As part of our partnership with iZest's One a Day project, we're shining a light on Irish businesses and projects that are doing things differently during the pandemic. This week, it's Boudoir Barn, a boudoir photoshoot business that practices in confidence, beauty and self-love. IMAGE sat down with Hilary Hughes, the woman behind Boudoir Barn, to chat about how their business is progressing during Covid-19.
Tell me a bit about Boudoir Barn and what you guys do
Boudoir Barn is a Boudoir Photography Experience. I set up Boudoir Barn to encourage women to feel amazing about themselves. A boudoir photoshoot can be a transformative experience - it can help women rediscover who they are. It gives women back the confidence they may have lost or never had the courage to bring to the fore. And, let's face it, when you feel amazing about yourself you are able to give more to those you love, so it has positive repercussions on so many aspects of your life.
My favourite part of what I do, is seeing women open up during the photoshoot, when those (natural) nerves at the beginning of a shoot begin to fade, as I show them photos on the back of the camera, the surprise & shock - "Damn I look good!" And their confidence soars. I get to chat to these ladies for over an hour as I am photographing them, learning about their life stories, having a laugh and creating a bond for life (it happens if you spend an hour in your underwear with someone!).
I have photographed women of all shapes and sizes with so many different backgrounds and for each and every one, I will pose them from their head to their toes in each shot. I will tell them where to look, how to arch, even how to smile and breathe! I will make sure that when they see their images, they are in amazement at how fierce and beautiful they look. It is my job to make sure that when a client leaves the Boudoir Barn they don’t just think they are beautiful - they are 100% confident of it.
How have you had to pivot your business to stay on track since Covid-19 arrived to Ireland?
I’ve been using this time that I can’t be behind my camera with clients to upgrade the service I offer for when I am back shooting again. I’ve refreshed my branding, overhauled my website, added a new online booking and payment system with the help of another business through OneaDay, Shane Kelly in Logicode.
I’m doing a bit of DIY to create a few new boudoir sets in the studio. I’ve been working with a few Irish packaging suppliers to get new branded online delivery boxes for photo albums. I’ve created and ordered new sample albums and framed wall art products that are available to purchase for clients to view in the studio. I’m also utilising the time to up my social media game, get my brand out there and attract new followers.
I set up the business to empower and make women feel good, so even when I'm not taking new images, I’ve used this time to go back over past shoots and send some clients funny images from their day (images that didn’t make it into an album but those funny in-between moments when they're laughing their head off at something silly!), as a reminder of the fun experience.
I think it's fair to say I'm keeping myself busy and using the time to improve the Boudoir Barn to enhance my client experience for when we are open again.
What is your best advice for small business owners to keep going during this time?
Personally, I always feel like I have 100 priorities or things I want to achieve for my business and I am viewing this pandemic as forced time to take action! My advice would be to use this time to step back and re-visit some of those tasks you may have put on the long finger.
Are you happy with your brand and the strategic direction in which you are going? If not, now would be an opportune time to think this through this with someone.
Are you confident that you are getting yourself out there as the face of your brand? There’s potentially more that you can do - do you need some professional photography of you and your business, can you join local networks or engage in some PR?
Are you maximising the effectiveness of your social media? Now is a great time to leverage your social media assets, as more people are active on social channels and shopping online. Stay front of mind for consumers.
Are you happy with your website as it is potentially the new face of your business. Is it up to speed to take online orders?
I am confident that there are people and businesses that can help with all of the above on OneADay waiting to offer their skills and advice to those that need it. Also, in amongst all of this, don’t forget to take a break. Running your own business, while rewarding, is also demanding, so don’t forget to take 5 for yourself too!
How have you been involved in One a Day?
As soon as I heard about One a Day, I jumped at the chance to help. I’ve had so many kind people support me in getting to where I am today and I am delighted to be able to give back.
I’ve worked in marketing for over 15 years with AIB, Bank of Ireland, Kerry Foods, Kelkin, Lily O’ Brien’s and Coca-Cola Hellenic, so whilst I’m not behind the lens, I felt I could use my digital marketing experience to help other small businesses with their social media.
From setting up the Boudoir Barn, I know how difficult it is to plan, create and execute engaging digital content for social media channels when you don’t have large budgets or media agencies behind you or, more importantly, the time! So I have been sharing the tips and tricks I’ve learned to make social media management less daunting. If there are other small businesses out there that think they would benefit from an hour call, I will share how I go about planning a month of content in an hour and the resources I use to make it all happen.
I'd also love to shout out to Valerie Roe PR and Shane Kelly in Logicode who have both offered their advice to me over the past month through One A Day - thank you!
OneADay is asking people and businesses like Venture Network to donate 1% of their time, platform, energy or money towards a cause. iZest see the campaign as a way to curb some of the stress and anxiety around the pandemic, and get people connecting in a new way.
How it works
If you like the sound of putting your newfound free time to good use, here's how the initiative works. If you're a business, you can register your details with iZest and let them know what your OneADay will be. It can be anything — use your imagination. Some great ways to lend your support could be:
- One Hour a Day – If you have the time, use one hour of your day to do some pro bono work for a company or charity that might need the extra help.
- One Call a Day — Give the time for one over-the-phone consultation per day with someone who needs some business guidance.
- One Shout-Out a Day — If you know a small business or someone who needs a signal boost, use your online platform to give them a shout-out.
- One Introduction a Day — Know someone who would be perfect for another company's opening? Use your connections to introduce them.
If you need the services of a company that's involved in OneADay, you can contact them directly and share your details, and why you think teaming up could help.
And if you're an individual who wants to get involved at home, that's great too. Your OneADay could be anything from posting One Workout a Day online to help other families who are cooped up at home to stay fit, or One Lesson a Day, sharing a skill with those who are looking for inspiration.