Women in Business: Friends First

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By Bradley Robertson
For the Opelika Observer

One of the greatest gifts we are given in this earthly life is friendship.
Friends love us and hug us through all that comes our way. Friends listen. Friends laugh. Friends cry when our hearts break, and friends celebrate in the grandest of ways when the time is right.
Friends just keep going along with us, always present, always hopeful.
So what happens when two friends, with separate gifts and talents, join forces for a creative endeavor?
Let’s see… travel, success, wine, laughter and most importantly, time with their families; their most valued piece of their working puzzle.
Anna Claire Collier and Whitney Lee began their business partnership in January 2019. One year into their work, they are making a beautiful impact on women all over the Southeast and beyond.
They are a traveling duo of heirloom photography and marketing expertise. They take their studio on the road and into the homes of hundreds of families to capture the soft essence of a child.
Photographer, Collier has been awed by the heirloom style of portraiture since she was a young girl.
“When I was 12, I remember seeing these beautiful heirloom photos at my friend’s house. Her mother had an heirloom composite done of each child at the same age. When I saw them, I knew that when I had kids, I wanted to have them in my home too,” Collier said.
Many years later when she had children, Collier couldn’t find the same style of work. This prompted her to begin practicing with her own camera to capture that perfect heirloom look.
“It was beautiful work and it was classic. I tried to do them on my children and eventually just figured it out. I would put it away for a time and then come back to it. I began to practice with studio lighting, and everything kept going back to the heirloom style.”
Friends and family around Collier began to take notice of her work and so a newfound creative passion began.
Around the same time, a friend jumped into the picture, encouraging her to keep going and to post her work consistently to social media.
Whitney Lee had recently helped with a political campaign and realized her own personal enjoyment and craft in marketing.
Both ladies saw the potential for growth through the classic style and artistry of heirloom photography.
From here, they decided to go all in and give the endeavor the attention it deserved.
“You hear people say, ‘Find your niche and do it well,’ and here I am,” Collier said. “It totally snuck up on us. It feels like we just woke up and it’s here, but it’s definitely taken a lot of time and effort.”
“Don’t let us fool you,” Lee said, “it is not work. We work really hard, but we have the most fun. It’s very genuine.”
Both ladies laugh, and the joy and pleasure between to the two is seamless. Perhaps it’s both women having been raised in Louisiana. Or maybe it’s the simplicity of believing in one another, both reaching for the same goal of honest work and a lifestyle that fits into their family.
“Our main goal for this is to have a healthy work-life balance,” Collier said. “To be moms and to provide an income source, but for it to be flexible enough that we can enjoy our children. We get to travel, do the work and be done and be home.”
“Because we have the right motives behind it with being present with our families, this venture has really been blessed. It’s empowering for women to see that you can do both. And you can find ways to be a mom and work and do something you love. And at the end of the day placing emphasis on the family. That’s the most important work overall,” Collier added.
“We’re just living life and making decisions accordingly,” Lee said. “It’s been awesome.”
With Collier holding the expertise in photography and studio lighting, Lee lights the way, reaching out to new clients all over the Southeast and beyond. Lee’s ease and enjoyment in conversation and meeting new people has played a very large role in helping the business to grow.
They are a true partnership. Thriving off the other’s abilities to better hone in on the project at hand, taking that perfect shot of a busy and movable child.
“We are going to get a good result every time because we come prepared,” Collier said. “We know what we’re aiming for. We got this down. We also know, you can’t make a good picture with a fake smile. No matter how good the lighting.”
“The variable is always the children,” Lee added, “and we just learn to adjust accordingly. (Anna Claire) has the lighting taken care of, that’s done. Where we have to adjust is with our personal skills.”
The art that these women produce is distinct and timeless. Furthermore, the service that they provide to mothers everywhere, to capture the trueness of their child in a single portrait, is perfection.
Two beautiful women have woven their talents together, reaching out to mothers in need, capturing a stillness in time of their child.
When asked their favorite part of the job, both, without thought, went back to the joy and happiness of the client.
“I get anxious before the shoot while setting up,” Collier said, “but it happens every time, the shoot is over, the kids are playing and mom is happy and we got the shot and it’s done. Getting that positive feedback is so encouraging. That’s the best part. I know we did it.”
“Rekindling friendships,” Lee said. “I love meeting all the people. It’s fun building a network and having a part of people’s lives and longevity. It’s cool how different all the people are that we are traveling to shoot their children. But they are all streaming down for the same product. It’s synonymous. It’s very fulfilling.”
These savvy business ladies have an eye for fun and adventure. They have been to Washington D.C., Texas, their home state of Louisiana and are booking this winter in Manhattan, New York City and spring in Seaside, Florida.
People can teach each other many things, but to pay close attention to our passions and gifts and then put them into the world for others to enjoy, that is true faith.
“It’s so enjoyable, that’s how I know I’m doing the right thing,” Collier said. “It’s a testament to women to stick to what you want in your work and stay to your uniqueness and gifts…not conform to the outside world. It’s a journey and experience. We love it and we’re doing it.”
To find out more about Born and Raised Studio, follow them on Instagram or visit Bornandraisedstudio.com.

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