My Business Life: Jenny McCarthy, photographer

Professional photographer and entrepreneur Jenny McCarthy share her life and business lessons.

McCarthy has expanded her business and designed her own range of wedding and baby products.

The well-known photographer created her own wedding candle in March 2020 but now has officially launched a wider range of products for sale under her new business name – By Jenny McCarthy.

“I really believe that I am creating memories for people every time I pick up my camera”

Jenny has a team of four working on her product and photography business and plans to increase this as her range of products expands. She has plans to launch three new baby products this summer as well as publish a Wedding Book and will launch her brand internationally within the next 12 months. 

Tell us about your background, what journey did you take to arrive at where you are?

I have always worked directly with people in every job that I have taken on and am very much a people’s person. From a very young age, I have always loved taking photos. I used to sneak my Dad’s camera out of the press in the kitchen and use up all of the film inside. Throughout my 20s, I developed a passion for photography but couldn’t afford a nice, decent camera! I used to borrow a camera from a friend quite a bit but always had to return it. For one of my birthdays, my husband bought me a camera that would allow me to take my photography to the next level – with my company Photos By Jen. I am not sure I would be where I am today if it wasn’t for him!

Why are you doing what you are doing? What need are you meeting? What’s your USP?

I absolutely love my job so much and really enjoy the job satisfaction I receive when people see their images for the first time. I really believe that I am creating memories for people every time I pick up my camera.

With my new product range for weddings and babies, under the By Jenny McCarthy brand, I feel that I am making wedding couples’ lives a bit easier and I am also giving parents baby products that they absolutely love. Each item I bring to the market is completely designed by me for a reason.

My USP is me, Jenny McCarthy. My business thrives, not just because the service and products are excellent but also because each and every person receives a personal experience. I have always brought my personality into the business and treat people the way I like to be treated myself.

I am documenting very special moments for people in my photography business. With my Zipzee Gro, I am making nappy changing more stress free. The Gro has two zips, one around the nappy area and another on the front of the Gro, which also makes changing baby a much easier job. My Baby Bag is multi-functional, it is quite deep, which allows parents to carry more and is very stylish. People are also buying it to use as a rucksack! My Wedding Candle has become so popular and is a must have at almost every wedding! The scent is stunning, and it forms part of the detail shots on the morning in the bride and/or grooms’ home.

“My photography business really took off quite quickly, which was just amazing and felt like such an achievement. I am beyond grateful for that”

How did you fund and start the business and what are your growth plans?

I have always worked extremely hard! I have been working since I was 11 years old. I started part time in a local newsagent and have never stopped working since. I take after my late father for my work ethic! When I was working part time in an advertising agency called Irish International, I started shooting weddings. My photography business really took off quite quickly, which was just amazing and felt like such an achievement. I am beyond grateful for that.

I used money from my photography business to fund the new product side of my business. My plans are to have my wedding and baby products in all homes that have a wedding or a new baby. I also plan to export my products outside of Ireland in the coming year.

What are your key skills and qualities that set you apart?

I have a great way with people, I am really good at capturing moments and I believe these two skills work very well together. I believe that people trust me when they listen to the knowledge I have about weddings and babies therefore when I started to bring out my own range of wedding and baby products, they knew they could completely trust me.

“My late dad always told us to ‘Work hard! Nobody will give you anything free, if you want something, you have to work hard for it’”

What (or whom) has helped you most along the way? Who was your greatest mentor/inspiration?

My husband, 100%. Honestly, if it wasn’t for Martin, I have no idea if I would have succeeded the way I have. While I am an extremely hard worker, Martin has always encouraged me and has been my backbone. I am a self-taught photographer. It took quite a while to learn all I know. I have made so many mistakes along the way, but I have learned so much. When it came to bringing out my first product, The Wedding Candle, Martin encouraged me all the way. There were times when I would question if people would buy the candle or not and he just didn’t allow me to have any self-doubt.

What was the greatest piece of business advice you ever received?

My late dad always told us to “Work hard! Nobody will give you anything free, if you want something, you have to work hard for it”.

What circumstances/qualities/events can mark the difference between success or failure in life or business?

I do believe that people need to take a chance when it comes to business. There are so many people who just don’t take that chance. If you really believe in something and you have a small budget to develop it, then just go and do it! There are a lot of people who are discouraging so my advice is always to protect yourself from negativity.

What was the most challenging aspect of either starting or growing the business?

Allowing myself to believe I can do this! Even though I am a very hard worker and have developed a good business, I am also such a worrier. My husband would like to change this side to me! I would worry that people wouldn’t think I was good enough. I started to believe in myself and realised that I am good at my job. Once you believe, you can do anything!

How did you navigate your business through the pandemic and what lessons did you learn?

Navigating the business through the pandemic was quite tough. Being a worrier did not help, especially as a supplier to the wedding industry. Thankfully, I have an amazing Studio Manager, Jen, who helped couples with their new wedding dates. She ran my office from home and took all the worry from me. I cut my salary down and just kept the costs very low. I always knew that the work would be there when we opened again.

“Work hard, observe, don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you feel you have to ask the same question again, just ask. Learn, learn, learn!”

If you were to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

Believe in myself from the very beginning!

Who inspires you in business today?  

There are quite a few – all Irish business women and, once again, very hard workers. Oonagh O’Hagan, owner of the Meaghers Pharmacy Group. She is such an inspiration to me. An extremely positive, outgoing and fun lady and one of the hardest workers I have come across. What I love about Oonagh is that nothing is ever too small for her. She speaks to everyone, has time to help and is such a motivator! Aimee Connolly is another extremely inspiring young lady. She has developed a business that is absolutely huge now. The love she has for her mum is just incredible; a fantastic business woman. Suzanne Jackson is the third; such a hardworking girl, nothing is too much for her.

What advice/guidance do you give new hires and how do you nurture talent in your organisation?

Work hard, observe, don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you feel you have to ask the same question again, just ask. Learn, learn, learn!

What business books do you read or would recommend?

I love Jay Shetty. Such an inspiring man who used to be a monk. He also now has a podcast that I wouldn’t miss.

What technologies/tools do you use personally to keep you on track?

I don’t go anywhere without my laptop. I need Photoshop, Bridge, Word and email too. I am never out of touch.

What social media platforms do you prefer and why?

I love Instagram. I just love chatting to people and helping them with the knowledge I have now. Instagram is just brilliant!

What are your thoughts on where technology overall is heading and how it will apply to business generally and your business particularly?

Everything is going digital now, which I believe is amazing. Since the pandemic, we have all learned how to meet on Zoom. This has really helped my business since I now meet all of my clients prior to their weddings on Zoom instead of face-to-face. It saves business people having to travel across countries to meet each other too. Technology is improving every day and I believe it will apply to most businesses going forward.

Finally, if you had advice for your 21-year-old self – knowing what you know now – what would it be?

All will be well. Stop worrying about the small stuff. Enjoy yourself more, take more time off. Be kinder to yourself.

John Kennedy
Award-winning editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.