Written by Andrew Seale
Sherika Harris is a personable girl. But after a few sessions with her mentor at Summer Company, an entrepreneurship training and funding program jointly supported by the City of Toronto and the province of Ontario, she realized befriending her subjects wasn’t necessarily her role as a professional photographer.
“I go to people’s homes and take pictures of their babies,” she says. “So they want to feel you’re a professional.”
It was a new way of looking at her role as a photographer, something she’d always wanted to build a business around but didn’t know how to get started. Harris came across Summer Company while researching options online and though she didn’t make it into the cohort she applied to the previous summer, she clinched a spot this past summer.
“I got into a different program (last year),” says Harris. Through it, she learned the basics of building a business plan and marketing herself, but it wasn’t until she joined Summer Company that she really started applying the skills she’d developed.
“Summer Company pushes you out there (to) start your business,” she says. “When I would go to the mentoring sessions and group sessions with the Summer Company it was good to be reminded of all the things I’ve learned and now I actually have that time to apply it.”
Through one-to-one mentorship she started to brush up on etiquette for dealing with clients like sending thoughtful emails as opposed to texting as well as making sure to present herself in a professional manner with clients. She also received funding to help build out her marketing materials like her website and logo and set up a consistent invoice to use with clients.
“(We created) a budget beforehand we had to follow… if it was up to me I probably would’ve just spent it all on equipment,” says Harris with a laugh. “But it pushed me to be structured and spend my money wisely.”
Since completing the Summer Company program required a certain time commitment, Harris found her rhythm in a way she’s not sure she would’ve without the structure.
“If it was on my own time I probably would’ve just found a little bit of time here and there to work on it but because Summer Company required certain things (it) made me become a little more disciplined and a little more structured,” she says. “It taught me how to be a better entrepreneur versus just an amateur doing a hobby.”