facebook.com/nicolemariehope

Instagram: @nmhphotography

Twitter: @nicolemariehope

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