Photography is a magical art that captures the beauty of the world, much like the gentle love of a mother. In this latest feature of "From Bean to Boss", we spoke with Ayelen Alcover, a radiant mother of three and a talented photographer known for her heartwarming outdoor photography. Since embarking on her entrepreneurial journey in the bustling city of Hong Kong, Ayelen has poured her heart and soul into her craft, transforming her passion into a thriving business.
Join us in this feature, where Ayelen graciously opens up about her incredible journey, the hurdles she's overcome, and the joys of being a mompreneur.
1. Who are you, and what do you do?
My name is Ayelen. I moved to Hong Kong 13 years ago, and like many families, we fell in love with the country. I am a photographer and the owner of Ayelen Alcover Photography, where I specialize in capturing love in all its forms. It can be the mother's love for the baby, the mother's love when expecting a family, or even self-love.
2. What inspired you to start your business?
Before becoming a mom, I used to be a Spanish teacher for a private school. And then I had my first son, which turned my world upside down. I didn't want to come back to work with the long hours that I was teaching. I just wanted to stay with him. I wanted to raise him and spend as much time as possible with him, and didn't want to miss any of his firsts.
But like I've always said to myself before getting pregnant, I wanted to be a working mom. I wanted to keep that creative part of myself and not just be a mom, which I think is great for a lot of women. But for me, I was craving more. That's when I opened my business and decided to be a freelancer, an entrepreneur, which would give me a better work-life balance.
3. How did you feel when you first ventured into entrepreneurship while being a mother?
I have to be honest. At the beginning, it was not easy. Having a new business is like having a baby. So I was like raising two babies on the side. But it was totally worth it. Every second that I spent building my business, doing what I love, and knowing that I was working for myself was priceless.I love to be able to capture memories for families, so it just doesn't feel like going to work, which is great.
On the positive side, Hong Kong is a great place to open a business. The technical part of setting up a business—taxes and all legal processes—was very easy and straightforward.
4. What did you learn from starting a business?
When I first started, I thought to myself, I love to take photos. I'll open my business! But it's not just that. I had to learn so much more while I was developing the business, like marketing, customer experience (because I am serving people), and taking feedback or constructive criticism. Because not everyone is going to like you. And that's a big lesson that I learned. You need to be OK with that and know you might not be the right fit for everyone.
"Another big lesson that I learnt is that better done than perfect."
I used to be a perfectionist, wanting everything in its place. But this mindset might stop you from taking action while starting out. So for me, it is better to get it done than to look for the tiny little details, waiting until it is perfect to show to the world.
5. How did you promote your business in the early stages?
Hong Kong looks really big, but it is small at the same time. So I think at the beginning it was mostly word-of-mouth and referrals from friends. While I know that it might not be the right strategy for different kinds of businesses, it was what worked for me. It was only a couple of years ago that I really started to do more marketing through other channels.
6. What are some of the main business milestones you are proud of?
The big one that comes to my mind is surviving the pandemic.Being mostly an outdoor photographer, figuring out the logistics to do family photoshoots during that time was a big milestone. I think a lot of businesses, especially us photographers, can say yes, we did it, and give each other a pat on the back!
Another milestone is starting my fine art school portraits. I work with different schools, and I have a more modern approach to school photography. I'd love to think that's a big milestone for my business.
7. What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced as a mompreneur, and how have you overcome them?
That's a good question. Funny enough, 2020 was the first year that I started working full-time as a photographer. So I think that the strategywas just to try to find an alternate solution to what was going on. A lot of families who were leaving wanted photoshoots in Hong Kong. Of course, with respect for all the regulations and laws, we wanted to arrangefamily capture. We wanted to make it work. My solution was to have fewer people in a group of families and hop on to different places. I was using a zoom lens, so I could capture them from a distance. And that was kind of a funny solution to the situation.
8. How do you handle moments of self-doubt or difficult times to stay resilient?
When my impostor syndrome starts acting out, I love to read the feedback from old clients. I love to read their kind words, which cheer me up immensely. That's why I think, from the customer's side, it's really important to give feedback to all the brands, small and big. Feedback is a good tool to grow. Say it in a kind way and be really nice, but give feedback to businesses even when they don't do as well as you expected.
9. How do you prioritize your time and manage the dual roles of being a mother and an entrepreneur?
There are some lessons that I learned from raising three children, because it wasn't always a nice balance for me.
"First of all, I believe the perfect balance between work and personal life is a myth."
There are some weeks when you're gonna rock it and you're gonna be great. Like this week, I can look back and say I have a good balance. I spent enough time with my kids, and I spent enough time with myself, which is really important. And then I spent a lot of time in the business. But some weeks, you merely survive it, and that's good enough.
Having an organized schedule is super important. I write a lot. I have a to-do list that I try not to over-write, which I used to do. Therea are only 24 hours in a day, and it's unrealistic to have 20 things on your to-do list. Now, I keep my list short, with only about 3 things. And if I can tick all of them, I can go for the next one.
Another thing is to find a space where you can work outside of your home. Hong Kong has a lot of co-working spaces, such as The Hive, where I work. So if you are thinking of becoming an entrepreneur, I really recommend you go to a co-working space at the beginning because it helps you put your mind to working time and family time respectively.
10. What values or qualities do you hope to instill in your children through your entrepreneurial journey?
In my parents' generation, I have the feeling that they work because it was an obligation for them to work. You must work to make pennies and so on. But our generation is different. We work because we enjoy doing it. I really love spending time working and creating and all these things. And the thing is that the kids can see their mother is not working because it's an obligation. She loves what she does.
"If you love something and you work hard for it, and you're consistent and persistent, you can arrive at where you dream to be! That's the attitude I want my kids to have."
11. How do you believe being a mompreneur influences them?
Talking about business, my son actually started his own "business" this summer. With his savings coming from his tooth fairy and different kinds of "incomes", he started a T-shirt business, where he painted the T-shirts himself and sold them to friends. Although it was most of our friends who got it for him, he still loved the experience. From buying the materials to putting the names and designing the logo, he did everything on his own, only with my husband's help in keeping the finances. It's nice to inspire and support them in what they do.
12. What is your favorite part of being a mompreneur?
My favorite part is the freedom to manage my own time and schedule. If my kids have something in school that I cannot miss, I know that I can be there for them. If it's an important day, like their birthday, or if an emergency happens, I can be there for them.
13. Have there been any surprising or unexpected discoveries about yourself through this journey?
Being an entrepreneur taught me is you need a lot of discipline. You need to be really disciplined with what you do, because you may eventually have a team, but at the beginning you are alone. You need to be really disciplined. There are no holidays, dinners with your colleagues, and all that. So it could be a little bit lonely sometimes.
14. What do you think about the competition in your field?
"To me, creativity has no competition. There is enough business for everyone, and I am all about supporting other people."
I am really an open book, so if anyone wants to ask me about business or photography, I am here to answer!
If you have any questions that you think no one else can answer, it's nice to have someone who works in the same field. And that's the great thing about Hong Kong. It has a lot of communities for entrepreneurs, and I would recommend everyone find one that is good for them.
We have a group of ten ladies who are mothers and photographers. When we have tech issues (or any updates with Photoshop), we always have each other's back. We even recommend each other because not the entire Hong Kong population is going to be the right fit for me as a photographer. And we have different styles and different approaches to photography. I'm really happy to recommend another amazing photographer that I know. Supporting each other is more powerful than trying to beat another person.
15. What advice would you give to other mothers who are considering starting their own businesses?
I'd give them the same advice that I would have given myself back then. I would say, take it slowly and just wait. When you just start a business, you want everything done now, but this doesn't happen from one day to the next. So it takes time to build a business; it takes time to do the work. It takes time to be in one place and start having customers, and then finding the right people for you, and then finding you. So have patience.
Another one will be to give yourself some time for the improvisation. You’re a business owner, but you are also a mother. For example, if your kids get sick, you cannot control that. And you might need to be with your child because he has a fever and only one mommy. It does happen a lot, and it's ok. I think most people can understand because we are human. We are not superheroes. So have that little window for unexpected situations that can happen.
16. What does success look like to you?
"For me, success is being present in the moment and being happy with what you do, and with the actions that you take every day."
Another key to success for me is to just do better —a little bit better every day. Just keep improving, in you as a mom, in you as a daughter, in you as a partner. That defines success for me.
Get ready to meet the adorable star of ourNovember Bean of the Monthspotlight, the charming 8-month-old Emerson, known as Emmy! This delightful Canadian family, hailing from Toronto and now rooted in London, Ontario, is more than just a story of parenthood; it's a heartwarming journey enriched with culture and love. Emmy joins her big sister, Charlotte, adding an extra layer of joy to their bustling household. Thank you, Mommy Wendy (@ms_wendydarling) for sharing her secrets of selecting clothing for her eczema-prone little ones, favourite places in the city, and cherished ways of unwinding!