Meet Merida and Kelsey, the founders of Studio 9720 – a Denver-based photography and styling brand. The two ladies behind the brand work tirelessly to present the best creative concepts to clients, while also blogging about Denver's best kept secrets in boutique shopping. Read on to learn more about how Merida and Kelsey juggle multiple priorities, all while remaining the closest of friends.
Q: When did you first come up with the concept for Studio 9720, and how did you begin building your site and brand? What challenges and successes did you face along the way?
A: We have been friends for years. Kelsey went to school for photography and Merida helped styled (helped style) her photo shoots. We launched Studio9720 as a photography and styling company a few years after college when Merida was moving back to Colorado. Our blog launched about 6 months after that. We were tired of talking about ourselves and had friends working in Denver fashion. We noticed there wasn’t anyone talking about the boutiques and brands that are here so we started to. We started interviewing people we knew. Since then, our blog has grown immensely and now we’re approached by companies we haven’t met yet!
Many people thought we wouldn’t have enough content to make a blog out of Denver fashion; ourselves included in the beginning. That was certainly a challenge. But seeing how many brands we’ve helped get noticed and businesses we’ve helped is a huge success for us.
Q: You both live in Denver! What Colorado influences can be seen in your work for Studio 9720? A: Colorado is home for both of us. We were both raised here. We find inspiration in the people that live here. Colorado still has a little bit of the Wild West feel to it- you can be anyone you set your mind to and people are big risk takers here. People in Colorado really embrace new brands and new ideas. That openness really influences our blog and our work.
Q: Walk us through what a day is like for the founders of Studio 9720, and what your best tips and tricks are for keeping focused during an otherwise crazy work week.
A: Every day is different for us. It seems cliché to say that but it’s really true. Some days, we’re interviewing new brands or raiding the closet of a fashionable Denverite. Some days, we’re at our home office, writing and editing photos.
We both have other jobs outside of Studio 9720. Merida is a waitress and Kelsey is a birth and family photographer and co-owner of Denver Style Magazine. One of the things that really helped us grow the blog was to devote a certain amount of time every week to it. Every Monday, we schedule interviews and meetings and we’re usually going from about 9 am to 8 pm. It makes for a long day but it also means that we’re able to specifically focus on the blog during that time.
We are big planners. We plan our blog posts in advance, sometimes up to a month out, which helps us stay focused on what needs to get done. We also have a clear division of responsibilities which helps us know who’s responsible for what.
One of the biggest things for us is that we’re able to work well together even after a long day. We really like hanging out together and this blog has afforded us a lot of opportunities to do things we never would have done otherwise. Having a great partner next to you means you can conquer anything.
Q: What advice would you give other working women who are interested in going out on a limb and starting their own creative business? A: Do it. That’s pretty simple advice. There have been a lot of struggles for us, whether it’s finding brands to talk to or just finding the time to write, and we do fight sometimes. And when we come to the end of a very long day working for ourselves, I know we would both say it sure beats any other day working for someone else.
There are a few things that we believe are important when starting a business. One is to have good support. Whether you have a business partner or not, just having someone who believes in you, can listen to you and can push you forward is really important. There’s times when it would have been far easier for us to quit than to push through but something better is always on the other side. Another is to remember that your business is a business. Take classes in business areas you are weak in or ask someone for help. Remember that a business, especially a creative one, isn’t creative all the time. There are moments where you have to think about web stats and taxes and paperwork. Read business magazines and books. Look to other businesses similar to yours – how do they handle certain challenges like e-commerce or social media? Finally, know when it’s time to let someone else do part of your job. Outsourcing is scary because you’re giving up partial control over your baby but it also means you’ve gotten to the point where you have to let go to grow. That’s a great accomplishment!
Q: What’s next for Studio 9720 – are any big, exciting creative projects on the horizon that we should know about? A: We launched two of our own brands under Studio9720 in 2014. Oro City is a line of jewelry made by Merida’s dad who is a rock hunter and talented metalsmith. It’s carried in a few local boutiques and we’re launching our online store in early 2015. State of Style is boutique featuring dresses and gowns by Denver designers available for rental. Our goal is grow both of these businesses in the new year. We’ll also continue to grow our blog & our own brands and keep working with amazing Denver talent.