HI SWEETS! YOU'RE HERE FOR ANOTHER POST IN OUR BEHIND THE HOMEPAGE SERIES!
It's a badass weekly series that's equal parts coffee date (go ahead and refill your mug!) + meeting amazing ladies and all-the-parts real + inspiring.
So, cozy up + get to know the badass female entrepreneurs (and businesses) behind the homepage.
MEET JENN GAUDREAU
"I am Jenn. I am creative, sensitive, spiritual, driven, and my own version of badass. And I am the real female entrepreneur."
Lifestyle and brand photographer. Chicagoan. World traveler. Personal growth junkie. Badass woman.
But broad generalizations only get you so far, so let's cut the one- and two-word descriptors and dive into our favorite part ... really getting to know Jenn.
From an international trip to India to moving halfway across the country, Jenn's story is a reminder to constantly be in search of your best life at every crossroad. Like Jenn says, relax, breathe, trust.
Mmkay. Deep breath. Let it out. You've got this.
BEFORE WE DIVE RIGHT IN, LET'S START OUT WITH A QUICK ROUND OF THE QUESTION GAME…
FAVORITE THING ABOUT FALL?
Cozy sweaters, coffee, candles, and cider donuts.
WHAT'S YOUR ALL-TIME FAVORITE TRADITION?
I’m originally from NY state, and most of my family lives in NJ. So almost every year I head to the east coast for a visit. I’m in love with NYC, and I always make it a priority to spend a day in the city while I’m out there. This year, my boyfriend and I may stay in Chicago to celebrate with his family since he’s joined me out there the last two years (and his birthday is Christmas day!). But tradition is tradition, so we’re still planning on a trip to enjoy the city lights and NY magic!!
Coral charm peonies for the win, followed closely by Sarah Bernhardt peonies.
1. TELL US ABOUT YOUR BIZ IN 3 SENTENCES OR LESS.
I am a wedding, lifestyle and branding photographer who lives in Chicago and travels worldwide. I thrive on genuinely connecting with my wedding clients and taking beautiful, authentic images that capture the spirit and emotion of their celebration. I’m also passionate about brand storytelling head shots and custom styled stock imagery that convey the mission of your brand more powerfully to better attract your dream clients.
2. NOW, LET'S START AT THE BEGINNING. WHAT'S YOUR STORY?
How long do we have?! ;)
Well, for as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by self-discovery, personal growth, and connecting with others by sharing our stories. My childhood best friend and I would spend hours on personality quizzes, and when we’d share our results, we were amazed at our complete differences mixed in with peculiar similarities. We’d excitedly ask our other friends how they think and feel about life and just indulge in these conversations for hours.
It was this curiosity about the world around me and how others view life that led to me into the arts, music, travel, and then, to photography.
When I was only 15, I took my first international trip to India, and it forever changed me. I met so many interesting people and wanted so desperately to find a way to take home the stories I had learned. I had limited understanding and language for my experience, but the images I captured transcended that.
I went a different direction in college, but my first job after graduation involved hiring photographers and organizing imagery for publications. I fell back in love with the craft, and I started working for two professional photographers. One was a true artist and taught me so much about finding my unique style. The other was a master in business and imparted his knowledge of sales and marketing. When that season came to an end, I found a job working for another studio. I quickly realized the things that really drew me to photography - the opportunity to connect with people and to understand who they are and to, then, find a way to capture that in imagery - got lost in the rush of pushing out projects as quickly as possible.
"Through the past eight years, there have been a lot of highs and lows, and I’m constantly improvising and reinventing myself."
I was at a crossroads, and I knew I had to make a shift.
So, I made two really big changes. I started my own business, and I moved halfway across the country from New York to Chicago, having only been there once and not knowing anyone very well. I was fortunate to build a network of wonderful friends and colleagues early on, and my business took off! Through the past eight years, there have been a lot of highs and lows, and I’m constantly improvising and reinventing myself. The most exciting change to my business in the last few years has been my shift to include a full suite of branding photography services.
I love meeting other creative entrepreneurs, and it just lights me up to tell their brand story in a visual way.
3. YOUR LIFE + BIZ JOURNEY IS A BOOK. WHAT'S THE NAME OF THE CHAPTER YOU'RE CURRENTLY IN?
Remember when you were young and naive and you thought you could do anything? Guess what? You actually can!
4. WHAT'S BEEN THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF YOUR ENTREPRENEURIAL JOURNEY SO FAR?
A few years ago, I felt like I was in a pretty solid groove with my business. I had quit my side hustles and was running my business full-time. I had great clients and had formed some really wonderful relationships in my industry. But then I went through some really tough things personally, and I let it affect my work.
"My bottom line took a hit, and I had a rough couple of years. I was so discouraged and almost quit."
It took a big toll on my confidence, and I wasn’t marketing and being intentional about networking like I always had been. My bottom line took a hit, and I had a rough couple of years. I was so discouraged and almost quit.
But I had a moment of clarity where I realized I had to take responsibility for what had happened and change the narrative. I had this story in my head that essentially had my life and business running me instead of the other way around. I decided I needed to take charge again, and even though it would take time, I came up with a plan to move forward.
I hired a business coach. I started hanging out with positive and successful friends and colleagues. I set measurable goals for myself. I wrote out my vision for what I wanted for my business. I would refer to it regularly, and eventually, I believed I could have it.
5. WE'RE ALL BATTLING DOUBTS EVERY DAY AS ENTREPRENEURS. WHAT'S BEEN ONE OF THE BIGGEST DOUBTS YOU'VE DEALT WITH?
I’ve talked about this before, but sometimes I’ve struggled with imposter syndrome - that I’m not really as talented as I portray on social media or that I don’t have what it takes.
Over the years, I’ve gained so much more confidence in my ability as a photographer and a business owner. I’ve grown to trust my intuition and skills, to believe that I have a unique place in the industry and that I’m worthy of my accomplishments.
"Some days I feel like I can do anything and that I’m in the center of what I’m meant to be doing. I feel unstoppable. And then there are days that I still feel like, “Who am I to think that I can accomplish that?”"
If I’m being honest, though, this is still an ongoing opportunity for growth. Some days I feel like I can do anything and that I’m in the center of what I’m meant to be doing. I feel unstoppable. And then there are days that I still feel like, “Who am I to think that I can accomplish that?” The things that make me such a great business owner – my sensitivity, my pursuit of excellence and personal growth, my authenticity – are occasionally the things that undo me.
I know I’m not perfect, and when I fail at something, I can be tempted to think that everyone will judge me as a fraud. But I have learned to tune out those limiting beliefs by reviewing my accomplishments, reading what dear friends and clients have said about me, and reiterating to myself that I have worked tirelessly and with great integrity to get to where I am. I’m doing a lot of work right now around mindset, and it has truly elevated me to a new level.
6. SHARING IS CARING. AND THERE'S SO MANY BADASS RESOURCES FOR FEMALE ENTREPRENEURS. WHAT ARE 3 OF YOUR FAVES?
- Jen Sincero's Books: I am obsessed with You Are a Badass and her follow up, You Are a Badass At Making Money.
- Jenny Karlsson: I have grown so much since hiring my financial coach, Jenny Karlsson (@financialsforcreatives). Working on my money mindset and getting serious about my financial goals has given me so much more confidence in my business!
- The Little Black Desk Society Masterminds: I love being a part of the Little Black Desk Society masterminds (@littleblackdesksociety). It’s so great to have a crew of badass women to talk about my goals, obstacles, and opportunities for growth each month. It really helps to keep me stay on task with what I want to accomplish.
7. IF YOU COULD GIVE YOURSELF ONE PIECE OF ADVICE RIGHT NOW, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Relax. Breathe. Trust that all your hard work will reap rewards and the Universe is connecting you with your dream clients.
8. WHAT'S YOUR ELEVATOR PITCH FOR WHY YOU SHOULD CHASE YOUR DREAMS?
We always hear that life is short as a motivation to live fully, and yes, there is truth to that; but life is also really LONG, and I think we owe it to ourselves to figure out what we want in life, to discover what is in our hearts to do in the world, and to try to find as much fulfillment as possible. Chasing our dreams is the ultimate form of self-care, and that results in positive impact on others, too. Is it one of the hardest journeys you’ll ever take? Yes. But it’s always worth it.
Jenn is a lifestyle and brand photographer with over 10 years of experience in her industry. Based in Chicago and available for travel, she specializes in environmental portraiture that reflects your personality and elevates your brand authentically. Over the years she has been commissioned for projects across the U.S. and around the world to places such as New York, California, Vermont, Florida, Colorado, Mexico, India, and the Dominican Republic. She’s had the opportunity to do work for some of Chicago's most impressive small businesses such as The Everygirl, Windy City Live, Corri McFadden of eDrop Off, Nate Berkus Associates, Chicago Q, Land of Nod, Bright Pink, Skirt PR, Two Penny Blue, Vineyard Vines, The Park Hyatt, Jayson Home and Garden, and many others.