What made you choose Southwestern?

I went on a tour of colleges and drove from city to city in Texas visiting different campuses that I was interested in. Southwestern was high up on my list of schools based on what I had heard about its reputation and focus on academics. It was the last school that I visited, but it was also the only school that when I stepped on campus, it felt like “home.” I knew instantly that this was where I wanted to be. After attending one of the prospective student days, there was no doubt in my mind. Everything that you hear about what makes Southwestern so special is absolutely 100 percent true. I couldn’t be happier anywhere else!

Did SU play a role in how you’ve shaped or grown your business?

Absolutely!! I remember reading up on Southwestern the summer before matriculation and learning that Southwestern has one of the most challenging curriculums, as well as an extremely high work load. I didn’t think much of it at the time and knew that I would have to phase out my 60+ hours of work per week, especially the traveling, but I had no idea how drastic that was going to be.

I knew there was a way to still do photography and school and succeed in both. I wanted to build a local customer base here in the Austin area so travel wouldn’t be a factor, so I told my admissions counselor, Lili McEntire, what was going on. She is friends with Will Molidor, who happened to be the senior that gave me my first official tour of SU, and I offered to shoot his wedding in order to gain some traction in the Austin photography industry. I couldn’t have asked for a better wedding to shoot. I’m really indebted to their generosity and trust they gifted me, as well as their actions of being such great ambassadors for my business. It really brought a sense of hope that I was going to be able to continue doing what I have such a passion for, as well as continue my education at Southwestern at a level that I wanted, and needed, it to be.

Has Chandler Adaway Photography changed as a result of your experiences as a Southwestern student? Or have you as an entrepreneur changed how you do things because of your SU education?

Initially I refrained from booking portrait sessions during the school year, assuming that doing so would be enough to allow me to focus on school. As a first year, I struggled with balancing this (still intense) workload from my business with the challenging curriculum I was faced with as a biology major. My GPA wasn’t where I wanted it to be at all. I realized that I would need to make some drastic changes to the balance of school and my photography business, but found myself in an unfortunate position because the weddings I had booked were made a year in advance and I had no way to get out of these contracts. It was such a struggle because I have an immense passion for my business, but I’ve had a passion for academics and the goals associated even longer.

Has anybody in particular influenced your business? Who and why?

First and foremost, my parents have played such a huge role in the success of my business. Looking back on it, they believed in my work so much that they allowed a 17 year old to follow his passions, travel unaccompanied, and be away from home more often than not. It’s absolutely unbelievable! Without their support, there’s no way I would have ever reached past photographing local clients and a wedding every now and then.

Everyone that I’m close to in my life are also such big advocates of my work and always supported everything that I have done. The photography community itself is such an awesome group of people filled with amazing artists, but more importantly, the most positive and happy people that I’ve ever met. They taught me so much about maintaining a high level of passion when business gets overwhelming, as well as inspired me to be the best person I can be, photography-related or not. Their personalities and outlook on life are infectious.

How do you balance the student/entrepreneur life?

During my first year, I ended up taking down my website and blog because I was still getting multiple inquiries from prospective clients every day, and I literally had to tell everyone “I’m so sorry, I’m booked solid,” which really meant: I need to study and focus on school. While I got through it, there were still some repercussions. That summer I had to retake a science course at a local university after not doing so well in the class at Southwestern. Taking these courses elsewhere was a defining moment in my appreciation of Southwestern. I realized that even though the class at SU was extremely difficult in comparison to the one I retook, I was the most prepared out of all of the students in that course back home. This was such an inspiring moment for me because I realized that all of the hard work associated with attending Southwestern is completely worth it for my future.

This year, as a sophomore, I’ve finally found that balance. It was a long journey, but the relief and comfort that I’ve now found is invaluable. Currently, I’m partnering with local Georgetown high schools and acquiring a very limited amount of graduating seniors as clients. Even though I’m producing less than a third of the work I was my senior year of high school, I’ve increased the investment to hire me as a photographer so I’m still receiving relatively comparable income. I also am currently taking a film photography course for my performing arts credit so I can push the boundaries of my work and continue to develop my artistic ability. I couldn’t be happier!

What advice would you give to a student who might want to pursue an idea for a business?

One of Southwestern’s best attributes is the people it attracts. The students, faculty and staff are all extremely talented and filled with passion. I couldn’t think of a better place to pursue an idea or a business. Don’t be afraid to contact people on campus who could help you make whatever idea you have a reality. Whether it’s needing to come up with a brand/logo for your business or a catchy tune for a local commercial, there’s more than likely someone on campus who has extreme talent and is more than willing to help you out. Even if it’s a student or professor who you’ve never had the chance to talk to before, more often than not, they will lend a hand. And if they can’t, they will know someone who can help. Nearly every inch of this school is covered with caring individuals—all you have to do is say hello! And of course, if you need any photos taken, I’m happy to lend a hand to fellow Pirates!

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