Derrick Bryant almost veered off the course that led him to business ownership. An inexpensive point and shoot camera put him back on track. Bryant now owns a successful photography business and is poised for big growth.
Here are details about his entrepreneurial journey and plans for expansion.
From early childhood until his early 20s, Derrick drew realism portraits & landscapes using graphite and comics with pen/ink. His biological father is an artist and some of Derrick’s siblings are musicians so the passion for art has always lived inside of Derrick. However, it was put on hold when the baseball bug bit.
“Baseball took over and I played in college. The drawing went to the back burner for a few years,” he says. “When I was 21, I picked up a pencil again, drew a comic and got back into art.”
In 2005, Bryant purchased his first digital camera to capture images he wanted to draw with pencil, charcoal and ink. He continued taking photographs, striving for as much realism and detail as possible. When he upgraded his camera, fate stepped in.
“I took a photo of July 4th fireworks and it went viral,” said Bryant. “I started getting contacted to photograph local events.”
Bryant had found his passion and launched Derrick Bryant Photography in 2010.
“I had a full time job so it was really scary to quit that and go out on my own. My wife has a job but we had a newborn baby and photography equipment is expensive.”
To keep costs down, Bryant opened his workspace in the garage of his house and started doing portraits of high school seniors and executives.
“It was a small, beat up garage without air conditioning,” said Bryant. “As you can imagine, it gets really hot in Texas. I would keep the door open between the house and the garage and blast the AC. It wasn’t professional.”
Despite the garage studio, Bryant’s business continued to expand and soon took over the dining room. Bryant and his wife purchased a new home but strong word-of-mouth recommendations spiked his client base and the business outgrew that space in two years.
“My wife is not a risk taker but she suggested I start looking for studio space,” he said. “I knew I’d need to get a business loan to make it happen.”
Before he found SmartBiz®, Bryant went the traditional route to try and secure a small business loan.
“I went to a bank and it was very difficult for me. I gave them all of my documents showing them where I started and where I am now. I explained that I needed funds to move into a studio or I could potentially go out of business.”
Although he was prepared and financially stable, the bank lowered the requested amount and ultimately said they couldn’t approve the loan.
Bryant is well connected in his community and asked for advice from another small business owner who had recently opened a new location for her bridal shop.
“At this time, I’d been trying to get funding to grow for years. She told me about SmartBiz so I checked it out.”
Bryant worked with his accountant to pull together the requested loan application documents and uploaded them to the secure SmartBiz online platform. Bryant secured an SBA loan through a SmartBiz bank partner with low rates and a 10-year term.
“The application was super convenient and easy and my Relationship Manager was constantly in touch. She gave me her number and said I could text anytime with questions. That definitely sped the process up.”
While he found the SBA loan process relatively simple, finding a studio to fit his needs turned out to be harder than he thought. After lots of looking, he came across one with a great location that had the artsy, modern vibe he’d been searching for.
“I walked in and immediately knew that this was it.”
A few coats of paint, new light fixtures and some minor improvements were all that was needed for the space to be camera-ready. Bryant moved in on April 1st 2018 and is planning to expand.
“Ninety nine percent of the time, I operate as a one-man-show,” he said. “For events or weddings I might have 1 or 2 people assist me but most of the time it’s all myself. I want to hire and create more jobs. I’d love to have a receptionist, hair stylist and make-up artist all in house.”
Although Bryant does shoot events, a lot of his work is for the corporate world and students preparing to graduate.
“I’ve been photographing high school seniors for a few years. The contract photographers do a quick 2-minute cap and gown photo. I give them a whole experience,” he says. “We treat each session like it’s a real magazine shoot complete with makeup and hair. They feel like models when we’re finished.”
At the end of the day, Bryant agrees that you have to have passion and a willingness to learn.
“I got into this all because of my art background,” he says. “That’s where my passion is and I was able to go from not knowing anything about business to running a company.”
There’s another component of his success that he speaks of proudly.
“Without my wife’s support, I wouldn’t be where I am today. When you’re trying to launch a business, you have to make sacrifices to help your dream come true. She’s made those sacrifices and is someone very special.”
In 2016 & 2017 Derrick Bryant Photography was awarded 2nd Place for Best Photography Studio in The Woodlands, Texas and recently won 1st Place for 2018 Best Photography Studio in The Woodlands. Check out Bryant’s portfolio on his website here and check out rave reviews from clients here.
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