IAM846- Elopement Photographer Encourages People to be their Authentic Self

Podcast Interview with Sam Starns

Sam Starns is a TEDx speaker, elopement expert and movement leader in adventure elopement photography. With nearly a decade of wedding experience, Sam has traveled to numerous states and countries for elopements to jumpstart the transformation for real change to encourage anyone to become their authentic self. Sam Starns’ debut book, Elope Your Life is set to release in November 2020.

  • CEO Hack: Client management software system – Dubsado
  • CEO Nugget: Develop your why, do it sooner and don't compare yourself
  • CEO Defined: Making the decisions, freedom and doing the work



Full Interview:

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[00:00:02.20] – Intro
Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, start ups, and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview? If so, you've come to the right place. Gresham Harkness values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you're in search of. This is the I am CEO CEO podcast. H

[00:00:26.10] – Gresham Harkless
podcast. H Hello. Hello. This is Gresh from the I am CEO podcast, and we have a very special guest on the show today. We have Sam Starnes of elope your life dot com and sam starnes dot com. Sam, it's awesome to have you on the show.

[00:00:40.10] – Gresham Harkless
Yeah. Honored to be here. Thanks for having me, Gresh.

[00:00:42.29] -Sam Starns
No problem. Super excited to have you on. And before we jump in, I want to read a little bit more about Sam so you care about all the awesome things that she's doing. And Sam is a TEDx speaker, elopement expert, and movement leader in adventure elopement photography. With nearly a decade of wedding experience, Sam has traveled to numerous states and countries for elopements to jump start the transformation for real change to encourage anyone to become their authentic self. Sam Starn's debut debut book, Elope Your Life, is set to release in November twenty twenty. Sam, are you ready to speak to the IMCL community? Heck Heck

[00:01:12.79] – Gresham Harkless
Heck Heck yeah. You bet.

[00:01:13.79] – Sam Starns
Let's do it. So to to kick everything off, I wanted to kinda start, I guess, from the beginning, hear a little bit more about your story, what led you get started with all the awesome things you're working on?

[00:01:22.20] – Gresham Harkless
Yeah. So I, went to school. I think what a lot of people can relate to is I went to school for something completely different than what I'm doing now. And and I have a couple different degrees in in different things and I worked in a couple different sectors that sort of loosely tied to one of my degrees. But it really really started this this whole elopement photography thing really started when I got married. I I wanted to elope and my husband Brian said no I really want a ceremony and you know he's really close with his family and everything and I was like okay let's compromise so we had a wedding And so, you know, close to the day, he was like, man, I really wish we would have eloped. I'm like, yeah. Yeah. I I knew too. I knew

[00:02:01.90] -Sam Starns
what I was talking about.

[00:02:03.29] – Gresham Harkless
Yeah. Yeah. So you know afterwards I'd done part time wedding photography for for several years prior and I realized afterward that there are other people like me out there and it's an absolutely valid alternative to your day especially if a big wedding doesn't speak to you and you're more outdoorsy or you you're you're more unconventional than you know what society says you have to do for your wedding. So I started niching down into adventure elopement photography almost immediately after we got married, and the rest is history. It kinda took off from there.

[00:02:35.30] – Sam Starns
Nice. Absolutely love that. And you said the the operative words, your day. And I think so many times when you have that experience, you forget, and it becomes everybody else's day. You start to lose yourself. So I love that you obviously had that feeling, but you found so many other people at Sound too that wanted to do, and capture that moment.

[00:02:51.30] – Gresham Harkless
Yeah. Yeah. It it's crazy because those societal expectations and those family and friends expectations, they're really insidious and they snowball. And it starts with one person making a seemingly innocuous request. Yeah. And then it just snowballs from there. And then all of a sudden you're you're running this circus that's not really about what you wanted in the first place.

[00:03:08.69] – Sam Starns
Absolutely. Absolutely. So, I I know you touched on it a little bit and I did as well about how exactly you serve the clients you work with. Could you take us through a little bit more on how that process works? And for those that aren't familiar, what exactly is adventure elopement?

[00:03:20.30] – Gresham Harkless
Yeah. So, an adventure elopement, starting back with the definition of elopement, because I feel like a lot of people have this definition in their brain of you know an elopement is a last minute courthouse wedding, shotgun wedding, shame, disapproval from the family and it really isn't that anymore which is is super cool. I really consider the definition of elopement not necessarily running away from something but running to something and that that something is your traditional venues. They're they're at national traditional venues. They're they're at national parks. They're, you know, at destination locations. They're in the redwoods, the Oregon coast. I mean, really name a place and you can probably get married there. And so there's a lot of opportunity to have a couple choose a location that really reflects them. And, so that adventure aspect doesn't necessarily need to be, what a lot of adventure elements are hiking. A lot of them are. And, you know, it doesn't necessarily need to be hiking. You can hike a little bit. You can go on a hot air balloon ride. You can take a helicopter ride and go dog sledding on a glacier. You can have a picnic on the coast. There's lots of different options. So, that's sort of what adventure elopements are, and they really they're really catered to you. And so, part of my process is I meet with the couple as an as a consult before we even book, and we really brainstorm on what their day can be. And I start with saying, hey. Let's imagine your best day ever. Best day ever, no holds barred. What what day is going to make you say, hell yeah And we go from there, because then we can add on looking fine as hell We can add on the wedding ceremony and everything, but that basis is a day that is is you or it's what you wanna do. And we don't need to worry about, oh, well, I I'd love to hike on my best day ever. Ever or I'd love to go in a hot air balloon on my best day ever oh but the dress so maybe we'll just do this no no no no no no that's not how that works we think about this awesome epic day that you want to relive over and over again and then we add in committing yourselves to one another so I serve my couples in in that way I also serve them with planning information and ways to make their elopement special and I serve them in creating and documenting this this amazing day and helping them find the power within themselves to go yes. I want to elope. This is what we're gonna do. This is totally us, and we're excited about it.

[00:05:40.50] – Sam Starns
Yeah. That's so powerful. And, you know, it's definitely I can imagine the excitement of you have you having and speaking with clients of just basically imagining your your most awesome day and being able to kinda work backwards from there and figure out how to to to make that into, a day that you remember for the rest of your life and to do something really, really exciting. And I think when you start to kinda rewrite the rules, so to speak, and you're not doing what everybody else says that you should do, it becomes your day as we kinda talked about earlier. It really becomes, to me, probably even more exciting.

[00:06:08.00] – Gresham Harkless
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And it opens up a world of possibilities when people don't think of it as a wedding or an elopement at first. They think of it as this amazing adventure.

[00:06:15.39] – Sam Starns
Yeah. And why not start your your your wedding and and your life together off on the on the phenomenal foot and doing it that way? So absolutely love that. And and so I I wanted to ask you now for what I call your secret sauce, and this could be for you or your business or a combination of both but what do you feel kind of sets you apart and makes you unique?

[00:06:31.60] – Gresham Harkless
I think I think there are a couple different things a lot of photographers you know book a couple and you know, there's a varying amount of conversation between the booking and the elopement or the wedding and I think part of what makes me a little bit more unique is you know some photographers get on a consult call, some don't, they just book via email. Perfect example, Yesterday, I was on a consult call with a couple that hadn't even booked or anything for over two hours because we were brainstorming and I really value getting to know them and even if they don't end up booking me, I have resources on my website that they can use, all this good stuff and we keep in contact. I I tell my couples, stalk me on social media. I will stalk you back. I feel like it is a great way to organically get to know them as they go through life and we we get on Zoom calls and and all this different stuff. So we're really really connected with the information I provide, the client portal, all that jazz. And then a lot of photographers at the end, send a slideshow in a gallery via an email. But we get back on Zoom, we catch up. And so I don't have to be sad when I, you know, let my birdies fly away from the nest on the elope today and say goodbye. We We get to see each other again and catch up because at that point we've developed a relationship and I'm really really honored and lucky and grateful that a huge majority of my couples I still keep in contact with. I just flew to Georgia pre pre COVID and, hung out with a couple that eloped three years ago and, I still keep that sort of relationship with a lot of my couples. So that's one thing. And the other I think is just really taking the elopement and the wedding photography and and those aspects one step forward and empowering and helping people see that they are powerful and unique enough to have this transfer into the rest of their life as as a catalyst.

[00:08:16.89] – Sam Starns
Mhmm. Yeah. Absolutely. And that's definitely what I saw. You know, I could just feel the energy from you speaking, but I also can imagine, like, sitting down and getting to to figure out exactly, like, what it would an awesome day be like and then working backwards from there. And I imagine the relationship gets to build and grow from there. And I think in kind of right in alignment with that, I think so many times we forget about the human aspect of business. We forget about that opportunity to really, you know, sit down and have a conversation to find out how things are going and really to connect. So I love that obviously you have a really exciting day, but it doesn't it isn't just that day. It extends so much further to with your clients and the people you you work with.

[00:08:47.50] – Gresham Harkless
Heck yeah yeah and I you know that relationship really goes to the point of I don't even really I don't I don't like saying the word clients because it feels so much more transactional. And so I say my couples, my people because that feels really more reflective of, of the relationship that we have.

[00:09:04.00] – Sam Starns
Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely love that. And so many times we forget that we can kinda rewrite the script in whatever we want to whether it be our enlopement or our our lives or our business and I love that you're reminding us of that so much. And so I wanted to switch gears a little bit, and I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO hack. So this could be like an Apple book or a habit that you have, but but what's something that makes you more effective and efficient?

[00:09:24.20] – Gresham Harkless
So a couple of different things, if we're talking about physical things that you can go out and buy or or utilize that are more tangible, I use Dubsado and it is fantastic. If you don't know what it is, it's a client management software system and it is an all in one thing. My couples have their own client portal. They get to see their emails. I get to send forms like, you know, ways to make your elopement day special or or, you know, ceremony inspiration. I get to send all those things and they get to have it all in one place. Also I have automated workflows. So I send all these emails and they are customized with code of, you know, the first name in your client's profile. And so it's all customized to them, but I don't have to touch anything. So once the workflow starts I maybe touch ten percent of the emails that I send to my couples, because everything else is just providing them all this information and I'm able to be efficient that way. And so when they come to me for custom or, you know, custom tailored questions, I'm able to, you know, text them or email them and, you know, devote my time to those tailored questions.

[00:10:28.29] -Sam Starns
Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. So now I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO nugget, and this could be a word of wisdom or piece of advice. It might be something you would tell if you were to hop tell yourself if you were to hop into a time machine.

[00:10:38.50] – Gresham Harkless
Mhmm. You know, first I would tell I would tell my younger self, really develop your why, you know, and and I ended up doing it, but maybe I could have done it sooner. But another big one and this is actually what I implement with my couples and I feel like it's really it can be really implemented anywhere with anyone. And it's not to compare yourself and it's not to follow along because something works for one person necessarily and how I say that and start off is by telling my couples telling people I work with you are unique. There's never been anyone like you there never will be anyone like you and Statistically that's true. So even facial features, so let's disregard personality let's disregard you know your upbringing everything your face of facial features based on eight characteristics on your your face. So not even one hundred percent identical. The odds of having a doppelganger that match all those eight features is one in one trillion. Okay. The amount of people that have ever lived so far is by comparison a measly one hundred billion one hundred and eight billion and so the fact statistically that someone looking exactly like you and having the exact you know experiences in life whether it was being judged on your appearance and that's how you, you know, your self esteem grew or didn't or how you interact with people and your values and how you're raised. You are absolutely unique and you can't compare your yourself to anybody. And I know it's hard because I still do it too. It's a constant fight, but know that you you can't compare your race to somebody else's because you're going on you're you're trying to do the same thing on two completely different parameters And it's not it's not fair. It's not accurate. It's not objective to judge yourself that way. So do your own thing. You are unique. Do the best of your ability and don't don't worry about those other people. You can use them for inspiration, but don't get yourself down thinking that you're not where they are or you're not as successful as they are do your own thing and find out your own way.

[00:12:34.70] -Sam Starns
And I want to ask you my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO, and we're hoping to have different quote unquote CEOs on this show. So, Sam, what does being a CEO mean to you?

[00:12:43.89] – Gresham Harkless
Oh, man. That's a big question. You know, being being a CEO to me, It's it's really it's a difficult one to answer because being a CEO in a small business is is so many different hacks. And so, you know, you're not necessarily overseeing everything. You are, you are in the trenches. You are doing your own marketing a lot of the time. You are doing your own client interactions, all that stuff. So, you know, you're a CEO in, in the fact that you're making those executive decisions, but you're also carrying them out. So that aspect, you know, is is something that people don't think of. You know, CEO is a fortune five hundred company and you've got all these people below you in the in the work hierarchy, but, you know, it it can mean a lot of different things. And I think also a CEO is if you do it right, it can be freedom. You know, I do I make my schedule and I I am able to serve my clients while it's amazing. You know, if I don't wanna meet with someone at six six in the morning, I don't have to and so there's that freedom as well. And so just being a CEO is so much more multifaceted than people people realize. And if you feel like you're a CEO, call yourself a CEO because that's not just limited to these higher echelon businesses that have hundreds of employees. You know, it's it's really you getting in there, doing the work, making those decisions. And if that means you have a hundred employees or zero, call yourself a CEO.

[00:14:10.50] – Sam Starns
Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Well, Sam, truly appreciate that, and I appreciate your time even more. What I wanted to do is pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional you can let our readers and listeners know, and, of course, how best they can get a hold of you and find out about all those and things you're working on.

[00:14:23.29] – Gresham Harkless
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I just my advice is to dig deep. Seriously, I'm gonna go back to it again. Dig into your why because that's gonna that's gonna unleash a ton of stuff whether you are a photographer or a real estate investor or or something, you know, if you're if you're a real estate agent, you know, I highly doubt you're just wanting to provide People a stress free home buying experience really dig into well Why is there something in your life where you wish something was different or you know, what what do you want them to be able to do in their home? You know, do you do you want this to be a paradise for them? Do you want to, you know, create more of an experience for them in the home buying process? It's so much deeper than just wanting to give someone a home or or or whatever, you do in your business. So really, really dig into your why, and I feel like it's gonna it's gonna unleash some crazy potential that you didn't know was there and really just let your mind go with it, get creative. You know, with my brand therapy and digging into my why, I was, I was able to, you know, make a book, write a book. I never thought I'd be able to write a book and here we are, my book's coming out in just a little under a month. And you know, I applied to speak at TEDx and I'm a TEDx speaker and you will not realize until it actually happens the possibilities when you dig into your why. So, yeah. And if you guys ever have any questions, get a hold of me at SamStarnes dot com or elopeyourlife dot com. You can also email me Sam at Sam Starnes dot com, and I'm always here to answer questions and help lift you guys up in your own businesses.

[00:15:53.29] – Sam Starns
Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Thank you so much again, Sam. We We will have the links and information in the show notes. I love that kind of reminder to be able to dig deep into your why because we can definitely find out exactly why we're doing what we're doing and really start to to move forward in that direction. And one other thing, I'm gonna call you Samantha. I told you I would only call you Samantha if I was mad at you. You didn't I didn't get a bitch in our hell yet during the interview. Can I get a bitch in our hell yet?

[00:16:14.10] – Gresham Harkless
Bitching. Hell yeah.

[00:16:15.60] – Sam Starns
There we go. So I I truly appreciate you again for spending some time with us today and all the awesome work you're doing, and I hope you have a great rest of the day.

[00:16:22.39] – Outro
Thank you for listening to the I am CEO podcast powered by Blue sixteen Media. Tune in next time and visit us at I am CEO dot c o. I am CEO CEO is not just a phrase, it's a community. Be sure to follow us on social media and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play, and everywhere you listen to podcasts. Subscribe and leave us a five star rating. Grab CEO Gear at w w w dot CEO gear dot c o. This has been the I am CEO podcast with Gresham Harkless. Thank you for listening.

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