ALL OF THE VISUALS IN THIS POST ARE MADELINE’S
Today, I’m introducing you to someone who creates magic.
I put her on a level with some of my favorite fantasy novelists and she’s in my top five favorite photographers.
But, I can’t actually classify her as a photographer, because she’s more of an artist.
Her name is Madeline Stoker.
When I asked her how she would explain what she does (because it truly is its own category), she said:
“I am an artist who uses photography as my medium to create new worlds and whimsical, couture portraits. Largely inspired by the experiences in my life and those of my close family and friends, I create stories that convey the beauty that is found in every memory, both somber and joyful.”
You can’t tell me you’re not intrigued after reading that super cool elevator pitch.
I feel a bit tingly inside (and like I’m bragging), because I get to tell you that Madeline is a member of Sunday Society and I’ve helped her make her business more successful.
Quick note: My first cabbage patch doll was named Madeline. She had tomato red hair, I dragged her everywhere and I have a weird attachment to that name. That was my first thought when I first started working with Madeline when she joined B-School through Mayi and me.
Back to the real life Madeline.
The first time I laid eyes on her work, I was mesmerized. It’s haunting and beautiful and enchanting.
I didn’t really understand why she needed Sunday Society. Her work spoke for itself, but then I reminded myself that I’m the one who always says you can’t just create something amazing and then expect people to find it.
I basically yelled…”DUH” at myself.
You have to get out there and put your work in front of the right people. Talent won’t get you very far if no one knows about your talent.
(PHOTO COPYRIGHT MADELINE STOKER)
When Madeline first joined Sunday Society she was looking for two things: accountability and a clearer path to creating a business and life she was passionate about. She felt pressure from her family to have a reliable day job and needed someone to tell her that she wasn’t being unrealistic by pursuing her passions.
She also felt like she was getting lost with all of the advice out there for people on how to make their businesses more successful and she knew that the information inside of Sunday Society would be more personalized and tailored for her business.
When I asked Madeline why she joined Sunday Society over other programs for creative entrepreneurs, she said:
“The value. My business wasn’t making money yet, so anything I invested in meant taking money away from things that were very important to me, such as traveling home to see my family or buying a house one day. I therefore had to be VERY conscious of how I spent my money and be able to justify the expense. The fact that I can:
- get personal feedback on any question I have
- attend multiple live calls a month
- be held accountable for my goals
- get help finding what my next business steps should be
- learn new marketing skills
- get to know my ideal customer better
- connect and network with other incredibly talented creative entrepreneurs
- AND receive encouragement when I’m feeling discouraged
for less than what it costs to get Thai carry-out is something you will not find with any other program of its kind. I often find myself feeling like a college freshman who just got a scholarship to their dream Ivy League school: I’m getting a world-class education and career counseling for an absolutely miniscule fraction of what it should cost.”
Reading that quote makes my heart pitter patter, because I always try to go above and beyond. I want to give as much value as possible without overwhelming the members which is fine line to walk.
I hopped on a call with Madeline to discuss a few things for her case study and she told me the monthly challenges have been the most helpful feature of the program.
I asked her if she could specify which one has helped her business the most and she said her answer had just recently changed.
In May, the monthly challenge was to do something to network and connect with someone each week. I provided the members with a list of ideas including sending a colleague a book you recently read and loved or sending your most loyal customer a box of three of your products that you know that she’ll adore along with a thank you note.
Madeline hadn’t done the monthly challenge at the time because it made her nervous. She’s shy and introverted and that month’s challenge was scary for her.
I won’t go into the details but in June, Madeline found herself frustrated with her day job. She wanted out and so she found the courage to finally network.
She sent out about twenty emails to different people, seeing if they’d be up for collaborating. She emailed costume designers to see if they would rent their costumes to her for photo shoots (in the past, she created all the costumes). She emailed a musician to see if she could help with a project the musician was already working on for her favorite fantasy book series.
The first response she received back was a no.
Imagine being terrified to email other people about collaborating and finally taking the plunge and getting a “no” response.
But, everything after that has been a YES or pretty much a yes. (Yay Madeline! I’m so dang happy for you.)
Costume designers have said something like, “YES YES YES. I want to be a part of your project. I’ll send you my costumes for free if you’ll pay the return shipping.”
The musician said she would like to with her as long as the author signs off on it.
Someone sent Madeline headpieces for a photo shoot.
She finally feels like things are moving in the right direction. People are excited about working with her and being included in her projects. They love what she’s doing. It’s the validation she’s been waiting for.
Who knew networking could be so helpful?
Well…I did. (I say so humbly.)
That’s why I had the women network for one of the monthly challenges. It really can open up possibilities you could never imagine.
(PHOTO COPYRIGHT MADELINE STOKER)
When I asked Madeline what was keeping her from achieving these things before joining Sunday Society, this is what she said:
“There were three things: a lack of support, advice, and accountability. I would talk to friends and family, but I always felt a little bit foolish when I asked for their advice. I felt even worse when the advice they gave was always something like “sometimes we don’t always get what we want” and “maybe you should apply for some jobs in your HR department at work. Try something new in your company.” I didn’t need more nights driving home from work in tears after yet another family member told me I was being unrealistic and that a job in corporate America was my safest bet.
To be 100% honest, sometimes believing in yourself ISN’T enough. You need other people to believe in you, and I didn’t have that.
Apart from feeling dejected, the well-intentioned, but ill-informed advice, also often left me feeling lost and confused as to what to try next. None of the advice aligned with my future goals of creating stories and getting gallery representation. I felt like I was getting more and more confused as to what my next steps should be with each new friend or family member I asked. I felt like I was falling further and further away from the life I knew in my heart that I wanted. Once I joined Sunday Society, though, I finally learned that you can’t ask the mathematician how to paint. You have to ask the painter.
Sunday Society is filled with these “painters”. The ladies in this group, simply put, understand me entirely. They understand my drive to create and have been so incredibly encouraging, and have given me that support I so desperately needed.
Finally, I had little to no accountability. I would tell myself I’d have a project done by Friday, but when Thursday night came around and I was tired and knew the only person who would know I didn’t finish on time was myself, it was very easy to give myself “one more day” and another, and another, until months went by and I still hadn’t completed the deadlines I set myself. Without the accountability, I kept putting off even the simplest of tasks that would have brought me one step closer to where I wanted to be.
Now, when I share my goals for the week each Monday in our accountability thread, I know people will be checking in with me and will be eager to hear my updates. Knowing there is someone there who will be excited to see even the smallest amounts of progress on my part is just that little bit of pressure I need to keep working on those long Thursday nights or to get off facebook for the sixth time that hour and work towards completing the goals I had set for myself.”
Madeline is my ideal customer.
She’s passionate about her work, she’s incredibly talented, she’s willing to do the work and try new things. She’s struggling to change her life, but she knows that it’s possible. She’s introverted but she’s comfortable within the group, asking for feedback from the other women and giving it to others. She values all the work I put into the membership program and knows it’s well worth the price.
I love working with her and celebrating her wins with her. I’m also there for her when something doesn’t go as planned and ready to commiserate with her when someone doesn’t appreciate her work.
I’m so excited to see what the rest of the year brings for her. She’s working on a coffee table book and I’ll be one of the first people in line to purchase one.
Here’s what she’s working on in her own words:
“I am working on a new photo series, entitled Passages, which I hope to turn into a coffee table book. The series is inspired by a personal event during which I learned to develop faith to get me through a difficult period of my life. The book will be a whimsical retelling of this event with haute couture and fantasy elements, and will depict the very first adventure of a rather innocent and naive protagonist on the cusp of adulthood. Here is the blurb for the book:
Passages is centered around the story of a young and naive girl named Chloë, who ventures out into the world, intent on starting her own adventure. Through small stumbles, moments of despair, lessons learned, and challenges triumphed, Chloë’s travels lead her to discover new lands, new friends, and, most importantly, the person she is meant to be: a tenacious heroin, intent on, and capable of, achieving all that she was destined to be.”
I know you want check out more of Madeline’s work which you can do right here and you can connect with her on Instagram right here.
THANK YOU, Madeline, for taking the time to do this case study. I wish you all the best!