We had the good fortune of connecting with Kate Okenatez-Mahoney and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kate, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I had already been in business, owning a more traditional photography business for families, events, weddings, etc before I branched out. I loved it and loved my clients, but admittedly, one day, a friend from way back in college called me, and my world changed… …He and his fiance were looking to get married in a rock climbing wedding on a cliff top in Washington state. Awesome, right?!? If you can believe it (ha!), they couldn’t find a photographer who was experienced with weddings and who was also a rock climber. He knew I was a climber, and learned through social media that I also photographed weddings, so they were hopeful I’d be willing do do something “crazy” and put the two together. I said “YES!” without hesitation. From that amazing long weekend, out doing the things I love with people who also valued the beauty, uniqueness, and joy of the outdoors and sport, I was hooked. I knew from that moment that I wanted to make the move to adventurous weddings and adventure elopements as my focus, and so made the shift in mid 2018. While adventure elopements still aren’t all that mainstream, even back then in 2018, I believed in the possibility of it… I knew that there were other couples like my friend who wanted something different, something more personal to their story. So that’s where my “core idea” is as I work with my couples to plan and then for me to photography their elopement–everything we do is focused on a customized experience of eloping in an amazing natural place, doing exactly what they want. We set aside the formality of “stuff”, “things”, and tradition of standard weddings for something way less stress and way more fun 🙂
Please tell us more about your career. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
It’s true… if you Google wedding photographers in the Southeast, yikes. It’s a long list! But that’s where I come in… My photography now is really focused on adventure elopements. What’s an that? It’s still a “real” wedding, but instead, I help build elopements that take couples to the place or experiences where they built their relationship and life together. Hiking? Climbing? Kayaking? Mountain biking? A gorgeous spot not far from the start of the trail? With your closest loved ones, or, just by themselves? That’s what I love–where and how my couples elope is really just limited by their imagination! Ultimately, I want my business and my brand to be that beam of light in the field of wedding “sameness” that couples who don’t want something traditional can see, and know that there are SO many more options in how to get married. And that’s what I think I’m actually most proud of in my photography–is wrapping up an elopement day, and having the couple so relaxed, smiling, and happy with hearts full knowing the experience they built was *exactly right* for them as couple.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Haha! A week isn’t nearly long enough! 😀 But, seriously, Atlanta and the surrounds are amazing. In the summer, I’d for sure recommend a drink and some food on top of The Clermont Hotel. Sure, it has a little bit of a weird history, but the decor in the hotel is on POINT for the period, and the rooftop bar is funky and cool 🙂 In the winter or when the weather is bad, Ponce City Market is a great option instead (or, in addition to!) for a delicious meal to carry out, and a really rad experience being able to hop right off the Belt Line Trail for a refreshment! And especially now, with COVID-19 impacting our ability (and interest!) in being indoors, Atlanta’s closeness to great options to get outside and play is wonderful. Rent a kayak or inner tube for a few hours up the road in Roswell to go float the Chattahoochee River. Grab a picnic and head for a day hike along the Chattahoochee along beautiful trails in the National River corridor. Head up to Helen, and experience the fun of this cute, historic city. From there, check out some of the famed Appalachian Trail history at Mountain Crossings up in the North Georgia Mountains. There is so much to see and explore all around ATL! The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I absolutely have to recognize my husband, Pete, in my journey to my business today. He’s been my biggest supporter (aside from our daughter, of course! lol) When we married back in 2007, adventure elopements were NOT a thing. Not even remotely. Even still, with no inspiration from anywhere, really, we’d talked about the idea of doing something like a ceremony in the Utah desert with a few of our closest family & friends. Very much an adventure elopement by today’s standards, but definitely an unknown (and weird) idea back then! While that ended up to not work out, we had a beautiful, more traditional-leaning wedding. We balanced our love of outdoors & adventure with a honeymoon backpacking with some of our best buddies in the Grand Canyon. I think that seed of “what if” always stuck in the back of my mind, and our amazing experiences together out in the wilds across the years kept that seed nurtured in my life & photography. And so when I had that first adventure elopement experience, I knew it was right, and he knew it was right, and he was 100% supportive of making the leap into this new space. He’s been so patient with my endless chatter on awesome spots I want to go and scout, stories from my elopements, and helping me gear up for the adventures, even when he wishes he was coming out to adventure too! 🙂
Other: https://www.pinterest.com/makeadventurestories/ Email: Kate@MAKEAdventureStories.com
All images courtesy of MAKE / Adventure Stories Photography