In this week’s Mompreneur Presents, we focus on Callie Riesling, mom of a seasoned little traveler and founder of Callie Riesling Photography.
Can you tell us a little bit about you and the business? How did it all start?
Thank you! My story is a bit different than many Mompreneurs’ because I started Callie Riesling Photography long before I had my son. I started my business when I was 18 years old, fresh out of high school. Originally, I was just offering some extra photo shoots to friends and family to help pay for college. It quickly escalated in so much more. Since then, I have been in business for 10 years and I have photographed over 250 weddings and over 1000 portrait sessions, many across the United Stares, some abroad, and around 20 Major League Baseball Players. There aren’t many people who actually follow their dreams and end up succeeding. The best part is that it has actually become so much more than my passion. It actually played an instrumental role in starting our family. My husband and I had to do IVF (in vitro fertilization) to have our son. We ended up doing a few rounds of IUI and three rounds of IVF to have our son Jake. Without our businesses (my husband is an entrepreneur too), we wouldn’t have been able to pay the tens of thousands of dollars it took to start our family. Many Mompreneurs start their businesses as a means of supporting their families. Instead, mine helped us start ours.
Now, my son is four years old and being a wedding photographer has allowed me to be both a working mom and a stay at home mom. Sometimes, it can be a bit difficult because I am not a working mom or a stay-at-home mom, I’m a hybrid, so I have both responsibilities. But I am so grateful that I have the ability to be home with my son like my mom was for me while still providing a good financial contribution to my family.
Where do you live and do you recommend your city as a family travel destination?
Callie Riesling Photography is based in Colorado Springs, CO. My business operates all over the state of Colorado and we have also done weddings and photography sessions across the United States and locations around the world. Colorado Springs is a great travel destination, especially for families. It’s located at the foot of Pikes Peak which, is the second most visited mountain in the world after Mt Fuji. Pikes Peak is where we get “Purple Mountains Majesty” in the song “America is Beautiful.” We have some other very well-known attractions in town such as Gardens of the Gods, the Olympic Training Center, and and the Manitou Springs. We are also lucky to have several ski resorts within a few hours’ distance and more museums and attractions all over Denver.
What’s your insider tip for families coming to your hometown? What are your favorite family-friendly hidden gems?
Make sure you take the kids to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo–the highest elevation zoo and the only mountain zoo in the United States–where you can feed the Giraffes at 6,700 plus feet (about 2,000 plus meters) above sea level. The views from the zoo are also excellent.
Another one of my favorite places here is the Broadmoor. It’s a huge resort but a wonderful place to get a drink and a stroll around the lake. Make sure you check out their “Hall of Fame” and all the intricately decorated lobbies around the property. It’s especially wonderful around Christmas with a huge real chocolate/gingerbread village and with every single lobby and public area decorated with massive trees. During the summer, get some gelato for the kids and go for a walk around the lake.
Insider’s tip: Make sure to acclimate to the altitude, wear sunscreen, and drink a ton of water. Do not do anything strenuous immediately. The lack of oxygen here really does get to people even causing altitude sickness and vertigo at times. As a wedding photographer, I often see friends and family members fly in for a wedding from a much lower altitude and then end up feeling horrible because they haven’t taken the proper time to acclimate and they haven’t been drinking enough water. Drink much more than you think you will need.
Is family travel part of your life?
Yes, absolutely! Callie Riesling Photography actually contributes a lot to this. We travel as much as we can personally and then when you add in destination weddings and sessions, that really adds to quite a few trips. This, year, I photographed weddings and sessions in Ireland, Washington DC, Mississippi, Alabama, and St Kitts. Often times, this actually has us travelling to unexpected places like our trip this year to Huntsville, AL, where we visited the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. At the age of four, Jake has visited 18 states and 33 countries spread across three continents. We try to travel as much as possible while still maintaining a home base and our businesses in Colorado.
What is the most memorable trip you took with your child?
I’m not sure I could pick one trip because they are all so different and have all contributed so much to Jake’s personality and adaptability. He took his first flight at seven weeks old and his first international trip at seven months. London will always be one of my favorite places to travel with him because of his love for the Tube. He has been there three times now and can tell you all of the London landmarks better than he can tell you his ABCs. Our European adventures have been so fun, but we have also loved our crazy cross-country road trips here in the U.S. and our beach vacations to places we have already been.
He talks a lot about London, Ireland, Barbados and can even remember quite a bit of his trip to Norway at two years old. With each trip he has learned so much and made so many memories. Some of my favorite memories are when he dubbed the Tube “Choochoo tunnels” at two, renting a little boat in Austria and going out on the lake, letting him pick his own treat from the window in Paris and watching him devour it, watching him swat flies with a branch in Norway, and so many more. All of them are such important memories to me and impossible to choose from because they all really do contribute to who he is. He’s not afraid to talk with anyone. He is curious, will try pretty much any food, and has such an appreciation for beauty.
What’s your best advice for traveling parents?
Explore everything–everywhere. Even if you can’t travel, take your kids for a walk or a drive locally. Be a tourist in your own town. Travel as much as possible and try not to stress too much about the long flights. Encourage them to talk to everyone, try all the foods, and explore the places. They learn so much more than you think they do!
What is your favorite family travel product or service?
Recheck/Global Entry was a Christmas gift from my parents last year and we cannot believe we lived without it before. With all of my photography gear, I used to have to take out every lens, battery, and piece of electronic equipment and put it in a separate bin, then repack it with a toddler and a gazillion people behind us in line. Now, it all stays in our bags and it takes us one tenth of the time.
This may be a bit out of the box because it’s not necessarily one product or service or even one company. My biggest travel tools with Jakes are books. There are so many amazing books, specific to location or just travelling in general. Right now, we are big on the Lonely Planet How Trains Work”and How Airports Work books. They really broaden his understanding of things and help my husband and I to explain things in ways that he better understands.
What item do you always pack in your carry-on?
My carry-on is always bursting at the seams with all my equipment. However, I always pack a variety of things for Jake too. On some trips, like on our red eye to London in May, he played on the tablet, watched movies, and slept almost the entire flight. However, on our most recent trip to Puerto Rico (which was three legs and almost as much travel time), he had absolutely no interest in the tablet. We used every single item I had brought–books, coloring books, cars, dinosaurs, and snacks. So do not rely on one thing. Brings small doses of lots of choices. The Cozyphones headphones are also a huge must for us for toddlers and kiddos on long flights.
How do you tackle the work/life balance (e.g., day care, babysitting, and schools)?
Less than 24 hrs before Jake was born, I did an engagement photo session and then stayed up pretty late finishing it because I was only 37 weeks pregnant and wanted to spend the rest of my pregnancy getting ready for Jake. About four hours after I went to bed, he broke my waters. A few weeks after he was born, I went into a full-blown wedding season and had three weddings in nine days right off the bat. I had to figure out pumping on the job and my husband had to figure out how to get him to be happy bottle feeding. Jake was a very colicky and strong-willed baby. He was rarely happy to leave my arms, so I spent a lot of time that summer editing with him strapped into the Ergo carrier. I had to ask my parents frequently for help watching him because in addition to our Landscape Maintenance company, my husband was also working another full-time job for benefits.
Now, after 4 years, our balance has gotten much better. My husband only operates our landscaping business and Jakey is able to play with his blocks and trains while I edit. He goes to school for a little over half a day twice a week and my husband frequently takes him to the ice arena to play hockey so that I can answer emails and edit. The biggest thing that we have to conscious about is stepping away from work and letting him be a kid. We both have to step away to play Legos with him and take him outside to ride his bike. As I said earlier on, my biggest struggle is that I am a hybrid of a working mom and a stay-at-home mom. I am never just doing one of them. I have to do both simultaneously and I have to do them both in the best way for him. It’s also a bit hard to explain this to clients because you never want to be unprofessional and seem like this is a side gig. It’s not. It’s my full-time job and so is being a mom. Mostly, I really just try to be transparent with my clients and I do pray quite a bit that he will just be good for a little bit.
What are the advantages of being a Mompreneur while raising children vs. working for an outside entity? Disadvantages?
The ability to take as much work or as little as I want to and arrange my schedule for my son. Being able to travel more and share more of the world with him. Being able to go to all the school things, sports things, and the time I spend with him all day long. It’s hard though juggling being a stay-at-home mom and a working mom simultaneously and keeping up on the housework!
What’s your shameless plug?
Callie Riesling Photography–Colorado Wedding Photographer and Destination Wedding Photographer specializing in adventure sessions.
Our travel blog (which always has to take last place after my son, my family, and my business)