We were lucky to catch up with Ryen Trenaé recently and have shared our conversation below.
Ryen, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. Have you been able to earn a full-time living from your creative work? If so, can you walk us through your journey and how you made it happen? Was it like that from day one? If not, what were some of the major steps and milestones and do you think you could have sped up the process somehow knowing what you know now?
I’m proud to say that my production company is my sole source of income! This journey has shown me in more ways than none that I was built for this. Once I graduated from Spelman, class of 2017, I entered into the corporate world as a consultant. I had little to no training in this field but the promised income was far beyond what I needed. Imposter syndrome completely led this decision. I didn’t want to be the one student who didn’t have a plan after school or didn’t know what they wanted to do. I’ve always known myself to be a creator in many forms; photography, music, design and curation of events. But I never knew what to do with it and who would pay me to do it. So I took the easy route. I signed my life away to a 3-year contract that promised amazing income with no room for creativity or free-thinking. All the while, I tried to create, but my energy wasn’t aligned. I’d start a project and never finish it. I’d make connections in the art scene and rarely follow up. I was married to my 9-5 and was ready to divorce the first year in, but being a person of my word, I stuck it out for the time I was obligated.
All this changed the moment my mother and I sat down and she advised me to file for an LLC for my photography. My mother once owned a business, planning events & decorating cakes. So I’ve had this entrepreneurial bone in my body for as long as I can remember. January 2020, I was official! I had my license to operate. Then March 2020 came and we all know the hardships we faced from then on. I was trapped once again, the moment I decided to break away from corporate. Given the economy, and how businesses were closing left and right I stayed at my consulting firm another year and a half for cushioning.
See the main thing I’ve learned in this journey is how reliant I had become on money. How I was a slave to it. I sacrificed my God given talents and dreams just to be able to go on vacation once a year or eat at 5-star restaurants. The money I made surely went away as quickly as it came. So I thought, why not give it away pursuing what I love, what my heart desires. May 31st 2022, I left corporate officially and continued my journey towards purpose. I can say I’ve had more liberating experiences and opportunities come my way the moment I left my 9-5. I had saved up 7 months worth of living expenses and began to create each day. By then I had no excuse. People began gravitating towards me and constantly commented on my boldness and uniqueness for taking that leap. If I had to give anyone any advice about this journey, I would say do it already! The money will come and it’ll go, but how would you feel leaving this lifetime knowing you could have been the person you always wanted to be, but chose not to?
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers?
I am a Flint, Michigan native & Spelman grad. I’m an African American woman in a western society doing my own thing. Those are the labels, but I am more than that. I am Ryen Trenaé. I create through visuals, whether it’s photography or video. I do both. My signature style is shooting portraits in film (35 or 120 mm film). I help small business owners find their own identity with photos and content for marketing. I also do my creative projects. I’m currently in the process of hosting my next exhibit and silent auction of photography. Ebony Perception will open Thursday, November 3rd at Brooklyn Tea Atlanta. Through this event I hope to show other creatives and young black professionals how I have shaped my perception of the black identity through film photography. If this is published before that day, I hope to see you there!
Is there a mission driving your creative journey?
Nothing particular. I think I’m working to create more from feeling than opinion or acceptance from others. Yes there’s a demand for specific content, but at times trying to keep up with that demand stifles my creative process. So maybe that’s my new driving force. More of me and less of them.
We’d love to hear a story of resilience from your journey.
One of my goals has always been to own a creative studio where I can take photos and allow other photographers to create. After leaving my job, I started searching for small properties to take up space. At first, it was difficult to find a commercial space within budget that would be convenient in location and access. About 2 months in, I found the perfect unit at the MET Atlanta where I can call home for my business. Of course, nothing worth while will come easily. I spent countless hours speaking with contractors and other studio owners on how to convert the space into my vision. The unit had what I needed in size, but very little finishing, a floor that was covered in paint from the last owner and needed to be leveled off. Eventually, I found a family member living in Georgia who was great at construction. It took a little over 4 months and LOTS of funding to finish the studio. I was borrowing money here and there and pulling from savings to execute my dream. This was not easy. As I mentioned before, I had bonded to the money I was making and without it, it almost seemed impossible to finish the renovation. But in being the faithful, spiritual person I am, I pressed through, knowing the end reward would be worth it. Today, I have a finished creative studio where I’ve hosted small events, numerous photoshoots, and can now list online for other creatives to rent out. To say that I’m a business AND creative studio owner is one of my biggest accomplishments in life. I am truly thankful.