Virginia Beach Photography Students Purchase Studio to Build Careers, Assist other Artists
In January 2017, students Ilsy Serrano, Danielle Ice, and Jossan Urban made a huge decision—they were ready to take the next step in their budding photography careers—and they wanted to help other artists like themselves. Together, they purchased a photography studio that provides rental spaces for other photographers—as well as a home base for their work. Ilsy, Danielle, and Jossan are all working toward a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Digital Photography at The Art Institute of Virginia Beach, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta.
“Since we met, we had always talked about getting a commercial space to share between the three of us, to conduct our photography business. We thought that splitting the cost three ways was a smart idea to start off and cut some overhead costs,” Ilsy says. But upon discovering that the Studio Hampton Roads was being sold, the students decided to “go heads-first to chase [their] dreams. This was, to us, a once in a lifetime opportunity we had to take.”
They’d also been taking a course entitled “The Business of Photography,” and talked about the purchase with their instructor, prior to making a final decision.
“Bob Allen, our instructor, became our ‘Business Dad’ during that period—and he always will be. He helped us to formulate questions and [to picture] possible good and bad scenarios of what could happen once we took over the studio.”
The new business partners constructed a business plan. “We were new at this business life, and [our instructor] was there to [help us] ask all the right questions,” Ilsy mentions.
Setting up Shop
The photography business that the students purchased had been open for four years, so it already had a strong client base. “We were very fortunate that although they had other offers on the table, [the previous owners] chose to sell it to us. They trusted that we had what it takes to continue their legacy.”
Now a few months into business ownership, Ilsy, Danielle, and Jossan have a goal for the studio to grow further. They’re reaching out to more people to utilize the space, including photographers, small business owners, and even those looking to host small events like bridal showers, small weddings, baby showers, pop-up shops, or trunk shows. “The idea is to utilize the space to its full potential.”
A Partnership Based on Creativity and Compatibility
“The Art Institute of Virginia Beach brought us together,” states Ilsy. “[In school], we’d found time and time again that [while] we’re here to learn and to become professionals, we’re also here to make invaluable connections that, in the near future, will play a very important part in our lives after school.”
Having been in classes together, the partners know each others’ work, strengths, and weaknesses. “We go to a school that’s full of other types of artists—that opens the door to a whole other set of ideas. We can only make a successful reality if we all work together toward the same goal.”
Ilsy says that having a large network of friends from school will be beneficial if the partners decide to expand. “If we move to a bigger location, who do you think we are going to contact to design our interior space? Or for a new website? Of course, it’s going to be someone we already know and shared a classroom with. [We know] their work and how well they do it.”
Ilsy adds that shared connections and life experiences helped to bring the three partners together. “We are all very passionate photographers but we enjoy different things. Danielle already has a business photographing families, children, and newborns.” Both Ilsy and Danielle are military wives—and Ilsy says that she plans to focus on product and food photography.
Ilsy says that Jossan’s “charming, fun, easy-to-talk-to personality” is driving her to become a destination photographer. Jossan was an officer in the United States Navy prior to attending The Art Institute of Virginia Beach.
The team is excited for their future and for the opportunity to start a business that helps others to have a place they can call their own. “[Even if it’s] for a few hours, [they can] conduct their business in a more professional way.”
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