The Beyond Workshop Written by Christy McDonald
Nina woke with excitement from the vision she knew only God had given. Old palaces between breathtaking mountains....Smiling faces wrapped in vibrant colors. This was where God wanted her to take others searching for a way to make an impact. That vision became a reality when Nina took photographers far from her home in Kentucky to a country Nina loved, Nepal.
After several years as a successful wedding photographer, Nina felt a stirring for more. Could she use her knowledge in photography to encourage others to make a change in their communities? God revealed exactly how, and the Beyond Workshop was created. Nepal, the place Nina had grown to love after a volunteer trip years before, became the backdrop. Little did they know that just 5 weeks afterwards a devastating earthquake would claim the lives of thousands in Nepal. After the tragedy, God used them to show love by serving and telling the story of these beautiful people. While the first half of the workshop helps photographers with technical skills and business practices such as portfolio- building styled shoots, the importance of networking and getting published, the second half allows participants to engage in hands-on volunteering.
"A huge highlight for me was working at the Mother Theresa's House of the Dying. Being able to serve the elderly there, give them baths, dress them and provide some sort of comfort and happiness to them made my heart so very happy. To see their poverty, their pain and bring some sort of relief to them effected me greatly. It was probably the hardest and most emotional part of the workshop for me, but by far the most profoundly impactful and life changing." --Carrie Moe
Nina wants to "see a shift in the way small business owners pursue and achieve success" by redefining it. With this thought in mind, the workshop gives back to the people, encouraging the idea that people are more important than profits. "When you seek to take that success, and give back to a world that is in dire need of love and hope--you simply cannot fail." The Beyond Workshop allows people to use their talent to make an impact. It provides the opportunity to "refocus, to pull the camera from your face, slow it all down--and listen."
Wes and Nina hope that the impact of The Beyond Workshop goes further than a trip to another country. They hope it is a "catalyst that throws you into the messiness of life and forces you to explore your own city and your own community." We often forget that the purpose and influence given to us is valuable. Photographers can bring to light the hidden needs of their community and move others to care. "We must continue to fight for those who have been silenced, and be a voice when they have none."
What's your story?
My husband and I have been wedding photographers for 10 years. I was practically dragged into it because I was terrified of being responsible for someone's wedding photos. A friend of mine asked me to capture his wedding day on the beach in North Carolina. I said no....about 5 times. Finally, after much prodding from my husband who truly believed in me, I agreed to shoot the wedding. I borrowed the groom's camera and flash, and I had Wes use a tiny Canon XTI I had. I had nightmares for a week before the wedding, usually all involving me not showing up on time, or not having the equipment I needed, or my equipment failing. I was so scared. But the wedding came, I shot, and it actually turned out pretty decent.
What lead you to create The Beyond Workshop and what was the heart behind the business?
One day I woke up with this idea about helping photographers grow in their businesses, so they in turn could use their businesses to make a positive difference in the world. Nepal immediately came to mind (I spent 4 months in Kathmandu volunteering before Wes and I got married), and I began to dream about holding a workshop in Nepal with the Himalayan mountains as our backdrop. I woke up Wes because I was so excited to share this with him. I knew that God had planted this idea in my heart and mind, and I wanted to pursue it. Of course, once I started trying to make it a reality, fear started doing circles around me. The fear began to paralyze me once I announced the workshop, and started waiting for registrations. Registrations came in slowly. We only had 3 people sign up in the first month and the workshop was about 4 months away. What if no one else signed up? What if this was all a terrible idea? The fear of being a failure was crippling.
One day, as Wes and I were driving into town to run some errands, I turned to him and said, "Wes, what if no one else signs up? What if we only have 3 people? Will we still do the workshop? We won't have enough money to cover the expenses." And to my surprise, he looked at me and said with gentle confidence, "Yeah, I think so." And in that moment, all the pressures I had placed on myself melted away. I decided that this time we would move forward no matter what. And from that point on, I didn't experience one bit of stress, and this held true all the way until the workshop was over.
What drew your hearts to give through your business?
I fully believe that we were created to love others and draw people to God's heart and message of Love. Giving through our business, and encouraging others to do the same with their own, is a natural outpouring of that Love.
How do you feel that The Beyond Workshop has impacted the photography community and the world?
I hope that it has encouraged photographers and small businesses to believe that they can make a difference in this world. Sometimes the darkness and suffering that is taking place around the globe can seem overwhelming. We feel so small, and almost powerless to make a difference. With the Beyond Workshop, we love seeing individuals light up with the truth that they, as an individual, can truly affect change in the world.
Do you feel that it is important for women to know that they can have a voice and a purpose?
Of course! Sometimes I think we forget what women had to fight so hard for in order to have a voice in this country. We take our freedoms and our powerful voices for granted. Each one of us was created for a purpose. This is a Truth we must never forget. It's a Truth we must begin to believe in, if it has never occurred to us before. We must be bold, and compassionate, kind, and courageous. We must continue to fight for those who have been silenced, and be a voice when they have none.
What would be your advice to women who are looking to start a business or are wanting to use their business to bring awareness and have an impact on their communities?
If you are hoping to do something for your community, talk to your community. Don't try to guess what their needs are. Ask them. Be willing enough and humble enough to have your mind changed. Be brave enough to have ideas and values you've held for a long time, challenged. If you can humble yourself from the very start, you may just find yourself with a successful business, and you may just make a positive difference in your community and the world beyond.
Looking back now what is one thing you learned about taking a chance and growing a business.
I think I've kind of said it already, but the biggest thing I have learned as I have grown this business and hosted this workshop, is that if it all falls to pieces, it is okay. If I live in fear of failure, I will never succeed in anything, because I will likely never have taken any chances. Life involves risk almost every day. If we play it safe, and never walk outside our front door, we will likely miss out on some of the most beautiful and refining experiences we could ever dream of.
How would you encourage women to live a meaningful impactful life, and why do you think it's important?
Humility and vulnerability. You need these two things to have an impactful life. Don't walk through life afraid of being wrong. If you are wrong, and you mess up, it's okay. If you allow others to see your mistakes and your flaws, you will earn trust and confidence. Don't forget that you can be both bold and humble. Those two things don't contradict one another. I used to think they did, because I'm a very bold person. But I allowed pride to keep me from experiencing many beautiful things in life. However, once I allowed my pride to be stripped away, as I walked in boldness, I also experienced life in a new way. I found greater joy, and greater trust from individuals I encountered along the way.
Nina and her Husband Wes are currently pursuing other amazing endeavors. If you are inspired by their story you can follow Nina of Nina and Wes Photography and catch up on what they are doing.
Story Written by Christy McDonald
Photography by Nina and Wes Photography