Almost 15 years ago, the Gold-mining town of Sonora, CA used to have a reasonably-priced portrait studio, but that had closed down and local townsfolk were left to take family pictures on their own. Sonora is the county seat for Tuolumne County (population ~55,000) and has a number of expensive wedding and on-location photographers which charge hundreds, or even thousands of dollars for large event photography. But for a family trying to save memories of growing children or grandchildren, or who wished to have inexpensive professional pictures to hang on their walls or for Christmas cards, there were few options – and most of those were at least an hour away.
Nancy and Tim Moyle had a dream to bring reasonably-priced, in-studio portraits back to the regular folks in Tuolumne County, and knew there was a receptive market from the conversations they’ve held with scores of potential clients. They signed a lease in July 2016 and started to convert a closed bank branch into a warm and inviting portrait studio. Nancy is an experienced photographer however, they had never started a business before, and soon learned there were many more regulations and details than they had anticipated. They soon felt overwhelmed with the myriad of decisions, financial investments, remodeling/construction, and paperwork. They knew they needed help, but didn’t know how to find it.
At a church dinner, as they were introducing themselves and their dream, they met a man who said that he helped small business owners launch, resolve specific business challenges, and grow into successful businesses. Wondering if this was divine providence or good ol’ plain luck, they asked more questions and learned about the Alliance Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Just days later, they had their first meeting with the SBDC business consultant, Howard White, and started planning a path to launching their business. They learned about writing Business Plans to define the vision of their company, Profit and Loss projections and budgets, marketing strategy, and the plethora of legal and government forms that needed to be completed.
Nancy and Tim talked about their relationship with SBDC and Howard: “Howard has saved us from so many pitfalls. His expertise and willingness to help us have been invaluable. We have come to rely on Howard to help us navigate all the decisions that need to be made. I think one of the biggest
hurdles that Howard helped me with, was to “encourage” me to outsource the jobs that I didn’t need to do myself. It was a letting-go process for me, but he held my hand the entire way. This has been a labor of love for us with all the birthing pains to be imagined. Howard has been the calm in the storm for us. I am so glad that this [SBDC] service is available. I believe that we would not have been ready for our grand opening without Howard and SBDC.”
Because SBDC has specialists in many areas, the Moyles also talked with website and Human Resource consultants, and know that Quick Books, Accounting, Marketing, and Financing consultants are also available to them as needed. After successfully fighting many battles, the Moyles opened their portrait studio in early December, 2016.
While there are still challenges being resolved, when they look back, they are thankful to have worked with SBDC, and know that if (and when) additional challenges come up, SBDC is only a phone call away.