We had the good fortune of connecting with Matt Beaty and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Matt, how do you think about risk?
Risk is the most essential part of entrepreneurship. It’s essential to understand, to accept, to manage. A business owner’s relationship with risk is one that’s always changing, but one that’s always there. I’d say my affinity for relatively high-risk undertakings is the main reason I’m able to make a career and life out of a creative profession. There is no certainty in creativity; instead there’s a whole lot of ups and downs, feasts and famines. Being able to not just accept that, but enjoy the process with a long-term vision for the business and myself personally, is what makes it all come together. From the day I bought the business to today, each year I have actively sought out one major risk to take. One that makes sense for the business, one that if it worked, would help us diversify, grow and learn new skills and offer new services. My first year, at the behest of a client, I built out a facility that would allow me to make some of the largest commercially available platinum/palladium prints in the world. That process took months, and thousands of dollars in R&D that the company barely had to spare. The second year, I spent the company’s entire retained earnings on a new system to run color film. This last year, I took over the space next door and installed a gallery of world-class black and white photography. Each year, I’ve lost sleep, wondering whether my decisions would lead to financial ruin…. but each year I’m rewarded with growth, new products and services to offer, and a resiliency that comes from facing new challenges and managing risk, right on the razor’s edge.Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Specialization is key. Diversifying offerings to the point of specializing in multiple fields is the name of the game. Hidden Light started as a truly niche business, a black and white darkroom specializing in analog handmade prints, during a time when the entire photography industry was moving to all-digital workflow. At strategic points in the last 20 years, we have taken opportunities, what most people would consider hardships, like the market crashes of 2001, 2008, etc to continually expanded our services. Now we offer some of the largest, most expensive prints in the world, film processing in b/w and color, a carefully curated gallery of world-class photography, custom framing, camera sales, and we’re looking to add more! By focusing on a long-term vision for what a photography lab should be – a resource for photographers of all walks of life – and being open to new techniques, technologies and opportunities, we are continually evolving towards the ideal photo lab. The major lesson that’s enabled all this growth for me, is the need to face challenges head on. The less you want to do something, the more you probably should. The more scary it is, the more necessary it is. The less you know about how to fix or produce something, the more you should take the time to sit down, learn the process and build that into a personal strength. Each project that forces me to invest in myself or my team is an asset.Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Flagstaff is a truly incredible place to visit and to live. Must-see items include The Grand Canyon (duh), with a stop or ideally a night or two at the El Tovar Hotel. Food and cocktails are great at The Annex, so a visit (or two or three) there can’t be missed. Mother Road Brewing Co is my favorite watering hole, and food from Satchmo’s or Pizzicletta goes great with a pint or two of local brew.Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I firmly believe in mentorship. My mentors in creative endeavors are Stephen Saunders and Corey Allen, the co-founders of Hidden Light and the two people who have taught me the most about business, photography and business in the creative field.
Instagram: @flagstaffcamera, @monochrome.gallery @hiddenlightllc
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