5 things small business owners can do to set themselves up for success

By Michael Rangel – Guest Contributor

My favorite part of my job is speaking with small business owners across the U.S. Not only do they have awe-inspiring stories about how they started and grew their businesses, but they offer a refreshing candidness on what it takes to succeed as a business.

One Miami-based small business owner who I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know is Kristelle Boulos, founder of Kristelle Boulos Photography

When I caught up with Kristelle [pictured above], she shared personal stories and lessons about starting and growing her photography business. Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, or you’re planning your business’s next steps, her comments can help you improve yourself and your business. 

Let your business idea find you  

As any small business owner knows, starting a business is incredibly challenging, so I have a special appreciation for learning about what drives people to take the plunge of launching their own operation. When hearing about what inspired Kristelle to become a business owner, she shared:

“I was always an avid photographer. But once I reached a point where I had to choose a major at college, my parents encouraged me to choose a career — something that had more safety. I ended up picking a more business-focused major, and had a career in landscape architecture for seven years after graduating from college. 

“I got married in May 2019. It was the day of my wedding that I realized that I could have an impact on someone’s life and document something significant for someone. Then, one year later, the pandemic hit. Like a lot of people, I had the time to take a step back and reflect on my desires and direction in life. Of course, photography resurfaced.” 

Trust the numbers when weighing whether to pursue your small business full time 

In most industries, it can take months, if not years, for a business to generate a profit, let alone one that is big enough to live on. That’s why so many of the small business owners I speak with keep their day job while starting their business, and transition out of the job once the business can support them. Kristelle said:

“The moment I felt I was ready to quit my job was when my income as an employee matched the revenue I was doing with photography. That happened in September 2021, and I thought it was an outlier month. Then, in October, November, and December, I kept going above what I was making as an employee. At the end of the year, I looked at my business’ financial trends, and thought, ‘I need to trust the numbers and follow my passion.’” 

Be intentional about the work you choose to take on

When discussing her approach to finding and taking on clients, Kristelle stressed the importance of being intentional about how you spend your energy and resources in the early days of your company: 

“It’s easy to say yes to every opportunity that comes your way — more money is always good because it means you can invest more in your business. But the problem with that is that you have a finite amount of time in a day and you have to be selective. Which opportunities are you going to work on, and which are you going to say no to help you reach your goals faster?”

Make audacious goals that go beyond ‘getting more clients’

Kristelle’s goals for the upcoming year have very little to do with simply “getting more work,” and a lot more to do with building an ecosystem for her business that will truly add value to the people she works with. Kristelle said: 

“I want to start a podcast that would be an extension of photography, where I can share more of the stories that I capture. An image is worth a thousand words, and I want to dwell more on the stories and get a chance to connect more with my clients.”

She also discussed her desire to begin teaching entrepreneurship to others:

“I’m taking a course on how to create and launch a course. I would love to give a roadmap on starting a photography business, and make it into a course.”

Identify ways to improve your mindset

At the end of our conversation, we touched on what advice Kristelle would offer other small business owners — whether they are just starting out or have been at it for a few years. She commented:

“The best advice I can give is to work on your mindset. It’s going to unlock a lot of limited beliefs.

One aspect of my mindset that I have worked a lot on is what I like to call the ‘money mindset.’ How to make money doing something I love, or talking about money in general was uncomfortable for me, but as a business owner you have to be comfortable with that.” 

Related to mindset, Kristelle’s final comment focused on the need to trust your gut — particularly when you are making decisions around how to start and grow a company:

“Starting this business was going back to what I really desired, which was photography. Going

back to…what you desire is going to connect you to your ‘Why?’ You need that in order to be successful.”

Michael Rangel is the CEO and co-founder of Novo, a Miami-based fintech that offers award-winning checking accounts for small businesses. 

The photo at the top of this post is of photographer and business owner Kristelle Boulus. The photo is by Justine Berges Photography.