Running a successful business doesn’t happen overnight; it takes hard work, ambition, and persistence. Occasionally, entrepreneurs also have to step outside their comfort zone and ask for help.
Stacy Ideus is one such entrepreneur. A portrait artist specializing in weddings and family photography, her studio is located in Wahoo, Nebraska. Stacy says she strives to capture people with her camera in natural environments, either on location or in their home.
She shot her first photo session 18 years ago, and officially began her business, Stacy Ideus Photography, on paper in 2008. Wanting to strengthen her business’ online presence, she attended an online marketing and social media workshop, hosted by the Center for Rural Affairs and the Wahoo Chamber of Commerce.
“I think having a strong web presence is important for all small businesses,” she said. “I hadn’t heard of the Center for Rural Affairs before, but I’m always open to learning new ideas and ongoing education, so it seemed like a good thing to check out.”
The Center for Rural Affairs’ Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) holds training events regularly for small business owners to learn new skills or sharpen existing ones. Generally partnering with a local organization, the Center helps entrepreneurs fine-tune many different business-related skills including writing a business plan, how to use QuickBooks and other financial software, and, in Stacy’s case, marketing and social media skills.
Jennifer Woita, executive assistant with the Wahoo Chamber of Commerce, said there was a lot of interest in the workshop Stacy attended, and they’ve had requests to hold more like it.
“The workshop offered great information,” she said. “With as fast as social media is changing, we like to keep our members informed on all of the updates in that market. We take advantage of those skills for our own business, too.”
Jennifer said with the growing popularity of social media outlets like Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram, it’s beneficial for business owners to get opportunities to focus more on how they work, and how to best utilize them for their individual business’ needs.
Stacy was impressed with the workshop, too. After the event, the photographer received one-on-one training with the workshop presenter through REAP.
Since then, Stacy completely revamped the way she posts on her business’ Facebook page; has been more consistent with posting on her business’ other social media pages, such as Instagram; sends out a regular email newsletter; and created a more professional email address for her business, which she stresses was a game changer for her.
“I have no business degree, and I will admit that at one point I thought I ‘knew it all,’” she said. “But, I feel it’s so important to be open to learning new things – because when you are, you start to see the ‘holes’ in your current system and realize that you don’t know it all, and there’s lots of room for improvement.”
Stacy took away valuable tips from the Center’s training event.
“Stop trying to ‘sell’ with every customer interaction and be more of a valuable resource,” she said. “As long as you're consistently in front of people, they will remember you when they are ready for your services.”
Though this training was the first of its kind Stacy attended, the photographer says she would attend more of the Center’s social media, web presence, or marketing workshops.
“Honing those kinds of skills is always beneficial,” she said. “If the Center and Wahoo Chamber of Commerce host a training like that again, I’d absolutely attend, and I’d absolutely recommend it to other business owners.”
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