Community Spotlight: Jeannine Pohl
We met our community member Jeannine Pohl through the Rising Tide Society’s Tuesday’s Together meetup. She hosts our chapter’s monthly gathering at her collaborative photography studio and small event space, Block Studios. She runs the studio, her wedding photography business, Jeannine Marie Photography, and is involved in the small business community all while being a wife and mother. We love renting space at Block and are so grateful for the words of encouragement and advice she gives us. She is all about empowering women and supporting her fellow small business owners. She has been a wonderful partner to us.
We sat down with her at Block Studios on a snowy January day. With her adorable 1-year-old running around, we stole a few calm moments to take portraits and ask about her background, business goals, and how she strives to keep a work/life balance.
Can we hear a little bit about your background, where are you from?
I grew up on a farm in Northern Minnesota, Walker (on Leech Lake). I had resort life, and worked at a resort for 7 years, washing cabins and windows. I even like to say that at one point I was a paid fishing guide, taking 5 and 6 year olds out on the lake. I started working on the farm when I was growing up. I always had a job since I was 12 or 13, raking leaves, or anything to make some money to buy my own clothes; otherwise, they were from thrift stores. Which now is funny, because that’s where I like to shop.
Jumping ahead, I went to school at Vermillion Community College in Ely, to get my generals and play basketball because I didn’t know what direction I wanted to take. I knew I wanted to do photography but didn’t that it was a career that I could make a living from. After that, I went to Winona State for their Mass Comm Program with an emphasis on Photojournalism. While I was there, I made an online dating profile during my night time customer service job. I didn’t talk to anyone from the area and met my husband, who was living in Massachusetts. He visited, met my family, and we traveled back to Massachusetts where I got a job at CVS, which turned into a career in management.
When my husband and I moved back to Minnesota a few years later, I continued working with CVS pharmacy, and that same year enrolled at Minneapolis Community Technical College for Digital Photography. While I was there I asked my advisor what to do next, and he said to get an internship. I volunteered with the Minnesota Center for Photography. I looked on Craigslist, because that’s where you go to find jobs, and found a wedding photographer advertising, and started shooting with him, and found that I really like it. It was paying more per hour immediately than my job, so I was able to start buying equipment. I decided wedding photography was what I enjoyed - it is a good mesh of working with people and being part of an amazing part of their lives. Coming from such a big family, the craziness of a wedding day is pretty normal.
I immersed myself in wedding photography, volunteering, learning, taking work that I didn’t really know how to do yet, and on July 7th, 2007 I did my first solo wedding for my cousin who lives in South Dakota. I wasn’t planning to photograph a wedding at that point, but they had asked me so I agreed. But we’re still cousins, it turned out fine.
What inspired you to open a studio?
A couple things came into play at the same time, I was going to have a baby so I needed the space in my house, and I had been brainstorming about all of the ways I could use a studio. I knew a lot of photographers, and I made a list of all the photographers in the Metro area that I had come across, and it was 200 something photographers. I reached out to the landlord of this building [Block] once I saw it had been sold and he was looking for a tenant, so I signed a 3-year lease and started Block Studios so I, and other photographers could use the space.
How did you come up with the name Block?
Everything else I wanted was taken. Thinking of the beginning of Google listings - none of the A’s resonated with me, and I liked how Block could be the brick building itself on a corner, a community like with block parties, or building blocks of businesses (workshops and helping them grow). I met with an advisor who walked me through the branding process which was really cool and then got the logo designed which was fun.
What are all the services you offer now?
Personally still wedding and event photography, and then the studio offers space for small events like training and parties, or photoshoots. And then I implemented the business workshops to bring people in who might rent the studio and to learn (for myself) things about business from people who are really cool and know more about it (business) than I do. I’ve seen a lot of relationships grow from this. On the second Monday of the month, I host blogging Mondays, which is two hours of coworking time to work on blogging.
So you blog?
Yes, I blog on my personal photography site. I would like to do with more Block eventually and build it into more of a community to connect people.
What is the hardest part of managing a studio?
Oh god, the life/work balance. And actually wanting to implement all of the ideas I want. In 2014 I hired my first employee and since then I have really been more comfortable in my business because I am doing things I really enjoy, not spending hours on my computer editing and emailing. So I don’t have to do that.
Being a mom and being a business owner? How do you do it?
I don’t know that I do. Do I do that? Every day is chaotic right now, with a 1-year-old. I definitely don’t have a work/life balance. I bring him here to the studio to work and like stack solo cups and play while I try to respond to an email. My expectations of being a mom are to keep him alive.
We’re quoting you on that for sure.
Well and now he’s bigger so I have to worry about actually making him into a nice human being too, so there are secondary goals.
What is the one thing you hate doing for your business?
I’m really bad at doing anything that I have to do on a regular basis like accounting, but I hired a bookkeeper and that helps. I would pay someone else to do the work I don’t like always now. It’s time away from the stuff I like doing, I’m a people person first.
What advice would you offer to people starting out?
As a photographer, go to business school. There’s so much more business than it is photography. If you really just want to be a photographer there are lots of places you can work as a photographer without having to do the business part. I think the biggest thing I’ve seen in this industry, this is my 10th year, is I’ve seen many people come and move onto other things, you truly have to see what you do as a business and market, strategize, and plan, and have customer service. And then have the grit. There’s a book I’m reading right now called Mindset by Carol Dweck and there’s a line that says “having the spirit and grit is beyond the talent and knowledge”. Actually, I think I’m going to paint this wall and write spirit and grit on it as a self-reminder.
It’s important to know what’s next. Having the studio is keeping the business of wedding photography that I have more challenging. It makes me push harder and it’s good to be uncomfortable and do something different. I told my assistant, I’m going to buy a studio because I feel like I haven’t failed enough in life.
What camera do you use?
I photograph weddings with Canon 5D Mark IV. My Mark III’s had buttons falling off. It’s way better for low-light. I’ll shoot at 6400 iSO without even thinking about it now.
What's your most used piece of equipment?
I’m kind of a light fanatic. I like being able to create light and have artificial light. I have some Canon speed lights, and a few different modifiers, and I just got new triggers. Another idea I have to do for my business in all my free time is to do product unboxing videos.
What’s your website built on?
I use Smugmug for client galleries, I have since the beginning of time. Literally, every photo ever I have is on the website. The landing page is there and then I utilize WordPress for my blog and Shootque for customer service management.
What’s your favorite social media platform?
Instagram, because it’s all pictures. And I was using SnapChat until Instagram stories. Literally the day it came out I was like, okay I don’t need SnapChat anymore.
Is there anything else you want to share with our community?
I’m hosting a web workshop for couples in collaboration with a realtor, financial advisor, and wedding planner. It’s the first of series for first-time homebuying, combining incomes, and budgeting for your wedding.
Jeannine is a hard worker, and she admits that running 2 businesses and balancing family is definitely not easy, but attainable. She reminds us that the most important things to have are passion and drive, which can lead to wonderful experiences to grow, connect with others, and find fulfillment.