When I hear the name Sarah Lehberger, two words come to mind: Soul Sister. There are rare instances in my life where I have met someone and immediately connected like I have known that person my whole life; that was my first meeting with Sarah years ago. Her openness, her empathy, authenticity and spirituality brighten up a room and you can't help but be drawn to her. She is a true force and an unstoppable, fearless woman that I so look up to and truly cherish her advice, be it for business or life. Because of Sarah, I am a better, stronger and smarter woman. Thank you girl, for always being in my corner, having my back and being a kindred spirit! Love you so much! xo ~ Maggie
Introducing our March "Who Run the World" feature Ms. Sarah Lehberger! If you think you've got a busy schedule, just wait until you hear how this fantastic boss lady fills her time. From being a momma of two, to owning her own photography business, to co-founding an AMAZING business, coaching other creative entrepreneurs - find out how she got her start, how she finds her balance and why she loves every difficult, incredible, strenuous and rewarding part of her career. I had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah a couple weeks ago for our third installment of our blog series and besides her distinct understanding of what it takes to build your own business from the ground up, I was really impressed with her desire to not only love what she does for a living, but to help others to figure out what it is they love doing and how they can succeed in that. Check out my interview with Sarah - and make sure to take notes!
DANI :: How did you first decide you loved photography and wanted to make a career out of it?
SL :: I have a background in news and media, and a degree in journalism. Photography has always been a part of me and my career, although I didn’t realize my passion for it until I was planning my own wedding. I found myself envious of the wedding photographers that I’d meet with because they were capturing authentic and joyful emotions and weren’t stuck behind a computer all day (or so I thought). I was captivated by the sentimental or romantic images and storytelling.
DANI :: Why weddings?
SL :: When I was planning my wedding in 2002, my photographer had asked if I would consider shooting a wedding with her. She thought that my photo-journalistic background would compliment her work well. Back then it was still pretty uncommon to find many wedding photographers with a website, let alone a candid or photo-journalistic approach. I jumped at the opportunity, and that was the beginning of my love affair with weddings. I began photographing weddings part time in 2003, while I continued working full time for Getty Images in their editorial department.
DANI :: What did you like most about working in a corporate environment with Getty Images? What did you like least?
SL :: I really loved all the people I worked with at Getty Images. I was surrounded by immense creative talent, thought provoking industry leaders and some of the most giving and empowering colleagues. I loved the assignments that I worked on, which ranged from world events like the Tsunami of 2004, various award shows or red carpet events, to Donald and Melania Trump's wedding. My clients were MTV Networks, Entertainment Tonight, Rolling Stone, Glamour and US Weekly Magazine, and it was extremely gratifying knowing I had helped to place a photo or match a photographer with the job at hand. It was really hard to leave in 2005, when I decided to pursue my wedding photography full time. I knew that I would need work flexibility as I was growing my family and having my first child. Luckily, I had discovered wedding photography and could grow in my new career while still finding fulfillment.
DANI :: When did you decide you wanted to switch from wedding photography to photography for working mothers and their families?
SL :: A few years ago my work schedule was starting to weigh on me. I was feeling an extreme amount of guilt as a working-mom and I knew that I didn’t start my journey as an entrepreneur to end up feeling like I was stuck, burnt out and had no flexibility. I started to feel like my clients were getting the best of me and my family was getting the worst (or most exhausted) part of me. I needed to re-evaluate my business plan and find my balance again. I worked with a business coach who helped me to find clarity and to define who my ideal clients were. It turned out that my ideal clients are Moms (like me), who are passionate about using their gifts to contribute to society, fiercely optimistic and determined to challenge the status quo (for the betterment of our children), and they believe in leading their children by example showing them that we are worthy of our dreams and we are unstoppable. I photograph the art of Motherhood, because our world needs to see examples of women who are making a dent on this universe. And because her story holds deep value, and it deserves to be seen and heard.
DANI :: Where did you come up with the (awesome) idea to incorporate personalized keepsake boxes into your photography business?
SL :: I first found out about these gorgeous keepsake boxes a few years back, and I instantly knew I had to get my hands on them for my clients. It was personal, I suppose, because I come from a very sentimental family where my grandparents would keep their most treasured heirlooms or collectibles in glass enclosed coffee tables or they would display their art and photos for all to see. These wooden keepsake boxes reminded me of them, and I wanted to provide something to my clients that would allow them to have a tangible reminder of their most precious heirlooms and be able to touch, smell and see them when they needed to be brought back to that time. I encourage my clients to have one box for their wedding keepsakes, especially those who never got a wedding album, and nowadays one for each child. Inside of their box(es) they can place their photographs, old love letters, that pocket watch or hair piece, invitations or announcements, etc. There are also tiny little vials inside that can hold small amounts of that violet or vanilla scented perfume you wore, sand from the beach where you stood barefoot while celebrated your union, lace or beading from your Vera Wang gown, or dried florals from your bright bouquet. Most recently, my clients have been placing their baby’s sonograms, footprints, hospital name tags, and locks of hair in the memory boxes for their children along with their professional photographs. The great thing is that you can add to them over time. It’s like a time capsule of your life, and all the things that tell your story. And in this digital age, where all of our memories are on a hard drive, I think we need these boxes more than ever!
DANI :: What brought you, Sarah and Jackie together to form She Will Thrive?
SL :: We all met through our business coach, Jeff Jochum, and trained under him to become mentors and coaches for other photographers. His teachings have become part of our curriculum for our own students. We started having weekly conference calls to discuss the possibility of launching a business together back in 2015. We realized that we all have a similar mission to encourage, celebrate and empower unstoppable women. We wanted to take this a step further and build a business that would allow us to do this for creative women who are small business owners and entrepreneurs, and provide them with business coaching, retreats, workshops and a community of like-minded individuals so they can thrive both personally and professionally. We launched this January, and so far we have seen amazing growth within the community (known as the “Thrive Tribe”).
DANI :: The three of you are all photographers with your own niches, what differentiates your coaching styles while still allowing you to cohesively work to bring women together to encourage each other in their creative, personal and professional journeys?
SL :: This is a great question, and quite honestly it’s something we had to discuss early on. We each have a shared trait. We are unstoppable. Each of us is a survivor. We had to find our strength and resiliency in the midst of our unique challenges in life. This is what fuels and unites us to work towards our mission of empowering unstoppable creative women. The differences in each of us allows our students and community to learn from our varying perspectives as coaches, mothers, women, etc. Jackie brings a daring style to her coaching, while Sarah Roshan has a more carefree method, and I have a spirited approach. We believe that these unique traits will allow our tribe of women to choose the coach that best matches their own personalities or specific goals and needs.
DANI :: What fulfills you, professionally, the most?
SL :: Right now, I am equally fulfilled by both by both career paths! They allow me to fulfill two of my core needs: 1) I need women to be seen, not invisible, and I am able to do this through my photography and 2) I need women to be heard, to find and use their voice, and I am able to do this through my business coaching in She Will Thrive. They both bring me an incredible amount of joy when I can celebrate other moms and empower other women to live the life of their dreams.
DANI :: How do you find balance between being a co-founder and coach for She Will Thrive, running your photography business and being a mother and wife?
SL :: Oh man. Well, this is a complicated one. I sometimes feel like the concept of "work-life" balance is a myth! I aim to choose my priorities wisely and set healthy boundaries instead. By choosing my priorities I am able to let go of guilt and know that I am doing what is needed most at that moment in time (working on income, tending to children, self-care, etc.). When I set healthy boundaries for myself and start saying no to things (more volunteering, work that isn’t ideal, doing the laundry by myself), than I am honoring myself and what makes me happiest and fulfilled. And this is a really hard one because I used to care what other people would think of me, and I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. I have chosen to let go of that old mindset and to care about what I need in order to thrive. This is the closest I have come to finding balance these days. I didn't always choose priorities or create boundaries like this, and it was a hard lesson to learn about losing myself to everyone and everything that needed me. Now I think of my work-life as more of a rhythm and dance. I am actively moving with the rhythm of the season I am in. My kids are in elementary school so during the day I hustle, and at night or on the weekends I might do the tango or the cha-cha. It’s all about being flexible and extremely intentional. And it requires a 5am alarm clock, fierce optimism, plenty of to-do lists, and coffee!
DANI :: If you had only one piece of advice for women struggling to turn their passion into a career, what would it be?
SL :: I want women to know that if they have energy, passion and commitment than they should go for it! I won’t sugar coat it though. It will be some of the hardest work you have ever done. It will challenge you and it will ignite you! It will be a huge investment in yourself, and it will require ambition, strategy and a huge amount of hustle. And if possible, find a mentor or coach who will help to guide you, and encourage your growth and learning. And lastly, surround yourself with people who believe in you and have a shared passion or mission - it will make all the difference! (I guess that’s more than one piece of advice!)
DANI :: What's next for Sarah Lehberger?
SL :: Truthfully, I am in the process of mapping out my dreams and coming up with my five year plan. It requires vision, faith, hard work and strategy to be a business woman, who wants to change the world. I have a few immediate goals, and I’m working hard on them behind the scenes. I hope that they will lay the groundwork for some of the long-term goals, so I will have to keep you posted!
So now that you've had a brief inside look at Sarah's life, you'll understand what I mean when I say - talk about motivating, people! Seeing Sarah's passion for her career and for helping others find and excel in what they love is what it is all about. Who doesn't want that out of their life?! Thanks again, Sarah, for sharing your experiences and BEAUTIFUL photography with me!