“Since finishing the programme, I recommended EnterprisingYou to many of my self-employed friends. I have nothing but good things to say about it, and I wish the support would go on forever because it has been so valuable to me."
Tajda Ferko, Owner of Bloomlight Creative
Born in Slovenia and now based in Manchester, UK, Tajda Ferko’s journey into food photography began as an accident. As a food blogger who advocated for a vegan lifestyle, Tajda needed stunning photos for her recipes on her website. Little did she know that what started as a simple hobby grew into a professional food and product photography studio with clients ranging from local start-ups to international brands in just a few years.
Witnessing the transformation together with Tajda are Simon Dickinson and Kim Gowland, her business coach and mentor from the EnterprisingYou programme by GC Business Growth Hub. From an eager young woman moving to a country that she knew little about to a self-motivated entrepreneur who owned a photography studio, Tajda and the team of the EnterprisingYou programme worked hand in hand to develop a flourishing business that allowed her to chase her dreams.
Let’s hear from Tajda on her journey into the world of professional photography.
Tajda, can you tell us more about your journey into food photography and what motivated you to start your photography studio?
My journey into the world of food photography began as a bit of an accident. When I started my food blog in the summer of 2017, I realised I had a passion for food photography. Still, I never anticipated it would evolve into a full-fledged business.
When I moved to the UK from the Netherlands with my Dutch partner in March 2018 and started my photography studio in May, I still worked part-time in a social media management job. My business was a side project I hoped to grow into a full-time business. That was my biggest goal - being able to work in my photography business full-time.
As I had only been living in the UK for a couple of months when I registered as a sole trader with HMRC, I knew little about the country then. Apart from my partner, I did not know anybody in the UK, let alone anyone who ran their small business. I learned everything I had to do through Google - how to get a national insurance number, how to open a business bank account, whether I need an accountant, and how to correctly fill in my self-assessment forms.
Over the first year or two, my biggest challenge was ensuring a steady cash flow. As business owners, we are used to the fact that our income fluctuates, especially in the early stages. My photography work is also often based on very short-term or one-off projects rather than retainer contracts that would be signed for a more extended period. It did take time to grow my client base and to get more reliable work.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, I worked part-time in a job that was not very secure. At first, it was scary, but I found that as people spent more time at home learning how to cook for themselves, the number of visitors to my food blog increased noticeably. This helped me generate income through advertising. Additionally, businesses began to realize the importance of having an online presence, since they could not meet customers in person. I even received a few long-term contracts from businesses that I had never worked with before, which helped my photography business take off.
Looking back, it makes sense that I expanded my focus on food photography to product photography at that time. I believe that since the lockdown period was so strange, everyone became more experimental and tried new things in order to adapt to the new "normal."
So, how do you know about the EnterprisingYou programme, and what is your experience on the programme?
I knew about the program because I took part in the Start Up Vision programme, and the Hub recommended EnterprisingYou to me. At that time, I wanted support from an outside consultant because I felt like I had the skills needed for my photography, but I did not have the business skills yet.
I spent an enormous amount of time developing my photography skills by attending every food photography and blogging course. Still, I did not know where to start regarding the business side of things. As creatives, we tend to hyper-focus on improving our skills and ensuring we put out something extraordinary and stunning. Still, we don’t focus enough on what happens next - once you have developed these skills, how do you make an income from it? How to ensure your business has a long-term growth plan? How do you create a regular stream of income? I was hoping that by acquiring better business skills, I could quit my part-time job and pursue my business full-time.
I received 1:1 support from my business coach Simon Dickinson. Simon and I would have monthly meetings to set, evaluate and tick off different goals on my list. I took part in this program during Covid, so most of these meetings were held online as a Zoom call which I enjoyed because it also saved some time I would spend commuting to the meetings, etc.
My meetings with Simon felt like the thread holding the whole programme together. He monitored my progress and recommended what I could do to get the most benefit out of this program.
One thing that Simon and I discussed during one of our meetings always stuck with me was the reason WHY I am doing it in the first place. Obviously, you want your business to expand, grow, reach new clients, and generate more income, but what is the reason BEHIND that? It made me think about my business as just one slice of my life’s big pie. How can I set up my businesses in a way that will positively affect the rest of my life, like my mental health, relationships, and hobbies? It made me reflect on what success would look like for me. I did not expect to have these sorts of revelations during this programme.
You worked with a business coach and a mentor, what was the difference in the support you received?
The difference between the business coach and the mentor is that the mentor is tailored to the specific business sector you are operating in. As I am running a photography business, my mentor was Kim Gowland, who has a lot of experience in the creative and arts sector. I always received a lot of value from Kim because she could understand the unique challenges of running a creative business and was able to relate to them. It was inspiring to be around a woman in the culture & arts sector that excels in what she does and is making a positive impact.
Through my sessions with Kim, I could analyse and compare precisely how much time I spend on a specific task or client and how much income I generate from it. It was eye-opening to see that, and it helped me re-focus my attention on the aspects of my business that drive the most income. We also spent a couple of sessions working on my online public presence and improving communications on my LinkedIn profile and website. It was great having an expert look through my website and socials and point out what could be improved.
In addition to regular meetings with the business coach and the mentor, I had a lot of other support I could access. I could attend a wide range of health and wellbeing webinars that were held online and covered different topics. I also got to access in-depth training and skills development programs, which were tailored to my business, and I could select them myself from a list of over one hundred training programs.
The thing I remember the most about these sessions is just how intense they were. They were confronting me in a way that exposed the weaknesses of my business and my approach to business. I selected a Business Negotiation workshop, one on Pitching and one on Cashflow/Finances. They offered very practical solutions and I even received great Excel templates that I still use for my cash flow.
How did EnterprisingYou change your business?
The programme helped me create a steadier income stream, and I could quit my part-time job in 2021 and focus on my food photography business full-time. I do not think this resulted from one a-ha moment during the programme, and I could not pinpoint it to one single lesson but rather the combination of many smaller steps I took to ensure that growth. It was a sum of everything that I learned throughout the programme, from how to negotiate prices with my clients better, diversify my income streams, and be more time efficient. Later, I also switched from being a sole trader to opening my limited company, which was a big goal of mine.
To sum it up, what EnterprisingYou did for me was offer me one-to-one business support tailored to my business. That is why it was so beneficial - I did not have to sit through any sessions that were too general or not applicable to my business type. Everything was relevant to me, and I could get out of this programme as much as I would put it. Simon and Kim always encouraged me to get in touch outside our monthly catchups. If I had a business dilemma or realised I forgot to ask something, I could always email them, and they would reply immediately. I will always be grateful to them both for that, and I hope they know how much they helped shape my business!
To learn more about Bloomlight Creative, please visit:
And if you’re feeling peckish, take a look at Tajda’s vegan recipes!