As a Photography for Little People franchisee, Simona Boycheva has turned her passion into profit. Trevor Johnson reports
Four years ago Simona Boycheva confessed she was nervous of newborn babies and couldn’t remember ever having held one. How times have changed.
Today at 27, Simona is one of the country’s most successful specialist newborn photographers, regularly photographing babies who are only a few hours old.
“I love my work,” she says. “And I love the pleasure it gives to others to be able to recapture the golden moments every family treasures.”
An award winning camerawoman, Simona is London and Essex franchisee of Photography for Little People, a mobile studio facility specialising in photographing pregnant mums, newborn babies and young families. She also takes impressions of children’s hands and feet that can be included in framed collages.
The franchise is now an international chain spreading to Hong Kong and Singapore and Simona was recently flown out to help train franchisees in Hong Kong.
When she graduated from the University of Greenwich with a degree in marketing, administration and advertising, she had no idea of how the future would pan out.
“I just couldn’t see myself in a nine to five job in some huge firm,” Simona remembers. “My dream was to run my own business, doing something with meaning and which had a purpose to me. Something that I loved and would enjoy doing every day. But what? “Photography had been my passion for a long time, but I never imagined I would find something that would combine photography with independence. Then I found Photography for Little People and my dreams came true.
“I first saw the franchise online and didn’t look for anything else. It just felt right for me and was one of the best decisions I have ever made.”
At just 23, Simona became Photography for Little People’s youngest franchisee in 2013. She admits she had virtually no experience of tiny babies, but company owners, mother and daughter Jan Massey and Melanie Armstrong, knew instinctively that their new recruit had all the talent, drive and determination needed to make a success of their business.
Simona, who has twice won the franchise’s Photographer of the Year, has amply repaid their faith in her. She recalls: “I was a little bit anxious to start with, but joining Jan and Melanie was like being part of a family.
“It was important to me to know that I was not alone and that if there were problems there was always someone I could call for advice. You need special training for this work, particularly when photographing newborn babies, because safety is by far the most important thing.
“I hold a DBS certificate and a Red Cross paediatric first aid qualification, which is good for the parents’ peace of mind. The best time for a newborn session is within two weeks after the birth, when the baby is sleepy, still curled up and easier to pose.
“Newborn sessions can last from two to four hours, depending on the baby’s cooperation. We always work at the baby’s pace and keep things gentle and relaxed. I want everyone to enjoy the experience, so we can produce something that can be treasured for a lifetime and handed down in the family.”
Hard work pays off
Simona says the business has grown far beyond her first expectations: “It’s very exciting when all your hard work pays off. Being able to see how far I’ve come in the last few years only encourages me to do all I can to grow the business to its full potential.
“I love working with mums and young families. I often photograph pregnant mums and then come back to photograph their babies. It’s so satisfying to capture a family’s most joyful moments and I can’t imagine a nicer way of earning a living.”
Jan and Melanie know how she feels. They were looking to run a company together and started their business from a barrow in the MetroCentre, Gateshead in 2005. They always knew the business would be a success and quickly moved to a shop within the MetroCentre. In 2008 they franchised the company.
Melanie says: “You don’t have to be a great photographer or have experience in this field. All you need is to enjoy working with little ones and have the desire to succeed. The franchise can be run from home. We will teach you all you need to know.”
A Photography for Little People franchise costs £15,000. The startup package includes a photographic training course and marketing and business strategy.
“It’s a great opportunity for women, especially those with young families,” Jan says. “You work the hours that suit you - it’s your business, but our back-up organisation makes sure you’re not alone.”
Experienced teamShe says the company’s secret of success has been to create an experienced team that makes sure customers have a memorable and enjoyable experience in their own homes. “We photograph bumps and newborns, little ones, toddlers and even pets,” Jan says. “We have a great brand and have taken the time to test and measure what we do. Which is why our clients come back again and again and recommend us to their friends.” The franchise’s Photographer of the Year in 2016 and 17, Simona says: “Nothing gives me greater joy than to see my work displayed on the walls of my clients. It’s an amazing feeling knowing you have created those memories. “I want parents to remember how they felt when they first held their baby. It’s easy to forget just how tiny newborn babies are and time goes by so quickly. I think six hours was the youngest baby we’ve photographed. “These are golden moments and if not recorded at the time they’re gone forever.
What other franchisees say
“I love that Photography for Little People is a family business, which makes you feel at home straight away.”
Jo Turner, Newcastle.
“I joined a great group of individuals with the same goal, which has helped me build a fantastic foundation for my business.”
Julia Duncan, East Anglia.
“A wonderful platform to build on. And the best bit - I get to spend time with new babies and their families.”
Bridget Mitchelmore, Sawbridgeworth.