BBBY: What words best describe you?
YULIYA:Driven, ambitious, empowered, genuine, warm, empathetic.
BBBY: Who is one of the most inspirational women in your life? And why?
YULIYA: Hands down, it is my mother. She raised me as a single mom while operating a business and supporting three other family members. She is one of the most resourceful and driven people I know. She inspires me every day to do more and to be more, to never give up and make lemonade out of every lemon life throws at me.
BBBY: What was the inspiration for starting your own business/starting in this business?
YULIYA: I was raised with the built-in understanding that women were less than. There were few places were women were encouraged and uplifted, and even fewer women who felt like they had a voice of their own. Growing up in an environment like this also came with a rigid set of beauty standards - tall, incredibly thin, preferably blond. I was none of those things. I kept hearing the voices of women around me constantly say they were fat, ugly, old, you name it. I heard my own voice become more insecure and doubtful. So I decided it needed to stop and the change needed to start with me.
BBBY: What is the mission behind your/this business?
YULIYA: I started my business to empower women to feel beautiful. I do it through photography - I create a safe space for women to let their guard down and show me who they really are. We create a photoshoot of their dreams, where they and only they dictate what they wear and how they look. They get to decide how they are portrayed in photographs and through this experience, they feel empowered, beautiful and worth it. My mission is to do this for every woman I meet.
BBBY: What challenges did you face when starting your own business/in this business?
YULIYA: Starting your own business inevitably brings up all the doubts and insecurities you ever had in your life. The most difficult part of owning a business is the sometimes painfully slow process of self-awareness and self-discovery. It is challenging to learn to set boundaries, but be authentic and kind. To say no and still feel like a good person. To hear "you can't" and learn that you can. But it is a process I am actively working on and proud to say getting better at. Learning more about who I am and what I give to the world helps me show up for my clients and give 100% on every single photoshoot.
BBBY: Do you have a life mission or inspirational quote that you live by?
YULIYA: Yes, it is a quote by Audrey Hepburn that I have on my studio wall. "Happy girls are the prettiest." Since my business has so much to do with beauty and looks, I like to remind myself and my clients that what really matters is your happiness. Through photography, I hope to make women happier and more accepting and kind to themselves.
BBBY: What inspires you to do what you do?
YULIYA: The knowledge that an experience with me can literally change someone's life. When I am down, I remember all the incredible testimonials of my clients. I remember their tears of joy upon seeing their photographs. I remember them hugging me and holding my hand with tears in their eyes, telling me they feel beautiful for the first time in their life. If I stop photographing, I stop healing people. The fact that what I do makes a difference is what inspires me and keeps me going.
BBBY: Tell us about a time in your life, where you felt most powerful as a woman.
YULIYA: The moment that words of hate stopped hurting me. I grew up being told a number of negative and hurtful things about me, my body, my mind, and everything that comprised who I was. I always took it so close to heart and let the words nearly destroy me. But not anymore. I feel powerful when I hear words of hate and am able to say to myself - that doesn't hurt me anymore. My true power is choosing my own destiny and that means choosing my own thoughts.
BBBY: What has made you most proud and why?
YULIYA: This year I have won an award for 2016 Fashion Photographer of the Year. I was completely blown away with joy and pride when I won the award. Few people know how much blood, sweat and tears go into any business, including mine. Winning this award was proof that it was worth all the struggles and that my work captivates and excites, and that makes me want to photograph more and get better and better.
BBBY: What's the most important lesson you've learned as an entrepreneur or as you started in this business?
YULIYA: To take setbacks less personally. Our businesses are inevitably an extension of ourselves and it can be very hard to not take negative circumstances, mean comments or stressful situations as a direct hit on your self-worth and self-confidence. It took me well over two years to even start chipping at this, but I am getting better at understanding that it is a business and there will be a plethora of customers, circumstances and situations, some bad and some good. What is amazing is even from the most terrible experience comes learning and that is what makes you a better person and a business owner in the end.
BBBY: What are 3 tips you can share with aspiring entrepreneurs or someone ready to go after their dreams?
•Dream big. Really! Your dreams and plans need to be big enough to scare you because that will be a motivator to keep climbing up. •Understand that building a business is incredibly hard work and be prepared to put in the effort. Don't lose focus on what's important - love, family and friends. It is easy to work 60 hours a week and forget that you have a life. But we start businesses in part so we can be more independent and spend more time with family and friends. Don't forget that even as you are in the thick of things. Nurture your support network so that you have people who will always catch you when you fall.
•And lastly, trust yourself. You know better than anyone what is good for you and your business.
BBBY: Fill in the blank: I feel most empowered when I__________________.
YULIYA: Empower others. The opportunity to photograph women, talk or write is when I feel like I am making the most contribution. Thank you so much for the opportunity to do just that!