Leigh Loftus is the founder of We are Loftus a photography company based in Chicago, IL. In 2009 she launched the first iteration of her company called Think Leigh Photography. She worked alongside many photography industry leaders across various categories including journalism, portraiture, interiors, landscape and food and beverage.
Early in her career Leigh began working with hotels and restaurant groups. She now works with some of the leading Hotels in Chicago including The Godfrey, London House, Loews, The Radisson Blu, The Virgin Hotel, Fifty/50 group and DMK group to name a few. As Leigh has developed her book of business, she’s congruently built a team of photographers to work with We are Loftus as well as to aid in mentoring younger professionals in reaching their career goals.
2018 marks Leigh’s 9th year as a business owner and entrepreneur, like any great leader she knows it takes more than one person to make an impact, so she’s brought Janessa Gates as her Director of Business Development. They intend to scale the model she’s developed in Chicago to a national level creating job opportunities for photographers and becoming a reliable photography resource to their buyers.
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
Throughout my young adult and college years I worked a few odd jobs beginning with Blockbuster video… yes, the actual video store, then a few odd jobs and bar tending throughout college. I remember questioning every rule that I was given to adhere to.
I never really crossed into a rebellious stage at those jobs, I just remember my angst in wanting to spend my time there. While in college I gained an internship with a photographer where I began to see the world of owning your own business, I was immediately hooked. From then on I interned and assisted as many photographers I could while alongside I built my own photography company.
Tell us about your business.
We are Loftus is a photography company based in Chicago, Minneapolis and Toronto. In 2018 we plan to expand to additional cities in the US. We work primarily with Hotels and Restaurant groups, using a subscription model which allows our clients to buy from us annually and call us throughout the year when they need us.
For the clients it adds a world of ease to creating the content they need and want on a regular basis and to us, it grants the opportunity to create sustainable jobs for more photographers.
Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways that you would like our readers to know about?
30% off annual photography packages and much more!
- BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
- 2017 Young Entrepreneur of the Year NAWBO
Where is your business based?
- 2018 US Expansion beginning
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
After being a sole proprietor for 3 years 2009-2011, I spoke to an accountant who was referred to me by a photographer friend. We discussed the best option would be to create an S-Corp.
After that, I hired a lawyer to update contracts that I had been previously borrowing from other mentors to make my own. The technical stuff was relatively easy to learn which made it easy to put it all together in 2011.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
Networking, word of mouth and being at events with my target clients. Once I gain a client, I take the utmost care of them, which has created word of mouth marketing and has been priceless for our growth.
Also, two sided networking, every connection I make is not a direct client of mine, but I always keep them in the rolodex because I genuinely love to connect others as those opportunities arise.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
Scaling our team as well as our clients. We’re on the brink of the 9th year in business and we’re scaling the team as well as our reach to eventually be nationwide.
How did you overcome these challenges?
Honestly, trial and error and continuing to push forward especially after failure. Every year with clients new and old, I would try a new business model to create sustainability as well as growth. We won some and lost some, finally in 2016 it clicked and we’ve been growing steadily since.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
One thing pretty much everyone in my life knows about me is I have business/life coaches and I’ve had various different coaches since I began my company in 2008. Being an entrepreneur is an aggressive journey to take on alone, I strongly advise working with someone to help keep you accountable to yourself and your goals!
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
It would be easy to say, “we’re the best at this style of photography.” Or, “We’ve got the best pricing option.” Or, really anything that puts you on the competitive landscape. In reality what we do is focus on aligning ourselves as a team as well as to each individual client we work with.
At the end of the day we’re the best team for our clients and they’re the best clients for us, it comes down to a genuine partnership that can evolve and grow over time!
What is the best advice you have received recently?
I wouldn’t so much say advice received so much as advice that I’ve been practicing daily the past few months, which is patience and timing. Reminding myself to have patience with life, not to force outcomes as well as to trust the timing of life, it has a funny way of working out as it is supposed to!
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
My main piece of advice to everyone is to always, always, always trust and listen to your gut and when you can’t hear it or feel it… wait until you can… patience and timing are a hell of a thing.
What are your favorite business tools/resources and why?
Business coaches, mentioned above, the journey is rather challenging alone and they help you stay on track.
Daily meditation and intention setting. Your business is coming from your soul, therefore to me, one of the best tools is a daily practice of tuning into myself and ensuring I am whole, so that I can deliver full results.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
I’m typically reading one business to one personal development book so here are the latest two I have read;
- “The Entrepreneur’s Manual” by, Richard M. White, Jr. Published in 1977.
I loved how relevant and valuable the business practices still remained, especially as I am launching a 2nd endeavor later this year.
- “The Game of Life and How to Play it” by Florence Shovel Shine.
This directly pertains to my daily practice of tuning into myself and having faith in what’s to come.
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What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
I am in the middle of launching a new technology company, so I am looking for assistance in bring a product to market, business development and strategy and lastly future fundraising opportunities!
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
We’re planning to increase sales by 50% and expand to more cities in the US. We’re working on strategic partnerships and the good old fashioned networking that worked for us in the beginning!
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.
Instagram @weareloftus, @leighloftus