I left WPPI and Rangefinder Magazine in 2009 to follow a dream - starting my own business. We were in the middle of the worst recession, at least in my lifetime, and I was headed off to pursue a dream to fulfill my entrepreneurial spirit. For years I'd followed so many of you vicariously as business owners, and nine years ago we launched the first Skip's Summer School.
Most of my family thought I was nuts and there were more than just a few friends who felt the same way. But I ran across an anonymous quote around that time that says it all:
I do it because I can.
I can because I want to.
I want to because you said I couldn't.
I've shared the group shot above in at least one other post, but this was the team who made it all happen that first summer. We started in Las Vegas at the MGM, and because of the economy at the time and Vegas hurting for business, there was no room block commitment, no minimum food or beverage and minimal charges for everything we needed as long as we booked rooms - and we did!
I recently ran across a couple of photographs that bring back so many great memories from those summer programs. In 2010, Sarah Petty offered to fill in for Vicki Taufer, which brings back a whole story of its own. Here's the short version - Vicki and Jed were adopting their daughter and got caught in an immigration challenge and couldn't bring her back into the US for several months. Vicki stayed overseas, and Sarah jumped in to save summer school with an outstanding program. The story goes a lot deeper as dozens of photographers in the industry tried to help with letters to congressman, immigration officials, and a non-stop push to get Vicki home.
Friendships are the best part of this industry, and Kay Eskridge spoke that year as well. We kept the program simple with one big room, no breakouts and a dozen vendors who wanted to support education around the perimeter. Wifi was still a big deal, and the room was set up, so a new speaker kicked off every ninety minutes, but there were charging stations, and you could work at the same time - giving attendees the ability to stay in touch with business, but still pick up great ideas to market and promote their products/services.
One of my favorites programs over the years was a completely impromptu panel of experts in the evening after the day's schedule. We got together after dinner for anybody who had wanted to keep things going. We were there to answer questions about business, photography, life - it just didn't matter. That's Clay Blackmore, Tony Corbell, me and my honey, Sheila. We had at least 8-10 instructors join us.
One of my favorite images of Sheila and me was captured that night and sent to me by good buddy, Brian Palmer. It proves a very special point - you don't have to have everybody looking at the camera all the time.
After the 2013 summer workshop, like so many educational events we decided it was time for a change. Workshops events like this are incredibly labor intensive and with so many different events to choose from it was time to move on, but not from the goal of education, continuing to build a business and support an industry I love dearly.
With help from good buddy, Scott Bourne, SCU became a reality and my life morphed into that of a blogger, podcaster, and writer. I wouldn't change a thing in my life since leaving Rangefinder/WPPI. The best part of the last nine years is the friendships that have come out of everyone's mutual love for the craft and the support we all give each other no matter what challenges life puts in our paths.
If the plan doesn't work, change the plan, but NEVER your goal.
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Check out "Why?" one of the most popular features on the SCU Blog. It's a very simple concept - one image, one artist and one short sound bite. Each artist shares what makes the image one of their most favorite. We're over 100 artists featured since the project started. Click on the link above and you can scroll through all of the episodes to date.