Katherine Vega is the face (and the camera) behind Kataklizmic Design LLC, a production studio based in Arizona that provides a range of specialized creative services to the community. This one-woman powerhouse not only offers photography services but also video, graphic art and website design services to her clients.
She first conceptualized her business in 2003 as a media arts student and, by 2005, Kataklizmic Design was a registered trade name. Her passion and dedication for her work and the arts, particularly music, has powered her to keep hustling. Katherine’s work has been recognized in many forms from word-of-mouth referrals to award recognition, which includes being nominated as the Best Concert Photographer in Phoenix by the Phoenix New Times in 2014. She has also had her photography published by local, national and international music artists.
Want a ticket to the show? Meet Katherine Vega of Kataklizmic Design LLC.
What was life like before Kataklizmic Design and what motivated you to quit your day job and start your own business?
After receiving a certificate of completion for my media arts degree, I got a job as a website designer at a web services firm. Before that, since the age of 16, I would drive out to concerts and local shows and just loved shooting photos casually, for myself. I never intended to shoot professionally but I got better and better at it. I realized my passion lay more in photographing concerts than in web design. As I spent time in the local artistic community, I got to know a lot of people. They would see my work and give me lots of positive feedback. I started gaining a reputation as a concert photographer. I would pick up jobs and continue building my skill set and my side hustle starting taking shape. Then, after six years there, the time came to make a decision. I decided to seek my greater vision and take the leap to commit to my passion full time. It was the biggest risk I’ve ever taken in my life.
Katherine’s 3 pearls of wisdom for entrepreneurs:
- Take care of yourself. If you don’t allow yourself some self-care, recreation and socialization, you will not be healthy enough to keep going in the long run.
- Delegate. Just because you CAN do it all, doesn’t mean you should.
- Never sell yourself short. The pricing of your work has a lot to do with perceived value. If you do not stand firm on your pricing, you will not be respected and your business will not be able to sustain itself.
Describe the biggest challenge you’ve experienced as a small business owner and how you dealt with it.
I ran my business for nine months and did everything I could to make a living off of the business alone, but it was a struggle keeping a consistent client base. Sometimes, I didn’t even know where my next meal was coming from. I now have a ‘day job’ as a web developer and still run my business on the side. Juggling a day job and a business is definitely a challenge.
To view it optimistically, it has enabled me to live in more comfort, and more importantly, keep the biz going. Because I have limited time, I’ve had to be strategic about what I market for and accept. I’m mostly focusing on those big photography gigs.
Share a story where you went above and beyond to solve a problem.
After I got approval to photograph Evanescence for the first three songs at their LA concert, I was told I could only shoot from the soundboard (which is typically very far from the stage). I researched the venue and layout to determine how far I would have to be and decided it would be worth it to rent a 400mm lens and monopod. Since I’d never shot with a lens that big I needed to rent it for a whole week so I could practice. This was a very big investment.
The lens was like a rocket launcher. I am strong enough that I was able to lift it, but it was quite difficult to carry it around for an extended period of time. I took it to a local music festival to practice using the lens (and for general strength training).
So the time finally came and I hauled it over to LA, guarding it with my life. When I got to the concert, I discovered that the photographers weren’t actually shooting from the soundboard but much closer! I had to make a last minute decision and ended up stashing the ‘rocket launcher’ in the back office and used my regular 80mm-200mm lenses. I managed to get some amazing shots.
I did everything it took to give it my best effort. I am glad I had the foresight to bring multiple lenses, and I am grateful for the valuable experience I gained and lessons I learned throughout the whole experience.
It’s a typical work day. Where can we find you?
Home office, concert venues and occasionally a coffee shop when I need to get away from the cats!
Inspiration or perspiration?
They are equally important. I am a firm believer that luck is made. You take the painstaking actions that make luck possible. Sometimes, crucial parts of your opportunities and success are due to ‘random’ luck…but it’s never truly random. And the best of work has a balance of creativity and technicality.
Who is your role model?
I respect people who are multi-talented, intelligent, passionate, not afraid to be themselves, stand up for what they believe in, persistent, good-natured and unique. While I have the pleasure of knowing many artists that meet this description, Amanda Palmer is the first one that comes to mind. And I LOVE that she built a supportive community with her music and art, which is internationally based and sustained.
Do you have a motivational mantra or inspirational quote that helps you get you out of bed in the morning?
“Remember: Your focus determines your reality.” – Qui-Gon Jinn (Star Wars)
Another one I really like… “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of a low price is forgotten” – Benjamin Franklin.
Work-Life balance is *tough* for a small business owner. How do you stay balanced?
I schedule in physical activity, recreation and social time. To be honest, I never feel 100% disconnected from work; it’s a bad habit of mine that I am always working on.
What’s next for Kataklizmic Design?
I’m involved in some exciting new projects: An online publication, Burning Hot Events, and media packaging service for bands called Band Identity℠.
It’s exciting times for Kataklizmic Design. As word-of-mouth spreads and Katherine builds her reputation as a high-quality, full-service professional, she is getting approvals to photograph bigger and bigger artists. She recently photographed shows for some pretty big names including Vance Joy and Elle King!
Learn more about Katherine and Kataklizmic Design:
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About the Author: Amanda is the Community Coordinator at FreshBooks. She loves executing extraordinary experiences every day both on and offline. When she’s not doing that, she is taking her dog, Jonny, on adventures or searching Toronto for the best coleslaw.