We had the good fortune of connecting with Renee Jael and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Renee, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
When I graduated from college in 2009 there weren’t many jobs available however I worked as a hostess and continued to pursue becoming a registered dietician. During that time, even though I loved the career path I chose I realized I had creative gifts that needed to be pursued. It wasn’t until after leading a bible study on the parable of the talents that I realized-I didn’t want to be the one that hid out of fear. Right then I decided I would build a life with three goals in mind: to build a life using my creativity, give into missions and help young women in the same things that helped me! Immediately, I went on what I call “creative discovery” where I just tried everything! But it wasn’t until 2013 that I began learning photography. During this time I was also preparing to go to Mexico for six weeks to learn how to be a missionary. So of course I took my camera! I didn’t have plans on starting a business until later in life but even though missions was what was right in front of me, I didn’t give up on nurturing my skills. Upon coming back from Mexico, I continued shooting, taking on clients while also, working at Banana Republic and my church which is where I learned a lot of the administrative skills I use today. It got to be a lot doing all three so after some time I left BR and focussed on photography and being an admin. After 3 years of working as an admin, that summer I went on a missions trip as a co-lead to Nicaragua. And it’s there It all changed for me. The host told us about the opportunity to be an intern for 3 months and If I’m being honest I resolved that I was not going because I had something in Atlanta, I didn’t want to leave! But on the very last day at the school, the host said you can intern for a month and right then I felt in my heart that I was supposed to and once I returned I would start my business full time. It turned out the internship was 3 months but I’d already given my yes and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. That was 3 years ago and I’ve been a full time photographer ever since!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a fine art photographer and stylist! I also have a deep passion for inspiring others through quotes via graphic design through my new start up, Brave Beautiful Free Co. Ultimately my company is about-telling beautiful, authentic stories that leaves you inspired to keep seeing the beauty in your story. I want everyone to be captivated by their images, joy, and authenticity. When I’m behind the camera, I help people feel comfortable, bring the best out of them and their story! That is a huge part of why I am so drawn to the fine art style. There’s just something about it that is captivating. The dreamy tones, textures and light draws you in to know more about the beauty behind it. Though I know my business will continue to evolve, I’m currently obsessed with it. I believe that I am giving my clients a grand experience because of the high touch experiences I offer beginning with my style course which teaches them all about style, and prepares them for their session. I take the time to get to know them and create a comfortable, fun experience for the day of their session. The process in getting their authentic emotions is very organic but also very intentional which amazes them everytime. But my favorite is that no matter what session they book-they will not only have images that truly tell their story digitally, they will have prints or albums too. Something they can both feel, touch and pass on. It has taken a lot of time to get here but It was so worth all the work in getting things to this point. In 2020, I finally decided to go for it and incorporate all the things I was passionate about but of course my plan took a hit. So I had to overcome the challenges that came with COVID-19. It was during quarantine that I created a style studio in my room to share content to keep inspiring my clients and audience. But, while I began creating a photography course to support my business, I realized I didn’t have everything I needed to finish it. However, I knew I could create a style course and that’s where it made the difference for me. I could create an even more unique experience for my clients when they came to me. Along the way I’ve learned that everything takes time, most things take longer than expected and my skills are made for specific people who need what I have to offer. One of the most valuable lessons I learned while building my company is that I don’t have to stay in a box, I can be an expert in what I am deeply passionate about. It can all work together because it is meant to. I just needed a strategy that would translate well and now I see that it absolutely does! I would want people to know about me and my company is that I understand them. I may not have had the same experiences in life as them but I know what it’s like to have good times, hard times and loss but no matter what season they’re in I can still help them show up beautifully and translate the beauty in their story with what I have to offer. Whether that is through photography, styling or giving them inspiration, I can help bring beauty into their lives, both inwardly and outwardly.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’m originally from Trinidad and Tobago so If my best friend in Trini were to come visit with me-I’d take her to Ponce City Market, The Avalon, The shops at Buckhead and an outlet mall because shopping is a must! Since Atlanta is so diverse in flavor-i’d definitely recommend Korean BBQ, or Antico’s Pizza which is my personal favorite. I love being outdoors so visiting parks around Atlanta are some of my favorite things to do-A walk or bike ride down the Beltline is a great way to get a feel of Atlanta, there’s so much around there including Ponce City Market, restaurants along the way and Piedmont park. For a hand crafted beverage I’d definitely take her to Gilly Brewing Co. It’s so much more than coffee, everything there is an experience and the plus is you can also get something from Apple Butter Bakery. Though really simple another cool experience is driving through the city at night after getting a meal from the original chick fil a which is south of the city-the lights are so pretty to see! It’s simple but it’s a good time for sure.
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’ve had quite a few people mentor me on my journey but during my time working at my church as an admin, my boss at the time, Amber, who is also my dear friend was pivotal in helping me develop into who I am today and in the work that I do. She challenged me to think outside the box on the job, and in my business. Even back then she saw the fullness of what my company would be way before I did. The more I leaned into those challenges, how I was gifted I thrived. I also believe that the more I grow personally the more my business grows and her presence in my life, her ability to love and lead me was huge in helping me grow into the business woman I am today.
Other: https://www.pinterest.com/reneejael email: email@example.com
Honey and Clay Photography (for the shot of me in white suit) All other images are mine: Renee Jael + Co