By JOEL PERUSSE
Small business owner Mike Farkas has found stability in his passion. This 31-year-old St. Catharines resident turned his “relaxing hobby” into a job, launching a new Niagara photography company, G3 Designs Photography (G3), and reinventing his life.
This year marks the third year of this quickly budding photo studio, but along the way not everything was picture perfect. A lot of hard work went into building his business. Before he thought of becoming an entrepreneur, Farkas was working with Philbrick Homes as a carpenter. Stressors at home pushed him to find a hobby that would “get [my] mind off things.” Photography proved to be a great creative outlet, says Farkas.
After he upgraded his Panasonic point-and-shoot to a Sony Apha 33 digital single lens reflex camera (DSLR) it “opened more options to be creative. The creativity kicked in and it escalated from there.”
He started by taking his own family’s photos. He said it was something he enjoyed. The idea of turning photography into a career didn’t dawn on him until his friends began asking him to take their pictures. Entrepreneurial tendencies run through the family as his father and grandfather owned their own businesses.
Farkas says his family “has always been involved with business,” and “it was something [I] was good at,” so why not try self-employment? He never took photography classes and only went to school for business.
The Self Employment Benefit Program taught Farkas how to start and operate a business, while a blend of experience and passion taught him the rest.
“It’s such a gratifying feeling,” he says about teaching himself how to shoot and edit quality pictures. “It’s just magic.”
Farkas says he regards himself as a people photographer; he likes that he gets to “capture something that will last forever.” He’s “a photographer for the people and of the people,” people being the foundation of his business.
In 2009 he established G3 as a formalized business. The first year was spent making connections, shaking hands and taking advantage of social networking sites such as Facebook. “We took a loss,” but it was necessary to get the company off the ground. It wasn’t until a year later Farkas’s business started to pick up and become marginally profitable.
His people-centric style matured from shooting his sister and models to local rock ’n’ roll and hip hop shows. He began shooting weddings in late 2010.
Also, he shot the grand opening for Hart and Huntington’s tattoo shop in Niagara Falls and was asked to shoot the one year anniversary the following year. Mostly, though, he shot for local clients. He wasn’t shooting anybody or anything high profile until the next year when Farkas was introduced to the challenging assignment of shooting celebrities.
Farkas went from shooting local bands to shooting Cypress Hill, Classified and Gordie Johnson, to name a few, in less than 12 months of really digging into his business, without an office yet.
Not until 2012 would Farkas be able to hold down a shop and call it his own, but just because he didn’t have his own workspace didn’t mean he couldn’t provide a professional service.
G3’s business picked up enough during that year, to maintain a point of sustainability and Farkas had his first taste of real entrepreneurial success.
The first two years of G3’s existence exhibited a grueling test of endurance and dedication, he says. “Being your own boss, you work three times as hard and have a lot of sleepless nights.”
Before the company became profitable, Farkas says he had to grind out every gig he could get to cover overhead, since he left his carpentry job to become a full-time entrepreneur. Consequently, he was constantly out meeting new people.
Shortly after becoming self-employed, Farkas met Tanya Lampman and they married Nov. 15, 2011.
“Tanya has been very supportive.” Tanya says she likes the fact he has his own business and is his own boss, but she wishes he didn’t have to work quite as much.
From within those trials emerged a fast climbing individual on the ladder of self-employed success.
Farkas says he finally got his chance to have an office in early 2012, an opportunity he jumped at. In April he started the renovations on what would become the headquarters for G3.
At the corner in St. Catharines, Welland Avenue and Page Street sits the two-storey red brick and white siding building housing Farkas’s first studio set.
“It’s epic.” Because he has his own space to work, he says he is more productive, which is a good thing, as his client list is quickly growing.
This year marks the first year of Farkas branching out from his “people” photography into capturing the essence of inanimate objects. He says he kick-started his automotive photography with a shoot for two men, who choose to remain anonymous, snapping pics of their 1936 Ford hot rod and Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
Farkas said that first automotive photo shoot was one of the most significant moments in his career because it “really defined what [my] future looks like.”
It doesn’t stop there. Farkas says he’d like to start taking travel photos, journeying across the world catching glimpses of its natural splendour to add to his already substantial gallery of pictures.
“Each photo has a different personality.”
However, it still always comes back to the people. “Meeting new people is always awesome.”
His job has afforded him the opportunity to meet some “incredible people” and through that he has forged many friendships.
Farkas’s vision for the future can be summed up into three simple words: “bigger, better, more.”
He wants G3 to become self-sustainable so he can manage it from a distance while being able to take the pictures he wants to take and not have to worry about contracts and scheduled shoots.
He says he’s “always looking toward the future” and wouldn’t “trade [G3] for the world.”
While it’s still “weird” for him to see his photos used in profile pictures being shared online, he says it’s an honour to be a part of so many people’s favourite memories.
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