I was around 6 years old and it was Halloween Day at my school. All the kids were supposed to wear a costume. My mom, who was too busy with work, forgot about it. When the friend I carpooled with showed up at my house dressed up as a cute little vampire, my mom had to improvise quickly.
She took a black trash bag and cut 3 holes, one for my head and two for my arms, and dressed me in it. Yep, that was my witch dress. Then, she took a dark purple cardboard box and made me a crooked witch hat. Finally, she glued asymmetrically cut stars made of tinfoil on it for the final touch! When I got to school, everyone laughed at me. The teacher, who was supposed to help me out, could barely hold her laughter.
I wanted to cry, but I didn’t. I held in the tears and slipped away to the bathroom without anyone noticing. I spent the rest of that day locked in the bathroom alone crying.
On that day though, I realized that I couldn’t trust anyone to lead on my behalf. I became more independent, resilient. Also, because I resented that teacher who laughed at me, I developed a somewhat rebellious personality, unable to follow rules or conform to the status quo. Combine this experience with my dad’s common dinner preaching about hard work and meritocracy, and there ya have it: a little entrepreneur in the making.
PS: I bet my mom would never in a million years imagine that sending me to school in a trash bag, would ever make it into an interview! Sorry mom, but it was pretty messed up!
Why did you start your business(es)?
I started my business because it was my dream ever since I first held a professional camera at age 18 on a summer trip to Italy. I was already in Dental school. I wanted to drop out and pursue photography, but every time I’d hint about it around my family, my parents would tell me photography was just a hobby, and I needed a real profession.
So, I stuck it out for another eight years; overachieving big in dentistry and orthodontics to make everyone proud, except for me. Deep inside I became more and more depressed, apathetic. I knew how to solve the problem, but I was terrified. I had invested so much time, effort and money on my education, it seemed too late to make a change at that point.
Long story short; one day I made the decision and pulled the trigger. It was the most difficult but the best decision of my life.
What entrepreneur has most inspired you?
My dad. He grew up in extreme poverty in Brazil. My parents went on to create a world-renowned educational institution in the field of orthodontics. Their work and scientific discoveries have influenced the way modern orthodontics is practiced. Their success path came with a lot of sacrifice and various moments of Grace, but having lived through it gives me perspective on what it means to succeed and truly create an impact.
They are an example of how you shouldn’t sit and wait for opportunities to be handed to you. If you want something, you get out there and create opportunities for yourself. Whatever it takes.
What is the biggest obstacle you have overcome thus far in business?
Bootstrapping. Before we started making sales, it was so tough. I had big ideas and dreams, but no cash flow to back them up. I was too proud to ask for a loan from my family, and I wasn’t an investable idea at that point.
I still remember the day I landed a meeting with a prominent art gallery here in Dallas. They were interested in seeing how my work printed and asked me to bring some large prints to show them. I went to the meeting with only ONE printed image, because I couldn’t afford to print anymore at the quality I envisioned printing my work with. They asked me where the other prints were and I had to tell them the truth. It was pretty embarrassing.
I think they felt compelled by my courage in scheduling the meeting and showing up, even though I had nothing to show for myself. Ever since that day, we became friends and always support each other.
What have you learned from failure?
Failure is just a matter of perspective. I think the only failure is not having enough patience to see things through. I’ve learned, when we fail, it’s just a perceived failure, not a real one. Everything that happens to us, works out to be for our best interest in the end. Everything.
How does your leadership style foster your company’s culture?
I think my personality comes across in every aspect of how Laura Cope Photography (LCP) operates. Starting with our company values, to how we build things creatively and treat people. In Brazil, we are a warm culture. We may not know you well enough, but we’ll treat you as if you were family.
LCP is about genuine connection. That’s why most of our collectors, employees and partners end up becoming good friends. Even though I’m super picky and a perfectionist about my message, branding design and the quality of my work, I’m very down-to-earth and not into pretense. That makes us real and super easy to work with as a company.
What are your top 3 responsibilities as a leader?
- Provide purpose – Vision is everything. I need my team to be all-in!
- Develop self-managing and remote teams
- Empower + Monitor (but not micromanage)
What internal process do you use to guide your decision-making?
I rely on data and collector/partner feedback to make most of my decisions, unless I feel strongly about something. If so, I usually take a few days to pray about it and ask God to give me clarity. Also, being alone in nature or with animals gives me clarity.
How do you define success?
I define success by meeting and overcoming my own standards, having the freedom to live life on my own terms and contributing to the world.
Which book has inspired you?
It’s impossible to mention just one. These are my top three (in order):
The War of Art – I’ve probably read it 20 times, and I still go back to it for a “fix” every once in a while. This thin book is PURE GOLD! It talks about resistance, the thing that keeps us from achieving greatness. A must read for creatives, entrepreneurs or anyone committed to playing in the big leagues. Trust me, read it!
Think and Grow Rich – This was my first entrepreneurial read and it made me ask the big questions, like what does it mean to be in business and to create value in this world. The concept of masterminds is also something that I never stopped practicing. I’m a big Napoleon Hill fan.
The 10X Rule – It taught me to keep executing at massive levels ALL THE TIME. It has also painted a more realistic view of how much effort it takes to really “make it” in business.
What do you think is the coolest technology out there, and why?
Augmented reality (AR). And yes, that includes Pokémon Go 😉
When I create a photograph, my vision is to create an experience and to capture a certain mood. A compelling photograph has the power to transport the viewer into different environments, feelings and frames of mind. Art is considered liberating because it allows us to go to different places, while still staying in the present! In my opinion, AR does just that. It enhances reality, but doesn’t take you away from it.