Laura's story from lost 30-something to founder of Lens Eleven!Aug 22, 2023
This week I was featured on the front page of The Yorkshire Post! It's a big deal for a born and bred Yorkshire lass, and it's only lately that everything is starting to sink in. Over the last few years, there's been countless, "Sorry kids, I can't join you - I have to work," but all that hard work is paying off! If you've ever felt like you can't do something or you haven't got the right personality or brain or whatever, please read on because not so long ago, I was utterly lost but little by little, I turned it around by simply showing up and believing in myself. Now I spend my days inspiring women to live their best, confident lives alongside an amazing team that work on that mission too. I've designed a business that is allowing me to move to Portugal in 9 weeks so I thought it was time for a bit of reflection.
All this started....
...8 years ago, I was totally lost. I'd never liked any work environment or job I'd had. I didn't like me. I saw everyone around me moving forward and wondered why I couldn't get out of bed. I wanted to hide so I quit my job in construction, and bought a Beagle after two painful miscarriages.
7 years ago, I gave birth to my first child, Sonny and was so grateful to be out of my own head. He was so independent and raced everywhere as soon as his legs kicked in! My husband Jimmy Adams went back to work after paternity leave and left his Canon camera with me. I'd have to learn if I wanted to capture Sonny so I did. I soaked up everything on YouTube and in books, contacted photographers and practiced endlessly on my muse. A passion for photography was developing and my anxiety was reducing.
6 years ago, I was capturing friends and families at their request. I wasn't charging because confidence was non-existent, but I happily gave evenings and weekends to this passion, so I could spend every day with Sonny. I became pregnant with my second child and gave birth to Silva at Christmas. I was completely in love and knew she would change the game even more for me. The way she looked at me showed me how important I was to her. A small seed of confidence had grown from my time as a mother, and I realised how much I'd accomplished even if it was unpaid. The camera had almost healed every weakness I thought I had, but in fact they were never weaknesses. They were the parts that made me emotional, sensitive and dramatic - all the traits for a good photographer lol! I realised the fun lies in learning from the mistakes and perceptions I'd had about myself.
5 year ago, I was asked to second shoot a wedding in Cumbria while breastfeeding Silva in breaks. Jim had driven up to Carlisle with the kids and we were staying overnight so I could feed and get Silva to sleep. Other weddings followed once I started sharing my work, but my priority was to stay at home with kids until they went to school. Being at home was the hardest, most rewarding job I’ve ever done, and it helped Jim thrive at work. While my work was mostly unpaid, I helped Jim build his career as he was able to work away.
4 years ago, the 30 free childcare hours kicked which helped me to work a little more. I was slowly building up my wedding business alongside my family work and Jim was still working away some of the week. I’d worked with some brands and felt more confidence coming. The kids were thriving in Baildon!
3 years ago, Covid happened and I lost my wedding and family work. We got by on Jim’s wage for nearly a year but things were tight and I wanted to contribute again. My lovely friend Jules Williams Photography wanted to learn photography and suggested I start a course. The idea initially filled me dread - I wasn’t a teacher but I realised I could do it any way I liked, so I created my first online course, Start Where You Are, shortly followed by Next Level for those wanting more!
2 years ago, I threw everything at the online world of teaching and created Lens Eleven - a platform for women to joyfully learn photography. I wanted to call the business something that wasn’t my name because it was going to go way beyond me. I wanted connection and community to be a common goal and I wanted to recruit from the inside. I created opportunities for some of our photography graduates, and used their skills and expertise to help those within our new membership, The Full House Club. We launched our annual retreat and started meeting in person to boost confidence, connection and portfolios. This was also the year, I was able to outsource for both services and staff and invest in future plans.
1 year ago, I focused on previous graduates creating their own courses. Leanne Hanna now teaches Press Record: Filmmaking for beginners, and two new courses are launching over the next few months: Style, Shoot and Sell by Nancy Straughan and Flash Ya Flash by FKB for those wanting to master artificial light. We have regular meets, workshops and talks for those seeking real change and community.
Today: We’ve managed to grow year after year and have sold 1000+ courses. We have an in-house psychologist Julia Pouly who looks after our needs and creativity (also a Lens11 grad) and this year we’re taking on Regional Lensers to build our community even further. We have 130+ members in our Full House Club and there’s now 6 of us within the team. I’m moving to Portugal with my family in 9 weeks because I built a business which allows me to live anywhere within the same time zone!
Life can begin again at any age, and doing the smallest things every day even if you feel like you’re not moving forward will get you somewhere. Hold on tight to your vision. Find the right people and value them. I turned my business into a brand that was centred around real connection, and I can’t believe where we’ve landed! External praise can be lovely, but the praise you should be looking for is the one you give yourself.
Love Laura x
And let's not forget my biggest achievement - #poorjim dressing up for Start Where You Are!