We had the good fortune of connecting with Judy and Gavin Holt and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Judy and Gavin, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Risk is a very interesting thing; risk is relative. We both have degrees in fields that are generally lucrative (Judy for pharmacy, Gavin for computer engineering). Our risk to our career earning potential was huge and honestly we make much less than we would have from our previous career paths. But it’s all relative.
We are both good at slumming it. One thing we knew about each other from the beginning is our ability to be frugal, and to do it together as both a married couple and business partners. So taking risks is not the same when you have a lower standard of living. Someone financially smart said to me early in life, “If you have a middle class income, live a low class lifestyle. Or if you have an upper-middle class income, you can live a middle class lifestyle.” This stuck with us, and because of this mantra we have always lived with extra free time and less stress.
So taking risks early in our career was easier, more flexible, and had higher payoffs. Now we have kids and a house (more overhead and a higher standard of living), but even then we keep our financial belts tight for both personal and business. Our small business is set to survive the Covid pandemic because we aren’t over-leveraged, our overhead is very low, and our payroll is sound for up to one year. This is the same financial advice as having an emergency fund. The difference is that most people have a 3-6 month fund, while self-employed business owners should have a 9-12 month buffer.
We know people that make 6 figures, but live month to month. They have absolutely no room for risk. If they lose their jobs, they will have to make difficult decisions. They could never start a business, or switch careers to something more fulfilling or healthier. Meanwhile, our minimized lifestyle allows us to either 1) make more money with our current business, 2) start a new business when we get a good idea/opportunity, or 3) spend more time with our 2yo and 4yo daughters. Right now, we are investing in our growing family.
Please tell us more about your art. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
One thing that we had to fight to be creative, to be an artist, is fighting our own culture. We have a traditional Asian upbringing (Taiwanese for Gavin, Chinese/Viet for Judy) and we were raised to be engineers, lawyers, or doctors. Our culture taught us to succeed, but looked down on unproven career paths. We know many others face this dilemma.
Our artistic careers have not made us nearly as much money as the other professions, but our personal fulfillment and happiness is tenfold more. This also transcends into our business, which our clients see and love about us. We take care of every single one of our clients and make it a passion to do so. It’s probably why we have had almost perfect reviews for 15 years. We know that our clients pay for our home, our food, and our children’s clothes, so we take care of them in return.
It’s not as easy as clocking in and clocking out. It’s not as easy as following a well-trodden path. And sometimes, it’s just plain not easy. But it’s easy for us because we love it. It’s easy because we sleep well at night. It’s easy because it’s not work but a lifestyle. It’s easy because we already see our teeny tiny daughters mimicking that love of photography and art, and more importantly loving the act of creating that for other people.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
We LOVE good food at good prices. Here’s our list:
Vietnamese – Golden Deli (San Gabriel) or Pho Filet (Rosemead)
Noodles – Mien Nghia (Rosemead) or MIAN (San Gabriel)
Pastrami – The Hat (Alhambra)
Boba – Factory Tea Bar (San Gabriel, good space for hanging out)
Italian – Maccheroni Republic (DTLA)
Sushi – Show Sushi (La Palma, AYCE) or KazuNori (DLTA, rolls)
Chinese – Earthen (Rowland Heights) or
BBQ – Gui BBQ (Rowland Heights) or Kang Ho-Dong Baekjeong (Rowland Heights)
Dim sum – New Capital Seafood Restaurant (Rowland Heights)
Mexican – Baja Cali Fish & Tacos (Alhambra, $1 Tues Tacos)
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
We started this journey at the same time as Doug of Furious Photographers (http://www.furiousphotographers.com/).
Judy + Gavin Photography