Power house duo Kristen Hudson Nichols and Nic Nichols are photographers, designers, and business owners.
Together they offer their talent via:
- Hudson Nichols Photography: Weddings, Engagements, and Portraits.
- MilkMaid Press: Personalised stationery for events, holidays and business.
Their individual stores:
- Kristen: Haute Boudoir: Intimate photography.
- Nic: Four Corner Store: Camera and film accessories with a fun twist.
How did you start working together?
K: Nic and I met through work, I interned at the photo studio where he worked, and years later we were re-introduced and became friends. We were both very different photographers. We had so much in common and very similar work ethics, so working together was a natural fit. I had an already established branding company and my stationery line, Milkmaid Press, and Nic had his store, so we sort of joined forces within each company pretty naturally. We are different in a lot of ways, and that compliments each others work and in the ways we are similar, it makes it very natural and comfortable, so it’s a really nice marriage, so to speak.
N: After we got married and both worked in our home office together, we collaborated on a few projects. That led to more projects and eventually our two companies begun to slowly merge.
When did you realize that you should be working for yourselves?
N: In between my two degrees I interned for a (then) large Commercial Studio. We stayed close and by my last year of school I was working there full time. After 15 years with them we slowly went from 20 people to 10, then 8, 7, 6… until it finally became pretty clear that it was time to leave them for good and start fresh. It was the best turn of events for me as it gave me the motivation to create my own company to do the work that I thought would be much more satisfying.
K: I have been self employed for quite some time, while Nic had a 9-5, plus he had started FourCornerStore.com, so we were both quite busy. Working together happened so naturally, it was akin to adopting a stray cat, which we also did. It started with little overlaps, helping each other out on various projects and eventually became an everyday thing. Nic is my best friend, which is really a blessing when you live and work together. We even take badminton breaks when we can’t stare at the computers any longer!
Because you guys are so many things, what did you want to be when you were kids?
K: I wanted to be a Singer, and Actress and a Veternarian when I was little. The Vet thing ended abruptly when my mother informed me that meant I would have to deal with snakes and lizards and the like, and it wasn’t all about cuddling kittens. I found a way to incorporate “kitten snuggling” into my current profession, as we share our workspace with the cats. I had always loved drawing, pretending and creating, and from childhood, I was always doing something musical, theatrical or artistic. My parents were always so supportive and really got involved in my stories, characters and illustrations, so that really nurtured my creativity.
N: I came from a family of artists, and was trained at a very early age in drawing and painting. About the time I turned 12, my Grandfather realized I was never going to be a painter, and gave me my first Nikon, and old NikkoMat 35mm. I never looked back after that.
How do you keep up on what’s going on in your areas of expertise?
K: We subsribe to Communication Arts and How Design which is a great source of inspiration. I follow design blogs like theDieline, Graphic Exchange, and of course, wedding blogs for stationery. Pinterest is a great resource as well and it’s become a really great tool to collaborate with clients-they can pin what they like, I can pin what I like and it’s a great starting point for branding and design.
N: I spend about an hour each morning, usually very early, searching the web for what is going on.. checking tumblr’s, twitter, facebook. I have a lot of friends and colleagues in the industry that are very social media active and we tend to bounce ideas around each other. I follow our circle of photographers, and the forum that I maintain, toycamera.com. In Japan, it’s Minjonju with his great YouTube Videos. In Singapore it’s Andrew Kua and his blog fuzzeyeballs.com. I look at what folks are posting and discussing on our forum, and take time each day to check out the Holga, Toy Camera and Analog tagged images on Tumblr.
[Full disclosure, we used Hudson Nichols Photography for our wedding; we couldn’t see any other photographer for our special day. Their collection of work reflects the mood and feel of each wedding as its own experience and we knew that Hudson Nichols would encapsulate our day unlike anyone else’s. We didn’t realize until we met them that they are hilarious and fun to be around: Bonus!]
Tell us about the Nichols family ties to the wedding industry.
K: I got into weddings planning our own wedding back in 2006. I had been a designer and art director, and decided to design our wedding invitations. I had never thought about stationery or invitations in the design world- I was very agency and advertising centric, but I really fell for the creativity and working with people on the happiest of events, and so Milkmaid Press was born! A few years later, I decided to get back into photography and making money and weddings were already such a big part of my way of thinking that I started photographing weddings, which eventually led to boudoir, and now I do all of it!
So much of your services are people oriented. Were you always good dealing with people and how do you deal with clients who are less than ideal?
K: It depends on the situation and the client. With boudoir, I’m working one on one, so intimately, and I talk a lot and am quite silly, so that is really an asset, and it’s just the most natural fit for me. I’m always trying to find what makes each woman unique and beautiful, so that the shoot is very personal. Boudoir is the one aspect where Nic is completely out of the picture, because it’s so intimate. With everything else, we work together to problem solve. Nic is amazing with clients-he’s so likeable and eloquent, that I usually have him run traffic so I can focus on the creative direction, and then we work together to complete the projects. It’s weird how we just naturally fit.
N: I’ve had a lot of retail experience, and worked at quite a few restaurants. I grew up in my Grandparent’s Costume shop, so I learned to deal with people at an early age, that lead to working at the Gap all through high school, where every client is less then ideal. Being able to keep calm, asses the situation and make the customer feel like whatever result was their idea to start with is my key. When all else fails, take them to dinner and buy them drinks.
As a team, do you have specific roles?
K: I’m definitely the Creative Leader and the one who keeps us organized and on point, while Nic handles everything and anything technical and is in charge of customer service and “traffic” to use an old school agency term.. Nic is great at making sure everything is running smoothly and that clients needs are being met, and he’s amazing at translating my creative garble into a discernable concept for clients who might not be as design or tech saavy, and I’m good at knowing what the client wants and how to realize their needs without going over budget or time.
N: Kristen is the boss, and I do whatever she tells me to.
Where do you find the time to do all of the things that you do, what’s your secret? Our guess: a Tesla type mechanism such as the transporter in the Prestige.
K: I WISH I could clone myself, although I think I’d end up arguing with myself over which one of the Kristen’s got to snuggle the cats- I don’t share their love well. To be honest, I love working. I’m freakishly fast, which left me bored at most of my earlier 9-5 design and agency jobs. I’m a sucker for organization and efficiency, and I’ve developed a good system for accomplishing goals. Oh, and I love making “to do” lists and the satisfaction of crossing something off, it’s one of the simplest pleasure’s in life, but it gives me a happy little feeling of accomplishment and closure wrapped into the definitive strike of a pen.
N: I do things in chunks. A pile of chunks makes up a day. Morning: 1 chunk of email, 1 chunk research. By Lunch 2 chunks filling orders for the store, 1 chunk retouching. Dinner: 1 chunk of more emails, another of phone calls. Breaking down things that need to get done into little packages helps me organize them. I also drink a lot of Red Bull and don’t sleep that much.
How do you balance work vs. home life?
K: We have certain responsibilities that just sorted themselves out organically. Just like in work, we share responsibilities pretty easily.
N: When you own your own company, you are always on the clock. I live photography- work, personal images, they can all blend together. If I wasn’t taking photos for a living, I would still be taking lots of photos. But working from home is a different challenge. We take time each day to hit the gym and play Badminton in our yard.
We find that people’s surroundings affect their work. You live and work in Delaware, how do you find that?
K: I like being centrally located. We’re right between DC and NYC, near to Philly and Baltimore, and also to more rural spots, so it’s a great area to live. There is a lot to do if you’re willing to drive 20 minutes or even an hour or so, but there are also quiet, bucolic spaces which I really love. I love that we can go to a big Art Museum or exhibit one day, and the next go kayaking in complete solitude. I think it makes us adaptable and diverse in our interests and abilities, which when working with other people, is a huge asset.
N: Delaware hasn’t really affected me that much. I’ve lived in Germany, Rhode Island, Philly.. I’ve been to 48 of the 50 states and Europe and Asia.. where I go affects me more then where I live.
On a similar note, how much of an inspiration are the Adorabillibuddies?
K: Um, pretty much constant. I HAVE to work to keep them in full supply of treats and feather toys. It’s like the Bryan Adams song, “Everything I do, I do it for you” but replace the “you” with “kittens”. They are great for morale-if you’re having a bad day or are frustrated, a little kitten time goes a long way.
N: The cats are very relaxing… you find yourself taking small refreshing breaks to have kitten time, which helps you take a breath and be fresh for the next task.
Where do you see yourselves and your stores in the years to come?
K: I’m aiming for world domination, but we’ll take it one day at a time!
N: My store has grown from a small online shop to a retail, online and wholesale company. We now represent other companies from Japan, and are bringing new items into the States that nobody else has. I want all of our companies to grow not just financially, but creatively. Keep doing things that no one else is doing, keep pushing forward into new territories.