Friday, November 05, 2010

Turning Dreams into Gold
Blog entry by Nell Merlino on 10/25/10

When Linda Russell applied for the Make Mine a Million $ Business competition four years ago, she was a photographer with a dream. A shutterbug for years, shooting for the likes of Rolling Stone, Linda changed the direction of her dream when she got a taste of school portrait photography. She saw a way to do it better.

Before her M3 win in San Francisco in 2006, Linda didn’t see herself as a “businesswoman.” She was the lone photographer at Mugshots School Photography and photographed 2,000 students, making annual revenues of $200,000. This year, using her community-based approach to school photography, she has brought in nearly $800,000. She, along with her staff of contract photographers, will take portraits of around 24,000 students in 80 schools.

“Things have changed so significantly since my win,” she said. “It’s exciting to see how things are possible.”

Since 2006, Linda’s business has grown 20 percent each year. She hired three full-time staff that aid with business development, production, customer service, and design. She has a fully operational website where customers can proof their photos and order online. Some 20 photographers are contracted with her, mostly located in California, who Linda and her staff assist with advertising, marketing and customer service. She currently has one photographer out-of-state in Connecticut and said there’s definitely the potential to expand nationally. She even started a company blog, complete with video snippets from customers.

Linda described herself as “blessed” having evolved alongside others with similar dreams and goals. M3 gave her the tools to see her dream accomplished with access to a coach, an array of experts, and a community to blog her way through concerns and issues about her SBA Recovery Loan. Along with all of these incentives, Linda now photographs our M3 events and has witnessed the transformation of dozens of women, including herself. And I can tell you, she takes the best photos of people they will ever have.

“It is exciting to have such a close view into their dreams,” she said of M3 winners. “I see them evolve from nervous and hopeful into winners. I took this amazing photo of Leah Brown standing alone in a hallway practicing her pitch. Now she is running a multi-million-dollar business.”

If you want to meet Linda, along with other past winners, and think you have what it takes to make your business a million, join us in San Francisco Nov. 7-9. The Make Mine a Million $ Business conference can take your business to the next level. American Express cardholders can register for free using code AMEX. See you there!