I need your help! Please 🙂 I was checking my FB today and noticed a new “friend” of mine asking for votes for something. It was a small business thing, so I stopped scrolling to take a closer look, as I am a small business owner. Well, I was really excited to see that Chase and Living Social are offering a $250,000 grant to up to 12 small businesses. It seemed too good to be true, so I read the “program details”. It turns out our business is eligible; I just needed to submit an application. So, I registered and started thinking about how to answer the essay questions. Two hours later, I finally submitted my application. However, for my application to even be considered, I have to have at least 250 votes by June 30th (when voting ends).. That’s where you come in. Please, please, please go to: https://www.missionsmallbusiness.com/ and vote for Allison Ragsdale Photography. I’m including all my essay answers to the questions asked on the application so you can see what we could use the grant for – our clients! Thank you in advance for taking the time to go the website and vote – I really appreciate it! We have the best clients and friends and I know I can count on you all to get me to 250 votes. Let me know if you have any questions!

 

Application Essay Questions and Answers

Tell us about your business; how successful is it and why is it unique?

Allison Ragsdale Photography first opened it’s doors in May of 2007. 5 years later, we (my husband and I) are still as excited as we were in the beginning about serving our clients. We are a portrait and wedding photography studio, specializing in high school senior portrait photography. We just started (4 days ago) a remodel of a 1,600 square foot space to better house our growing business and to better serve our clients. We are extremely successful at what we do. In just 5 years we have gone from being a brand new studio to being the number one studio in Durango, CO. We are booking clients over a year in advance and have students on a waiting list to participate in our model program years before they are eligible. We have high school seniors come from across the country to have their senior portraits photographed by us (from Texas, Arkansas, etc). We have been published in Professional Photographer Magazine multiple times. Our gross sales have increased exponentially; 900% from year one to year five. We are unique in that we focus on women and our relationship with them; providing them with beautiful art for their homes as well as a new best friend. We have been told repeatedly that working with us increases our clients’ self esteem. They come out of the experience having been shown just how amazing and beautiful they really are. We are also unique because we are a husband and wife team, bringing double the passion to the business.

How is your business involved with the community you serve?

Our business is extremely involved with the community we serve, specifically Durango High School. We donate our time for every event we can, such as photographing homecoming, prom, the senior girls’ tea (a rite of passage tradition of becoming a woman), etc. We give a high school senior a scholarship for college each year. We also work with Durango High School, Big Picture High School, and Animas High School for their internships programs. We accept a student from each school each year to intern with us. Mentors have been a huge part of my success and I want to pass that on. We give back every chance we get. We offer donations to every silent auction we know of to benefit individuals and non profits. During October every year (we’ve deemed October “Family Portrait Month”) we donate our session fees to Adaptive Sports Association (ASA). ASA provides outdoor recreational activities for people with disabilities (many of them being high school students) and we love to partner with organizations serving the same community we are.  We have photographed for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (NILMDTS), providing free professional portraiture to parents suffering the loss of a baby. We have participated in PPA (Professional Photographers of America) Charities annual fundraiser for Operation Smile, and we donate to PPA Charities as often as we can.

What would a $250k grant mean to your business plan and how will you utilize the funds to ensure long-term growth and stability?

This grant would allow us to become even more involved in our community. We could offer a larger scholarship or more scholarships to our high school seniors. We are also in the process of partnering with another local business to sponsor a high school student’s participation in our model program who would otherwise not be able to financially do so. This grant would allow us to offer this to more students. We want to be in business long enough to photograph our client’s for generations. We want to photograph our high school seniors, then their weddings, then their children, then their children’s high school senior portraits, and so on and so forth. This grant would help us to do just that. This grant also comes at a perfect time in the growth of our business. We have been saving toward our studio remodel and the funds from the grant could help us really make our remodel incredible. We could offer amenities to our clients we’ve only dreamed of. The level of comfort and service we could provide through our studio space due to the extra funds from this grant would be unparalleled. There are a few things we have decided not to participate in this coming year due to amount of money we are putting into our remodel and this grant would allow us to still participate in those things. We always attend as many photography conventions as we can, whether we are attending as students or teachers, so that we can be the very best we can possibly be. This year, we were going to only attend one and with the grant, we could still attend as many as we would like. We were also going to start offering international high school senior portraits when we could coordinate our travel with our students’ travel. This year, we weren’t going to be able to travel much, again due to the remodel. This grant would allow us to offer this incredibly unique service; something no one else is offering.

What types of challenges can you identify with your plan and how will you overcome them?

The challenges we face have to do with staying true to ourselves and to our clients. We want to always be in business for the right reasons and never lose sight of that. My husband and I keep each other in balance and in check. We sometimes struggle with where to draw the line when it comes to giving back. We want to be able to say yes to every opportunity and every request but that is unreasonable. Again, we keep each other in check. Staying ahead of our competition is also a challenge we face. We don’t spend time looking at what our competition is doing though; we spend time focusing on what we are doing. We are always striving to improve our products and services and strengthen our relationships with our clients and our community. We know that making our clients our top priority will continue to bring us success.

Describe the talent on your team and how they make your business successful.

I, Allison, am the owner and main photographer of Allison Ragsdale Photography. I have my Bachelor of Arts degree in Photography from the Art Institute of Colorado. I am also a Certified Professional Photographer (CPP). This is a rare and unique designation. I earned my CPP through PPA (Professional Photographers of America, a non profit organization I belong to). I had to pass a written exam and an image review and I passed both on the first try. There are fewer than 2,000 CPP’s nationwide and no CPP’s within at least 200 miles of Durango. This level of education is also rare and unique in this field. And I am only 27. I am young, opening the business at 22, which I am very proud of. I have always had a natural talent for photography and a great eye for composition. I knew when I took my first black and white photography class in high school that I wanted to be a photographer. I am also incredibly easy to work with and make my subjects comfortable in front of my camera. I love what I do and that passion resonates with my clients so the experience is enjoyable for everyone. My husband, Matt, has a Bachelor of Science in Education and has been a high school math teacher for the past five years; in addition to working with me at our business. He won Teacher of the Year his first year as a teacher and was awarded a BP appreciation gift of $5000.00 his third year. He is a marketing genius and even though I am biased, that is not an exaggeration. He has come up with all the marketing ideas that have made us so successful so quickly. He is also a great business man and is, of course, great with numbers. He also has a great sense of humor; being one of the funniest people I know. We have a lot of fun with our clients.Because we both get to do what we love, we feel incredibly blessed. We are so passionate about making our business as successful as we possibly can so that we can support ourselves and give to as many people as possible. We make a great team and we work hard to use our business to improve other’s lives. We want to make our clients feel beautiful, inside and out.

Additional relevant information you would like to share

We have Thank You cards from our clients displayed on our desk to remind us why we do what we do. We thought we would share one of our favorite testimonials with you (shortened to fit the 500 word maximum):
“We first met Allison when I was 8 months pregnant with our first child. We wanted to get professional maternity pictures taken and had seen some of Allison’s work in the past, so we decided to make an appointment to meet with her. Upon entering her studio we were immediately impressed with the amazing photos adorning the walls and the variety of unique products from which to choose.  Not knowing what we were doing, Allison gently guided us throughout the entire session and had some very creative ideas for our poses that I would have never thought of. We really appreciated her patience and the time she took to make sure we got the shots we wanted. We did not feel like just another customer. Allison made us feel valued and sincerely seemed to enjoy sharing this experience with us. As we left the studio we were beyond pleased with the service we received and could not wait to see our pictures!  We had expected the photos to be nice but what we saw when we came back to the studio blew us away! It was extremely obvious that she had spent quite a bit of time making sure she delivered the best product possible. Honestly it was very difficult to decide which ones we would like to purchase as they were all so amazing. Once the prints and books were ready, we could not have been more pleased. The photos looked amazing on the computer but the actual prints were beyond beautiful and the book was even better than we had imagined as well. That night, we decided that we would love to work with Allison again once our baby was born. We knew we wanted professional newborn pictures of our little boy and could not have imagined anyone better than Allison to give us exactly what we wanted. Our second session with Allison was just as wonderful as the first.  These were our first pictures as a family and it was very important to us to have not only quality prints but a memorable experience during the session. Allison went above and beyond to make sure that both of these desires were realized. When we saw the slideshow she had created of our newborn’s session it literally brought tears to my eyes. Allison had brought our dream photos to life once again. After having such amazing experiences working with Allison, we look forward to future photo sessions with her. She is a wonderful photographer dedicated to a degree of quality and professionalism that is unsurpassed. If you are looking for top of the line, timeless photos, along with an experience you will never forget, we highly recommend Allison Ragsdale. You will find yourself coming back again and again.”

Thank you to Shannon and Jac Ferrari for that perfect testimonial – it is exactly how I want every one of our client’s to feel! Shannon and Jac: you two are amazing and have one of the cutest little boys I know. Justus will be an amazing big brother because he has amazing parents to learn from and I can’t wait to photograph you all again!