I’m so excited and honored to introduce the next inspiring lady in the Dream Chaser series, Jenna Leigh Kutcher. Its impossible to sum Jenna up in one sentence so I’ll just say that she’s one of the most authentic, fun, talented people I have ever met – plus she’s an amazing photographer and painter slash superwoman small business owner.
To make a long story short, Jenna and I have multiple connections and mutual friends thanks to our small town Minnesota roots, but we didn’t know each other in person until the stars aligned and Jenna came to Seattle earlier this year to (literally) climb a mountain with Serkan and I to photograph our vows. Her much more eloquent account of the day can be found here. Jenna’s blog is fantastic and you should definitely spend some time there – but first I’m excited to share Jenna’s story in her own words!
Can you briefly share your background and how you got to this place in your life and career?
I have never been shy or lacked confidence, maybe it was something I was born with, maybe it was something that was instilled in me. I have always had the belief that I can achieve whatever I have wanted and that is how I have lived my life. My competitive nature led me to college as a collegiate springboard diver and that is where I met my husband and double majored in business and communication, planning for a ladder climbing corporate life. The funny thing was that I had landed my “dream job” but it wasn’t what I wanted. It didn’t make my soul feel alive and I knew that although I could climb the ladder, it wasn’t the ladder I wanted in my life.
I got into photography by chance and started my wedding photography career on the beaches of Jamaica with a consumer level camera and barely any knowledge (but a heck of a lot of soul.) After that, I knew it was something I wanted to pursue and so for the next year I stayed at my corporate job and spent my evenings growing a wedding photography business that would allow me to leave it. In that year I also planned a wedding, started a Midwest wedding blog, ran a full marathon, and changed positions at my job. It was wild but I was chasing the things that were important to me and I am so thankful I did. I am now in my third full time season as a wedding photographer and can’t imagine life any other way. I am an entrepreneur to the core and have recently embarked on new endeavors with watercolor painting and hand lettering among other things! The journey hasn’t been simple or free of slip ups but it’s be real, raw, and authentically mine.
Your story is so inspiring! I think it holds so many great lessons in goal setting, trust, risk taking, flexibility, hard work, and the beauty in sometimes letting go and seeing where life can take you. What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned on this journey so far?
Just jump and find your wings. Would you rather fail at something you hate or fail at something you love? The thing is, when you love what you do, you put your heart and soul into it and that usually shines. I knew it was risky to leave a cushy corporate job to pursue a passion that I had zero technical training in. I knew it was wild to leave a salary and insurance and trust that I wouldn’t fall on my face, but I also knew that I didn’t want to live a life of mediocrity. I wanted to come fully alive, I wanted to love waking up in the morning and I wanted to be passionate…
Though you’ve already had great success, worked on so many different projects and are meeting goals left and right, I’m sure you still have dreams to chase! What are a few of your biggest “bucket list” items for your career – dream projects, clients, collaborations?
I think my biggest goal in life is to be happy. Sometimes when I wonder what’s ahead of me, I remind myself that time isn’t money, time is life and I want to live a full life outside of work. The hard part with that is that my work is such a reflection of me and is such a personal thing! I would love to collaborate with some magazines, paint some wedding invitation suites, do lettering for some clothing lines, shoot more destination weddings, and travel the world! Beyond all of that, I just want to continue chasing happiness – even if that takes me in a wild direction! I’m pretty open with life and where it may head.
You’ve talked a lot about reality vs. how things can appear perfect social media. You also wrote a great blog post about a quote that happens to be one of my favorites – “Comparison is the thief of joy”. Its so true! I know this is something so many of us struggle with, regardless of personal situation or career. No matter what, its easy to feel that you’ll never measure up to others. How do you combat this feeling when it creeps in?
Oh man, this is a daily issue for most people. I feel like when you work from home and are isolated everyday, it’s easy to feel connected through social media and that becomes your reality (which is often a very beautiful, styled, perfect looking reality.) The truth is, I have to remind myself that just about anyone can make life look pretty in a square photo but the mess is real, the heart is real, and while we all love pretty things, life isn’t always pretty (and that’s okay.) Sometimes when I need a little reality check, I look at how different my husbands facebook and instagram feed look – most people don’t follow the worlds best designers/painters/photographers, that isn’t reality and there is more than just those photos in their lives. While I share a lot about me and my life on social media, I only share a portion of what is really going on and I cling tight to the rest of it and keep it private because I think some relationships, goals, and happenings need to be kept sacred.
What are some of your favorite sources of learning and inspiration? Books, blogs, people, etc.
Goodness, I have so many, it’s so hard to name just a few: I love The Shine Project, The Everygirl, The Refined Woman. I love reading magazines like Country Living, Better Homes and Gardens, Kinfolk, Wisconsin Bride, Martha Stewart Living. I wish I could live and get dressed at Madewell, Anthopologie, or Lululemon. And I just love good, strong imagery that shows feeling, emotion, and life unfolding… my list could go on forever but I’m sure you get the vibe!
Do you have favorite “words to live by”?
“The secret to finding joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt he is.” – Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts
A few final “fun” questions…
Would you rather go skydiving, climb Mount Kilimanjaro, or dive with great white sharks?
City or country?
Country (surprisingly) the quiet and calm are just what I need!
Donuts or gummy bears?
Gummy bears for sure, I am a sour gummy worm enthusiast so yeah, welcome to my world.
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island for a month, what 3 items would you bring with? Assume your hubby and pups are already with you 🙂
The resourceful human in me would say: a pot and a knife. The carefree human in me says to bring along some macaroni and cheese shapes.
And finally, you make no secret of your affinity for yoga pants. Do you have a favorite go-to brand or style? Be as specific as possible. (I’m asking for purely selfish reasons… always looking for the next perfect pair!)
So we just went to Chicago for our anniversary and the goal was to pick out presents for each other while there… after window shopping all day I ended up with two new pairs of Lululemon yoga pants. (Yes, I know they are pricey but they are so worth it, they last forever and are the comfiest things on the plant.) I love the Wunder Under Pant’s for running and CrossFit and Pace Tights are also amazing. I literally live in my Lulu’s.