Belinda Bullock not only found motivation and strength in the face of adversity, but also found her new career.
After Covid forced her into redundancy from Air New Zealand, and her husband David, a pilot on the same aircraft, was diagnosed with melanoma, Belinda knew she needed to hit the ground running. What was originally a hobby quickly transformed into her new business, Belinda Bullock Photography.
After deciding she needed practical business advice to support her self-proclaimed “erratic creativity,” Belinda turned to the Chamber Mentors programme where she was matched with Mark Sweeney, a highly experienced specialist with over 11 years at Syon Investments.
“From the beginning Mark was really analytical and believed in putting processes in place. We focused on who I was, what I was selling, analysing the amount of time I spent, and having a realistic budget.”
Mark explained how the budget wasn’t just financial, but personal; Belinda’s personal time is just as important as her professional time. This included continuously tracking how she spent her days through an app on her phone.
Belinda then identified who she was as a photographer, what she stood for, and what she wanted her brand to be about.
“I want to build an army of women who know how beautiful they look, because they were photographed by me.”
Belinda’s work covers weddings, maternity, headshots, children’s dance, and her now favourite, boudoir, an intimate and romantic form of photography.
“Boudoir photography has not been popular but made a resurgence during Covid. Women needed a lift and are learning to love themselves again.”
Belinda aims to become the best boudoir photographer in New Zealand and understands the level of trust that people need to feel from their photographer. To achieve this, Belinda makes videos about herself addressing common concerns about the industry.
In addition to these videos, both Mark and Belinda have worked hard to boost Belinda’s marketing practices. For example, Belinda created a private Facebook page where women can talk about photography and share their feelings freely. On the page, Belinda also reached out for models to participate in sessions, and quickly converted them into loyal clients.
Once seeing successful website and Facebook analytics, Mark encouraged Belinda to outsource website and social media management to ensure that Belinda could focus on photography and her clients. Mark’s focus on short, medium, and long-term planning has led to a key takeaway for Belinda: look ahead.
“For example, if I want to sell parts of the business, they need to be unique. Do I want to teach? Or eventually franchise? We are always looking ahead to keep options open.”
Balance is important to both Mark and Belinda, who agree that while money is a primary focus, her passion and staying true to her heart is equally important.
Belinda warns new start-ups to talk to family and friends when they start.
“For the first couple of months you can’t see the wood from the trees – you need to have a plan that involves family and friends. And then, you need to bring in a Chamber Mentor and find the right mentor for you. I can’t thank the programme enough. Mark has truly guided my business in the right direction, and I’ve learnt so much more than I thought I would.”
So far, Belinda’s business journey has been incredibly rewarding but not without it’s moments; but, as Belinda says, “if it was easy, everyone would do it, right?”
Belinda’s husband is now completing the training course to move onto new aircraft he will fly in the future!