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I have been asked many times to discuss the value I have received going through this intense program to receive a Harvard Business School education at this stage in my life and career. It's a three year program for entrepreneurs who work inside their businesses and meet the business criteria requirements.


Last year, I had just left the comfort of being a partner in a well established social event photography business, to forge a new direction and venture.  I felt that a Harvard Business School education would fill in the gaps of what I had learned in running my small business for the past 20 years.  Little did I know that while I was at HBS, learning about economics for the first time in my life, the world would be witnessing one of the most significant economic crises in over a generation.

Upon returning from my first three weeks devoted to innovation and seeing opportunity in challenging times, I swam for my life – upstream.  Me, along with all the other event professionals in New York City, who made their living planning and executing events for all those businesses that were suffering.

I may not have had time to reflect on my new found education, but I certainly used it to survive last year.  I made quick turns in our company and went after the opportunities I saw in the market.   Now I've taken the time to assimilate what I learned – here's a quick summary:

•    The corporate photography market had dried up.  However, photography in event marketing was still being used as a way of bringing the brands to the consumers.  I therefore focused our corporate business on photography and technology to target this growing market.  I am proud to say that our event marketing business has continued to grow this year and 5th Avenue Digital is becoming a bigger player in this growing marketplace.

•    After owning one of the most successful social event photography businesses in New York City for over 20 years, I had no desire to make a name for myself in this market again, for many reasons.  However, I saw a number of changes happening in the marketplace that shifted my thinking about getting into social event photography.  With the economic downturn, I saw many potential customers turning to freelance shooters who could better meet their budgets.  I also saw many, many talented photographers not working because they had out-priced themselves in this wedding market segment with limited budgets.  Where there was turmoil, I saw opportunity.   I am now taking this business up a notch by representing some of the top photographic talent in the country, here in New York, much like an agency for the social event market.  We still provide the disk and allow the client to use the images as they wish, but we can provide some of the top social event photographers in the country for a reasonable hourly rate.

•    Should our social event clients choose to make an album, I've created a website to help them use their images, where they can create a high end heirloom album.  This was the venture I originally left SMP to build.  Launching the site has been an amazing experience, and I'm happy to say we have made it through the Beta launch and are working toward a robust social media campaign to target the bride and groom that would like a professional digitally designed album at a reasonable price.

•    In the realm of social media, I was given a head start by my friend Ed Monohan at Kodak.   An early morning conversation with Ed convinced me this new medium was worth learning, to help me target the young bride.  I dove in head first and I used this year to build and expand on my knowledge.  Going to conferences and reading books turned into giving lectures and making 16,000 new friends on my social networks.  I will continue to use my love of this new medium to forge new directions for all my ventures.

My brain now thinks differently because of the experience of those first three weeks.  It's taken me a year to reflect on that knowledge and to see the directions and paths I have chosen because of that experience.

I started off this week planning to reflect on this year's experience and found that I couldn't discuss the implementation unit without first discussing the innovation unit.  I can't wait to go back to HBS.  I miss the friendships, the cultures and complete absorption in expanding my mind.  It has been wonderful to reflect on how I utilized the information received in my first year.

I hope my HBS-OPM friends will share with you some of the innovations they initiated when they returned home last year while the world went through its economic devastation.

What opportunities have you seen in this new paradigm?


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