Episode 1: Brea Schmidt's Journey of Becoming an Entrepreneur

Updated: Apr 27, 2021

Hi friends! Welcome to the first episode of 5 Questions with The Loveliest. An Honest Discussion with my dear, sweet and wise friend Brea Schmidt! from The Thinking Branch. I have the joy of having an honest discussion with her about how she, as a women entrepreneurs sets aside her doubts and fears and stepped into who she was really meant to be!

Maybe your journey to success isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about you unbecoming everything that isn't really you so you can become who you are meant to be in the first place!

FUN FACT: Brea and I met at my Brick and Mortar store and hit it off instantly!! You know that feeling when you talk to someone for the first time and they instantly feel like they are your people? That's her!


In addition to the interview above here are more questions so we can really dive into Brea's Journey! I hope you will follow along and see yourself in her story!

When you were a little girl what did you want to be when you grew up? Candidly, I don't remember what I wanted to be when I was really little. But I do remember that in middle school and into high school I had my heart set on going into psychology. (Those who know me well would not be surprised by that).

What was your first paying job? ( like when you were a teenager..) My first paying job a cashier and concession worker at my hometown's city pool! I loved it because I have always liked counting money -- and well, I got to see my friends on the daily!

Did you go to college? What Did you study and what were you wanting to be? I did - I'm a proud Penn State grad (We ARE!...) graduating from the College of Communications with a degree in Advertising/Public Relations. At the time, I thought I would be a PR executive for a company, non-profit, or a concert entertainment venue -- and while that didn't happen, my degree has certainly come into play in business ownership.

What made you want to start your own business? I did the corporate world for the first six years of my career. I can tell you that my experience there was INVALUABLE in helping prepare me for entrepreneurship. And while I loved the organization for which I worked and the people with whom I spent time with at the office every day ... there was a voice inside me that kept telling me there was something different for me. Deep down I knew the next step in that career wasn't a match for what I wanted to do ... but fought those feelings of, "well, that's what you're SUPPOSED to do. That's what you've been working for." But eventually, I listened to that inner voice and decided to take a step that would allow my personal approach to business to combine with my personal passion to allow me to follow my own dream.

What did your life look like at the time (kids, single, married)? I was five months pregnant with my daughter who is now 9. My husband was still working his corporate job so we had that stability, but it was definitely a huge leap of faith to walk away from my career (and consistent salary) right as we were about to start a family.

Once you decided to make your dream a reality what did the path look like to start your own business? Were you scared? Did you dive in or take baby steps? I was definitely scared but definitely dove in. It was a lot of change at once -- going from a job in professional sports that really became a lifestyle -- to now starting a business from scratch while preparing to become a mom. I knew that if I didn't dive in -- I would overthink myself out of it, and I knew I wanted to get a foundation under me before our daughter was born.

How did you learn how to open or start your business? What were some of the curveballs along the way? Were you always good at it? I 1000% did not know what I was doing! (Do any of us?) I learned a lot about "business" from working in my previous job, but that experience doesn't teach you everything about OWNING a business. So while my "business" experience definitely played a huge role in my overall success, I also had to acknowledge what I DIDN'T know. And what I DIDN'T know, I turned to other people to help. My high school basketball and track teammate did my logo and branding. A hometown friend helps me build and host both of my websites. We turned to a family friend for accounting. I paid for another photographer to mentor me. I asked friends and families for referrals. Candidly, all of the logistical things / expenses / equipment / etc. that come along with starting a business can sometimes be overwhelming enough to make you want to quit - but, the dream that was on the other side made it all worth it.

"I 1000% did not know what I was doing! (Do any of us?)"

What are some of the early memories of total flops or failures? The first thing that comes to mind is when, early in my career, I had a camera break right at the beginning of a session. It was a family with whom I had worked before, but this was their first outdoor family session. The mom had taken the time to get her makeup and hair done, and I think they had rescheduled something else in their life to make this shoot happen. And on the first click of my camera, I saw nothing. And heard nothing. The camera wasn't working, and I didn't have a backup. Now, most people would say, "But couldn't you just reschedule?" Well, we definitely did that... but there was NO way around "fixing" the negative experience / the letdown that happened for that family. And as a photographer who marketed herself for the experience she provided for her clients, it was a HUGE flop. But that day taught me something about preparedness. I bought a backup camera. I checked my gear before every session. It also gave me an opportunity to build my skills in handling negative-experience situations.

What was a BIG win early on? A small moment, but a big win. I was working with a family for the first time -- they had three young kids and we played along the shores of Lake Erie for about 1.5 hours for their session. As the parents were getting their kids in the car, the dad turned to me and asked me for my business card so he could hand it out to some of his colleagues and friends. When I got in the car I thought, "He wants to refer me, and he hasn't even seen the pictures yet!" That was a great lesson for me in truly understanding what it was that I sold. I didn't "just" sell pictures... I sold an experience to these families. And just as important it was to deliver beautiful, memorable pictures -- it was important to give these families a high-end experience too. I think of that often during any sales process with a client. It's not just about the final product, it's about how you make people feel... and the experience you give them along the way.

"That was a great lesson for me in truly understanding what it was that I sold. I didn't "just" sell pictures... I sold an experience to these families."

What’s a mistake you made that in the long run was a blessing because it led you to something bigger and better? Kathryn, you know what I have to say first! ha. There really aren't mistakes. EVERY part of business ownership -- good and bad -- is meant to teach you something. But I will say there is a consistent mistake I make that I need to work on ... and that's pushing the important stuff to the side, and getting too caught up in the day to day. My friends at ThistleSea Business Development would call this "Working more IN your business, than ON your business." I have had dozens of those "inner voice" moments where I know I'm supposed to be making a move in "x" direction -- but I let my fears get in the way and instead work "in" the business which is where I'm comfortable. I'm really good at being comfortable. That said -- I think there are lessons in those experiences where you learn the things you need to work on. (And I'm working on that!)

When did you figure out how to stop listening to others and fully invest in your dreams? Oh gosh - every single decision I've made about my career has been questioned by SOMEONE. "Are you sure you want to do that?" "How are you doing to make any money?" "Isn't it kind of strange to share your story on the internet?" "Won't you be throwing away all that time you spent growing the corporate ladder if you leave now?" All of those questions made me reconsider. Was I making a mistake? Is this wrong? In the end, I always followed my gut -- and THAT feeling was so much better than listening to the naysayers. So I think the more I've trusted my own heart and seen where that has led me, the easier it is for me to block out the noise.

How do you support other business entrepreneurs in your industry and in general? There are so many ways to do this. In my writer community, I think the best way I support them is through encouragement. I'm a natural encourager... and usually am drawn to those who have an immense amount of talent, but lack confidence or self-worth. And I love to do what I can to pull that out of them so their gifts can be shared with the world and more importantly, THEY start to believe in their value. I also believe in community over competition. And listen -- this comes from a person who is INCREDIBLY competitive. I am always trying to figure out where my edge is. But, I also don't have to "take people down" along the way. So I love finding ways to work together with people in my industry or share tips/tricks with each other to ultimately help each other grow. There is space in the success room for all of us.