A professional wedding photographer who was forced to put his business on hold for most of 2020 is targeting growth after securing support from the DBOP COVID Recovery Support Programme.
Scott Carney, like many business owners, was preparing for a busy year with his diary fully booked with weddings throughout 2020 and 2021.
But when the country went into the first of three lockdowns, Scott found himself out of work.
Though, as he explains, it wasn’t all bad – in March he became a dad for the second time, with his partner Sarah giving birth to a daughter, Martha.
Scott said: “The coronavirus pandemic really was a double-edged sword for me – as a wedding photographer my work completely dried up and I wasn’t able to earn any money, but then Martha had just been born so it meant I got to spend time at home with her and watch her develop every day.
“Because of my business set up, I wasn’t eligible for financial support which was hard for us, especially with a new-born baby. Cash flow was tight.
“But I really wanted to stay positive, and while it was frustrating not working and the uncertainty of when I could get back to photographing weddings, I decided to use the time wisely.”
To help get his business back on track Scott applied to the DBOP COVID Recovery Support Programme, which is part-funded by the European Development Fund (ERDF). The programme is managed by CDC Enterprise Agency on behalf of Business Durham and provides 12 hours of targeted, one-to-one support for micro and small businesses that were adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Scott received individual support via Zoom which included reviewing his marketing activity to build a clear vision and identity for the business.
Scott added: “The support I received was fantastic. Lisa Hesler at CDC was my support officer, working with me to develop a marketing strategy which has helped focus my efforts on the areas that are best suited to my business and who my ideal customers are.
“Through the programme I also received a small grant which I put towards developing my website and running some targeted campaigns on Google and Facebook to raise the profile of my business.”
Lisa Hesler, small business marketing adviser at CDC Enterprise Agency, said: “It’s been a pleasure working with Scott. Part of the process we went through was to build a virtual persona of who his ideal customer was. I was then able to help Scott to build a focussed marketing campaign on this ‘person’, whom we named Katie.
“This involved developing a marketing message to pitch and then looking at the best marketing channels to enhance this targeted activity.
“I really enjoyed bringing Katie to life. Developing a strong persona for her helped us to really focus the marketing on attracting more ideal customers to the business.
“I am confident the more focussed approach that Scott is adopting will really help his business moving forward, giving a much more visible online presence to his target audience, which will only enhance his plans for growth.”
Scott set up Scott Carney Photography in 2012 but didn’t branch out into wedding photography until 2015 when he left the Army.
Scott, who is originally from York and now lives in Sedgefield, said: “During my time in the army, I had done bits of photography, initially shooting gigs and concerts as I have a few friends who play in bands.
“Then, during a 10-week break after a tour of Afghanistan, I did bits and pieces of work for agencies in the region and was then asked to photograph a friend’s wedding, which I loved – I found the process of capturing atmospheres, lights and emotions very similar to photographing live music.
“So, in 2015 I formally became a wedding photographer and since then have been lucky enough to photograph weddings in many beautiful locations around the North East, as well as in London and Italy which was a fantastic experience.”
Scott is hoping that the worst is behind us, and he can get back to doing what he does best.
Scott added: “I have been so flexible with my customers which definitely helped, as those people have rebooked so my pipeline is looking pretty healthy.
“I’ve also introduced videography as part of the package which I am hoping will be a real asset to the business.
“My main concern right now is whether at any point further restrictions come into play – things are looking very positive, and the vaccine rollout should hopefully ensure we don’t have to go into lockdown again. But of course, in my line of work, I am nervous because photography isn’t something I can do remotely.”
The DBOP COVID Recovery Support Programme is managed by the Durham Business Opportunities Programme, a six-year programme for SMEs running up until November 2022. It is funded through European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and delivered by Business Durham, the business support service for Durham County Council, helping to deliver more and better jobs and a strong competitive economy.