After seven years as an associate accounts director in an advertising firm, Ashley Low decided she’d had enough of the stress and late nights.
“At 1am, I saw a colleague who was due to give birth the following week still in the office,” says the 40-year-old. “I told myself, I didn’t want this to be me.” After quitting her $5,000-a-month job, she explored many options. It was her brother who suggested photography. “I always carried my DSLR around, even when climbing a mountain. It was a light-bulb moment!” she says.
Graduating with debt
Aware that her photography skills weren’t good enough to launch a business, she took up a one-year photography course at the University of the Arts London. There was one problem: She was not financially prepared. School fees and expenses came up to $50,000. She took a loan of $40,000 from her uncle, and took on part-time jobs such as waitressing and babysitting to cover other costs.
After returning to Singapore, she set out to grow her photography experience and portfolio. When she learnt that Groupon (now known as Fave) was selling family photography packages, she negotiated a deal. She successfully sold 500 vouchers at $15 each, and used the profits to set up Ashley Low Photography in 2011.
During her first year in business, she started doing newborn photography – and fell in love with it instantly: “At my first shoot, I was shocked by how small a one-week-old baby was. But I saw how creative I could get, and became excited about the possibilities.”
She turned it into her niche and became one of the pioneers of newborn photography in Singapore. In 2016, she was named Master Photographer by the Master Photographers Association in the UK.
Ashley reckons she was “quite courageous” to take the plunge into entrepreneurship, but she hasn’t looked back. If she had any fear, it was of failure.
“I had to make it. My friends and family were very supportive, but I had older and conservative relatives who felt that I should have been satisfied with what I had,” she explains.
For those considering a career switch, Ashley’s advice is matter of fact: If you never try, you’ll never know. “We should always put ourselves first. If we are not happy with ourselves, we can’t make the people around us happy.”
This story first appeared in the September 2021 issue of Her World.