We have always loved hearing “founders” stories. No matter one's livelihood, the story of how someone started is a source of empowerment to us. One of the things we celebrate at Monica Rich Kosann is our own journey of authenticity. To that end we asked Monica to share some founding stories from our brand. After all, behind every brand story is often an interesting founder story! Here is the first in a series.
When people ask me how I started our business, I always say it was evolution, not revolution.
My first journey in my own business began over 25 years ago with photography. As many of you may know, my roots are in photography. It was the first inspiration for my jewelry brand (yes, think lockets) and so it became the first step in my journey to where I am today. I was doing personal portraiture capturing peoples lives and families. I remember my first “photo job.” A friend of a friend asked if I would photograph their children. After I had done it, they asked what I charge. I honestly had no idea what was right. I said $100 and was ecstatic when they handed me the check. I wish I had framed it and hung it on my wall for inspiration. My first paying client!
I also did commercial work, but preferred personal commissions since I had total creative freedom. My clients trusted me (and my eye) to tell their family story. I was very fortunate to build the photography business over many years. I started when my kids were very young. I would take jobs when they were at pre-school, or when my husband could baby sit. At the time, he traveled a lot for his work, and while I had some childcare, it was minimal.
I remember running into my studio when it was nap time, or on weekends, where I would review photos and edit them. The “studio” was a room in our house where our dog liked to hang out. It was all film and darkroom back then. Digital photography was in its infancy. I stamped my own proofs and did my own invoicing, but as I got busier, I was able to hire someone to help me in the studio. If you had told me back then that one day I would be invited to photograph the families of amazing people like Jennifer Lopez and Usher, I might have dreamed it possible, but we all know how hard it is to make all our “dreams” come true.
I spent a lot of time with my clients not just taking the photos of their lives but discussing how to hang those photos in their homes, where to display them and how to live with them. That whole process later became a book of mine, Living with what you Love. After multiple shoots, some of my clients were running out of walls and would joke with me and say “Monica, I have no more room for your photos.” Nonetheless, we we would still take more to document their lives. I started to ask myself, “how could I keep these families in my life without running out of room?” And so began the second leg of my journey.
The Birth of Our Brand Story
My husband and I always loved to go antiquing and flea marketing. I was inspired by the vintage pieces I saw. Daguerreotypes, cigarette cases, powder compacts and lockets. All these pieces had been part of someone's story and history (its interesting how every brand story starts with something else). Originally, I just collected them because I loved them.
I started taking these cigarette cases and powder compacts, re-purposing them and putting my client’s photos into these treasures. I would then sell them to my clients as a piece of art. While very small, it opened up a whole new business for me. But these vintage pieces were all one of a kind. How could I make more?
My husband Rod and I went to Italy and started working with the artisans that had made many of the original compacts and cigarette cases. I truly believe they thought we were crazy. We remade the insides to hold photographs. After some months, we had a group of sample pieces. It was time to start looking for new customers because our brand story was just beginning.
To be continued …..
More to Explore