We've always hoped to inspire women in all aspects of life. This year, we're getting back to that by sharing stories from women in business who have so much wisdom to learn from.
Starting with our hometown...The Bahamas, our first feature of the year is Communications Professional and businesswoman - Shanaye Smith.
In an honest conversation, she shares career advice on navigating business and the mindset it takes for building a brand that lasts. As a young professional and creative, she details some of the struggles we all face, (no matter the stage) but in the end...how to overcome!
Business Profile: Media Company that specializes in Photography, Videography and Graphic Design.
You’ve had tremendous success in your field, what do you think sets you apart as an entrepreneur?
Shanaye: I think it’s my dedication to consistency, my willingness to keep learning and support from my business partner.
I believe that I am good at what I do but I am by no means the best in my field or the most talented. However, I am consistent and I am a strong believer that hard work trumps talent every time. I’m consistently trying to improve on my skill set and be better than I was the last time I put out a photo or video project. It’s easy for people to be naturally gifted at something and get complacent because they think that’s enough to get them by. I believe in staying a student. And finally having a great business partner - the level of support I get from him really pushes me to be better.
Do you find being a full-time creative difficult & how do you navigate those challenges if any?
Shanaye: OH MY LORD, IT’S SO DIFFICULT!
There are so many things that come into play with working and being a business owner in the creative industry... like people not valuing your work because they don’t take that field seriously, or getting burnt out by mixing what you love to do with work. Those are all uphill battles to climb but for me, the biggest challenge right now is time management.
I have a triple whammy because I work full time, I’m studying for my Masters, as well as co-own a business - so as you can probably imagine, time management is so difficult. I can literally go for weeks on end without having one full day of rest where I don’t do something that needs to be done. When you’re a creative, you need time to recharge to get those creative juices flowing.
I try to navigate by prioritizing what’s most important and putting aside what can wait for a bit. I also try to schedule time to rest my mind - even though this is something I struggle with feeling guilty about (because there’s always something to be done). People talk about self-care to the point where it’s a little cliche now but it’s genuinely important to take care of the body that’s been carrying you through, so I try to schedule self-care days when I can.
It's crazy because we all "love" self-care, but, the internet is always pushing people to “start that business” - As an entrepreneur, do you believe in the “hustle culture”? Why or why not?
Shanaye: I definitely don’t believe in pushing the idea that everyone should start a business. It’s so toxic.
Business ownership isn’t for everybody and that’s completely fine. I see so many posts online pushing people to quit their job or bashing working for someone else and it’s such a garbage take.
Some people thrive while working for others. I personally still work and I love my 9 to 5. Not only do I enjoy what I do because it assists in my personal development, but it also helps to fund things needed to take the business to the next level. Outside of that, business ownership just isn’t for the faint of heart. People think owning a business is all about boasting, “I’m a business owner, I’m the CEO, this is mine blah blah blah,” but the truth is... the work that happens behind the scenes is so much more important to run an effective business.
Sometimes it’s downright exhausting and not everyone is built for all of the work you have to put in before you finally start to see that work pay off. What it all comes down to is figuring out what works for you and navigating the best way to forge your path.
Speaking of hard work, you were recently re-tweeted by Ava Duvernay! As a woman carving out a name for yourself in the same space, what does something like that mean to you?
Shanaye: I don’t think I can express how much it meant to me. To someone reading it might seem so insignificant, like, "Oh it’s just a retweet haha", but Ava Duvernay is my biggest inspiration in film. Literally the biggest. I look at her and I can see myself and for 20 something years prior to discovering her work I didn’t see anyone in filmmaking I could look at and feel a connection to.
It’s funny because the day it happened felt...the only word I can think to describe it is divine. Earlier that day I had a full day of video shoots and at the end of the day I was so exhausted - like body aching, dog tired and I was driving home and I’d been vlogging my day. So at some point during vlogging, I was just like “I does be tired y’all, I just hope I look up in 5 years and all this work is worth it.”
Then that evening I was on a group call with my best friends [haha you were there] and one of them asked me who Ava was because I never shut up about her... so we started talking about her. 20 minutes later she retweets a screen grab from a video I posted on Twitter saying, “Nice work,” then she follows me. I was shaking because it felt like God was reaffirming to me that this is how easy it is for me to have the people you aspire to see you and yes it will be worth it eventually.
So Ava if you’re reading this I love you queen and I would be honored to work with and be mentored by you, just throwing that out there haha.
That was such an amazing moment to be part of! ...Do you find that seeing more representation in male-dominated spaces helps drive your success?
Shanaye: It definitely does. Representation is super important because when you see people that look like you in the spaces you want to be in it no longer feels like an ideal, suddenly it feels attainable. When I look at women like Michelle Obama and Ava Duvernay and I read their stories, I think to myself... if I work hard enough this could be me. So I hope that one day I can also be that person for some other little girl.
Who then would you say is your biggest influence when it comes to creating?
Shanaye: I don’t have any one person that influences my work in terms of what l create. However, what I do have, are elements of storytelling that I personally love. So I’ll actively seek out Directors, Cinematographers, and Photographers that incorporate those things to see how they put them into practice. I love heartfelt storytelling coupled with adventure so I’ll watch films by Steven Spielberg. I love telling important black stories and incredible visuals so I’ll watch films by Ava Duvernay (13th was so aesthetically pleasing it blew my mind). I love symmetry so I’ll watch films by Wes Anderson. I love images that perfectly capture the severity of a moment so I’ll look at pictures by Pete Souza. Etc etc
Shanaye's Champagne Facts
Fave influencer in your niche- At the moment it’s a photographer called @photosbyreem everytime I see his work I’m awestruck.
Dream client/gig- I have so many lol I can’t say just one, so I’ll just say my overarching dream aside from a specific gig or client is to create films, tv shows, limited series (you name it) about multifaceted black stories - black love stories, black sci-fi stories, black coming of age stories, etc that are complex and layered. I’m a bit burnt out on stories starring black people where their blackness is a major plot point or conflict of the story. Obviously, our blackness and the struggles we face because of it is an important element of who we are and it’s important to honor that but it’s also important to honor the fact that we’re more than just that.
Best memory of starting a business- My business partner and I getting our business license. It was....a trying experience lol.
Your most trusty tech gadget- Toss-up between my camera and my phone. Both feel intrinsically a part of who I am.
Connect with Shanaye