A Note for the Mamas | NJ Family Photographer

My fellow mamas! I know how much we crave those perfect family portraits with all of our children looking happy, getting along and dressed to perfection. Sometimes we want it so badly that we forget to enjoy the actual moment of connecting in front of the camera. But I am here to tell you and remind you that the real life stories that happen everyday with your children are golden. The moments of laughter, love, wonder, connection, energy, excitement are all amazing. Even those stressful times of fighting, tears, sadness and stress - those are meaningful stories too. This is the REAL stuff that will have us reminiscing and laughing in years time.

My philosophy is to let the kids be kids. Let the story unfold naturally. Enjoy this special family moment in front of the lens as best as you can (I realize it is not easy!). The secret to success is to be yourselves. Love on your babies, tickle them, dance along side them. Snuggle up to your husband. Bubble up with happiness as you watch your kiddos hold hands and play. Embrace the BEAUTY in the chaos! Don't worry about perfect poses and smiles. The best photos are those where you all are together and experiencing life as a family.

My family portrait session availability for 2016 is quite limited. My business has shifted to focus more on my business/branding photography so I only have a few spaces left for 2016. Right now I currently have ONE spot left in my October Mini Sessions and TWO spots left for my family packages in November. If you are looking to capture life in the fun lane and embrace the chaos, reach out to me. I would love to meet you and your family and show you how all life's moments are beautiful :)

Italy Adventure - Parma | NJ Travel Photographer

Hello PARMA. The food capital of Italy. Or some might say, the belly :) Home of Parmesan, Parma Ham and Bolognese sauce. We spent a night and day in this small riverside city and learned about cheese, wine, balsamic and Prosciutto. We took a culinary tour that peaked our taste buds, senses and love for food. We enjoyed the rural countryside and medieval castles but our time was mostly spent feasting. And loving every minute of it!

Where to stay? We booked one night at NH Hotel. A new property in the center of the city, the location was convenient. The hotel is modern and new but lacked charm and elegance. But the rooms were clean so it worked for us. 

Where we ate? We had a spectacular dinner at La Forchetta. We were able to book ahead of time from home through The Fork, which is like Open Table for Europe. The ambiance was elegant, the menu diverse and interesting, the presentation like art and the food was delicious. Definitely try the fried ravioli and my husband still raves about his "Duchess of Parma" - chicken with Parma Ham. Everything was fresh and flavorful!

Things to do:

FOOD TOUR. This is a must-do! Eat like a local and book a culinary food tour. We spent half a day with our Italian guide/food expert and visited a Parmesan/food farm, vineyards and Parma Ham producer. We learned how cheese, balsamic vinegar and Prosciutto ham are produced. It was an eye opening experience! So many sights and smells, not for everyone (beware of the Parma factory if you are a vegetarian). But we were in awe by the dedication of the family run businesses and all the hard work behind the scenes. If you are a foodie or curious traveler, this will be a highlight of your trip. 

FERRARI MUSEUM. My husband and sons are obsessed with fast cars. So of course we had to head to the Ferrari museum, one hour from Parma. It was actually a fun museum featuring the history of the famous Ferrari, complete with vintage and iconic cars. Lots of sleek design!

The next and final stop in my Italy tour is MILAN - the fashion capital. Coming soon will be more photos and information on what we did and saw in this beautiful, bustling city. 

5 Ways to Handle an Unhappy Client | NJ Business Mentor

It happens to all of us. If you are running a business, you are bound to deal with unhappy customers. It's never easy hearing their disappointment, frustration or even anger. But if we react in the right manner to manage the sticky situation then we might be able to save the relationship (and save face!). You may even be able to turn the crisis around to create a better experience for your client. 

How do we do that? How do we win over these unhappy clients? Here are my five tips to handle a disgruntled client and smooth things over :

1) LISTEN FIRST. When your client expresses dissatisfaction with your product or service, it is so important to listen actively. Let them talk. Don't interrupt and don't get defensive. Your client wants to be HEARD. Give them your full attention and act as a partner. Sometimes after letting them air out their issues, the problem can be easily solved. 

2) SHOW EMPATHY. Once the problem is stated, show your client that you understand their perspective. And make sure to tell them that you are super sorry that they feel that way. It is critical to apologize, even if you don't think you are wrong. Beware of acting defensive and argumentative. This can blow up in your face, especially with the ease of sharing on social media. 

3) RESPOND QUICKLY WITH SOLUTIONS. Time is of the essence here. Make sure you respond swiftly and offer a few solutions to the problem. Is it a refund, a discount, a free gift? Make the solutions crystal clear to avoid any confusion. Keep an open dialogue and ask if these solutions fit their expectations. See if you can work together to improve the outcome. Whatever action you suggest to correct the situation, make sure it feels good to you and seems fair. While you want to make your customer happy, you also want to keep your integrity in tact.

4) TAKE ACTION AND OVER DELIVER. Now that a solution has been agreed upon, get to work and get it done immediately. Make this client a priority. Make sure your client is well informed and in the loop. And do your very best to over deliver - finish before the deadline or offer a longer session or gift products. Surprise and delight your clients so that they remember this experience. 

5) FOLLOW UP. Once the situation is resolved, make sure to follow up with your client. Send an email or make a phone call to ask if they are happy with the outcome. Then follow up again with a thank you note in the mail. 

Dealing with difficult situations and clients can be very challenging. It takes patience and empathy plus a thick skin. These five steps show my clients that they are valuable to me. And they can help turn a crisis into an opportunity. Hope they help you take action in your next sticky situation. 

 

Italy Adventure - Cinque Terra | NJ Travel Photographer

Hello CINQUE TERRA. Located in the Italian Riviera, Cinque Terra is comprised of five fishing villages. Over the centuries, terraces and paths have been carefully built on the rugged, steep terrain, right up to the cliffs that overlook the sea. Cars have been banned so you must travel by footpath, train or boat between villages. Many come to hike the scenic trails in this popular tourist destination. We certainly did! We stayed two days and one night. The views were incredible and the villages full of charm. If I were to do it again, I would have stayed a second night because there was more to do and see. 

Where we stayed? La Torretta Lodge Manarola. Homey, charming and spacious with a complimentary breakfast buffet and happy hour featuring local wines. We loved the gracious staff and the rooms were a perfect combination of old world and modern design. Plus views that will awaken your soul! 

Where we ate? We enjoyed fresh fish and an incredible view at Marina Piccola. We ate pizza from "fast food" shops along the way. We devoured LOTS of gelato because it was warm and our favorite place was Alberto Gelateria

Things to do :

HIKE! This is a must do. We took the train from Manarolo to Corniglia. Then we hiked from Corniglia to Vernazza which was no easy task. There is a fair amount of climbing up and down on dusty trails and broken, uneven steps. It was a rigorous, physically challenging trail but the views were absolutely stunning. Plus a pretty cool adventure for us as a family. It took about 3 hours. Bring LOTS of water and wear proper sneakers. 

Drink Granita. My boys LOVED this lemonade slushy. Fresh, flavorful and delicious. This is what helped us get through our hike. 

Manarolo Vineyard Walk. If you can bear to walk more after the big hike, this is a great trail through the grape vineyards with a view overlooking the town and sea. Lots of beautiful pockets and photo opps on this pathway.

The next blog stop will be PARMA - the food capital of Italy. I can't wait to share the photos from this part of our trip. Until then, arrivederci!

 

5 Reasons to Attend Networking Events | NJ Business Photographer

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Networking events. Do you have a love hate relationship with them? Do you dread working the room, exchanging cards or being caught in a corner with a self absorbed business boaster? I used to see networking as a shmoozing fest and a bit intimidating. But no longer! I now see networking events as an opportunity to meet new people who share a similar interest or mindset. I try to attend a networking meeting every few months. I even have started hosting my own events because I see the value of creating a space for women entrepreneurs to meet, socialize and support each other.

If you are on the fence about the networking game, here are my five reasons to jump in. I believe networking can be a game changer for your business. 

1) Cultivate Relationships. Networking events are a great way to meet people who are like minded and share a similar passion or purpose. You may surprise yourself at how many interesting people you can actually meet. Before you attend any networking event, set a goal to meet three people well. You will surely meet more, but try to spend quality time getting to know just a handful of people in the room. Ask questions, listen and offer help. Don't just talk about yourself but share your knowledge and expertise to gain trust. Ask, "how can I support you?" Your hope should be to build relationships that can result in a client, a referral, a partnership, a friendship or an alliance. These relationships take time so don't expect to leave one mixer with your biz besties. Follow up and connect afterwards. This is where the bonding magic happens. 

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2) Be Inspired. Sitting behind your desk all day as a solo entrepreneur can get boring and stale. We all need a break to mingle with others and share conversation. This helps get the creative juices flowing and sharpen your skills. I love to hear what others are doing - their new products, new launches, new branding, new ideas. This sharing of information creates a contagious energy that is inspiring and motivating for all. 

3) Boost Confidence. It is daunting to enter a room full of people and introduce yourself over and over. But it also is great practice to get your story our there and feel confident sharing it. Nail down your elevator pitch and messaging statement. Keep it short, concise and clear. Don't ramble on and on because you will lose people. The more you do it, the more natural it will become.

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4) Get Noticed. The more networking events and meetings you attend, the more visible you and your brand become. The trick is to continue to listen and offer useful information and tips to others. Be of service! People always remember the givers. All of a sudden, you become the go-to expert in your industry. Your name and business is remembered and referred. That is the reputation that you hope for!

5) Learning Opportunity. I am an information junkie! I love to watch webinars, read books and blog posts but there is nothing like learning in a face to face environment. Networking events are great places to hear live from fellow entrepreneurs how they work and flourish in their businesses. You can learn first hand how they develop new products, how they launch online, how they gain new clients, who they hired as their virtual assistant or web designer, what productivity apps are they using....the lessons are endless. The key is to ask questions and also share your top tips. I have gained so much knowledge and saved myself so much time from these conversations.

Connections. Community. Creativity. Growth. These are what I gain from continued networking. What do you think? Are you more open to attending a networking event? I encourage you to try and look for events in your area. Research local networking groups. I am an active member of BIG, a women's empowerment organization, but also attend events with Lady Savant and Savor. Also check out Eventbrite for browsing events and as a tool for hosting events. Meetup is another valuable resource for finding events at a local level. Just get started one networking event at a time and see where it can take you and your business. Happy networking!

Teen Dream | NJ Teen Photographer

Rising freshman. Tennis pro. Hip Hop dancer. Future model. This teen has so much going for her. But what I loved most was her inner beauty. You can see her spark and her warmth in every image. 

Teen and tween photo sessions are my favorite because I love to use photography as a tool to boost young women's confidence and self esteem. Visual storytelling is an amazing way for these girls to express and see themselves. I only offer a limited number of sessions during the year so if interested please contact me HERE

Italy Adventure - Portofino | NJ Travel Photographer

Hello PORTOFINO, the Italian Riviera. This bustling seaside village is known as the resort for the rich and the famous. The restaurants, shops, cafes and hotels all line the harbor shore. The waters are dotted with boats and yachts of all sizes. So much people watching! I loved seeing all the effortlessly chic Italian women in their summer style. We even spotted fashion icon, Giorgio Armani in the piazza along with his paparazzi. Posh, colorful and stylish...I now understand why this is a hot spot among celebrities and artists. We stayed for two nights and that was more then enough.

Where we stayed?  Eight Hotel Portofino. This boutique hotel had amazing service, spacious and elegantly decorated rooms and a delicious breakfast buffet. Great location - walking distance to all the restaurants and shops! They even offered a complimentary shuttle to their sister property Eight Hotel Paraggi which is located right on the bay. We spent a day at the beach club there. The salty refreshing Mediterranean Sea is magnificent. Beware of rocky beaches and topless sun bathers! 

Where we ate? I had the best pesto pasta and Caprese salad at Trattoria Tripoli. Portofino is also known for their big prawns so make sure to try them. It's messy but worth it. And make room for gelato because Calata 32 is the best around with interesting flavors like Fig and Biscotti.

Things to do: 

Paraggi - If you want to soak up some rays, this is a festive place to enjoy beach bars, restaurants and a lively crowd. Look out for celebrities!

Castello Brown - House museum and castle located high above the harbor. Beautiful views and a nice "hike" for the family. 

The next blog stop will be CINQUE TERRE - you won't want to miss the photos from that adventure. 

 

 

Biz Books of Summer | NJ Business Mentor

Summer is in full force! School is closed, camp has started and the sun is out. My #summergoals are to read all the gems that have been collecting dust on my bookshelf. Here is a small collection of what is on my business book hit list for the next few months. 

Louder then Words : If you are struggling with discovering your point of difference and finding your unique place in your market, this book offers specific strategies and tactics for uncovering, developing your authentic voice.  I am passionate about helping others dig deep and reveal their best self through storytelling. This book offers so many insights on how to do that well.

Likeable Social Media : This is the current read for our Lady Boss Book Club. Actionable lessons and stories on how to navigate social media to tap into the conversation, listen, engage and empower your customers to start spreading the word about your business.

Essentialism : A must-read for any leader, manager, or individual who wants to do less, but better, and declutter and organize their own their lives. Many have claimed this book life changing! I hope it helps me stop chasing shine bright objects and apply a more selective criteria on what to focus on.

Change Your Questions Change Your Life: This is another read in our business book club. The author, Marilee Adams, shows how the kinds of questions we ask shape our thinking and can be the root cause of many personal and organizational problems. She uses a highly instructive and entertaining story to show how to quickly recognize any undermining questions that pop into your mind—or out of your mouth—and reframe them to achieve amazingly positive and practical results. 

Find Your Extraordinary: Written by Jessica Herrin, serial entrepreneur and founder and CEO of the Stella & Dot Family Brands. She shows how the classic traits of successful entrepreneurs are ones each one of us can develop – and use not only to create a company, but also to create an extraordinary life. Whether we work a corporate job, run a family, or run our own business, Herrin offers realistic, attainable steps each one of us can take to achieve extraordinary success on our own terms. 

Fascinate: How can you create a brand that is impossible to resist? Master marketer and author, Sally Hogshead reveals the surprising answers, providing readers with a framework for fascinating anyone. This book feeds my branding addiction so I can't wait to dive in and learn more stand out strategies for my own brand as well as my clients.

What do you have on your reading list this summer? How do you pick your books - recommendations, google search, best sellers? How do you keep yourself motivated to read? Tell me in the comments below. Share your must reads and your reading strategies! And if you are interested in joining a business book club, find my Lady Boss Book Club Facebook page here. We would LOVE to have you!