Tara Jones – Food, Travel, and Photography

Santa Barbara Business Show : 002 – Tara Jones

Announcer: Welcome to Santa Barbara Business Show where we brush the tar off our feet and sit down with local business owners and thought leaders. Now here’s your host, Doug Holt.

Doug Holt: Hello everyone and welcome to this, the second episode of the Santa Barbara Business Show. I got a great show for you today. We have Tara Jones will be on the call from Eat This, Shoot That.

Before we jump into that call, just want to remind you to go over to BrandedInnovation.com/SantaBarbara to pick up all the show notes that Tara might talk in our interview. As well as links to upcoming episodes and past episodes. Of course, you’re going to get always get us in iTunes as well. Now without further ado, let me go ahead and introduce you to Tara.

For those of you who don’t know, Tara Jones graduated from Brooks Institute of Photography in late 2004 with big dreams and just a few pennies in her pocket. After years of being immersed in the wedding and commercial photography and graphic design industries and teaching photography to college students, she decided to take a chance on a new venture, “Eat This, Shoot That”. Combining her love of food and photography, Tara created a tour company that gives the guests of Santa Barbara an opportunity to learn a new skill while being introduced to some of her favorite eateries and tasting rooms. Without further adieu, let’s jump right into the call.

Hi, Tara. Thanks for being with us today.

Tara Jones: Thanks for having me.

Doug Holt: Let’s jive right in. Those listening obviously got a taste of what you’re up to in Santa Barbara from your bio but let’s dive a little deeper. How did you get where you are today and why Eat This, Shoot That and why Santa Barbara?

Tara Jones: I moved to Santa Barbara in 2001. I moved down here to go to Brooks Institute of Photography from Northern California where I grew up. I attended there until I graduated 2004 and I kind of triple majored there. So when I graduated, I sort of ended up in a whole massive different kinds of jobs and just couldn’t decide what it is I wanted to do.

Tara-Jones-Travel-Photography-Food-Santa-BarbaraAnd so like most photographers, I ended up in the wedding industry for about 8 years and did that for quite a bit of time. I also did a few commercial jobs on the side, photography-wise, graphic design and a little bit of film. Then the recession hit in around 2010 – 2011 and all my friends on the East Coast lost their jobs. I knew it was only a matter of time before that happened over here in California and I was working on an ad agency at that time and also doing wedding photography.

And while the wedding industry maintained of course, the ad industry totally took a dive. So I lost my job and ended up going to work for myself and just trying different things, do I want to go in the commercial direction, do I want to do more graphic design work? And in the midst of all of these, I decided, maybe it’s just time for something new. And so I started looking at different markets to see what was maybe having a hole and see what I could fill here in Santa Barbara.

I was talking with a good friend of mine that I grew up with and she had a food toward East Boston and she was telling me that “You guys have so many restaurants here. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t have a food tour in Santa Barbara.” And so, the more I looked into it, the more I realized, there was a definite market here where I really could make something, so I went for it. But of course, I used my degree from Brooks, my parents will kill me. And after all that time and money that went into, getting that degree and all of that.

We’re caved in throughout the years and so, I decided I was going to combine my two loves of photography and food. And so, The reason I stayed in Santa Barbara after attending Brooks was because there’s really no other better city to be in. I realized that living in paradise can get a little old from time-to-time but this is still hands-down where the best places to come home to.

Doug Holt: Without a doubt, absolutely. So able to keep the parents happy, find your passion and live in paradise, not a bad deal.

Tara Jones: Yeah, worked out.

Doug Holt: As entrepreneurs, we face a lot of challenges and you’ve obviously been very successful. Tell us about a time now that you felt like you hit an impenetrable wall and couldn’t go forward but you find a way to push through it and make it a success.

Tara Jones: I would say when the recession hit. For sure, that was life altering change for me. I had put in all these time into the ad industry and also the wedding industry and basically, just trying to be the best photographer artist I could be. And to not really have any jobs out there available for somebody in my field because this is not necessarily a need kind of field, people don’t always need us. It’s more of a want so it was a little scary.

And before I started the food tour where I actually had started teaching just basic beginner photography lessons to people who already owned the big cameras. Nobody was going to go out and spend more money on photographers just to shoot their families for Christmas or any of that kind of stuff but I knew all these people had cameras because every time I did a shoot for a client, they were trying to tell me, what kind of cool camera they had and asking me all crazy questions.

So I knew that there was a way to stay in the game, not totally loose myself in some other field and just maintain through what I knew was going to be a little bit of a rough patch financially. And turned out to be maybe the smartest thing I could have done because not only did those little workshops sell out every single weekend but that’s really what kind of spurred me on to stepping outside of the bubble and doing something a little bit differently. And maybe taking a chance on something that everyone in the industry thinks is not the smart move.

It was scary to go out there and say, “I’m going to tell you all the secrets of how I do your photo shoots”. Not only did it go well and I made a good enough amount of money teaching these workshops but I ended up with even more clients because at the end of the class, they realize just how much work went into what we do as photographers. And so they of course were going to trust me because I know the insides and out of professional photography.

Doug Holt: I’m a huge believer in “Do what you do best and hire out the rest.” I have a man’s respect for what you do.

Tara Jones: Thank you.

Doug Holt: My photos are even Facebook quality, so I give you all the props. “Eat This, Shoot That!” the people listening, I have a pretty good idea of what’s going on. But take us through a typical tour, what’s the tour look like?

Tara Jones: A typical tour is about 2.5 hours and we’re walking through the waterfront and [inaudible 00:07:13.19] neighborhoods and really diving into a lot of the history in the neighborhood and getting to know some of the local people that are either regular visitors to the restaurants or the workers that worked there and spending a little time doing some tastings whether it’s wine, alcohol, food, beer and then doing little or many photo lessons in between some of those restaurant stops.

Doug Holt: That’s fantastic. So there’s wine and beer tastings along the way?

Tara Jones: Yeah. Plenty of wine and a little bit of beer and also a few of the spirits from Cutler’s Artisan.

Doug Holt: Okay, great. And so all along the way, people are taking pictures of their experience as they’re going and you’re helping them out?

Tara Jones: Yeah. Most people come on a tour and they just have their cellphone which that’s like 90 percent of the people these days. Currently, anybody is logging out the big camera anymore because it’s just too cumbersome or they’re not totally sure how to use it, it feels awkward.

So most of the time, 9 times out of 10, we get people on the tour who are avid cellphone shooters. And it’s great because these cellphones these days have so many capabilities in them. And so, we’re teaching them all the inner workings of all the little buttons and settings, what they do and really getting on focused on travel photography. How do they tell the story better and how to not lose your friends of Facebook because you’re posting the same ugly picture over-and-over again.

Doug Holt: It sounds like, I need the tour.

Tara Jones: Yeah and then we go in-depth. We teach them how to light food, how to light people, how to make yourselves look better in photos and then really the best way to share it on social media without breaking the bank and spending all kinds of money on apps that you don’t need.

Doug Holt: It sounds fantastic. Here’s a fun question. Let me set the scene for you. You’re walking downtown and you happen to find a time machine. You’re able to go back and talk to yourself during your first year as an entrepreneur, what advice do you give to your younger self?

Tara Jones: Oh, boy!

Doug Holt: Yeah, I know it’s a big one.

Tara Jones: So many things I would say, “Don’t, that was dumb!”. I think my number one thing I’d tell my younger self is to really let my freak flag fly.

Doug Holt: I like it.

Tara Jones: What I mean by that is I would not be afraid to really let myself go there. And what I mean by that is there are so many opportunities that I probably missed and some I know I for sure miss because I always too scared to step outside of the bubble and I was so worried about what everyone else was thinking or how that might look when I do something that different from everyone else.

No matter what age you’re at, sometimes, that little fear sneaks out on you and tries to keep you in a place where you don’t grow and you don’t move and you don’t change. I think the scariest but the best thing I ever did was taking a chance on something that everyone thought was either stupid or very, very risky. And it turned out to be the most rewarding experience and this has turned out to be a success which is I’m very grateful for that. And it was a big risk, it may not have worked out but if I hadn’t, in my later 20’s really started to push myself to be okay with looking different, I never would have gotten to where I’m at now.

Doug Holt: Great advice. How have you pushed yourself beyond that fear when you hit it? I mean, all of us hit the fear, right? We all hit those areas we’re not sure where our doings are right or people are thinking about us but how do you push through?

Tara Jones: It’s the older I get, the more I realize that the fear of missing out on what could be so great is greater to me than the fear of how silly that could look or how I could fall on my face and it could be public and humiliating. The thing is, I have found the people really respect and cherish honesty and real raw emotion and they connect with you so much more and root you on that much harder when they see you really trying and stepping outside of the norm.

And I’ve just been so encouraged by so many people in the community just for doing this little food tour which is fun and exciting but it’s not like we’re in curing cancer here. We’re sick of people on a food tour and hoping that they have a really great time but it’s been awesome to come up with something cookie and different and watch people encourage us to keep going.

I just think that it’s worth it for that. It’s worth it to be able to provide a really great service to people and it’s worth it to take the risk and just see where this can go. And that is I’m more scared of missing out on life than I am falling my face.

Doug Holt: I love it. It’s not a small thing at all. You stepped outside your comfort zone and in most people’s comfort zone, you started your own business. I think it’s fantastic.

Tara Jones: I came from a long line of business owners so it’s not too far out of the room for me.

Doug Holt: Yeah, but it can’t make it much easier. I hear you though.

Tara Jones: True.

Doug Holt: What can we expect from Tara and Eat This, Shoot That in the next year coming up?

Tara Jones: We’re probably going to start branching out a little bit. We may start a second tour in another part of town, TBD.

Doug Holt: Secrets.

Tara Jones: We’ve still got a few up our sleeves. We’re just nosing around town to see where people may want to visit and see what the next hotspot in Santa Barbara is and just kind of tightening up on really getting the flow of the travel and tour as an industry in Santa Barbara.

The more we do this, the more people we meet and the more things we got invited to and the more countries we get in contact with in cruise ship companies. And so, we’re really looking forward to branching out more, inviting people from other countries to come here and then also maybe offering a couple of more tours in town.

Doug Holt: That’s fantastic. So you mentioned getting connected or going through events or meeting people. So somebody listening to this who hasn’t had the opportunity to step out and start throwing business or had the opportunity to put themselves out there, what type of events are you going to or would you recommend they go to?

Tara Jones: I would say, all of them. Whatever you get invited to, go. Even on your days where you’re exhausted and you don’t feel like it, go. One of the best pieces of advice anyway that I got just getting started was to show up. Show up, just show up everywhere, meet everyone and whoever you can put a business card in their hand because they’re not going to know you if you stay at home. But if you went and you just meet one person who wants your business card, that was worth it right there because you don’t know who that one person is and you don’t know who else they know.

Doug Holt: Great advice. Show up early, stay late.

Tara Jones: Yeah. And even the events that you think may not be worth of your time. Every single time I show up to something, even if I know it’s a little outside of what I’m doing or it’s maybe not as connected as some other events, I always meet somebody and it always turns out to be worthwhile every single time.

Doug Holt: And we’re going to hear the train in the backgrounds, we know you’re in Santa Barbara.

Tara Jones: Yes, it’s those look alike that train.

Doug Holt: Great advice. And speaking of advice, what book for you has made a biggest impact in your life and why?

Tara Jones: Hands-down, Michael Gerber’s, The E-Myth Revisited. That’s maybe one of the best books I ever read. I read that when I was still at Brooks. I think very tail-end and I just started my first company, Clear Productions which is a commercial photography and branding company.

It really helped settle the issue of “Should I go in the business for myself or not?” “Am I the owner? Am I the manager? Am I the worker? Where do my true talents lie? What I am more interested in?” that book puts a lot of questions to rest. And I would say, my other favorite book is Strength Finders, the 2.0 version. That was incredibly helpful for me to see what my true strengths were and how to capitalize on it.

Doug Holt: Both great books. I love both of those. Tara, you’ve been so gracious with your time. If somebody wants to learn more about you and about your business, where do they go?

Tara Jones: They can go to EatThisShootThat.com and they can check out. Our blog is also listed on that page as well and of course we’re on all the social media channels, Facebook, Twitter, all the address.

Doug Holt: Thanks again for taking time out tonight. I know we had some technical difficulties that hopefully no one will ever hear but thank you for being patient.

Tara Jones: Yeah. My pleasure.

Doug Holt: Want to thank Tara again for being on the show and you, listener for being here for our second episode. Of course, we will get better as time goes on but I’d love hear your feedback or criticisms or anything you’d like to hear on the show. In fact, if you know somebody that would be a great interviewer for the show, let us know as well. You can simply email me, doug@brandedinnovation.com and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Of course, you can find us on Facebook, Twitter, as well as LinkedIn.

Tara shared a lot of nuggets in there. One of the things I want to highlight is the book, The E-Myth, that’s brought out time-and-time again with conversations that I have. In fact, I know several business consultants, it’s one of the first books they recommend to entrepreneurs as well as business owners or solo-preneurs who just kind of starting out or people that have actually been in the business for quite a while.

The author Michael Gerber, his work is brought up frequently in conversations with other business people as well as professionals offering guidance, highly recommend picking that up. Again, you can get the show notes at BrandedInnovation.com/SantaBarbara as well as any links that we talked about during the show.

That’s it for us today. Really appreciate a feedback in iTunes if you enjoyed the show and please pass this around to your friends. Thanksgiving is around the corner, so make it a great day.

Announcer: That’s a wrap. For show notes and details on this episode, go to BrandedInnovation.com/SantaBarbara and don’t forget to leave us a review in iTunes if you love the show. We’ll see you next time on State Street.

Links and Resources:

Books Mentioned:

Michael Gerber : The E-Myth Revisited

Tom Rath : Strength Finders, the 2.0 version


Tara’s Website : Eat This, Shoot That, Blog

Social Media Channels, FacebookTwitter

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