Winning as an entrepreneur means THINKING DIFFERENTLY.
Who is Valerie Robinson?
What made you get started in your industry?
Which one? LOL. I am currently rocking out two lanes in the creative arts (Photography by Valerie) and digital media (Unapologetically Us).
As far as photography goes, I have always loved photography....long before I truly knew it. But never in a million years would I have believed that it would later stem into my very own business. I was literally a “mom with a camera”, but it was when I actually could not put it down, coupled with the level of self-care it brought me, that I knew it could be something deeper.
Unapologetically Us is a lifestyle, culture and wellness platform for black Generation X women. The site houses useful conversations that resonate in these particular times and phases of our lives. Additionally, our experiences can also help to bridge the gap between Millennial and Generation X women.
Walk us through the step-by-step process that you went through to get to where you are today. What was the first thing you did?
My age is showing, but I was big on film cameras. Wherever I went, everyone could always rely on me to document everything. My intention has always been to document, regardless of the technical stuff (which at the time I knew nothing about). When I had my first child, the film camera just wasn’t cutting it for me, mainly because I was taking the photos faster than I could develop them! And developing film is not cheap! The digital era was emerging, so things were getting more accessible. I invested in my first DSLR, which was a Nikon D40x off of eBay. It was not the fanciest of cameras, nor did I have any more than 2 lenses to interchange on it...BUT I studied the hell out of it. I think I may have rocked with my D40x for a couple of years before upgrading to the Nikon D90 (which I still love to this day). Shoutout to all my friends and family who willingly and patiently let me practice on them! The most important lesson out of all this is that I studied that manual and scoured the web to learn everything there was to know about my DSLR. I learned and practiced techniques on my own until I hit a wall where I couldn’t self-teach anymore. At that point, I decided to invest in a beginners course with a veteran photographer...and it all clicked for me from there. I was using my camera in manual mode and felt all sorts of fancy!
Unapologetically Us began originally as a parenting community for black women, but I decided to expand into other areas, as there is much more ground to cover outside of motherhood. It initially began as a free WordPress site - simple enough. But as the brand has expanded over the last couple of years, I’ve had to upgrade significantly to a self-hosted platform with all the bells and whistles to safely house and effectively market the growing content.
What do you consider are your specialties?
Photography by Valerie specializes in lifestyle and headshot photography, with a sprinkle of weddings. Unapologetically Us focuses on lifestyle, wellness and society/culture.
Do you see yourself making this full-time?
That would be a dream! It is most definitely on my vision board, but I am not quite there yet. I believe, I believe!
What can we always expect from your company/brand?
With each brand, one can expect consistency and authenticity. Neither are in a box, so you never truly know what you’re going to get as far as new content. I pour so much into PBV and UU, and the primary focus has always been about the customer/target audience.
What was the best advice you every received and why?
The best piece of advice I’ve received is to enjoy every step of the journey - the good, bad and in-between. It is also important to exercise gratitude for what is, a well as what is to come. Run your own race. Even further, rock your lane! Lastly, never stop learning. Industries are ever-changing...stay on top of your game and don’t be afraid to invest in yourself!
What tips can you recommend that you’d most likely only share with a close friend or comrade on success?
Favorite online resources such as Evernote or Dropbox that you use for your business?
Can you recommend one or two books that have been influential in your life?
What can we expect from you and your company/brand in the next 5 years?
More voices, personal projects and video content! I’m working on it - stay tuned!
What do you think will be the next big change or shift in your industry?
Photography is simply timeless. While digital is amazing, many are still lovers/believers in film and printing out photos. Hands down, video and podcasting are the next big things in media. I’m coming up on the 1-year anniversary of The Unapologetic Podcast, and it is not as easy as I initially thought!
If a young entrepreneur walked up to you asking for your advice and you only had a few minutes to give ‘em your best tip, what would it be?
Know your why: Remember what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and who you’re doing it for. Honing in on your why keeps you centered and motivated in your labor of love.
How do you define a legacy and what are you doing right now to create one?
An amazing legacy is leaving things better than you found them. It is what people say about you long after you are gone - how you’ve made them feel. The best way to create your legacy is in not being selfish with your gifts and knowledge. That’s the goal.
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