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Backdrop Shop

During lockdown I have been spending extra time on growing my skills, attending online classes, and definitely more time on social media! I have been following both of these businesses that I am discussing in this blog for some time, but during lockdown I was able to catch an Instagram live that Cas was doing, and I was immediately drawn into her passion and knowledge.  I have been making a conscious effort to head over to her pages on a daily basis to soak up some of her incredible knowledge.

I have bought some flatlay boards from Cas in the past, and then they sat under my bed…  I had great plans to use them, but I never felt confident in what I was doing and my photos ended up reflecting that insecurity and lack of knowledge on how to properly use them.  Cas has now given me the confidence to pull these out again and keep trying, keep learning, keep experimenting.  Blogging has allowed me an outlet and a platform to showcase these great South African small businesses, whilst my social media platforms have allowed me to truly express myself and embrace my flaws, whilst still being able to grow.  And I can’t wait to show you more about these great businesses that have truly tipped the scales in my learning to love myself, as well as encourage me to learn new skills.


 

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Your name: My name is Casandra Swart

Business name: My business is called Backdrop Shop SA & Flatlay Boards SA

Social media handles: Backdrop Shop SA – Facebook, Instagram and Website.  Flatlay Boards SA – Facebook, Instagram and Website.

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Tell me a bit more about what you do:
I believe in the moments that become memories. I want to support the creatives who craft these moments into images that will be cherished for a lifetime to come. The Backdrop Shop is a community that welcomes everyone from professional studio photographers to small businesses trying to inject some more beauty into their branding. We love watching you take our designs to the next level by infusing them with your special style.

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Who is the person behind the brand:  I studied and worked as a graphic designer for 20 years, from the beginning I always knew I would manifest into my own boss, I always had a side hustle and eventually my side hustle became my full time business. It was all up to perfect timing. The time had to be right for me to take the leap. I have an incredibly ambitious and loving husband who supported me and nudged me further to stand on my own. In 2013 I was blessed in another way and became a mother … this now became my main focus and drove me deeper into pursuing my business with all I had. Our family loves to spend time venturing out into the Cape Winelands for a Saturday outing, quiet braais at home, weekends away in new places and Christmas bed evenings watching movies… all those family feels! I have a beautiful group of friends who I love to surround myself with and go on girls dinners and shopping dates. I also love self care and often treat myself to a spa day. I love to listen to podcasts and motivational speakers who inspire me and challenge me all the time. My business is my 2nd child and is my greatest achievement, I am very proud of where I am, how I have grown and what the future still holds.

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Where did the idea for this business come from:  I started the business in 2012 with a very good friend of mine, we saw a gap in the market where beautiful well priced backdrops where just not available in South Africa for the photography market. With me as the designer and her as photographer we made a great team and designed and manufactured a small range and marketed it online and on social media, the business grew well and we were happy with the progress… again a side hustle for me so I was still working full time. In 2013 we decided to split the business and go our separate ways (friendship and business unfortunately do not always work out) we amicably went our own way and Backdrop Shop was born. I was now at home with a newborn, and a new business… and I thought well you got nothing to lose and (I thought) I had plenty of time with a newborn by my side, she would just sleep and eat right … the side hustle started again.. I worked long days and nights and packed orders, answered mails, sent invoices, designed new ranges when everyone was sleeping. The work I put in paid off and the company did very well. In 2015 I quit my full time job and focused on Backdrop Shop fully, it was what the business needed to move forward even more. I then brought out more ranges, more products… and loved every minute! And then Flatlay Boards SA arrived…

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Why the passion for flatlay boards:  The flatlay boards were an obvious pivot for the business but I only saw it later in the growth of Backdrop Shop. I love networking and going to business workshops and training… I met so many incredible brands who where small businesses and who loved the backdrops. But my main focus was always on the photographers… my client spec was for the large format printing clientele… and so I thought but why don’t we do something to offer which is smaller/compact and easy to use for smaller product brands. I started researching the idea and noted there was similar ideas overseas… but again not in South Africa.

I just want to point out I have never wanted a business that ships or focuses on the whole world, I have always been focused on delivering to the South African market. This is important as it keeps me focused on my ideal client and what their needs are.

So the flatlay boards were created, we had trial and error moments, it took 8 months doing workshops, engaging with brands who would use the boards and who loved them, we had 5 very successful workshops and got a lot of constructive feedback regarding the boards. I then moved over from our initial wood boards to our plastic boards which then made the board lighter and even nicer to work with… and then introducing our larger mats. My Flatlayboards SA community has grown so much and I thoroughly enjoy engaging with the brands and helping them grow their content and photography skills by using my backgrounds.

Who do you think would benefit from using these:  Absolutely anyone! All brands, lifestyle bloggers, mothers, fathers, big corporations! Its really for everyone – if you got an eye for a great pic and need an interesting background instead of your kitchen counter then its for you!

How do you decide what images to use for your boards etc:
Our ranges grow and develop as our clients do, we get special requests for specific designs. The marbles, woods and textures are firm favourites and we keep them as realistic as possible to give you the best result when shooting with them.

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Which is your personal favourite one so far:
I love the Greek tiles and the different colour prints … florals/textures and colour!

Which have been your most popular designs:
The marbles are definitely the most popular designs. They’re soft and beautiful and is a great way to start your Flatlay journey.

How can people order from you:
We have a wonderful website, which is updated regularly with new designs and its very easy to navigate and order.  Alternatively clients are welcome to personally message me via email, DM on social or whatsapp on our business chat 071 877 0393.

Do you do custom designs:
YES ABSOLUTELY! I love customising prints for clients to match their brand perfectly.

Where can you recommend people get more training on flatlay boards:
I offer one on one training if you need but I always love sharing tips and videos on my social media for clients to go and watch and learn from them.

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Quote you live by:  Love what you do, do what you love ❤

Anything else you want to add:  If there is something you truly believe in, let your heart run with it. Be intentional every day to pursue that thing.

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Guys, aren’t these just too beautiful for words?  And isn’t Cas someone that we all want as our friend, and enjoy a good glass of wine?  I can honestly say that I have learnt so much from her, and will definitely be ordering more flatlays as time goes by and I am wanting to improve the quality of my photos more and more.  Her one-on-one classes are like no other, and I would definitely recommend you take a look at her free training over on her social media.

I can’t WAIT to see the pics that you create with some of her stunning backdrops or flatlays, so please do tag me in them.  Hopefully I can get some tips from you too!


 

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Sunkissedstudio Design

Some time ago I wrote a blog about Samantha’s business, Sunkissed Handmade. I am a huge fan of her beautiful headgear, flower crowns, mermaid crowns and every single design she presents.  This past week I saw another post on her page where she showed the fact that she can now turn you/a loved one into a MERMAID, as well as creating digital art of your pets.  Now I don’t know about you, but I have always dreamt about being a magical being and this honestly excites me so much.  Plus I know that my animals are royalty at heart so her creations are right at the top of my birthday wishlist!

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Your name: Samantha Hanlon

Business name: Sunkissedstudio Design

Social media handles: Design – Facebook; Handmade – Facebook and Instagram; Photography – Facebook and Instagram

Tell me a bit more about how this business came about:  I have been running my own business as a freelance photographer and designer for almost 12 years now. Before I decided to work for myself, I worked as a fashion designer for suppliers to top retail stores and international brands.
I have been focusing on my photography and crown-making mostly, but when this lockdown started, I realised that it would need to change my focus.
My clients have come to expect a certain level of pretty, light and happy imagery from my photography and a delight for princesses, young and old, in my crowns. I wanted to offer the same feeling but in something digital.
I decided to promote my design page and particularly the fantasy portraits, as a whimsical escape from the harsh reality of life. They make the perfect gift in a time when we can’t leave our homes to actually give loved ones presents, and there are no courier costs involved. The A4 digital image can be sent to anyone with an email address anywhere in the world!

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Have you always been so creative:  Yes, absolutely.
I studied Textile design and then fashion design and worked in the fashion industry for many years as a graphic artist and designer, which is where I honed my photoshop skills, which came in handy when I started doing photography. I always have a creative project on the go.

Please can you tell me a bit more about the specials you are running at the moment:
I am currently offering A4 digital portraits for just R250 each during lockdown.
I have a variety of themes to choose from but an happy to make custom orders too.

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Where did these ideas come from:
I have always photoshopped fantasy images for fun, usually for birthday cards or making memes.  It always makes people so happy to get something personalised and meaningful as a gift.

Which have been your favourite mermaid & pet portraits:
I have to say, one of my favourites is the mermaid – purrmaid portrait I did of my cat Lilly.
I enjoy doing each artwork and love hearing how much my clients love them.

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Can people still order from you during lockdown & how will they receive their images:  Yes! I email your digital file to you, so it’s easy.

Who do you think your ideal clients would be:  My ideal clients are the same amazing people who love my photography and crowns.

“They are day dreamers and night thinkers, they love music, books, movies , art, sunsets, forests and oceans and all things that make this world a more beautiful place. They are people with imagination.”

What do you need from people to create these images:
I need 3-5 photographs emailed to me. I do offer some guidelines as to which sort of images work best.  You can email these through to me.

How has lockdown affected your business:
I have been unable to run my small business, I am a single mother and also support my parents and handicapped brother. So quitting is not an option.
Thankfully creativity is my super-power and I can draw on my experience and talent to keep providing for my family.

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Quote you live by:
“A person who is a master in the art of living makes little distinction between their work and their play, their labour and their leisure, their mind and their body, their education and their recreation, their love and their religion.
They hardly know which is which and simply pursue their vision of excellence and grace, whatever they do.
Leaving others to decide whether they are working or playing. To them they are always doing both”
― James A. Michener

Anything else you want to add:
Please support small businesses at this time. There is no such thing as an “essential” or” non-essential” business.
Every business is essential to the person who earns a living from it.

“Have courage and be kind….and keep day dreaming”

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Please follow all of Sam’s beautiful pages and support her artistic talent.  These would make great birthday gifts, lockdown happiness, anniversary gifts, or even simply just-because.  If you have always dreamed of magic, or if your daughter/niece/friend has a vivid imagination; why not make it a reality.  Or if your pets personality makes you picture them as a dame from the 1920s, or a court jester, or even a student at Hogwarts – make this happen by contacting Sam.  Her talent truly knows no bounds and she is one of the kindest people I have ever dealt with.

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Laurie Watson Photography

I met Laurie at a birthday party for a friend’s child & I was instantly drawn to her energy & zest for life. She captured unseen moments, & you could really get an overall feeling for the day when browsing through her pics.

I started following her on social media & we sent messaged back & forth on a few occasions. We bonded over our love for animals, beautiful things & supporting local businesses. We would often send little messages of encouragement to one another, & I am always completely enamored by her style of photography.

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During this nationwide COVID-19 pandemic, people are staying in their homes for at least 2 weeks. Events are being cancelled, birthday parties postponed, & Laurie has been inundated with calls from clients to pull out of their bookings. Guys, this is the reality for so many small businesses.  Their bread & milk. Their survival. Their income.

I knew I wanted to do something, & help where I can. So I reached out to Laurie, & asked if I could do a feature on her & her business. I also spotted a sweet deal that she is currently running, & you can buy a voucher in this regard to save for use once social distancing is over!


Your name: Laurie Watson

Business name: Laurie Watson Photography

Social media handles: Instagram & Facebook

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How did you get into photography: 11 years ago I needed new hearing aids after being a flight administrator for 6 years. My hearing dropped drastically so I did a photography course and started photography out my lounge and from there I didn’t only get new hearing aids but I was able to leave corporate and have been a proud business owner for 10 years now.

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What would you say your style of photography is: My photography is bright, natural and fun. I use the outdoors or the comfort of your own homes as the perfect photography.

Why do you have such a passion for photography: Every shoot and every couple/family/wedding I get to capture just bring so much joy to my heart and soul. Nothing more rewarding than people gaining confidence from my shoots and printing all their photos in their homes and the most rewarding is when they do that happy cry every time I give them their photos.

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What makes you stand out from other photographers: I shoot from my heart and soul because I love it and I want to. Not because I have to and because I need to. It’s a passion, not a hobby.

Whereabouts are you based: In Johannesburg North

Do you travel, & if so, what is your fee: I do, anything up to 30 KMS is no charge

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How can people book a photoshoot with you:  They can email me on: laurie@lwphoto.net

Tell me about the special you are currently offering:  In light of this corona virus – I want to give people something to look forward to when it ends.

1 hour shoot time
Location of your choice
Shoot of your choice
Within JHB area only
Unlimited images all edited in hi res format
Digitally transferred to your WhatsApp and email address via wetransfer
Purchase now and use within 12 months
R850 and not R1450

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What are your favourite kind of photographs to take:  My favorite is families and babies and pets and I specialize in kiddies parties too.

Why do you encourage people to have photoshoots done:  Do it for the kids – without photos of you when you leave this earth they will have no memories alive!

Quote you live by: If you don’t think photos are important – wait till they all you have left.

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I love photographs, & I think having been through all the health issues that I have makes me really appreciate every moment of life – so having reminders of some of these have kept me going & reminded me to keep smiling when I felt like I wanted to curl up in a ball & cry.

Get your voucher for your family photoshoot today. Remember these moments. Help your family to remember them too…


 

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In The Jacaranda’s

I feel truly blessed to have a friend who takes the most stunning pictures.

Meghan McCabe has shot my entire family, including my animals & every time I lose my breath as I look through the final results.

I am certainly no model. I am overweight, I am clumsy, & I end up laughing my way through every shoot.  But Meghan makes me feel comfortable & beautiful – & isn’t that what we all need?

This is my absolute favourite time of the year & seeing the gorgeous purple flowers from the Jacaranda’s brings a smile to my face – so what an honour to be photographed by one of the top photographers in a location that makes me believe in fairies once again.

We got to use a stunning dress from Cherry Blossom Dresses, & it was the absolute dream.  It made me feel feminine & sexy at the same time, & fell so beautifully in all the pictures – I am sure you can agree that this was the absolute cherry on top of these gorgeous photos.

I was also extremely honoured to use flowercrowns from Opgedollie & Sunkissed Handmade in my shoots, which made for perfect branding images (given the name of my blog!) as well as bringing out my inner child.

This was an absolute dream come true, & I am forever grateful to Meghan for giving me this opportunity & for her absolute passion for taking stunning pictures.

If you are looking for a photographer in Joburg, & want to be made to feel like a beautiful woman – please contact Meghan.  Her talent speaks for itself.

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SLDV Illustration

As I’m sure you know by now, I am trying to collect family portraits from different South African artists/illustrators & hope to one day have a whole feature wall with different interpretations of our lives.  We may not be your usual family (what with our children being four-legged & furry), but we are a family nonetheless.  And I hope that my discoveries will help you as well – perhaps you will find your ideal “style” & want to join me in a quest in getting all different pictures done!

I was browsing one of the Facebook community groups that I am part of, & saw SLDV Illustration recommended by a few people & knew I had to immediately jump on this.  Sarah responded to my message so quickly, & was so friendly that I knew I had found a gem.  Read on to find out more…

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Your name:  Sarah-Louise de Villiers3

Business name:  SLDV Illustration

Social media handles:  Facebook & Instagram

Tell me a bit more about what you do & your unique style of art:  Together with my fabulous assistant Anastasia, we create personalised illustrations that represent our clients’ families and loved ones.

When did you start:  I have been creating these illustrations for myself and friends for around two years, but only started offering them commercially in June this year.

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What did you do before this:  I have a photography and publishing studio. My publishing website is here and my photography website is here.

At Typostudio we do mostly PowerPoint presentations and documents for our corporate clients, but also venture into more traditional print products like brochures, magazines, etc.

In contrast, at SLDV Portrait our photography is aimed at giving the everyday older woman a make-over and magazine-style photoshoot experience, followed by archival products that can be passed down for generations. This is a high-end offering and quite different from the so-called “shoot and burn” typical South African model, where clients do a quick photoshoot and get a disk of digitals afterwards.

SLDV Illustration has been an extension of SLDV Portrait; I wanted to create an affordable and fun (but equally bespoke) product to compliment my more exclusive portraiture brand.

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Have you always been artistic:  I have always been creative, but didn’t explore this side of me until relatively recently. I originally qualified as a psychologist but didn’t enjoy the profession so slowly kept searching until I found my soul in art. Incidentally, I have just started a Facebook group for women who, like me, are finding a “second life” or profession after having children, and are re-evaluating what they want to do for a living. It’s called “DIY Branding for Moms” and women can join our group at this link. It’s a safe space for those of us who want to ask questions and learn and share about the amazing online tools available to create one’s own logo, corporate identity and website, etc. It’s also a space for like-minded women to support each other in this often intimidating journey of finding oneself again after dedicating years of our lives to raising toddlers.

Obviously it’s always going to be preferable to go to a professional graphic and web designer to create your brand, but many of us don’t have the funds and – in any case – would enjoy playing around with our ideas ourselves.

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Do you do custom pieces, & what price range do these start from:  All our work is bespoke. Before we start we send a questionnaire to the client in which s/he indicates which people and pets they would like to include in the illustration, as well as the general style or theme. We then provide a draft and the client can send through edits until they are happy.

It should be noted that we are not the original illustrators of these characters, we work with a Photoshop programme which allows set options to choose from. Once we’ve created the characters using the programme, we then create a “scene” according to the client brief which is 100% bespoke and created by us.

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What have been some of your favourite pieces to date:  We have created so many stunning illustrations for our clients that we can’t share as we respect their privacy. But I think my favourite so far is an organogram that Anastasia made for me of my family.

Can people still order from you for Christmas:  Yes, absolutely. We are super busy creating orders at the moment so there may be a slight delay, however we will still add orders to the waiting list up to and including 30 November. We will then open and take orders again from Thursday the 3rd of January 2019.

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How do people place an order with you:  We don’t have a website, so clients can have a look at our Facebook page, which has a “Shop” section. They could send a Facebook message from there, or alternatively they should email anastasia@sldvportrait.com. Anastasia will confirm the order and send through a brief questionnaire. Together with the completed questionnaire the client will then send us some photos of the people and pets that they would like to include.

Why do you encourage people to support local:  I think there’s a wonderful sense of creativity and community in South Africa. Despite all its issues we do live in a stunning and vibrant country, with so much to offer.

But more than this – as a business owner I know how tough some days are and always do my best to support the women around me who, too, have found their joy in creating their own brands. I read a quote the other day that said when you buy from a small business there is someone doing a little ‘jig’. That really is true. Anastasia and I still get excited about every order that comes in.

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Quote you live by:
I have so many quotes that I love, I have collected them since I was a teenager. But my favourite passage of all time is Love after Love, by Derek Walcott.

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

This poem represents, for me, the woman who has dedicated a good decade or two of her life to raising children and prioritising their needs before her own. She now has more time again, and a renewed yearning to learn who she is and how she wants to spend the rest of her life. More importantly, it’s about loving and appreciating yourself again, despite wrinkles and shortcomings and the detours that life throws at us.

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Anything else you want to add:  Thank you so much for the opportunity to be featured on your blog, we are completely honoured to introduce ourselves to your readers.


How much do you love Sarah & her beautiful heart?  Gosh, just reading over this once again before I press “post” makes me smile so much & I am so grateful that I stumbled upon her & her stunning creations.  I am already deciding what I want to order from her & can’t wait to see what she comes up with!


 

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