We had the good fortune of connecting with Kimber Johansen Williams and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kimber, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
After graduating High School, I actually had no intentions of starting my own business. I registered for college and I KNEW I was on my way to climbing the corporate ladder and working corporate America for life. Ah, yes. I was a naïve one. After scoring what seemed to be an amazing job straight out of college, I learned that corporate life wasn’t for me. I realized that within the walls of my own office I felt trapped, stuck and ultimately a number on a payroll list that didn’t have much creative freedom to create my own role. I realized I needed to be outside, working face to face with people, not over the phone. I needed some serious color in my life. I grabbed a camera and I went to work. I wanted a career that was not defined by an office space or the slacks I wore to work, but my efforts, my goals and my dedication.
Starting my own business to me meant flexibility. My friends and family would tell you that flexibility is key in my life because it isn’t unheard of that I book an international flight on a Friday and leave that evening for a little 72 hour jaunt. I like to go, see and do the unexpected. Life is about experiencing and making time for your loved ones. My family is everything to me, and a 60-70 hour work week doesn’t really leave a lot of time for that. I grew up with a stay at home mom and I find that to be one of the GREATEST influences I had growing up. I knew that if I ever decide to have children it would be important for me to have a career where I am the business and that my children could participate or come along with my if needed one day. I can schedule around my husband, family and even our dogs if I need to. The accomplishment and freedom of running your own business is something I wish everyone could feel inside them. My husband and I run this business together and that was another added benefit that I just LOVE!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
You know when you look at various photographers and they each have a different edit, color pallet, client base or a different story to tell through their images? I find that with mine I want to tell the REAL story. I want to see my clients show up in their photos as who they really are. I love capturing family members and couples together in a way that isn’t staged or an inaccurate depiction of their relationship. I want their images to reflect THEM, not me. I want them to be able to feel their emotions and laughter through the images when they look at them. I worked for years to perfect my “style” or my editing workflow and I believe that I have finally found the way to portray colors in a bold, beautiful and real way that also will withstand time and feel timeless on the walls of homes for years to come.
I’ve been shooting for a little over 7 years and feel as if I’ve gotten to where I am professionally through loyal clients who refer others to me, workshops, mentors and also industry friends that don’t even know the definition of competition, but that are just genuinely lights to all they touch. We live in a world of instant gratification and instant response thanks to social media. For me at times, this has been an unhealthy aspect of my business. I struggled for years with comparison and it wasn’t until I learned to just let go, be myself, shoot in a way that I wanted, I wanted to deliver the gallery that I was proud of and I finally started finding the happiness I always wanted out of my business. I’ve learned that numbers are just that – numbers. I would say more than half of my clients aren’t even on social media, but yet they show up year after year as loyal as can be. No amount of followers can beat that type of client loyalty. They trust me each year to deliver to them their best gallery yet. I want the world to know that Marissa Leland Photography is a brand built out of love. The MLP brand is for YOU. It’s for everyone. I want to connect with those who I pass in the grocery store and at the park while walking my dogs. Your story matters. Your family matters. I want to capture that and share with with you. We are growing and evolving every single day and work hard to continue to serve you in the best way we can. Not only as a client, but as a friend.
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.
Easy! Joy Macaroons for breakfast, lunch and dinner! That is totally acceptable right?! I mean, I feel like it is. Any time that any family comes in to visit, we LOVE to visit the West 7th district downtown in Fort Worth, stopping by Social House, Mash’d and Old Neighborhood Grill up the road near Magnolia. These all have my vote! Dog lover? Check out Mutts Dog Park/Bar! We love being able to bring our pups out for a night and hang out with the locals. My husband and I don’t drink but the company at Mutt’s can’t be beat. Would you want one of the best experiences, ever? Rise Soufflé in Clearfork never disappoints! The entire atmosphere is an experience within itself and I am such a fan. As much as I love walking around downtown, the typical spots I love to visit are the Bishop’s Art District in Dallas, The Painted Tree in North Richland Hills, and I love sharing that with visitors because it is such a great way to support local small business owners. That ALWAYS makes my heart happy and I feel it helps fuel a sense of community. Visiting from out of town? Come on over to my home and we will do our fried tacos bar. Yes, I said fried!
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?
Golly, this is so hard. Who deserves credit and recognition in my story? There are just so many! Truly, I wish I could shout it from a rooftop. Everyone does, down to those who simply like, share or comment on social media posts. Every encouraging word, thumbs up, referral, client who books and family who shows up those are the people that I would say deserve a shoutout to. I think, like many, I would attribute most of my success to my husband, family and undoubtedly my Heavenly Father. My husband since day one has believed in me. He is my number one supporter & the voice of all reason within our home. He keeps me grounded but also allows me to dream and reach for things that feel unsafe for him. Together, we’ve made a beautiful life together and a team. Not to mention, he is one of the greatest photographers I know. He is just extremely not into getting praise for his amazing talent. He works a full-time job with the benefits and security that sometimes being a photographer doesn’t come with. He’s also the “Leland” in Marissa Leland Photo!
I was raised in a home where there were no limits on what we could be when we grew up. My childhood career goals were to be a rodeo clown and a member of the US Coast Guard. My parents never told me that I couldn’t. Although I was never a super strong swimmer, I am not really sure the Coast Guard was for me. My dad is a dreamer and he instilled that in me by going after his dreams and owning several of his own businesses throughout my life. My dad is the hardest worker I know and he serves those around him. That is what I strive to do for my clients. I don’t just want to be a business transaction. I want to serve them. I want to add something to their life that wasn’t there before. I want them to feel the gift of family, love and emotion through their images. My mom in her mid 40s, after being a stay at home mom and attending nursing school, launched her own business and has never looked back. In my small hometown and surrounding states, her business, House of Jos, is known for their quality and amazing customer service. Two things that I have always found important in any business. We must give our clients what we would want or BETTER. She’s inspired me that it is never to late to find a passion. My siblings have been my models from day one. My brother would roll his eyes but it’s true without the 100’s of hours I have spent photographing them I wouldn’t be where I am today. All of my siblings are different, and we support each other ALL THE TIME. They are some of my best friends. I also know that without the love our Heavenly Father and through the gift prayer that I would be unable to run my business as God would have me run it. I’m not here for fame and fortune, I am here to capture the family. The family unit to me is one of God’s greatest creations and getting to capture the love within gives me a little sense of fulfillment like I am doing his work here on earth through this job. I know that through Him ALL things are possible and that each of us play a very important roll on this earth and need to find our purpose. A local mentor that I would suggest anyone reach out to would be Jessi Ingram. Her support, love and friendship have been so good for my soul since moving to DFW. Her work couldn’t be any more different from mine, but she is a professional who KNOWS how to capture emotion and connection. She is such a gift in my life!
Headshot: Provided by Carrie Ordonez