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Last Update: Wednesday June 16, 2021

Key Idea: Take a Calculated Risk

Monica Morgan listened to the marketplace.  Though she enjoyed taking pictures,  she discovered that people would pay her for photos more often than they would pay her for journalism.   More...

Key Question:


Put yourself in position to win new customers.

Monica always had always had plenty of customers. However,  had a deep-seated desire and intuition that she should go to witness and photograph South Africa's first free election. But, she didn't have cash to it. When pushed to examine the depth of that desire, she took out a loan and went on her own.

This is called speculation. Contractors build "spec" houses and hope they can sell the finished product. Every business owner has to speculate throughout the life of a business. But this is difficult.

Monica had little-to-no assurance that she could sell anything when she got back to Detroit. She thinks she was lucky. However, sometimes luck awards those who risk. Her South African election exhibit got corporate sponsors and the publicity for her trip put her in a new league. She is no longer just the local photographer; she is an international photojournalist who has been published in newspapers all over the world. Think about it.

Q: Why is the way people see Monica even more valuable than the money she is paid for a specific job?

A: Cash is the short-term reward for the work she did in South Africa. Her image, however, has positioned her for a very different future and rate scale. The way people see us is called our image and the more powerful the image, the greater the rewards. Long term Monica has gained business that will sustain her into the future.

Q: What are some ways small business owners can attract attention to improve their image?

A: Do volunteer work, make speeches for local groups, write articles for trade publications, make contributions to charities, and sponsor events or a local youth sports team. If you have some budget for public relations, consider hiring a professional firm to help you.

Think about it

What industry are you in? Who are your competitors? What is your unique selling proposition?  Who in the world should be your customer?

Clip from: Monica Morgan Photography

Detroit:  Meet Monica Morgan.   She took a calculated risk and it paid off. And, then she got serious about running a business.

In this episode of the show you can learn many lessons about sole proprietorships, risk-taking, sharing, mentoring, being mentored, and chutzpah (even temerity).  Today, Monica runs a full-service photography studio and is at the top of her game. She is a photojournalist who contributes to Newsweek, Jet, the Detroiter and the Associated Press. Rosa Parks first commissioned Monica to do the cover for her bestseller, Quiet Strength, then she became Rosa's photographer.

We all ask, "How can I get to the top of my profession?" Monica has done it.  Mix one part courage (heart, the muscle) with two parts intelligence (brains, that deep knowledge of your profession) and three parts tenacity (personal will), and then, constantly reinvent the formula. Magic begins to happen.

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Monica Morgan Photography

Monica Morgan, Founder

500 River Place Drive
Suite 5109
Detroit, MI 48207

Visit our web site:

Office: 313-259-7005

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1990

Take a Calculated Risk

HATTIE: Hi. This is where you need to be if you want to learn how start, run and grow a business. I'm Hattie Bryant. We're truly making the rounds here at SmallBusinessSchool. We've taken you inside of hundreds of businesses, and we keep finding new types to explore. Monica Morgan Photography is a full-service photography studio in Detroit. You'll meet Monica and some of the people who have helped her build her business at the Wayne State Small Business Development Center.

If you watch us every week, you know we have a master class. It is not not taught by a traditional teacher. It's taught by a person who is doing what it is they're talking about. Like music and art students take traditional classes with traditional teachers, they also study in master classes presented by working artists. So join me now in SmallBusinessSchool's Master Class with master small business owner Monica Morgan.

(Voiceover) This is a day in the life of Monica Morgan, owner of Monica Morgan Photography, a full-service photography studio in Detroit which she started in 1990. It was hard for us to move fast enough to keep up with Monica but we were determined, and I don't think we missed much. We started at Hutchins Middle School, just a few minutes away from her downtown studio. Here in the library, students had a chance to see Monica's traveling exhibit, which tells the story of South Africa's first free election.

MONICA MORGAN (Professional Photographer): I tried to get some sponsors to send me to the elections, but I couldn't find anyone. So what I did was take a loan out. I hopped on a plane by myself and went to South Africa.

HATTIE: You had this dream to go to South Africa, to be there for the first election, but you didn't have the cash.

MONICA: Right. It wasn't planned. It was about a month before the elections were supposed to occur, and some friends or some colleagues said, `Are you going to South Africa?' And I was like, `No, I'm not going to South Africa. That's not in the plan.' And one day I kept thinking about it as the day got closer and closer. I was having lunch, and Dr. Ohlmeyer said to me, she said, `Would you say you choose not to go? Because if you really wanted to, you'd get there.' And I thought about it. I mean, I charge a lot of things. I charged an airline ticket. I went to a bank and got a loan, hopped on a plane and went over there. And after that, I refused to allow anyone else to control my destiny. What happened, the photographs became a part of an exhibit, and a major corporation sponsored the exhibit. The money that I got from that exhibit, Harold and I talked about it. He said, `Put it in a trip fund, and that way, any time you need to go somewhere, you can go into that fund, get the money and go.' And it's worked. It has worked. I have not touched the money. Luckily the trips have been coming in from clients and they're paying for it. But in the event that they don't, I'm prepared to do it myself.

HATTIE: This is like building a spec house or something if you're a contractor, meaning you had no customer for those pictures.

MONICA: Right.

HATTIE: You had no money to go get the pictures, and that's an expensive trip. How much is a plane ticket to South Africa?

MONICA: Fifteen hundred dollars

HATTIE: Fifteen hundred dollars, and you were there for a couple of weeks?

MONICA: I was there for almost a month.

HATTIE: You were... which meant you gave up all the work that you had here.

MONICA: Right. I put the business kind of like on part-time, because I had someone working in the office, but I didn't have a lot of other photographers that I could rely on then. So I just had someone maintain the office, and I took a chance.

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