By: Tori Berube, MFF Director of Marketing & Outreach
One of the things an entrepreneur is most likely to tell you is they are passionate about their business. For some, this “passion” may mean that their business doesn’t actually feel like “work.” For some, the “passion” may mean taking a hobby and turning it into a full-fledged business. For one of our most recent MFF Fellows, a new entrepreneur herself, it’s both of these!
Aspiring photographer Stephanie LeClerc can often be found exploring her hometown of Manchester, NH with her best friend walking – day or night – down streets, through alleys, in parks and over bridges – a town rich in history with beautiful mill buildings and an aptly named main thoroughfare named Elm Street. With a keen eye for “seeing how everything can be beautiful in its own way, depending how you look at it”, Stephanie began documenting her travels as a hobby by taking photos with her smartphone.
Encouraged by her best friend, Stephanie created an Instagram account, Qapturing the Queen City, and began posting her photos. One of her posted photos happened to be the exterior of one of Manchester’s newest restaurants, Diz’s Café. Here’s where the story gets interesting. Diz’s Cafe is owned and operated by Morgan Franklin Fellowship’s Executive Director Judi Window.
Judi happened to see the photo on her Instagram feed. In today’s age of social media (and in the midst of a pandemic), Judi reached out to the owner of the Instagram page and began an ongoing, somewhat anonymous dialogue using the hashtag “mystery”.
This dialogue continued for a few weeks. Teasing Judi a bit more, Stephanie posted a picture of a Diz’s meal while Judi happened to be in the restaurant! Supersleuth Judi turned to her investigative skills and researched who purchased that particular meal, and lo and behold, the online “mystery” was solved. Not only did a friendship begin, so did a valuable mentorship!
Judi asked Stephanie to take a photo of Diz’s Cafe to hang on the restaurant’s wall. And Stephanie did – with her smartphone. When it was clear Stephanie was in need of a new camera and a laptop for editing her work (taking her hobby to the next level), her parents purchased a used camera and a new laptop to help Stephanie develop her passion. As Stephanie’s birthday approached, friends and family gifted her money towards the purchase of a new camera to keep her inspired. Stephanie is a “learn-by-doing” learner – figuring out how to edit photos on her own – but she also took Photoshop courses at Manchester’s Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications to learn more about how to edit and produce her work for display.
Stephanie’s first large-scale artwork sale is her Diz’s Café photo, taken with her new camera! When it was time for Judi to process the payment for this beautiful piece of art, Stephanie was unaware of how to process her business’ first sale. Mentor Judi sat with Stephanie at the Diz’s Cafe window (the black and white photo), and guided Stephanie through the process of opening her own LLC with the state of New Hampshire, and thus, “Qapturing the Queen City” became a legal entity!
As a new business owner, Stephanie is using all her resources to learn what she needs to do to formalize – and grow – her business. Some of these tasks include creating business goals (we love that one of her goals is to have all of the businesses around the restaurant having one of her photos hanging in their establishment!), developing her business and marketing plans, developing her clientele through networking and partnerships, creating contracts/written agreements for clients, and creating a structure for financial documents and reporting.
Somewhere along the way, Stephanie found the time to become an MFF Fellow by mastering our Standards of Financial Literacy (SFL) course. With the skills she learned in the SFL course, Stephanie is not only well-positioned to manage her personal finances, but to also take additional coursework to supplement her learning as an entrepreneur. And she has developed meaningful mentorship relationships, including one with our own Judi, to help guide her on her way. Congratulations, Stephanie!
To read more of Stephanie’s story, click here.