We had the good fortune of connecting with Kimberly Kulak and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kimberly, do you have some perspective or insight you can share with us on the question of when someone should give up versus when they should keep going?
This is the million dollar question isn’t it? With everything going on in the world regarding COVID-19: quarantine, health issues, shut downs, the socioeconomic climate has been trying and unprecedented. For us small business owners this has meant total shut downs, scaling back on what we were previously able to do, moving onto new ventures to survive; weathering out the storm, so to speak. It’s been hard to say the least. Having been a wedding photographer for 7+ years, 2020 has left our entire wedding industry in ruins. Some of my colleagues have packed up and left altogether. I can’t blame them, but I’m still here. I’ve built my business from the ground up and I’m taking this time to pause. On top of running my own business, I was working at a studio that has also been shut down. Living off of my savings and banking on only portrait sessions have been rough, but my clients are loyal, and what we can do with weddings, I’ve been doing. Although the industry may never be the same again, I am confident that one day we will see light again and we can go back to the days of celebrating love: crying with the bride as she reads a sweet letter from her soon-to-be husband, cheers-ing with the groomsmen as they toast the groom, chatting with grandma over dinner and dancing at the reception. What’s really keeping me going is looking at what I’ve gained in all this and being ever so thankful for my incredible support system. I’ve been able to spend a lot of quality time with my boys. My friends and family have been incredible in keeping my hopes up and just listening to when I needed to vent. The relationships I have had with colleagues, and with loved ones during this trying time have been strengthened by being able to survive every day knowing that the pressures won’t break those bonds. I think the trick is to being able to ebb and flow with whatever is thrown at you and making the most out of any situation. I can’t sit down and tell any business owner whether they should throw in the towel or keep going, but for me, right now, I’m still trying to keep the wheels turning, even if it means slowing down a bit and taking some left hand turns and maybe even some U-turns.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m a wedding and portrait photographer! I’m a wedding and portrait photographer! I also own my own business so there’s a creative side and the business side to balance in all of this. I started this whole photography venture out as a hobbyist when my oldest son was born. It quickly escalated from there and although I didn’t ask for, the amazing outpour of support and interest changed the game for me. I started out as a portrait photographer… actually, I started out not knowing ANYTHING haha. I gradually fell into becoming a portrait photographer knowing nothing about light or angles or even any of the settings on my camera for that matter. I dedicated time to listening and learning and took every opportunity to attend workshops and talks and meeting other photographers. About a year into all of this, I was asked to shoot a wedding and I reluctantly agreed. It turned out to be incredible and I never reluctantly agreed to shoot a wedding again, but rather with elation and appreciation! I grew to love what I was creating more and more over time and turned this hobby into a career. I researched and asked questions and did so much paperwork to get my business up and running the way it should be. I spent the time to lay a solid foundation for my business and I’m grateful that I did. Every step I took was challenging in the best possible way. The risks of being your own boss and relying on your own blood, sweat, and tears to succeed is incredibly scary as any entrepreneur can attest to, but passion and tenacity and believing in yourself and your vision is what prevails. Ultimately, I want my children to see what hard work looks like; what dreams being fulfilled looks like. I want them to be proud of their mom! I hope that each and every one of my clients will vouch for my hard work and heart. I don’t like to do anything half way, and I truly hope that my work and art reflect as such. I can’t say that I stand out like a yellow highlighter, but my mission is to make every event, every portrait session, every capture reflect my clients heart, and excitement, and to tell their story in its truest form. It’s not about me, but I’d like to be that tool that brings out the exact you that you should be in that moment.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Oh wow, there are so many awesome places to see and experience in San Diego. I don’t even know where to start… COVID-19 of 2020 also limits what we can do, but let’s see… We could start the day out visiting a local cafe or coffee shop for a to-go pastry and coffee or tea. We could head to the beach next with our warm drinks and enjoy the fresh cool air. Southern California beaches are so gorgeous and even with COVID going on, we can still hit up the beach and get outside for a bit. I wouldn’t lay out a super strict agenda, but I’d definitely include some shopping. Years ago I used to love Fashion Valley, I’d love to see what’s going on there now. I’d head out to Coronado and hit up the boutiques out there too. I’ve shot a few military weddings out there and it’s gorgeous! Food. Let’s talk about food. So lately, when we were finally able to dine-in/patio dine, we went on a steakhouse kick and every other week for a while we went to Larsen’s, Ruth Chris’, STK and we had reservations at Born and Raised that was cancelled due to the recent shut down. So we would definitely try to remake that reservation when things open up again. We’d go to Underbelly for some Ramen, get Boba, get crab boil, and find other seafood restaurants to explore. The breweries are a lot of fun too. We would probably go to Stone, The Urge, Lost Abbey and so many others. If things were open we’d go to the pier, Balboa Park, Sea World, San Diego Zoo. We’d look up some local hikes and get outdoors too. I’ve been wanting to go see the potato chip, but haven’t made it out that way! It would really depend on what my visiting friend is into, but whatever he/she wanted to do, we’d find it!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My list of the amazing people in my life goes on and on, but right now I think a special thanks to the following is in order: Josh, my significant other, my best friend, thank you for listening every day, supporting everything that I do in my business, and specifically for gifting me gear to help propel my business forward and for hanging with the boys when I needed to work all of the weekends that I did. Alex, for being a business sounding board for all of these years and for making jokes when things are hard. Sarah, for being my emotional support through so many ups and downs with these crazy times. My mom, for never saying no to helping me with my kids and for loving them as much as she does. My dad, for always checking in, for always being my rock, for always being wise. My Koden, the best big brother and my favorite first born, your strength is unmatched, you are brilliant and I hope your flame flickers brighter and brighter as you grow and hone your many crafts. My Conor, my Roo, your laugh is everything and your honesty and spunk is my favorite thing ever. No one will ever walk all over you and I’m so proud of you.
Alexander Mo Photography (image of myself) Kimberly Kulak Photography (all other images)