Belle Chapman left the corporate rat race for something less stressful and fell back in love with her lifelong passion of photography. She built a boutique family photography business and then launched her photography, where she helped families all across Australia and never looked back.
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Table of Contents
Let’s start with a brief introduction first. Introduce yourself to our readers.
Belle Chapman: I’m a wife and mum of two girls, I love chasing sunsets and travelling Australia giving back to families facing a hard time. Nothing makes my heart sing more than showing Mums how much they are loved and admired by their people. Second to that I live teaching photography and helping boss mums improve their business and work life.
Our audience is interested to know about how you got started in the first place. Did you always want to become a CEO or was it something you were led to? Our readers would love to know your story!
Belle Chapman: I definitely didn’t leave high school aiming to take over the world as a CEO. I completed a traineeship in admin and that’s where my work life started, I complete an Advanced Diploma in Management and then quickly moved up into Management roles the latest ones was running a team of 10 trainers and 8 Field staff including Corporate Relations, after building a Registered Training Organisation from scratch.
I was very lucky to get exposure across my working life in most areas of business. I had loved Photography since high school but didn’t get to dabble too much due to a busy work life. When i had my first baby i decided I wanted a change in pace and that’s when I decided to start my creative business.
“Selfmade” is a myth. We all received help, no doubt you love to show appreciation to those who supported you when the going got tough, who has been your most important professional inspiration?
Belle Chapman: I have always had a good circle of business contacts and business mum friends, those people as a collective deserve the accolades here, they have let me cry on their shoulders, metaphorically slapped me when I lose my mind and need snapping out of my rutt, They have shown endless love, support and encouragement and more importantly helped me celebrate my wins no matter how small.
How did your journey lead you to become a CEO? What difficulties did you face along the way and what did you learn from them?
Belle Chapman: To be honest it didn’t occur to me that I was one until I launch my not for profit arm haha it kind of crept up on me and it wasn’t until participating in this interview that I took the time to think about it and I realised my whole working life was leading me to here… My why, my passion and my little empire. Just chucking yourself out there in business in a big move and you don’t realise how big until you are in the thick of it. For a long time it was just me editing until the wee hours of the morning and trying to raise a family while building a business, You soon realise it gets lonely at the top and this is when I started to build my band of supporters. Seeking out other mums in similar situations, building/running a business and raising a family, we called each other our work wives haha, The ones you call first to cry or celebrate anything business. These people got me through so really rough times and stopped me feeling kike I was going it alone.
The second biggest difficulty i would say is comparing myself to others and/or imposter syndrome. Looking at other successful creatives and wondering if I’m doing business right. Should I be charging what they charge or should my work look like their work?! Working in the creative arts I found you have to at some point put your blinkers on to what everyone else is doing and do what lights your soul on fire. If I was to give advice for an up and coming in my industry I would say this;
- Capture what makes you happy 80% of the time
- Remember there is enough work and money for everyone
- Everyone out there started where you are, they also have bad days and when you fail chalk if up to creative learning and move on.
- Finally, keep learning, you will never know it all and that’s a good thing if you keep striving for better you will only do better.
Tell us about your company. What does your business do and what are your responsibilities as a CEO?
Belle Chapman: Belle Chapman Photography is the boutique family photography part of my business and The Forevermore Initiative is where I give away free family photography sessions to families in Australia facing a cancer diagnosis.
I hold many roles in my business but as a CEO my biggest responsibilities are, Selling my business, Building corporate relationships, Keeping my staff happy, Liaising with our Committee and most importantly making sure my businesses stay on track to our future goals and changing with the times as the Covid 19 pandemic taught us.
What does CEO stand for? Beyond the dictionary definition, how would you define it?
Belle Chapman: Ensuring all parties involved know what our goals are and how we will reach them and what they will do to ensure we get there.
- Protecting our reputation and customer relationships
- Ensuring there is enough money coming in to pay our debts, wages and keep the business profitable
- Decide what NOT to do in order to ensure consistency and ensure we keep progressing forward
- Never lose site of the passion of our why!
When you first became a CEO, how was it different from what you expected? What surprised you?
Belle Chapman: Making sure I have enough money to pay my staff was probably the biggest responsibility I felt, in my previous jobs I didn’t have to worry about where the money came from I knew what our goals were and I felt responsible for people roles but not the specifics of money. Now I have staff and these people rely on me to put food on the table for their kids.
As scary as this felt it was also an ah ha moment I had made it these people chose to work for me and my why. It surprised me how many people staff, friends and the general public who support my dreams and my why and this makes me feel giddy with excitement because it means I am in the right space here.
There are many schools of thought as to what a CEO’s core roles and responsibilities are. Based on your experience, what are the main things a CEO should focus on? Explain and please share examples or stories to illustrate your vision.
Belle Chapman: The bigger picture!!
I lost my Dad to cancer when I was young and that definitely impacted my why. When I launched my not-for-profit I was a girl who just wanted to help cancer families. I just wanted to take away the bourdon of a reduced income and an increase in medical costs standing in the way of people creating lifelong memories. I did this for 2 years just out of love, giving away my time and energy to do this nice thing for people. Once covid hit it became obvious we had to pivot on our journey, all of a sudden I had to close the main business and income ceased. This was when I went looking for ways to make an income in a different way to my normal, This is when I started seeking donations and corporate sponsorship to cover the cost of delivering this service and I applied to become a not for profit with the ACNC.
Share with us one of the most difficult decisions you had to make for your company that benefited your employees or customers. What made this decision so difficult and what were the positive impacts?
Belle Chapman: Definitely launching my not for profit, I had wanted to launch it for many years but I was down right scared to be honest. Scared I would fail, scared I wouldn’t handle it emotionally, scared people wouldn’t want to use my service, I took the plunge and decided to put it out there and see how people took it and it was a huge success. I knew in my heart a few families would love what I was trying to do but it surprised me just how supportive even strangers were of my why.
Then the next hard decision was made to become a not for profit, Again I was scared registering with the ACNC meant giving up some control of my baby, creating a committee who control what the foundation does and having to follow a while nee set of rules that the ACNC put in place. It meant giving up control, learning a new way to run a business but it was a huge benefit certifying what I am doing is not for profit and for the people. Allowing us to take donations and corporate sponsorships and provide tax deductible receipts to people which makes them more inclined to assist with our mission. All the while simply paying for the service we provide so we can help so many more families who need it.
How would you define success? Does it mean generating a certain amount of wealth, gaining a certain level of popularity, or helping a certain number of people?
Belle Chapman: I rate my success by how many parents I help to create a digital legacy for future generations.
By how many cancer families I create memories for to help them through their worst days remember the good, and fingers crossed it doesn’t come to that but should they lose their battle with cancer those left behind have those memories forevermore.
By how happy my soul is doing what I’m doing and following my why, I’m very lucky to love what I do for a job.
By how happy my staff are in their positions.
Some leadership skills are innate while others can be learned. What leadership skills do you possess innately and what skills have you cultivated over the years as a CEO?
Belle Chapman: I can naturally read people and pretty quickly, and I have a natural creative eye through a camera, I see my images finished before I even take them. I can also adapt very easily to changing situations. I’m also a natural born teacher.
Finance has never been a strong suit of mine, I have had to pick a lot up along the way and I am in fact still learning. I’ve had to learn to say no, this was a big one early on in starting my business. I’ve have had to learn hoe to run a not for profit/charity this one is also an ongoing process. But my biggest skill learn it to surround yourself with people who fill your weaknesses.
How did your role as a CEO help your business overcome challenges caused by the pandemic? Explain with practical examples.
Belle Chapman: The biggest help was adapting to change!
First it was trying to roll into an online business, ramping up digital products and teachings,
Next I decided to out all the extra spare time due to lockdowns for launching the not for profit, building the back end of the business ready to run when we reopened.
The biggest thing I learnt from the pandemic was that I could fulfill my soul yearning to travel by restricting the way I ran my not for profit, for example now when j am travelling to another town or state I will, seek corporate funding from that area and then open up the extra free sessions in that area. I then take my family on a mini holiday where I capture as many free and paid sessions as I can while exploring the new area in my free time with my family.
Do you have any advice for aspiring CEOs and future leaders? What advice would you give a CEO that is just starting out on their journey?
Belle Chapman: Surround yourself with support and people who fill your weaknesses in business. For example If you are no good at finance hire an amazing accountant.
You are who you spend all your time with, if 70% of the time you are the smartest person in the room you are in the wrong room. Pursue people who challenge you or you can learn from.
Don’t be scared to say you don’t know the answer, you can go off and find out the answer and get back to people.
Thank you for sharing some of your knowledge with our readers! They would also like to know, what is one skill that you’ve always wanted to acquire but never really could?
Belle Chapman: My poker face is no good haha. Most people can read me like a book and my face shows what I am thinking. 90% of the time I’m just happy being me and not hiding but there is that odd occasion I wish I could control that a little more.
Before we finish things off, we have one final question for you. If you wrote a book about your life today, what would the title be?
Belle Chapman: Winging it, or Being True to You?!
Jerome Knyszewski, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Belle Chapman for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Belle Chapman or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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