I kept working on the craft and improving my skills. While I enjoyed my corporate job and was "content" there was a fire growing inside of me to do something different with my life, something that was more aligned with my creative pursuit and that I would have more control over the trajectory of. However, that thought was usually tampered by the inability to see myself in a different type of
MS: What made you want to be what you are now?
JE: I think there are a lot of factors that have led me to where I am and have shaped my life. I can't attribute it to one moment, event or person. But I know that it started with my love for photography, and my love for photography was borne out of my love to travel. I love to experience the world and different cultures. Photography allowed me to document and experience the places where I was going. I was working in a corporate job and had a career in human resources when I started photography. I then branched into shooting people and shooting content for local boutiques and brands. My photography evolved into a thriving side hustle.
existence. I had gone to college for 7 years, had climbed the corporate ladder. I was a senior officer at a Fortune 50 Company. I was making good money. I was comfortable, until… (see next question).
MS: What was your pivotal moment in life that made you take this direction?
JE: 2020 was a defining moment in many people's lives. It challenged a lot of people by shining a bright light on the comfort zones that we had prior. Our comfort zones can often be limiting; they can blind us to the greater potential that we have within ourselves. I also think that 2020 allowed many people the opportunity to reinvent themselves in a way that is truer to their authentic drive and motivations in life. I was one of those people. On a rainy day in October, the company that I was working for had a mass layoff. I had just been promoted into my new job a year earlier. I was the one of the least experienced on my new team. I got a surprise zoom call notification and was told that I was going to be let go. In the beginning, I panicked. I contacted every headhunter I knew. I redid my resume. I had phone interviews. I applied to about 50 jobs. But nobody was calling back. Very few were hiring. My role was pretty specific, and I didn't want to settle for less than I had worked so hard to achieve. Even after getting let go, I was still hesitant to take that plunge into a different existence. It took a few weeks. It took a lot of conversations and a lot of self-talk. But I realized that this was going to be something that I could regret down the road if I didn't take this opportunity to go for everything that I wanted in life. I had to envision. I had to see possibilities, even in a time of seeming despair. I had to be comfortable with the risk, but be confident in myself to push through.
While I was building photography as a side hustle over the last 12 years, when I would allow myself to envision and ponder what it would be like to do a creative pursuit full-time, I would always envision it as something more than photography. I wanted it to be more entrepreneurial and have more facets to it. I didn't know quite what that would look like, and I knew that I would have to be in a major creative market for something like that to happen, not Hartford, where I currently lived. When I worked for my last company, part of my job responsibilities were in West Palm Beach, FL. I would spend a week per month in Florida and during the weekends I would travel to Miami and do photoshoots. That's how I met Jenny Dyson, who is a talented makeup artist in Miami. We did several photoshoots with agency models. Jenny also had entrepreneurial aspirations. She told me she wanted to build a studio and was asking me what equipment would be necessary to start a studio. She asked me if I would ever consider going into business with her. My comfort level at the time didn't allow me to say "yes." That was before October of last year.
MS: How did you get started?
JE: My current pursuit and "new existence" started in November 2020. I texted Jenny and asked if she was still interested in going in together on a studio. Two days later I was on a plane to Miami to look at commercial properties. We spent two days looking at different properties and found one that suited us best. We signed the lease in December and started building shortly thereafter.
MS: What are your favorite parts about what you do?
JE: I think one of the most rewarding things for anybody in life is win there is a direct connection between their talents and the betterment of others. With photography and videography I feel that I have the ability to elevate people, places, businesses and communities.
MS: What are your short-term and/or long-term goals at the moment?
JE: My short-term goals are to get the studio, agency and photography businesses established this year so that I can focus on growth mode next year.
Long-term I would like Vault to be an industry-known entity and enterprise. I would like to see several successful model careers that started with us.
MS: Do you have advice for people interested in the same field?
JE: I think whether it is photography or any other entrepreneurial endeavor, you have to ask yourself, "what is the value that I provide, and why would somebody want to pay for it?" This will put you in the right mindset of serving others. I believe that "Do what you love" is also important, but it's not the full answer that will make one successful. It has to be something that is useful and something that is needed.
MS: What is something you wish you knew in the beginning?
JE: So many things! Lol. No seriously, I believe that we're all the result of our decisions and how we react to our life circumstances. I don't believe that I would have been capable of this earlier in my life. I didn't have the right experiences yet. I had to go through what I did in order to be able to do what I'm doing right now. Experience and perspective is valuable.
MS: Who or what are your biggest inspirations and why?
JE: I’ve always admired people that overcame the greatest of odds and circumstances and were able to make a positive change in the world. Frederick Douglass is the first person that comes to mind.
MS: What is your favorite food related memory?
JE: The first thing that comes to mind was when I created some short branding films in 2020. I lived in Hartford, CT, and I did a short documentary style branding film for a Korean restaurant that I lived beside. During the film I learned about the family's history and what went into the food that they make at the restaurant. That was something that was portrayed in the video. Another one was when I did a branding video for my friend, Monique Sourinho :) She has such a passion for food and how it relates to connecting with people. It was amazing to capture that in a video so that people could understand what drives her to do what she does.
MS: What is your favorite quote and why?
JE: “Everything you want is on the other side of fear."
I like it because it resonates with me at this moment. I think for anybody to step up and embody their true selves and purpose, it's going to take a good amount of courage to push through the fear and self-doubt.
MS: What is your ideal day in the work life?
JE: A day where I feel that I made a positive impact in the life of somebody else.
MS: What is your ideal non-work day?
JE: It would be a day where I am relaxing, reading, working out, exploring, etc.
MS: What are some things that keep you going?
JE: Hope. I think hope is the thing that keeps us all going. Hope for a better tomorrow. Hope that what you're doing today will move the needle in your life.
MS: How do you approach a work life balance?
JE: Honestly, I think my answer to this is different than what it would have been a couple of years ago. I think the important thing is that you do what you love. If you do that, you're going to worry less about how many hours you work during a week, because it won't seem like work.
MS: What is something you wish people learned or knew more about in your industry?
JE: Honestly, this may seem a bit old school, but I wish that people just knew how to communicate better, especially when introducing themselves. I get so many people DMing me or messaging me with random comments, requests, etc, and they don't even take the time to introduce themselves or state what they want.
MS: What does supporting local mean to you?
JE: It means a lot of things, and there are a lot of ways that it can be done… from where you shop, to what products you buy, etc. Usually, it is going to mean spending a bit more. But it can also mean things such as shouting businesses out on your social media. I think it takes time and effort. But if you're like me, sometimes, it can lead to developing relationships with businesses that will support you in return.
MS: Do you have advice or encouragement for ways to support local?
JE: Get out and explore your community. Break out of your shell and routines. Try new places to eat. Maybe you won't know exactly what kind of food it's going to be. Be adventurous.