Meet Jessica with Bark and Gold Photography
This week, I am featuring a fellow business owner and great friend, Jessica Wasik of Bark and Gold Photography. Jessica is an amazing pet photographer in the Pittsburgh area and I hope you enjoy learning more about her.
1. Tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do.
To put it simply, I’m an award-winning professional pet photographer focused on celebrating the joy and love between Pittsburgh pets and their people through playful portraits, high-energy action shots, and small moments in time.
In the pet photography world, I am well known for my charitable fundraising through my annual pet calendar contest which has welcomed hundreds of entries and raised tens of thousands of dollars for Pittsburgh’s local rescues and non-profits. I am a guest instructor in the Hair of the Dog Academy with a course on this very topic, an expert and recommended coach with The Pet Photographers Club, and a coach in the Flourish Academy’s elite business coaching program Elevate where I focus on helping photographers from all niches improve their pricing, in-person sales processes, and client management software/automation. I’m also a Dubsado Certified Specialist.
Beyond that, I’m a southern-born and Pittsburgh-bred black and gold girl at heart who makes no apologies for the amount of dog hair I may be covered in or the silly sounds that come out of my mouth when I’m behind my camera. I love sunflowers, gluten free macarons, all things sparkly, and eye-roll-worthy puns. I’m the wife to my high school sweetheart who I’ve known for more than half my life, dog mom to the best dog in the world, IPS jedi master, and a lover of automation. As an ISTJ personality type and enneagram 3w2 to a tee, I am direct, practical, persistent, loyal, creatively driven, detail-oriented, private, and service-focused. Efficiency is my love language and automation is my superpower! Excellence, quality, joy, love, communication, and service will forever be important components of who I am and what I value, all of which spills right over into the Bark & Gold Photography experience!
2. When did you know that you wanted to pursue your business full-time?
Immediately! When I go all in, I go all in! I don’t believe in doing anything small or slow, and not following through with something is never an option. I knew right from the start that I wanted to focus on pets only, so that’s been my niche since day one. I agree with the saying that “the riches are in the niches.”
3. How long have you been in business?
I officially launched Bark & Gold Photography on September 13, 2016 hours after my first one-on-one mentoring session with Heather Lahtinen of the Flourish Academy. In just a few hours, we had my website domain reserved and firmed up a vision of what I wanted my business to look like in terms of branding and my business model. By the following afternoon, I had my website up and running and had started reaching out to potential clients for my first limited edition sessions. I owe so much of my continued success to her as well as Nicole Begley with Hair of the Dog Academy who taught me the importance of running a service-based, product-focused business that was profitable right from the beginning.
4. What sets you apart in your niche?
Several years ago, I became a Certified Printmaker, which essentially means that I continue my education on the best ways to create a truly boutique experience for every client and aim to provide the best practices of workflow, processes, design strategies, and client support. As someone who values tangible products and who believes my job is not finished until every client has photos on display, ready to be enjoyed and handed down from generation to generation, I specialize in signature wall art, fine art albums, and other heirloom products, some of which are only available exclusively through me, meaning no other pet photographer in the immediate Pittsburgh area offers them. (I’m looking at you, handcrafted barnwood frames.)
5. What is your favorite part of owning a pet photography business?
Ooh, that’s a tough one. It’s the freedom to spend as much time as I want with my Hunter in his golden years or to work outside on a nice day while he basks in the sunshine and soft grass. It’s capturing the very things clients love about their pets yet struggle to photograph on their own. It’s hearing that their portraits encapsulate a special part of their pets in the way they know and love them best–and how they always want to remember them. It’s feeling the tight squeeze of hugs when I deliver their products and seeing the huge smiles as they put them on display. It’s the muddy paw prints on my pants from an adventure pup who just had the best time ever splashing in a dirty creek only to come over and jump up on me as if to say Did you get the shot? I had the best time ever! My mom’s going to absolutely love it! It’s the bittersweet goodbyes and, when the time is right to love again, the happy tears-filled welcome homes of a new puppy that I am privileged to be a part of. And you can’t really beat being “paid” in dog kisses, can you?
6. What is the oddest (for you) animal you have ever photographed?
Just three months after starting my business, I photographed two pot-bellied pigs at their home. It was a total learning experience that I was thrown right into with zero ideas of what to expect! I quickly learned my normal tricks-of-the-trade didn’t quite work as well with pigs as they do with dogs and that pigs apparently love Cheerios. These particular ones would do anything to get them! To encourage them to cooperate, their human scattered the Cheerios all over the property–in the grass…in the trees…and let the pigs scavenge for them while I fired away.
7. Do you have any hobbies outside of photographing pets?
I joke that it’s “working,” but am I really joking? In all seriousness, I love reading (mainly personal development and business books because hey–it’s kind of mixing business with pleasure), being outside and going on walks with my dog Hunter, listening to podcasts (I love a good true crime story sprinkled in among business and finance shows), and a nice 8 p.m. bedtime.
8. Tell us something unique about you that our readers would find interesting.
I began figure skating when I was eight years old and can’t imagine not being on the ice or involved in this sport in some way! I’m currently a five-time U.S. Figure Skating gold medalist in standard ice dance, solo ice dance, moves in the field, solo free dance, and solo international ice dance as well as a Canadian gold ice dance medalist and a certified choreographer with the American Ice Theater. Although I’m currently finishing my last two international ice dances, I also work part-time as a professional figure skating coach helping my skaters achieve their potential that they may not have otherwise realized. I’m a big believer that we should help others get ahead because we always stand taller with someone else on our shoulders.
9. Do you have someone or something that inspires you? How so?
My heart dog Hunter 1,000%!. He is the reason why our home is a little hairier, our bed a little tighter, our hearts a lot fuller, and the absolutely inspiration behind Bark & Gold Photography…the reason I’m a pet photographer. I find myself in constant amazement at his curiosity, protectiveness, joyfulness, stubbornness, loyalty, and humor, and they’re the very traits I strive to capture in my clients’ pets as well. I am absolutely captivated by the unique human-animal connection and strive to celebrate the joy and love between people and their pets in every portrait. I want every client to have their story told their way, however that manifests for them.
10. If someone were to ask for your advice and you only had a few minutes to give ‘em your best tip, what would it be?
Price your services and products appropriately from the beginning and know your numbers! Doing so develops conviction in the value you bring to your clients that sets you up early on to grow your business profitably and confidently and also allows you to pay yourself. I love the Profit First method and encourage all entrepreneurs to institute this approach from the get-go. You’d be surprised how quickly little financial wins add up and how much more secure you’ll feel in knowing that your operating expenses, financial goals, and taxes are always taken care of.
11. What are your top 3 favorite books and why?
Just three?! This is like asking me to name my favorite macaron flavor, but here it goes: Secrets of Six-Figure Women by Barabara Stanny; Chillpreneur: How to Run a Wildly Successful Business Without Losing Your Mind by Denise Duffield-Thomas; and The Mountain Is You: Transforming Self-Sabotage Into Self-Mastery by Brianna Wiest.
12. How can people find you (social media, website, etc.)?
My website is the best place to reach out to learn more–www.barkandgoldphotography.com, but I’m also super active on Instagram (@barkngoldphotography) and on Facebook at facebook.com/barkandgoldphotography. I joke that I must be following every dog in Pittsburgh, but if I missed yours, go ahead and give me a follow!
This post is a part of a photography blog circle featuring photographers specializing in a variety of niches. To see what the next photographer is sharing for the weekly theme, “A Conversation With…,” check out Michael Holl of Holl Photography. Continue to click the link at the end of each post in the blog circle until you eventually find your way back here.
Thank you for asking such thought-provoking questions! It was so fun sharing more about myself and the BGP experience.