We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Ila Wist a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Hi Ila, thanks for joining us today. Being a business owner can be really hard sometimes. It’s rewarding, but most business owners we’ve spoken sometimes think about what it would have been like to have had a regular job instead. Have you ever wondered that yourself? Maybe you can talk to us about a time when you felt this way?
At the age of 6, when I was in the classroom and the teacher would be having us study math, I would instead be drawing, and creating photo stories of my own, the kids would gather around my desk in astonishment at how beautiful the pictures I painted were and the stories I wrote. The teacher, however, was not happy that I chose to do that instead of class participation.
Fast forward 10 years: I started my first job when I was 16-yrs.old, in the summer here in Arizona. I was to help small children in a daycare center, I helped them learn and play and I took care of them. The age ranges were from infants to 4 yrs. old. I had never really known how to change a diaper, but I learned, and I learned that little babies are smart in getting their needs met, which fascinated me.
However, I enjoyed working with the 4-year-olds the best, I loved their creative minds, their happy innocent faces and smiles. When they would come out to play on the swings, I loved how excited they were to play with me, I go to be a kid myself when I was with them. I enjoyed that part very much.
But I did not enjoy the way my boss treated me. She was a large, hefty woman with a curly red mop of hair on her head, and a lot of freckles, and she was not nice. She knew it was my first job and she commanded that I scrub all the toilets and do diaper duty when they went number 2, as she sat and ate burgers and fries outside.
I realized that she was my boss, and I soon learned bosses treat you the way they want to. For me it was enlightening experience; she also had me stay late and mop things up, like pee, or vomit.
Upon one occasion she had me stay late and took me to church and made me confess all my sins I had committed in my 16 years of life to a Preacher. For what reason, I had no clue, because I had never done anything wrong in my life, my mother raised me with manners beyond others’ manners, and I was always quiet and shy and sometimes kept to myself.
I realized that this red-mop-haired woman that was my boss was taking her “position” too far and that also, she was a bully. I may have been a quiet child, but I was also a very independent child who abhorred bullies.
This was my first realization that I wanted to be my own boss. Being so independent I moved out of my parents’ home at the age of 17 and got another job with a kinder woman in a Scottsdale hair salon, as a receptionist. There were a few times when customers took my boss aside and said,
“Who is that girl? She is so polite and helpful.”
I sure did my best, and I learned jobs where a means of independence for me, even through college.
There were a few jobs that followed, of course as the years went by, and during those years, my father, being a prominent business owner, told me as I was growing up, that I was never going to want to work for anyone but myself, he recognized that independent streak in me… so much, that he bought me flying lessons, so I could be a pilot.
There was one job, I recalled where I was not doing anything wrong. I worked with small children in an afterschool program, and during outdoor play time, one afternoon there was a flock of hot air balloons, I pointed at it and the children, and I would skip and run and play around with them, I was having so much fun with them, they even say tome
“You are not like all those other teachers, you are like us, you understand us.”
Oh, how I loved them, we would come up with all sorts of fun things to do in the afternoon, I felt as if I were, Maria, in “The Sound of Music” playing with these kids.
However, my boss was an unjust grouch, to put it mildly. She would find anything wrong with me she could, and even wrote me an 8-page letter pointing out all my faults, and subsequently fired me. The kids were crying when I left, I felt so bad for them. I knew the letter she wrote was completely unprofessional, judgmental and cruel, and she really had no reason to fire me, except for the fact she did not like me, or perhaps she did not like how the children liked me.
In my heart that realization, once again dawned upon me that eventually I would start my own business one day in a creative field, because that is where my passion has always been living inside me.
Since I was a child, I always loved art, literature, photography, writing, creating and creating new ideas; and someday, I would be doing what I was passionate about.
I also knew that if I were someone’s boss, I would never treat them the way I had been treated by that woman that fired me. I could not be happier and proud of being a business owner, and I do not wonder what it would be like to work for someone else, ever. After starting at age 16, through my years, I already know what it is like. I have had 1 great boss through my job careers, today, we remain great friends, she set a great example for a boss; she was kind, fun, encouraging, rewarding and gave positive criticism when needed and I think she, herself, would love to answer this question, and have no regrets being a boss, I could not even picture her as working for someone else. I am grateful to have had her as my boss, as a great example, and today, proud and happy to know her as a friend today.
I am completely satisfied being my own boss with all the ups and downs, because, after all, they are “my” ups and downs.
Ila, love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations?
My name is Ila Alagia Wist, I go by Ila Wist, but my first name carries a story; It was my mother’s choice to name me Ila, which in another language means (Mother Earth), in fact my mother knew of a famous poet, artist who was named Ila, from a century ago, and she had planned on giving me that name if she ever had another child.
Having had another child 10 years before me, who turned out to be very autistic, my parents were afraid to try again, but they did, and I came along into this world. My sister cannot speak, so ironically, my mother asked me, when I was only 6 months-old,
“Ila, can you say, mommy?”
Much to her surprise I said, it: “Mommy.” She literally screamed, seeing a baby talk like that at such a young age was a shock, and a very sweet one.
The years rolled on by and I went to college, and pursued a degree in broadcast/journalism, that was the only way I was able to go to college according to my dad, because, as he thought, someday I would make a career out of that. I could not pursue my true passions, which were in the arts, and included, photography, literature and art. But I did what I loved in other classes, and I also got myself a camera, and I would often go into the meadow near N.A.U., (which is where I went to college), in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Photography just came naturally to me, I loved photographing outdoors in beautiful settings of mountains, among Aspen trees when they turned golden from autumn and the lush meadows were gorgeous to photograph. I would often photograph my friends in these settings.
I was obsessed from the start, even when I was 10 years old, and I took pictures of my classmates then. Photography is in my blood, as is art, I loved drawing women in beautiful settings. Little did I know that one day, I would be marrying the two worlds; in which I photographed women in beautiful settings, in a very artistic fashion, many of the photos looked like dreamy paintings to me when they would finally be done and produced.
But it was my mother that really pushed me in this direction, not by planning to. You see, one day she came to me crying, she had a horrible cancer this was 12 years ago, and she cried on my shoulder while I held her, Sobbingly and in despair, she said to me,
“Oh, Ila, I feel so ugly, I am so depressed.”
I then came up with an idea,
I said to her, “We are going to take beautiful photos of you, and I will prove to you that you truly are beautiful.”
And as a matter of fact, she really is a beautiful woman, she has beautiful features, and the prettiest smile, and she looks very young for her age, she has always been young at heart as well, and she, herself, is brilliant artist, her paintings are stunning, so I believe I inherited that artistic quality form my mother.
The photos we took of her came out just as gorgeous as she is, and I cannot stress how much it changed her whole attitude, her world, and her hope of healing from her illness. When she saw her photos she cried, but these were tears of joy. I in turn, cried with tears of joy, and I realized that I wanted to pursue this as a career; photographing women, who are not necessarily models, but women who wanted or needed to feel that they are beautiful.
I did not struggle with what to call this business, my mom’s nickname since she was a child was “butterfly”. And thus, Butterfly Beauties Photography was born.
I am very passionate about what I do, and I think one of the things that sets me apart from other photographers, is that I do not use a generic template. Every woman is different, right? Therefore, her photos should reflect her, so every photo session is completely different, just as my motto portrays: “Each woman’s beauty is as unique as her fingerprint.”
That is exactly how I approach each woman, I get to know what she wants from her session, her personality, and if she cares to share, why she wants to do this. I can tell you that most all of the women you see on my website, or social media have never been photographed before. But it gives me great pride to see their authenticity shine, and that people think they are models, they look so comfortable as well.
I have a method to help things go smoothly and I make sure it is a positive and fun experience for her as well. Another quality that sets me apart from other most photographers is that they put their ego into their craft, for me it is about my client, not me.
Most of the time they forget I am there because they are having so much fun. I am not intimidating, I will certainly guide you and we will work together to make beautiful photos of you, all you have to do is be yourself!
As I said, most photographers use a generic template, by this I mean, that they use the same setting or pose or style, my approach is unique, because each woman really is unique. I am very good with angles, flattering light, most importantly what flatters the person I am photographing.
I have some secret recipes that I use that makes their photos turn out to be a beautiful reflection of who they are; consider me to be your mirror, reflecting the beauty of you! I must add that I find it exciting that no two women are alike, and it’s a great expression of art to me. I would consider my photography to be classified as: “artistic glamour.” I specialize in portraits, indoors and outdoors, fashion, make-overs, boudoir, sensual, and, well, depending on the woman, I could photograph a woman near a graffiti wall or in a rose garden, it all depends on who “you” are.
Whether you are a nature lover, or glamour goddess, a professional, or even a model or actress: the process is tailored to you.
I say, bring on the differences, it may be more challenging, but I find it to be fun and exciting!
Having repeat customers often… tells me they love the way I photographed them, it’s the best compliment to me, as photographer. I am enjoying this journey.
We’d love to hear a story of resilience from your journey.
Although I love what I do and I am confident in my innovative approach to the craft of photography; I am also aware of the fact that I am not everyone’s cup of tea, and therefore I do not get too attached to being rejected by a potential client who choses another photographer over me.
However, I was brought up with critical parents growing up as a child, my father being a scholar, my mother coming from a family of politicians, it was not so easy to impress my parents. Therefore, I am aware that I am sensitive to criticism.
About 10 years ago, when Facebook, was a huge marketing tool for photographers, and people who network in general, I once asked a successful woman, if she would like her picture taken by me, and in return she would receive photos from me.
She replied, “Just give me a day to think about it.”
I understood. The next morning, I went to look for my message from her. When I clicked the message I read her message:
“Hi.” she said. “I don’t like being photographed all (which was not true, I saw dozens of photos of her on Facebook) then she continued, ” I saw your photos, some were great, some were ok, and some were just nothing. You post too many photos, post the best and leave the rest.”
I was put off by what she said, so, I said, “Well, I wasn’t asking for your opinion,”
She answered to me in a very conceited manner, “People pay me 1500 for just my opinion.”
I then said, “Wow, WOW! A $1500 for an opinion I did not ask for.”
She did not even acknowledge my kindness in that I was offering her photos at all, she thought she was all that and a bag of chips. At least I got the last laugh, I thought to myself.
But because, I am so passionate about what I do, I did listen to her critical response, and to my own surprise I chose to do what she said. I was surprised that I took that criticism and used it to improve what I was doing. So, I do listen to what others think, if I think it will help my business, in some cases, not all.
What’s worked well for you in terms of a source for new clients?
The best source of new clients is basically, women who see the pictures I took of their friends. They take one look, and think, wow, I want to do this! It’s a visual business, so if they see the proof of what I do and love it they will come to me.
I do not use heavy photoshop, I keep their features authentic as well, whereas a lot of photographers, go nuts with these new tools in Photoshop and they alter the woman so much, that they hardly recognize themselves.
I chose not to do this, I did it once and the response was not good from the client, and I took that in mind, and stopped doing that. When my clients see their friends photos, they see that they are not altered, but placed in flattering light and angles and settings.
That is how I gain the trust from potential new clients; the photos are my proof.
My clients also tell their friends how comfortable I am to work with, and I will go the extra mile to make sure they are happy with their photos, I don’t just look it as a source of money, a means to an end. Yes, the revenue comes in, but I genuinely care about creating beautiful photos for my clients. It is not unusual to see them cry when they see their photos, they love them. That gives me a wonderful, satisfied feeling, that I did good and made them happy. I care.
- Website: https://www.butterflybeautiesphotography.com/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/butterflybeautiesphotography/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/butterflybeautiesphotography/
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/pub/dir/Ila/Wist
- Other: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ila Wist Owner /Photographer: of Butterfly Beauties Photography