Laura Novak Meyer went from being a solopreneur running a small independent photo studio to an entrepreneur with a growing chain of retail family photo boutiques–and two kids–in six short years. Meyer founded Little Nest Portraits in 2009 with some modest cameras and “a passion for documenting real-life moments in a fresh, natural way.” She was a near-instant hit, garnering honors and portraiture awards across the Philadelphia region, where the company is based.
Little Nest Portraits now has two corporate locations, three branches, and 25 employees. And Meyer has two toddlers, 16 months apart. In fact, it is her toddlers who may have shaped her company more than anything else.
Why did having children have such a big impact on your company?
“Having kids has made me a better business owner,” says Meyer. Before kids, when she had a business idea, she would stay up all night to get it done, rushing to execute. “Now, I have hard stops at the end of the day. That space to breathe means my ideas are better formulated. They may take longer to roll out, but they’re better thought out,” she says.
Her kids also “force me to be present,” she says. When she’s with them, she’s focused on them and not work. And when she’s at work, she trusts her nanny to care for her kids. “I don’t routinely text my nanny during business meetings,” she says.
Finally, Meyer believes she is less reactive now that she is a mom. “I’m a better leader.” She also has an identity outside work that makes her work and personal life richer.
What’s the key to building a scalable business?
“Typically, we fall into something we love and that can become our passion,” says Meyer. But many entrepreneurs don’t think about scalability at the outset – they’re more focused on making money from something they love to do. When you’re running a solo business, “it’s very stressful to be the only income generator,” she says. Scaling your business, or growing it to the point that you are not the only service provider, is one solution, she says.
However, “if you wait too long [to assess whether your business can be scaled], you may be overwhelmed and have to take a step back before you can go forward.” So even though, especially as a parent, it may seem tempting to keep business small, you may find more success and freedom when you scale.
To prepare to do so, says Meyer, take a look at your numbers regularly, begin to develop your managerial skills, line up needed financing for now or later, and start to hire and train employees.
What are your goals for Little Nest?
“Little Nest Portraits will be a national brand by 2017,” says Meyer. She is working on developing the next set of leaders within her company, to be able to continue the rapid pace of growth the business has been experiencing.