Mimika Cooney can speak from experience on subjects including photography, marketing, public speaking, website design, book writing, modeling, and television experience in front of and behind the camera. Her multi-tasking skills are impressive, too.
“I don’t sleep much,” says the Charlotte photographer and author. “I’ve got three kids, and one is a toddler. I have my iPhone as a permanent appendage. It’s constantly stuck to my hip.”
It probably won’t move from there soon. Cooney was invited to lead two photography workshops for the Society of Wedding Portrait Professionals in London on Jan. 11 and 13 for the second time in four years. The workshops focus on business strategies, lighting skills and marketing.
Cooney, 36, specializes in fine art maternity and baby portraits while working from a studio in the south Charlotte home she shares with her husband, Michael; daughter Shaylee, 13; son Cameron, 11; and 2-year-old daughter Zoe.
She possesses the soul of an artist and a hunger for business knowledge that she loves to share.
“I’m very much trying to keep a step ahead of everybody,” she says, choosing slides for the seminar while being interviewed. At my bedside table I have 11 books I’m reading. I finished one last night. I read really fast. I subscribe to magazines, forums ...
“I love reading real books – turning pages and making notes. I subscribe to (marketing expert and author) Seth Godin’s blog. He thinks really differently, which is what I like. He talks about coloring outside the lines.”
She talks fast in her native South African accent but listens well, exudes confidence, laughs easily but is serious about her work.
Her obsession with learning and her independent streak were established long ago.
“I come from a family of serial entrepreneurs. My father was always running his own business. I never saw myself as an employee; I’m a control freak. I always wanted to do everything myself.
“I’ve always loved the arts, and of course growing up in Johannesburg, South Africa, we were never really given the opportunity to learn about photography in school. So once I left school it was like a huge learning curve to me, having to see what mediums I could use. Of course, being a ballet dancer doesn’t make much money, so I gave up on that idea.
“I got into Web design working with my husband (they founded a company called EngNet in South Africa in 1998) but got fed up with sitting behind a desk all the time and wanted to get out. It’s been a natural progression.”
After spending her first 27 years in South Africa, she got all of her photographic training during the 5 1/2 years the Cooneys lived in England before moving to Charlotte, current headquarters for EngNet. Her first book, “Boutique Baby Photography: The Digital Photographer’s Guide to Success in Maternity and Baby Portraiture,” was released in late 2011.
She planned to share the experience of writing and marketing the book at the seminar but says that’s only part of the message.
“I tend to like to give them a good ground basis in everything, because I’ve experienced everything from the ground up,” says Cooney, who has also led one-on-one mentoring workshops at home. "When I started in photography, I did everything from weddings to families to dance schools.
“I love the sharing and teaching people. I do like the business side a lot. I do teach on the technical side, but I don’t spend a whole bunch of time on that because being really technical is good to know but it’s not going to make the business. If people want to survive past the dreaded five-year mark, they really need good business skills on how to stay above water.
“I was in business and then became a photographer, as opposed to a lot of people who started in photography and realized they had to be in business, only to find it really hard. You have to use all of the platforms. Before, you could take out a Yellow Pages ad, and people would know how to find you. That’s what’s so exhausting about growing a business nowadays; you have to be everywhere. I use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest.”
Cooney intended to use the seminar to introduce her latest product, “Photography Profits Zoom,” an online learning portal intended to provide a total boutique photography management program.
“So many of my photographer friends are great photographers, but they really stink at business,” she says. “It’s a turnkey solution for them. Instead of them spending the hours scouring the Internet and finding the best systems and software, I do that and basically help them do what they love, which is the taking the pictures stuff.”
Reid Creager is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Reid? Email him at email@example.com.
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