One can almost taste the sea salt in the air, feel the dew covered grasses and smell the wedding bouquet’s fragrance when gazing at Willa Kveta’s photographs. She is the creative mind and owner of Willa Kveta Photography, a Santa Barbara-based photography business.
“I never imaged being a wedding photographer,” said Kveta. Reminiscing on her current path as a photographer and business owner, and how it took shape by virtue of her desire to leave Whidbey Island near Seattle and see the world.
She recalls in the same breath, “I saw true happiness where I didn’t expect to find it…and I learned to believe in miracles,” said Kveta, who traveled solo for two plus years around Central and South America. She quickly acquired the gimlet eye of a seasoned traveler through her many indelible experiences. A couple of which were hitch hiking extreme distances and being caught up in a police raid – these life experiences were just two among the many she recounted along her travels. Kveta quickly learned Spanish, worked as an artesana making and selling jewelry, and lived with local families from the Amazon jungle all the way into the Andean mountains. She experienced previously unimaginable beauty with the people she befriended and places she lived while at the same time documenting her travels with her camera.
After her travels in 2003, she decided to make her passion for photography her profession and graduated from Brooks Institute of Photography where she worked her way through school doing primarily portraits. Following her business launch, she decided she needed some business education to go along with her education in photography. “I needed more business sense and needed to find out how to be a successful business owner and not just a successful photographer,” said Kveta.
From an advertisement in the local newspaper, Kveta reached out to Women Economic Ventures, a SBA Women’s Business Center located in Santa Barbara, California, and attended WEV’s 14-week Self-Employment Training (SET) course. SET courses are led by experienced instructors and supplemented by subject matter experts from the business community. During the SET course, Kveta gained skills and confidence through learning about start-up basics, feasibility, marketing, financials and operations. At the end of the course she submitted a complete business plan to get her business up and running.
“WEV helped me analyze my business in a way that I had never done before. All of the worksheets, lectures and speakers helped me to focus on my goals and more importantly, to figure out exactly what my goals were,” said Kveta. Another component of WEV was the encouragement and continuation of the Master Mind group. ”We met on a weekly basis for over two years after we graduated from the class…these women became some of my dearest friends in Santa Barbara.”
Now settled into her small business photographing one of life’s most frenetic days, “I love to capture real moments,” said Kveta, who for the last 10 years has continued to fulfill her desire for adventure through her blossoming business and five years ago, the birth of her twin daughters. “That [SET] class launched me into a whole different realm as a photographer and as a business owner.”
Her biggest challenge now is, “balancing time being a mom and business owner,” said Kveta. She has a few assistants who help her on her shoots but for the most part handles her own website updates, taxes and blog. “It’s challenging doing all that…keeping it all going all the time,” with her growing clientele. Kveta said, she often spends more time on the business side than the artistic side but loves what she does – every bit of it, from the creative to the logistical aspects of running her business.
After reflecting on her personal and business path for a moment, she said, “the reason I’m successful is because I know how to run a business not only take great pictures.” Her clients would agree. Kveta’s exceptional business sense and eye for beauty has propelled her into being one of Santa Barbara’s most desired wedding photographers.