Maureen Erokwu started her business under the Emmy Chinelo photography brand, but with a current certification from Google as a trusted photographer, she has since rebranded her business and expanded her services.
I lost my job in May 2010 and since then, it has been difficult to find work. In this economy, when you lose your job, you are forced to create your own opportunities, which is what I decided to do. I applied for jobs at various companies and became discouraged when I never heard back from them. I understand that it is a competitive market and although many jobs are advertised, the reality is that most companies are not hiring. After making money for other companies all these years, I felt like I could do the same for myself. I know that the journey will not be easy but it will be worth it.
What is the name of your business?
How did you come up with this name ?
It came as a random thought – I wanted to come up with a name that best describes what I do.
What does your company do?
We are an online visual solutions company that provides 360 panoramic views for small businesses. Our service allows companies to engage their clients online as well as showcase their brand or store.
What is your role in the company?
For now, I am the jack-of-all-trades. I am the creative director and I handle all aspects of my business – It is challenging but not impossible.
Five years from now, where do you see your company?
We have an expansion plan and I see my business as the leading visual solutions company in New York and New Jersey.
What are your plans for hiring?
I currently have a marketing assistant and a project manager. One thing that I would love to do is continually reach out and give opportunities to recent graduates. I want to give young people jobs and show them that they can be useful in the job market – contrary to popular and negative opinions regarding us, as inexperienced.
What key things have you learned since starting your business?
1. Your customer matters. How you treat customers speaks volume about your business. Customer satisfaction is important and if you treat your customers without regard, then no business for you – it is as simple as that.
2. Build a referral system – I have learned to not just establish relationships with key individuals but to also have a referral system that works.
3. Create a strong network.
4. Have a marketing strategy – do your research and know how to market your business.
5. Be persistent.
Who inspires you?
I inspire myself. When I focus and set my mind to something, the results are favorable. I set goals that I can meet and I am my biggest fan. It is also not an issue about who inspires me but what. Giving people a voice inspires me – I want to give people who have no voice a voice.
What business challenges do you face?
1. Having the right contacts
2. Building my networks – constantly asking myself the question: how do we gain access to key players ?
3. Learning to deal with rejection – I get a lot of nos and I have to deal with that
4. Lack of adequate funding
How have you financed your business?
I am self- funded and I used my savings. The business is growing, which is a good thing. Bootstrapping is necessary because banks hardly work with startup companies less than two years old. I also enter business plan competitions. The most recent one that I participated in, was sponsored by Capital One Bank and that has given me some cushion to fund my business. One also cannot undermine support from family members and friends.
What is your competitive edge?
I am a Google approved and trusted photographer, which is an exclusive contract to photograph businesses based in New York and New Jersey. For those who do not know, Google recently launched a free platform for small businesses to engage with clients by showcasing their stores and brand online. It is a great interactive tool for small businesses.
What tips do you have for young people reading this interview?
1. Have a genuine interest in what you are doing.
2. Do not give up on your goals or dreams.
3. Be willing to fail – change the way you think about failure and plan to do better next time.
4. Do not let money be a hindrance to your dreams.
5. Properly represent yourself and your brand.
Are there any particular issues that you face as a woman entrepreneur?
I see women entrepreneurs as game changers. We produce results.
Contact Maureen Erokwu here:
Phone: 917. 243. 0909