Have you ever wondered if it is difficult to be an entrepreneur in Budapest? What are the first steps to establish a successfully running business? What are the obstacles? Is it difficult to be a female entrepreneur in this country? Together with my friend and great analog photographer, Ania Jopp, we started a series of articles where we are showcasing women entrepreneurs who are based in Budapest and who have established themselves here. By doing this, we would like to show the business side of this city and the opportunities which can be found.
Last week, on Sunday afternoon, I met with a professional photographer, Bernadette Homar in Csendes. A globetrotter who after years of traveling decided to come back to her roots and establish her photography business in Budapest. We did not only talk about the different aspects of running a company, but also we took a chance of taking a few great photos in this beautifully designed vintage bar.
You grew up in Germany and South Africa, however you have Hungarian roots. Why did you decide to move back to Budapest, after years of living abroad?
I lived in many places in the world and actually was only a visitor to Hungary, however over the years Budapest became more attractive and make sense to settle here as my parents have moved back also and wanted to spend more time with them and be closer to family.
I had preconceived ideas what it was like to actually live here but those faded quickly and now I am very happy here. There is a lot to explore and the country has a lot to offer in terms of outdoors, nature and places to visit but also quite cosmopolitan and of course safe and easy to get around. You also have to look at the positives and find your place and activities that make you most happy.
It is easy to travel from here just have to get used to the long winter.. but I am working on it! I certainly miss the sun and sea and maybe that is the biggest compromise. Hungary can be wonderful and hope that more and more exciting developments are happening and more expats to connect with and share experiences with and forge friendships.
You are a professional photographer, concentrating on lifestyle, wedding and couple photography. You also provide a very interesting service which includes an engagement proposal package. Can you tell me a bit more about it?
That’s right. I set my mind on wedding or fashion photography initially when I designed my moodboard and the vision that my I had in mind for my business. Then when I was shooting quite a lot of free of charge portraits in the beginning.
Gradually I was approached to do couple photographs for foreigners who are coming to Budapest and wanted to capture their moments as lovers in a romantic city such as Budapest. We have such beautiful facades and castles and many other unique backgrounds that makes couple photography wonderful and exciting! I love the drama, vivid costumes, colourful photos and nostalgia. I help grooms stage a surprise marriage proposal without their girlfriend having an idea of what is about to happen.
We plan months ahead with some surprise extra’s like a violinist, with custom proposal props and little extra’s to go the extra mile and make it a WOW moment. Budapest has become a top destination for elopement, for couples and of course romantic engagements and weddings. I am there with every step taking the photographs in secret and then we do typical couple photos but also sometimes videos. I am still training with my videography.
I offer a unique service by incorporating more than just photography and also a specialised offering focusing on a specific genre and you become more successful by choosing a niche let’s say or a narrow audience than trying to be a all rounder photographer. I love working with people so this became quite natural for me. But I do still take on some just for fun of course and for a good cause. I am hoping to be part of more weddings in the near future as well!
Can you remember the most stressful moment while taking photos during engagement? How did you handle it?
Sure many times you stress if everything is going to go according to plan, if your camera settings are right for the moment, what are the weather conditions and chance of rain which can ruin a good surprise. But also where I shoot there are many people around and spectators so you have to be little assertive and clear the scene and pay attention that for example people don’t’ walk into your frame at a very important moment.
A skilled photographer has to pay attention to quite a few things at the same time not just taking a few good pictures and being right there when it all happens. You have a few seconds to get that lasting photograph right, so it is stressful because you want to achieve the best for your clients and be proud of your work. But some couples are very relaxed in fact all of them and the tension fades away when you see the excitement on their faces and the tears rolling down their faces as the fiancé reveals the ring.
Preparation is everything like with any other job the day goes fantastic when you are well prepared and make the most of the your opportunity even if the weather is bad or you are running late on a schedule.
Let's talk a bit about the business side. Is it difficult to be entrepreneur in Budapest?
Well I don’t know, it’s all relative. My mindset was not so much from a business perspective when I first started but more from a perspective that this is what I enjoy doing and I actually love my job! For me it is quite a change from working in a office and a more formal environment to doing actual creative work.
I believe that if you get that feeling and you find something you really love doing you can get recognition and earn a living. But don’t shy away from opportunities and be open minded. One opportunity can lead to another and you might discover complimentary services or products you have not initially calculated, or you discover a market or a new audience as you go along.
Probably the language barrier is the most challenging however I am lucky I speak Hungarian, but even me I get lost as the way of thinking and culture is different to what I might be used to. Be practical start small and easy and be realistic in terms of what you can earn and who your customers might be
Who are you clients and how do you usually find them?
Clients find me via my website mainly. Having a good website and SEO optimisation is super important. Especially if you are offering a service and you are not a brick and mortar establishment with a shop front on of the busiest streets. Don’t forget social media, maybe you don’t find a lot of business on social media but clients do check how active you are and they will browse around before contacting you.
There are many other opportunities where you can find clients, I think it is very industry specific. Think out of the box and ask as many people and friends to help you spread the word and exchange services perhaps, everyone needs help and a good support system.
Don’t be shy to ask opinions and feedback even if it’s constructive criticism or you might not get the feedback that you were hoping for. Focus on your core strength and how you can benefit from those unique skills by incorporating those in your day to day activities.
How did you build your network here? Any good recommendations on how to start it?
You learn every day and no one is an expert. A new business in an adventure. Don’t have high expectations from get go. Learn, watch and do your best. It is important to improve your skills and educate yourself in your career and stay competitive and up to date on what’s happening out there.
Hire a professional web designer or someone who can lend you a hand. I waited months before I had a proper website, wish I had hired an expert right from the beginning. It takes a very long time to get ranked by Google and you need to constantly update the website and produce good content.
Outsource the task you are not good at so you can focus your best hours and energy on matters where you are most needed. I find Facebook groups also a good networking opportunity and some local websites and directories too.
There are plenty of photographers in Hungary offering very similar service, what are the key elements of running a successful business, in your opinion?
Perhaps if I may say it is your personal motto and attitude. I mean that your personal values influence your business too. I look at things long term and not what I have to gain short term. You have to give to receive. Sometimes you give too much but until people get to know you, you have to be flexible to take on a variety of work and be grateful for small and big opportunities. Be organised and pay attention to detail and small things do matter! Being approachable and flexible with your clients goes a long way.
After all, your customer want to feel good about what you have to offer. Always think what your customers want and try and see the current demand and better the service of your competitors. I think in Hungary there is room for improvements on service and being customer oriented.
Is it difficult to be a successful female entrepreneur in your country? Do share your comments!