We had the good fortune of connecting with Amy Eaton and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Amy, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I worked for years as a struggling, side-hustling photographer dreaming of leaving my dreaded day job. Every morning when I walked into the office of my day job, I felt my soul die a little. I knew I wasn’t living the right life for me, but changing that? That was tough. Bills to pay and dogs to feeds, I couldn’t just take the leap. Until I had no other choice.

After going through a divorce and moving to a new (big, expensive) city, I got a new day job – and as I’d soon find out, the worst one I’d ever had. It was an incredibly toxic environment, with little support from the leadership to improve the situation. My anxiety was on the rise, and panic attacks were right around the corner. It was bleeding into every aspect of my life. After having a meltdown in my car one day, I realized that this was it. It was time to build a thriving business, come hell or high water. Day jobs would come and go, some better and some worse… But the calling to do something bigger, to work for myself and build something really special, was never going to stop until I answered that call.

After a great deal of soul searching, I took that leap. I quit my job. I would love to say that I’d thoroughly thought it out and had a solid plan, but I did not. It was a genuine leap of faith. For the record, I do not recommend this approach. It was truly terrifying.

What I did know is that I COULD do it. I’d gotten to a place, through listening to heaps of podcasts, reading loads of books, and just generally acknowledging my pure stubbornness, that I really believed I could be successful in business. So I just started.

Two or three failed business ideas later, I was continuing to work as a photographer to scrape together an income. Online education was on the rise. I knew there was a gap in the market – makers who sold on Etsy and needed to take great product photos. No one was helping them or meeting this need. I’d done in person workshops for makers, but this “online course” concept was relatively new. I also got honest with myself about what I wanted. I loved photography, but I’d be just as happy to only take photos for my own enjoyment. If I could teach others to take their own photos and make a living doing that, I could have freedom and flexibility with my schedule, where I lived, and how much I could scale that business. That was more appealing than simply being a working photographer.

Four months later, I launched my first course – Snap, Sell, Succeed – and enrolled 13 students. I was glowing with pride. I’d made 5K in a week! Little did I know, that was just the beginning. The next year my online course business broke through 6 figures, and continued to grow each year.

5 years later, I’ve enrolled nearly 1600 students into my brand and product photography courses, and my husband and I co-founded a company called Brioka, which is an online learning platform for the creative arts. Through Brioka, we mentor other creatives in creating and selling their own online courses, take on the tech and systems component of having an online course (which is often a huge barrier for them), and are building an incredible community of talented makers and artists. Our vision for Brioka is a big one, but just like when I built my first course, I see the great need for this kind of support and community in the online space. We can’t wait to expand our business and impact more creatives worldwide as we grow.

Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
The idea for Brioka was born from a desire to achieve success in collaboration with other creatives. As creatives ourselves, and with my experience teaching photography through my online courses, we saw the potential and know firsthand the impact that scalable income can have on a creative business. During the pandemic, so many creatives were struggles. With the loss of in-person craft markets and closures of retail stores that they sold to wholesale, so many were experiencing a significant loss of income. Meanwhile, the online education industry was being shoved into the limelight and saw explosive growth. So many were at home, looking for ways to spend their time by learning something, and the creative arts were very popular. Even with the world starting back up again, the online education industry isn’t slowing down, and it’s projected to continue to grow exponential. Having experienced the life changing opportunity of teaching courses online ourselves, we wanted to extend the same opportunities to all creatives. But we also know firsthand how complex creating online courses can be. The tech and systems associated with teaching courses, classes, and workshops online are daunting and it’s a huge barrier for creatives. Because we’ve be running our own online course business for years, combined with the fact that we’re super nerdy and love tech, we knew we could provide new, lucrative opportunities for creatives to teach online in collaboration with us. Not only do we take on the technology and systems, we also mentor our course creators in building, teaching, and marketing their online courses.

While there are other platforms that make it fairly easily for creatives to host online courses, these platforms lack the hands-on mentorship and creators end up only getting paid a small royalty for their hard work. In contrast, Brioka is set up to be a joint venture partnership with our course creators. There are no startup or monthly fees for our course creators, instead we make money together when learners enroll in their courses. We are extremely passionate about abolishing the concept of the “starving artist”. Creatives have been and continue to be taken advantage of and exploited for their talents and hard work, being underpaid, made to compete against one another, and being asked for free work. We are on a crusade to fight this ideology, by valuing our artists and makers and giving them a place where they can realistically add a new significant income stream to their business which will make their businesses more profitable and sustainable.

Building Brioka (especially during a pandemic) was not an easy feat. With our two children at home and no child care, we did a lot of juggling. I’m still not sure how we managed, but somehow we have made it to the point that our first course creators are teaching on the platform. We learned that “balance” is a myth (for us at least) and that we simply need to divert our attention to whatever needs it most in the moment. Truthfully, we’ve had moments when we thought about giving up. We had conversations about walking away from Brioka entirely. Building a new company from scratch is A LOT of upfront work with no payoff. You are fueled by your belief and that alone. Even still in our infancy, we’re working for the future. But we are firmly rooted in our purpose and belief in this company and there is no turning back now. With our first courses on the platform, and a whole slew of creatives working hard to bring their courses, classes, and workshops to life, the future is looking bright for Brioka and our creators.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
None of my success in business would be possible without the support of my husband, Jeff Brooks. Before I made a single dollar in my business, he believed in what was possible. He could see the version of me that was capable of making all this happen. He nurtured our first baby while I was working hard, building my first online course. When our second child was born, he left his career in the military to stay home with our kids so that I didn’t have to give up on my goals and vision. His support has never faltered. Fast forward a few years, and we’ve co-founded our company, Brioka, and are building our new future together. I couldn’t ask for a better partner in life or business.

Website: www.brioka.com // www.amytakespictures.com

Instagram: instagram.com/createwithbrioka // instagram.com/amy.takes.pictures

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/amyatbrioka/

Image Credits
Amber Ellis Michelle England Branding by Skysail

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