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Last Update: Wednesday June 23, 2021

Key Idea: Do It Your Way

Ken walked away from large contracts through New York City agencies.  He had to follow his own path, do his own thing, and answer to a higher calling.

Key Question:


Do what only you can do.

Q:  What decision did Ken Duncan make that firmly established his business model?

A:  He told the New York agent to take a hike. Rather than be paid a commission to shoot pictures for National Geographic and others, Mr. Duncan defined himself as an artist, not a freelance photographer. Ken Duncan takes the pictures he wants to take. He prints them himself in large formats and in books that he publishes. And, he sells his products himself. He is in charge.

It might seem like the perfect life. Here's a person who does what he wants to do when he wants to do it and people pay him. Good for Ken Duncan that there are enough people in the world who love his pictures and who will pay him $6,000 for a signed large print. Here at Small Business School we have done many stories about successful businesses that make and sell just what the founder wants to make and sell. This type of business finds its sweet spot and it can grow solidly and typically slowly.

Except for all the usual problems every business faces day-to-day, the Duncan's run a love-in. Customers love the products, Ken loves making them, Pam loves the customers and employees and life is, on balance, beautiful.

Think about it

What do you have to do to get to where the Duncan's are? They have revenues from five galleries, the lab and the framing company.

Clip from: Ken Duncan Photography

Siesta Beach, Florida, a picture from America Wide: In God We Trust

Sydney, Australia:   Meet a man whose goal in life is to capture perfect moments and translate them into some of the most beautiful photography you'll ever see.

He carved out a niche by automating his art. Meet Ken Duncan; he truly sees the magnificence of all of creation around us and he would like us all to stop  and take it in.  Art is life, and art has staying power.  Perhaps if we do, we might also make our business as a work of art as well.

If you want to create a great business, focus on perfecting the products and services. In the struggle to make the processes just a little better, you will be creating something of even greater value. You can do it. Yes, you can.  And, as you do, you'll make our world a better place.   Ken should inspire you on your way.

Ken Duncan Galleries

Ken Duncan, Founder

Shop 14, Hunter Valley Gardens Village
Broke Rd

61 2 4367 7744

Visit our web site:

Office: 61 2 4367 7744

Business Classification:
Photography, retail

Year Founded: 1988

Do It Your Way

HATTIE (Voiceover): Carrying a rifle to hunt for his food and a camera to capture the beauty, Ken lived in the outback with the Aboriginals.
After three years, with no prior contracts, referrals or guarantees, it was time to take his work to New York City.

KEN: I mean, then all of a sudden there's this phone call, and the directors of the gallery called The Light Gallery, they rang up and said, `Can you please come down quickly? We'd love to see you. We love your work.' And I'm thinking, `Oh, OK.'

HATTIE: `Great!'

KEN: So I came down there, and they were really happy with my work. And so they all of a sudden wanted to make me a star sort of thing, and they're sending me to all these magazines and all this stuff. But the thing is that when I was there, I met someone in the Center of Photography, and he was very important to me. And he said, `Ken, watch out with New York,' he said, `because what you're doing is very different. Be very careful they don't try and turn you into another one of their photographers.'

And what had happened is I really got wound up like a clock with New York and all of these things, and they sent me back to Australia. And when I hit Australia, my feet were running so fast, I was just about falling over myself. I had an assignment to do Mel Gibson. I had all these assignments for National Geographic. And I'm, like, all of a sudden I get here and I get out in bush and I think, `I don't want to do this. What am I doing, you know?' And I remembered these words that this man had said: `Just stay true to your destiny. Stay true to what you're doing.'

And so I rang them all up and said, `Look, thank you very much for all these assignments, but you know, I don't really want them.' And they're going, `You're kidding! People kill for these assignments.'


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