Episode 175 – Do You Feel Like Growing Up Poor Has Held Your Photography Business Back? How Shelby Overcame Her Circumstances.

How Shelby Overcame Her Circumstances


Photography Business Institute
Photography Business Institute

Sarah Petty: Shelby Horvath had to put her education as an art teacher on hold when the pandemic hit.

That’s when she transitioned into photography.

Making only 200 bucks a session, her relationships started to suffer because she had no free time.

Then she became boutique and quickly got two big clients who invested $1,649 and $3,305.

Welcome, Shelby! What does your backstory look like?

Shelby Horvath: I live in Ohio and I grew up dirt poor.

I moved out of my house as soon as I turned 18 with my fiancé.

He grew up with a very similar situation.

We bought our mobile home for five grand and other than that, we had $0 in our bank account when we moved in.

I went to college on full scholarships and worked really hard, but definitely did not come from any kind of money at all.

Sarah Petty: At this point, what was your dream coming out of high school?

What were you telling yourself about how to build a life when you didn’t have an example in front of you of how to save or how to be a cash creator?

Shelby Horvath: I was obsessed with the idea of not being poor as an adult.

My senior year of high school, I worked at Dunkin Donuts from 4:00 AM to 8:00 AM.

I went to school from 8:30 to 2:30.

And I was in a billion extracurriculars, but then I would go back to work at Dunkin Donuts from 5:00 PM to 10:00 PM.

I’d get two hours of sleep after doing all my college course homework, and then I would drive halfway asleep back to Dunkin Donuts and try and make some money.

When I graduated high school, I Doordashed, Grubhubed, managed a Dollar General, and I had about 28 hours worth of college classes a week.

So I was working almost 60 hours at Dollar General a week, but I wanted to make sure that my fiancé and I could have the money for the life that we want.

Sarah Petty: I love that you had those conversations.

You were truly working so hard at the expense of your health, which sometimes in the short term you have to do that.

I hope you’ve learned through all of this that you don’t have to work that hard.

Hard work doesn’t equal big money.

You were going to go to college to be a teacher?

Shelby Horvath: I went to my community college and had a full scholarship to go.

I have my associates in universal art and did all kinds of student teaching.

And my last two months before I graduated, COVID hit really hard, completely got kicked out of school.

We were all in online classes which was awful.

Sarah Petty: So what was your plan in COVID?

Shelby Horvath: I freaked out.

I was still managing that Dollar General and we were considered essential workers, so I never got a day off in COVID.

I finished college, but there was no way I’m going to find a job as an art teacher. 

I knew with COVID, the first thing to get hit was the art classes.

Sarah Petty: How did you find me and Boutique Breakthrough?

Shelby Horvath: In college, I absolutely fell in love with film photography.

I got my digital camera and I started self-teaching myself everything with the little knowledge that I had from my intro to film photography class.

I started taking pictures for free, just kind of learning whatever I could.

After about a year of doing that, I started to really grow in my photography business.

But at that point, I was still digital and people were paying me $75 to give them millions of pictures.

I found you in January.

But at the end of last year, I was like, I need a studio.

My niche is boudoir and babies.

I needed somewhere to work.

I was going through all these articles, trying to find the pros and cons of having a photography studio, and I came across Sarah.

And Sarah said, “Don’t get a studio unless you’re making a ton of money.”

And I was like, ugh, no, she can’t know anything.

So I completely closed out of it, and I was like, I’m never looking at Sarah Petty ever again.

And I got a photography studio.

And I will say don’t get a photography studio unless you’re making a ton of money because it was just way too much work.

Sarah Petty: That’s an expensive lesson, because I think you pay for education one way or another.

Shelby Horvath: At this point, I’m a few months into owning my studio and throughout Christmas, it was amazing.

I had so many Christmas boudoir sessions.

And I was making money.

Then January came, and I had no money.

Now I have to pay for the studio every month and I started  looking for answers again.

This is the fifth time I was trying to find how to make money being a photographer.

And I found Sarah again, and I joined Boutique Breakthrough because I knew that it was the answer.

Sarah Petty: How did you justify investing that money in yourself?

You’re coming off some debt from the studio and you don’t want to go back to the place of not having any money.

Shelby Horvath: It was really hard.

Life is an equation.

This equation I was plugging into wasn’t working.

I dabbled in a few of your small courses and just with the small things I was learning so much.

I figured out I was missing puzzle pieces and I needed the next step.

I had a really serious talk with my fiancé, and I said, “Look, I really think I need to join this.”

And he said no, and I did it anyway because I was like, I need to do it.

And it worked out for the better.

Sarah Petty: So he said, no, out of love, right?

He’s trying to protect you.

But you knew that if you had all the puzzle pieces, because you’re such an action taker, that you would put them together and make a puzzle.

When did you tell him?

Shelby Horvath: I was like, “Hey, I’m going to do this anyway and I need you to trust me.”

I joined in March and I found you in January.

So I spent a couple months really honing in on your lessons and your morals, and I really got interested in you.

I spent a lot of time researching before I did it.

Sarah Petty: I love it.

So you jump in, you start doing it.

What happened then?

Shelby Horvath: It was so hard because I just felt so much resentment on his end because there was just no money coming in from me.

But then I got my first Julie, a client order of $1k or more, and I was like, “Look At what I did. I’m bringing in money. I can do this.”

My first Julie was $1,649.

It was a boudoir session and she bought an album.

It was the best session I ever had still to this date.

And I immediately called him crying.

I was like, “I did it.”

And his response actually was, “It’s not going to happen again.”

And then it started happening again.

Sarah Petty: And he’s trying to protect you from getting your hopes up, especially with your backgrounds.

He’s trying to be realistic with you, right?

Because he doesn’t see this possibility.

So you went on and you got then the next Julie.

What did you say?

Shelby Horvath: My next Julie was $3,305.

It was a pair of besties for a boudoir session.

I doubled my first Julie.

Now he’s finally on board and gets it now.

Going through Boutique Breakthrough was really difficult, and it was a lot of hard work.

It wasn’t instant success for me.

I had to completely rebrand my business and I did everything from start to finish.

Sarah Petty: This is amazing.

You could have spent way more on the next two years of college and two years of your life.

And you’re just a couple months in and you’re already making this money back.

You started Boutique Breakthrough in March, and it’s June.

So really, even though it feels like it’s slow, that’s actually pretty dang amazing.

Shelby Horvath: Now I know I can confidently say that I’m going to have a really good fall season.

Sarah Petty: Absolutely.

Because of the marketing you do every day.

It’s not just one off one and done.

It’s layers.

So how do you feel now about looking at where you’ve come and what your outlook on money and abundance is going to be for the two of you moving forward?

Shelby Horvath: I feel amazing.

When I first started my photography business, I was kind of picking little things from my other photographers in the area.

And I just didn’t feel like what I was doing was genuine or special.

Now, I feel like there is just so much confidence in saying what I do is so special, and no one around me does what I do.

There’s just so much happiness and love for what I genuinely do.

Sarah Petty: Shelby, thank you for being here.

You are amazing, and you’re going to build an amazing career.

Download the Episode Transcript Here

Do You Feel Like Growing Up Poor Has Held Your Photography Business Back? How Shelby Overcame Her Circumstances.
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