By Matthew Schniper
Lauren Wallace had spent 14 years in the nonprofit sector, the last few of which had her coordinating with students and families and traveling internationally. Since leaving her home state of California, she’s lived in Germany, China and Italy, as well as a few states in the U.S. She moved to Colorado Springs in 2018, and her career path would have continued indefinitely were it not for the Covid pandemic. In 2020, she lost her job.
As she set out to find new work, she tuned into a longtime desire to get back into photography. She had shot for some magazines on campus at the University of California, Berkeley, from which she graduated. And she had done work for the Pleasanton Weekly newspaper as a news photographer, shooting events around town. In her spare time, she’d also shot senior portraits and family photos for folks on a volunteer basis, further honing her craft.
Now, she was inspired to get into photographing newborn babies for families. “I just thought it would be fun,” she says. So she enrolled in some online classes specific to that art. “I already knew how to operate a camera, but with newborns, it’s so different. They’re tiny humans. You have to be so careful.”
As she pursued that knowledge, she in-tandem realized she needed a crash course on operating her own business. She thought back to having taken some classes in New Mexico, while living and working there, at one of their area Small Business Development Centers. She was handling some account management tasks at the time and wanted to gain expertise with social media. She was aware that El Paso County also ran an SBDC division, so she decided to look into their offerings for first-timers looking to establish a business.
“I’d always thought it would be fun to own my own business,” she says, “but I wasn’t thinking about it realistically until I lost my job. Then I was like, ‘I don’t know how to do this.’”
So she took a free introductory class offered by the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center, followed by another inexpensive, one-day intensive. “I had no idea how to get set up as a legal entity,” she says, “or anything about the necessary steps to set up a business. At first it felt overwhelming to me. But they broke it all down for me. They pointed me in the right direction to get set up with the State, handle my taxes and all that jazz. Now, I’m a small business owner!”
Wallace also picked up side work as an event manager for another small, local business, to supplement her lost income. But by September, 2020, Lauren Wallace Photography was up and running. And, “it’s going okay so far, and growing,” she says, noting that most of her bookings come via word of mouth — mainly friends of satisfied clients.
“I love working with new parents and their newborns,” she says. “They’re so fragile, and it takes a lot of patience and being gentle, knowing how to maneuver the babies safely.”
With so much going on for new parents, Wallace says she’s designed her business to be especially easy for them. While some portrait photographers prefer to work in studios, Wallace likes to shoot in clients’ homes, for convenience and an environment that’s comfortable to them. “The last thing they need to do during this time is have to lug equipment and drive somewhere,” she says. “I bring everything we need — outfits, props — I tell them not to clean the home, I’ve got it. It’s a service for me to show up and do it for them.”
At a recent shoot for a firefighter’s child, she planned with the parents to include a firefighter’s helmet that was thematically special to them. “I pride myself on being super chill,” she says. “It’s been a fun way to be creative and do something that I’m passionate about.”
She also still enjoys shooting families, utilizing area parks for Colorado’s stunning natural beauty that makes her portraits extra special and beautiful. And she runs the Colorado Springs Adventures Instagram page as a personal project to highlight everything from cool food and drink to tourist spots. In her short time here, she’s become quite an active local.
Relationships are of course foundational to community-minded work, personal and professional. So when it comes to our local SBDC, she says she’s very grateful for the work they do.
““Everyone there was super helpful, and they got me pointed in the right direction to get my business off the ground,” she says. “They legitimately helped me out, to get it going when I didn’t know what to do.”