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Learning what it takes to run my own business

Do you know what it takes to run your own business?

I’m not quite sure, either, but I have some good guesses. My name is Ross Lewin and this is my first attempt at being my own boss. Armed with a hard work ethic and a rapidly growing list of “what not to do,” I like my chances.

Life at Atholton High School in 2007 was all about preparing myself for college. College was all about preparing myself for the real world. That’s what my parents and teachers were telling me, at least. Good grades and experience are what businesses look for in a potential employee. Seemed simple enough.

By 2011, I had gotten those A’s and completed the internships. I had a shiny piece of paper from the University of Maryland that cost my family a number with more zeros than we would prefer. It was time to show it to some employers who like shiny paper like that.

A year later, I had a job selling radio advertising. Not a career, not my passion, just work making someone else lots of money. My motivation was simple — impress this important someone so that he may eventually decide to pay me more money.

But how much money would it take to justify spending nine hours of my day to his cause? I’m sure there is an answer to that question but, lucky for me, my paycheck made it an easy decision.

If I was going to make peanuts breaking my back, then I needed a new inspiration to put the pedal to the metal. I wanted to be able to step back from my hard work and look at something great that I had built myself. Not having many peanuts was something I had grown accustomed to, anyway.

I thought of the only job I had ever really loved. I was a beach photographer in Ocean City. I enjoyed talking to people, exercising all day on the beach and capturing memories for families that they would have forever (or until they lost the photo keychains I made for them). This would be a great job, but I needed a fresh idea to set me apart from other photographers.

As soon as I got the idea, I left my job and started HoCo Photo. I was really ready to work, so I decided to do my photoshoots for free and offer the pictures for sale if there was interest. (Selling my images to parents who all chip in to buy full albums is another unique aspect of HoCo Photo.)

Combine my love for photography, sports, interacting with others and a natural ability to relate with children and you have HoCo Photo. I found my passion. Even though the money comes in smaller truckloads than I imagined, at least I finally like my boss.