Caroline and I hosted Branches and Light in Texas, and it was stunning! Truly, it was one of the most beautiful experiences we’ve had. Shortly after, I checked off a big business dream: getting featured by Martha Stewart Weddings. In March, I had the privilege of speaking at Making Things Happen in Chapel Hill, which I’ve been speaking at every year since for the past 5 years.
2013 was a year marked by growth. We realized we were turning so many brides away because we were already booked up. We were fully booked for 2 years straight, we knew we had to make a decision: stay where we were, or grow our team. After much prayer, we launched Callie and Elizabeth in January as NRP team Associate Photographers!
I knew I had to choose people who were willing to learn, who were teachable, who had a wonderful attitudes, who were hard workers, and who could easily identify with the brand and culture of Nancy Ray Photography. I had to choose people who were completely trustworthy.
Other notables in 2013: I photographed an editorial in Nashville, TN for Southern Weddings Magazine, we threw a party to celebrate 5 years of being in business, I ran another half marathon, and Will and I celebrated 5 years of marriage by living on a boat for a week in the BVI!
After several years of hosting Branches and Light, Caroline and I prayerfully decided to close its doors. It was a hard and wonderful decision, as she and I were simply moving in different directions of life, (even though we remain wonderful friends to this day!) You should follow her current work on un-fancy.com : she’s amazing.
This year was one of growth and learning. We all began to shoot in film on a regular basis, which was such a wonderful challenge.
I had the privilege of photographing Callie and Jamie’s beautiful wedding that May, while standing by them as a bridesmaid! It was such a joy, and later that year it was featured in Southern Weddings as a featured Real Wedding. It was such a joy!
I also photographed another editorial for Southern Weddings Magazine in Nashville, TN – one of the hottest days of my life!
I truly began to learn the ropes of leading a team. We started our newsletter and had regular team meetings. We had team days and we read books together. I quickly began to realize how much I truly do love leading, and how rewarding it is for me.
Elizabeth approached me about transitioning to family photographer, instead of wedding photographer. We had so many conversations, and it was such a wonderful learning experience for all of us. The important lesson we learned? It’s vital to have the right people in the right seats. I had the right people, but families is where Elizabeth is most gifted! While she was an excellent wedding photographer, it didn’t make sense with her giftings.
We decided to hire another associate photographer, and we began the interview process late that fall. We also decided to hire an intern, which launched our current internship program. With the shifts and changes of our business, we knew we had to keep things growing and changing along with it!
In the middle of fall wedding season, I found out I was pregnant! My due date landed right in the middle of spring wedding season the following year (May 27th, 2015), so I knew the following year was going to look quite different for all of us.
One of the most significant personal changes (other than getting preganant!) was that after 5 years of leading the Youth Ministry at our church, Will decided to step down. He began his own financial coaching business, so we were both officially self employed… and expecting our first baby! It took a lot of faith and trust to walk through those doors together, but God was in every step of our journey.
I entered 2015 with my sleeves rolled up, ready to go, but also unsure of what was ahead of me. How would I do this whole business owner & mama thing together? Could I do them both well? I knew one thing: it would take a lot of preparation and a wonderful team to pull it off.
At the very end of January, we offered the associate photographer position to Olivia Wolf (at the time – now Olivia Suriano), who has been an incredible fit to our team. Goodness do we love her! We began training her, mentoring her, and teaching her everything we could. My belly was growing, and maternity leave prep was in full force.
I photographed yet another editorial for Southern Weddings, this time very pregnant and with a tiny piglet! It was one of my favorite accomplishments in my business, partnering with some of my favorite vendors and creating such a lovely experience and shoot for a magazine I believe in so much.
This was the year of speaking for me. I spoke twice at Making Things Happen, I spoke at the Influence Conference, I spoke at the Pursuit Retreat, and a few online workshops as well. It was full of wonderful experiences and connections.
We also decided to re-launch our brand and website to be more of a reflection of us, our team, and our heart for legacy. We worked closely with Flosites throughout the first half of the year, and I planned to launch the website 1 month prior to my due date. Of course it took much longer than I thought it would, and when I went into labor on May 25th, I worked on finalizing blogposts and emails while I was having contractions. Hilarious, right? I said it was my entrepreneur side of nesting.
On May 26th, 2016, we welcomed our beautiful daughter, Milly Elizabeth Ray, into the world.
Goodness has she changed me. I love her to pieces – she is incredible. She makes me a better business owner, a better wife, a better person. We KNEW she was a boy, so she’s kept us on our toes since the moment she was born. She is such a joy!
I joke that May 26th, 2015 was the most productive day of my life. Not only did I give birth, but we launched our website that day! Callie took over and carried the new brand and website launch to completion.
Let me just take a moment to say:
Callie is WONDERFUL. She carried me through maternity leave. She gave me a gift that I could never repay – a wonderful 3 month leave with my baby girl, not worrying about one single thing. To this day, I am so grateful for her. She taught me how important a team really is, but more than that, she demonstrated how much she loves me and is a loyal friend. I can’t say enough about that lady.
Meanwhile, Will gets an offer to join the C12 Group, and after praying quite a bit throughout the year, he decides to take it! So that fall, another job change happens for our family, and Will becomes a local C12 chair.
I transitioned back to work, and it was challenging and good. I knew I needed help with the baby, so the grandparents stepped it up for the rest of the year while I got used to my new roles as mama and business owner.
We hired a very important team member at the beginning of 2016: a nanny! Rachel was the biggest blessing to us. She came to be our nanny for 3 days a week beginning in February, and little Milly adored her. She STILL does. Even though Rachel doesn’t work with us anymore (she just recently transitioned), she will always always ALWAYS be part of our family. We adore her, and I may or may not have cried for 2 weeks straight when her season with us ended.
This year was so… unique. I only photographed 4 weddings, and I really began to see the affects and blessings of building a team. They were carrying the bulk of the weddings, and I had time to really focus on growing the business.
The most exciting thing that happened in 2016 for our business? The launch of the Nancy Ray Shop!
For the first half of the year, we prayed and planned and learned about digital content and education. We launched the shop in the Spring, and much of my time was spent creating and writing and producing the educational content that it hosts.
Callie and Olivia did incredible work photographing such beautiful weddings, Elizabeth continued to capture sweet families and mini sessions, and we had 2 amazing interns help us in the studio. Will continued to pour into this business with his incredible wisdom in finances, technology, and organizational structure.
Once again, it was time to hire. Because of the increased growth of weddings we were photographing and Nancy Ray Shop customers, I knew we’d need to expand our studio team if I was going to take another maternity leave. After much prayer and consideration, we offered the job to Olivia! She continued her role as associate photographer, but also took on new responsibilities for the Nancy Ray Shop and in the studio.
We had several huge goals to accommodate our growing team, increased amount of weddigns, and educational side of our business. First things first: reorganizing and refreshing our studio space! We spent all of January getting new furniture, painting, and re-decorating so we could be all ready for Olivia when she joined us in February.
We launched our very first online course, Foundations in Film, this spring! What a whirlwind of an experience, and a GOOD one. We have loved hosting this course, and we plan to re-open it again soon.
There are even more exciting things happening this summer and fall – another course all about growing a team, a new website refresh, and shooting some incredible weddings!
On July 29, 2017, we welcomed our baby girl, Lyndon into the world! She has been an absolute joy, and my time away has once again been such a gift. Callie and Olivia, you both are amazing.
Today I find myself incredibly humbled and grateful to have the team that I do. To be shooting in film and creating work I’m so proud of. To have had almost – 10 years of doing work that I absolutely adore. To have a husband who supports me, two beautiful kids who I adore, and a team that I love linking arms with every day to do work we believe in.
Nancy Ray Photography exists to glorify God and inspire legacies through photography and education. We will continue to hold that banner high and do our best work for His kingdom and the legacies of others. I am so grateful for every step of this journey, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds!
Interested in building your team?! Click here to sign up to be on the waitlist for our upcoming course: Foundations in Team Building