The photographer and entrepreneur, Ismail Sirdah has been one of the leading figures in the photography and arts scene of Atlanta, Georgia. He spent much of his life and career in the area working in the restaurant and photography business. Building his entrepreneurial career began at an early age. The Cape Town, South African-born photographer, helped out with his father’s restaurant business. It has been a mainstay of the Atlanta music scene for decades. Ismail Sirdah knew he wished to explore his entrepreneurial opportunities but hoped to find his way in the photography business. Since the opening of his photography studio in Atlanta, Georgia The Ismail Sirdah School of Photography has also been launched and proved to be a significant success for the entrepreneur.
What inspired you to open your own business?
I was initially interested in the music industry and marketing but found myself having to work with local photographers who would push up my expenses as a marketing expert. I saw all the possibilities available to me and bought an old SLR camera to begin my career which gave me a good grounding in the sector before I took up photography full-time. I believe the creative side of the photography business was what first attracted me to the industry and pushed into my thoughts and plans as an entrepreneur.
How did you get your start in the photography industry?
As I said, I felt I enjoyed the creative side of photography, and I thought I would appreciate the creativity of the photographic industry and looked into how to start my career in the best possible way. Initially, I headed to the Savannah School of Art and Design to take some courses in photography to gain a better understanding of the basics of the craft and would later look for a mentor to aid in the development of my career. I cannot express the gratitude I have for my mentor as she helped me gain a significant amount of experience in the creative side of the industry and developed my business skills with her assistance.
What challenges have you faced as a business owner?
I’m not looking to boast or say everything has been plain-sailing, but I have had a relatively smooth ride through the business side of both my photographic studio and photographic school. As a business owner in a technology-based industry, I have spent a large amount of my time in the early days of my career looking to gain funding to develop my business positively and efficiently but finding loans and investors has been something of a challenge without crippling myself financially.
Do you practice any specific techniques to stay productive?
Over the course of my career, I have often sought to spread myself too thin and find different options for completing as many various tasks in one day as possible. Productivity is one of the most critical aspects of any business, but I have to focus more and set out my specific goals for every day simply and concisely which will allow me to develop my business positively. Unless I specifically look through my appointments and set out my goals for any day I find I do not achieve as much as when I am solely focused on the individual aspects of my career I need to be concerned with at any time.
Would you change anything about your career?
Not really, apparently I’d like to be more successful but when I look back at the opening on my photography studio, I can be proud of the fact I was profitable within one month of opening. Through working as a photography assistant, I built up such a vast amount of experience I was able to hit the ground running in my own business without making a large number of mistakes regarding photographic style and business decisions.
How do you see the future of your career panning out?
There are many different options I have been developing over the last few years including a developing interest in event photography which can only add to my business opportunities. Although I still enjoy the career I have built regarding wedding and studio photography I hope to continue to expand across many different areas of the industry and continue to grow my business.
What advice would you give your fellow entrepreneurs starting their own business?
The British entrepreneur, Sir Alan Sugar once said, “Once you decide to work for yourself, you never go back to work for somebody else.” I think that’s an excellent way to look at it, if you have created a thriving environment for yourself you can keep on pushing and get to the position you have always dreamed of.