Spotlight on Saskia Nelson
At Spotlight, we had the opportunity to speak to Saskia Nelson, Founder and Head of Creative at Hey Saturday, who told us about finding a gap in the photography industry and making her passion her job.
A Background In Corporate
I worked in Corporate Social Responsibility for about 13 years including a stint at Sky TV, which I mostly loved. But when I hit my early 40s, I started to feel resentful about how hard I was working for other people. I also felt that my skills and passions weren’t totally aligned with what I was being asked to focus on. I love thinking creatively and working differently to others and that just wasn’t always encouraged or celebrated in the management roles I held during those years.
These days it’s becoming more acceptable to bring your authentic self into your work, but back then you were expected to fit in. I felt like I was suffocating. I remember thinking, you owe it to yourself to see if there’s more to you than this and you owe it to yourself to express yourself authentically in business as well as personally. I felt that if I was allowed to bring my full authentic self into my work, I’d be so much better at it.
I wasn’t overly confident at starting something new on my own, I have a fear of numbers (dyscalculia) for a start, which isn’t ideal. But I did have an experimental mindset. I made the decision that I was going to start my own business ‘just as an experiment’. If it didn’t work, it didn’t matter, at least I knew I’d given it a go and I could just go back and find another job if I needed to.
Turning A Passion Into A Career
I am passionate about portrait photography and would go out every weekend shooting models and friends just for fun. It made me very happy. I started to get lots of positive feedback on my social media and so my confidence grew. I decided I wanted to spend my time working on something I was passionate about and so I started a portrait photography business. But not just any portrait photography business. I went rogue. I went full-on niche.
I looked at what other photographers were doing at the time, but many of them seemed to be following similar formulas. Many of them had cookie-cutter websites, sales packages and vibes.
After working in the corporate world for so long, I was excited to break free from the cookie-cutter way of doing things. I’d always been different and stood out in my private life and wanting to embrace my authenticity in my new working life, I knew this was an opportunity to do things differently, my way and not follow the crowd.
After spending time looking at the intersection of my passions and talents with my life experiences, it led me to my sweet spot. I decided to create a new genre of photography – dating photography.
No one was doing this anywhere in the world and I couldn’t really understand why. I’d done online dating for a long time and knew how badly people undersold themselves by using blurry, out-of-date, poor quality photos. I also knew online dating was a growth area (although I didn’t realise how fast it would grow once Tinder dropped), so it made sense to me that this was a niche worth exploring.
‘Hey Saturday’ launched in London and now offers dating photo shoots in many major UK cities as well as in New York City, Austin and Los Angeles in the US.
Drive and Determination
When you’re a woman of colour, you’re not taken as seriously as you should be at work and often have to prove your worth not just at management level and above but across the board. I was working in corporate social responsibility and had to deal with a lot of powerful decision-makers within top financial and legal companies. I would have to psyche myself up for every meeting and interaction to ensure I was always performing at the top of my game and to remind myself I was good enough. It was exhausting to not just have the confidence to be myself at work.
The drive and determination to succeed comes from the desire to create a space where I can choose to only work with people who believe in me, where I don’t have to prove myself every day. I can just be myself and people accept and trust that I’m great at what I do. Striking out on my own was the best gift I could ever have given myself and my self-esteem.
Advice To People Wanting To Start Their Own Business
You don’t need to be the absolute best at what you do to create a successful business, you just need a unique approach to it. I wasn’t the best portrait photographer the world had ever seen but by finding a unique angle to portrait photography, I was able to distinguish myself and my agency from all the hundreds of portrait photographers out there.
When you’re thinking about starting your own business, it can be easy to let self-doubt take over when you start reviewing the competition. But, instead, focus on your unique experiences, talents and passions and bring them into play. You’ll be able to find an approach and an angle that no one else has. This should give you an edge in business and also help you reach your tribe when it comes to selling to them.