Gabriel Flores 0:01
Hello, everyone, and welcome to the shades of entrepreneurship. This is your host, Mr. Gabriel Flores. Today I am here with the owner of M Martinez photos. How're you doing?
Mika Martinez 0:13
I'm fantastic. Thanks for asking. I'm
Gabriel Flores 0:15
so excited because we've been we've been actually chatting, right? We've been talking a little bit. And so I'm really excited for this first question, because we kind of started talking about a little bit, introduced the world to him, Martinez,
Mika Martinez 0:27
and Martinez. Well, I was born to two teenagers in Garden Grove, California. And when I was born, my parents really wanted to make sure that I had every opportunity to be successful in American society. My belief, though, my grandfather on my father's side came from Mexico. And so my name had a lot of thought put into it, that give me an English name, Michelle. And for many years, I was known by that name, but actually I go by Mikaela, which is the Spanish version of my name or mica for short.
Gabriel Flores 1:07
Nice. So So give us a little background. Were you originally from Oregon? Or were you
Mika Martinez 1:12
my father was in the army. So I moved around every three and a half years. It was quite an experience. But I was exposed to a lot of different people, ideas, cultures, and I'm really thankful for that. That being said, we settled in Washington when I was a teenager. And so I, I graduated from there. Nice. I'm fiercely independent. And so by the time I graduated, I had already been living on my own for about a year. Oh, nice.
Gabriel Flores 1:43
Nice. So let's let's talk about the Martinez photo, which it's not just photos, right? So let's, let's tell the tell the audience what all is it?
Mika Martinez 1:55
Well, um, Martinez photo stemmed from this desire to create connections, and really make memories and really focus on an experience. I used to work in corporate photography for many years. And that was really the basis of my education, in photography overall. And so when I left that industry, I decided that I really wanted to create a business that was not so much based around a need for photos, but a memory and an experience and really a connection with those that I was working with. Now, I work with people who want to who really want to be working with me. And I'm excited to tell their story and create that moment. In addition to personal sessions and events that I photograph. I also create personal projects, art projects, that are focused around creating more representation and changing narrative in media, around body positivity. The list on what that goes on is pretty vast. And then the third part of M Martinez photo is I am a teacher. So I am now sharing my knowledge and experience with young creators. Nice.
Gabriel Flores 3:16
What exactly do you teach?
Mika Martinez 3:17
I teach photography, or studio, Latino, and also young audiences and right brain.
Gabriel Flores 3:24
Awesome. That is great. So how did how did you start this business? Is this business like an LLC, a C Corp, S Corp.
Mika Martinez 3:31
So I have been a photographer for more than 20 years. And when I decided that I wanted that I didn't want to be in corporate photography anymore. That was not really my my scene. And I left, I hadn't really thought about photography as a business until I started creating my own thing and realizing that I don't have to form my business. Like the business that I had been in before. I didn't have to focus so much on numbers and sessions, but more or less on those connections that I was talking about. And so I would say for about the past seven years, I was just an artist for hire. And then I recently registered my business within the past, you know, three years. And now I am an LLC.
Gabriel Flores 4:32
Nice, nice and why did you decide to go the kind of that route? Why did you decide to finally you know what, I'm going to be a certified business.
Mika Martinez 4:39
Oh, my goodness. As a as an artist for hire. I learned a lot of hard lessons. Okay. One of them being I lost my hard drive. Oh,
Gabriel Flores 4:53
I've done that before on my podcast. And that's yeah, it's devastating. I'm sorry. Sorry. Yeah, so
Mika Martinez 5:02
some of the work was able to be recovered, but a lot of it wasn't and thinking about my business and long term and not just at that moment of I'm photographing this person or this event, but what are we doing with this? You know, five years from now 10 years from now, and really just starting to think about photography as a business. Yeah.
Gabriel Flores 5:30
Yeah. Even like the podcasts, trying to think about it as a business has been interesting.
Mika Martinez 5:38
Taking any kind of art and turning it into a business is different than creating a product that you're trying to put out there and sell
Gabriel Flores 5:45
yep, I in fact, it's kind of funny, you say that I a former guest of on horse, I actually reached out to him this morning, like, you know, you've been doing very well about putting out products. I'm very foreign to put out a product in production and actually, you know, selling it, how do you do this? Yeah, I want to I want to kind of learn more now. Is this your first business?
Mika Martinez 6:03
Well, when I was younger, I was an independent contractor for another business. It was a phone consulting, and I again, learn lessons. I learned them that accounting, getting an accountant is so important. And that was actually one of the things that I was apprehensive about to start and Martinez photo for many years. Because I didn't know if that was something that I was wanting to invest in in that way. Do I really want to invest in things like having an accountant? Yes. and
Gabriel Flores 6:43
QuickBooks? Yeah. That's not cheap. No, I know. And it's kind of interesting, because you know, I'm in this kind of in this growing process right now. And I'm like, man, just kind of stick with Excel. Now, what has been kind of difficult this transition from corporate? Or first actually, let me ask, why did you decide to go from corporate photography to independent?
Mika Martinez 7:08
Well, when I was doing corporate photography, the model of that industry didn't necessarily allow me to connect with people. And I had worked my way up through that company, through those companies to a point where I was a district Training Manager, I was going around to other studios, and not only training their associates and their managers, but really working on their, their photography. And I didn't feel like a photographer. It took the joy out of it. And I remember someone telling me that, like, I had no soul. She says, All I cared about were numbers and hitting goals. And that hurt. I
Gabriel Flores 7:54
bet. I'm sorry, that's rough. You
Mika Martinez 7:57
know, but that's what that that's what that corporation, that's what that industry does. And that's, that's not something that I, that fed my soul. And so one of the things that I think about with success, and photography, specifically, is that when I started, I had this idea of what a photographer was, if you're a professional photographer, you work in a studio, you make this much money, and you have all these clients. And that may be true for some photographers, but that doesn't have to be true for all professional photographers. And when I left that industry, I had the opportunity to explore art, I had the opportunity to work with organizations, and really express stories that I didn't have the opportunity to do before. And the reason I got into corporate photography is because I didn't have access to a camera, and I wanted to be a photographer. And so if I wanted to be a photographer, I had to get a job somewhere. And you had to start somewhere. And that was where I started.
Gabriel Flores 9:08
Yeah, that's, that's a great, great point, you know, where you kind of do have to start somewhere. And let's, let's kind of talk about the difficulties of it. Because it sounded like, you know, when you're starting a photography, you didn't have a camera. So you started a business. Right? Let's, let's talk about the difficulties first, you know, starting in the corporate America and then starting your own business.
Mika Martinez 9:29
So, working in corporate America, first of all, I graduate, living on my own, since before graduating didn't necessarily allow me the ability to be formally educated. So I had to learn on the job, which is part of where I got all of my pitfalls. As an artist, when I was with somebody who, whose father was a Canon brand ambassador, and so this was my first access to You have cameras and photography, and thinking about it as, as a profession, and not because his father was a professional photographer, but because we were working with professional equipment. And I got to view it in a completely different way. Yeah. And when that relationship ended, so did my accent. So and I wanted to learn I wanted this was something I was excited about. And every photography position that I took, gave me more knowledge and confidence to be able to create my business now, when I left the industry, I was disillusioned, I was like, I'm done with photography. And I remember a friend being like, but you love this, and you have this I, you can't be done with it. And so they gifted me a camera. Nice. And so with that camera, I just started exploring the art again, and discovering what is it that I like? And if this is something that I want to make a business, how can I make this a business and still feed my soul in ways that are nourishing? Yeah.
Gabriel Flores 11:14
What about what was the difficult part about transitioning out of corporate America and kind of being your own independent sole proprietor?
Mika Martinez 11:24
I didn't know what to charge. Ah, yeah, I didn't know. There was a lot that I didn't know. And I'm thankful to my friends and family and people who really just believed in me, and were like, hey, I need my family's photos taken. Will you just come take them? And I was like, I'm still new at this. That's okay. Come on. Yeah. And I built those relationships and came away feeling like, Hey, this is something that I can do.
Gabriel Flores 11:55
I like it. What? What, you know, one of the things we're talking about, you know, you started in the beginning of your parents gave you a specific name, right. Michelle, to kind of be successful. We also talked about previously we were sorry, sorry, recording, they talked about you know, I'm a Latino, right? No, not a Hispanic I'm a Latino. Hispanic was a word that was created back in the 1960s by the by the United States government, right to differentiate us from individuals from Spain. Now, you mentioned Euro Chicana. What are some difficulties in the business role in that area?
Mika Martinez 12:29
Part of why my business is m Martinez photo is because one there is that back and forth about my name, I go by Mikaela mica for short. Because I really want to embrace my culture. And it makes me feel closer to my ancestors. And that's the name that I identify with. Being a female photographer in this industry, people have ideas of what you're capable of or what to expect. And I found that by going by M Martinez, people looked at my work unless it my gender, and I felt like I don't want to say not judged, but like, I had more opportunity.
Gabriel Flores 13:24
Yeah. That's, that's difficult. I think that's one thing that throughout the world, I think, and even the corporate settings, too, right? Oh, yeah. It's sad when you tend to feel you're getting overlooked because of the seven second rule. Right? For this first seven seconds, they're gonna make they're gonna make a assumption about you in the first seven seconds. What about has there been anything easy? So this process
Mika Martinez 14:00
I don't know if I would say necessarily easy, but there are moments of celebration. Nice. And celebration for me is feeling like I'm growing as an artist. Like I am making that difference like I'm moving forward. I don't think that I would have started my business without the support of my friends telling me go bigger go home. Like this is something you do, you're good at it, you're you're you you know it and offering me the support to be able to make this happen. If it wasn't for organizations like miso or mercy Corp, I wouldn't know about having to get an accountant or about some of these legal forms that I need to be using as a as an artist as a photographer. And I'm very thankful for for that. So I would say the the celebrations I wouldn't call them easy But I would definitely say that they're there.
Gabriel Flores 15:03
And so where do you see the business going? Where do you where do you project in the next five years.
Mika Martinez 15:10
And the next five years, I would like to
I'd like to be still be teaching, I think I want to invest more in teaching and supporting young creators. In sharing their voice, I want to be working with organizations that are making a difference in our community. And I definitely still want to be photographing people, I don't ever imagine that changing.
Gabriel Flores 15:53
So you know, you mentioned wanting to work with, you know, other organizations, why is it so important to you to ensure you're working with organizations that are kind of constantly working with our community?
Mika Martinez 16:02
Well, I feel as a photographer, it's my responsibility to be aware of the story that I'm telling with my images. There, it's not my story to tell, particularly when I'm working with organizations, like, don't see Portland or Fridays for freedom, making sure that the narrative that we're sharing is authentic to them, and true to the message that they want to be pushing forward. And when I think about where I want to be in the next five years, I really want to teach ethical photography, not just within our community, but in a larger
Gabriel Flores 16:40
Yes. And I think that's, that's pretty novel, right? I think that's something that needs to probably be highlighted a little bit more. In fact, I would love to kind of hear what would what what, how do you define that?
Mika Martinez 16:52
Ethical photography comes in a lot of different folds, depending on what it is that you're doing. One of the things that I teach my students is our very first rule is if you're going to photograph someone or someone's things, you have to ask permission, okay. Consent is important, since is very important. In addition to that, I want to be making sure that people know, when you are photographing someone, it's not just that moment, but how is how you're using that image is going to impact them later.
Gabriel Flores 17:26
Yes, that's a great point. Because there's so often, you know, you get these images where they're skewed, right? Because maybe they're at a unique angle, which is unfavorable or favorable, right to the individual that's been photoed. I can tell you, quite honestly, right now, I never take a photo with my phone, like looking up under my chin, because it looks like I have five chins. That's those those are the things you don't do I see what you mean by that. Now? How do you see it kind of person? How How do you like an envision your students to ask that kind of, Hey, can I take a photo of you? And this is what I plan to do? Like, how? How do would you structure them to ask that?
Mika Martinez 18:07
Well, it's being very mindful of what we're going to be photographing to go into it, in general. So right now, my students are working on a project about what their after school program means to them, the sun school program means to them. And so one of the topics was teachers. And so when we went to do that, they had to ask the teachers and tell them that this is for a project that they're doing about sun school, this way they know why it's being photographed. And it gets them in that mindset of thinking about the purpose behind the image, and not just taking a picture,
Gabriel Flores 18:43
and the confidence of going up to somebody and speaking with them. And I think that's huge, too. That's awesome. So what would you say, you know, what advice would you kind of give your younger self going through this process? Looking back on everything that you have gone through? What advice would you give your younger self?
Mika Martinez 19:06
You make your own business and you define success. Your business doesn't have to look like anybody else's. And you don't have to be anything specific. That's expected. All you have to be is you.
Gabriel Flores 19:27
Beautiful. Would you give that same advice to the young ladies or young photographers or, you know, other individuals, younger entrepreneurs that same advice, or what advice would you give them?
Mika Martinez 19:38
Absolutely. Your business doesn't have to look like anybody else's. You can make that business model and create it in ways that are important to you. I think about my family and this idea growing up of what success meant. Yeah. And how do we define it in regards to money Wealth status. And I can see where and why they think that way because of the society that we live in. But that doesn't necessarily mean that I define it that way, or I have to live that same way. I would say that I am a successful photographer being published and sharing my work across the country. But do I have the success that they would have thought that I would have achieved as a doctor? Probably not. And that's okay. Yeah,
Gabriel Flores 20:35
yes, it is.
Mika Martinez 20:36
And I think that that's what I would want to remind people is that that's okay. Just because you don't achieve success in one way doesn't necessarily mean that you're not
Gabriel Flores 20:46
successful. That is beautifully stated. I could not agree more. Speaking of your art for the folks at home, where can they find it? Where they can they find you on social media on the websites on the intro net?
Mika Martinez 20:59
Where are you at on the internet on the interwebs you can find me at M Martinez photo.com That is my website. You can also find me on Instagram is m dot Martinez photo. I share a lot of my personal projects there and some of my photo adventures from my travels. So those are different art pieces that are for sale. And then on Facebook, I do have a Facebook page it's m dot Martinez photo,
Gabriel Flores 21:27
I like it and for those at home again M Martinez photos please check it on Instagram again, most of those things that you mentioned are for sale. So if you liked some of the pieces by all means please pick some up. For those interested please visit me on the shades of e.com or you can visit Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Thank you and have a great night.