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Keeping Business Open While Life Falls Apart, with Asa Shutts

This blog post is an ode to Asa and every business owner out there struggling the crisis that come at us, because we are human, and shit happens. Not only is Asa a badass but she was beautiful enough to share some of the tragedy that fell on her family last year. Asa Shutts owns Shutts Productions and Shutter & Splice and can take care of all of your photography and videography needs- follow her online and listen to her entire podcast episode at

We don't have to get the specifics, but I happen to know that your personal life is a shit show right now.

I had a lot of surprises lately, and they seem to be kind of piled up and back-to-back.

Honestly, just getting through like one of those with running your own business would be a lot for most of us, but having multiple- how would you describe running your business while handling all of the things you've been handling?

When the weird string of really traumatic, have-to-deal-with, personal events started happening, it was back in March. Luckily for me, March is my slowest part of the year. Corporations are just starting to need to do work because their budgets are starting over. Weddings haven't really gotten under full swing. People don't want spring portraits taken because it's still snow on the ground...

I was able to e-mail all my people and be like, “hey, it's going to take me an extra week because you know, I've got this going on.” And then April was traumatic. It was every 30 days this random, unexpected, big thing-to-deal-with was happening. I lost a full week there.

Really, the ability to work around the clock when I needed to was important. I'd spent time with myself as I needed to, and then business might happen at midnight, you know? Or 11:00 PM, or whenever it could fit. If it was important, it got done, and if it wasn't important, it got put to the side. It's nice to be able to do that.

But I don't have the benefit of taking things like family leave, where I get X number of weeks to just go home and be with myself. It's really hard to juggle the needs of running a business and keeping it afloat, because let's face it, I'm a sole proprietor. I don't have employees who can get my back. I don't have anyone else to check off the tasks on the To-Do List. But they still have to get done because nobody's giving me a break.

My dad passed in April. And in March, my son was diagnosed with the super rare genetic disorder that was causing him to fall a lot. It was really scary and a safety problem, and I was still trying to find the time to mourn my dad. While still being like “and I've got to get this e-mail sent out to this person and oh did I even ever invoice that other person for this job I did 2 weeks ago.” It was just a lot and it slowed down my ability to mourn my dad in the way that I really want to, and then boom a month later was another tragedy. My other son was involved in a horrendous car accident and broke his neck… I still wasn't dealing with, you know, I still hadn't had a chance to fully mourn my dad. But now it's “we're working into wedding season” and you’ve got to keep going. You have these contracts that have been on the books for a year, and you can't say “sorry, I'm not showing up to your wedding.” These people entrusted me with that, and I and I respect that and I am so grateful for that trust. I just dug in and found a way to keep going.

I didn’t get time off for bereavement, or time off for family leave time, and all those things that the “normal” nine to five would give you. I was working from home because of COVID, so work could happen when time allowed, and so I put a lot of weight on my assistant editor, slash second shooter who had just moved to California. He was still doing some editing for me, and I just leaned more on him which worked out great because he was in San Fran struggling for work, so he was more than happy to pick up some stuff. Which had given me some time to be able to deal with all this craziness that just seems to not stop from happening.

When you talk about how you've got a wedding to shoot, but you're dealing with whatever at home and people think “Oh, it's a few hours. Just get through it”

It's 12 hours, it's 12 hours just to be there. It's the day before to charge the batteries. It's up until 4:00 o'clock in the morning to import all the footage and make sure it's backed up, so you don't lose anything. It's never just a couple of hours.

And how much does the editing time take?

Ohh hours and hours and hours and hours and. More hours.

And you say $2500 for a 6-hour thing. It's actually not a 6-hour thing. It's actually more like a 24-hour thing. Because it also has to do with that being OK with saying OK and being OK with leaning in on your network, and it's OK to do that, especially because as a business owner yourself too, but like thank you for being so vulnerable, but that's something that we all have to give ourselves permission for. Is that we're allowed to? Have these things just because we don't get the paid bereavement leave. We still deserve that and we still need that. So, thank you for putting that out there.

Oh, absolutely it's so important.

Unfortunately, the one weekend that I had like blocked off to be with myself, kind of, and celebrate my dad. I scheduled my mourning.

Your mourning…

You know it. I had saved this this time for myself for six months because my friend was doing this awesome women's retreat where we were going to walk on fire. My dad would have totally dug that. I specifically went there alone. I planned on sleeping in my tent by myself. It was yoga, and meditation, and walking on fire, and it was the weekend that I needed for myself.

And in the middle of that weekend was when my son got into the accident, and I was pulled out of that weekend to go deal with this next tragedy.

So, I still have to replan on my morning time. Just go sleep in the woods and be by myself. And just mourn...

Like, you have 4 hours next Wednesday. And maybe next March. Just don't plan anything for next March.

And then we laugh. But that's how it is. I mean, there's things I'm scheduling out for a good six months from now, just to take time by myself.

You have to do that. You have to be able to plan for that, and I think that's something unique to business owners. You know we have to plan me time because if we don't it'll get filled in with to-do time, client time, or somebody else wants something from you. Whatever it might look like. If you don't schedule it for yourself, it oftentimes doesn't happen, So literally putting it in the books is the only way I've found to actually get it to happen.

Yeah, but you know what? That's not something you can handle in the books, right? That three hours that you have by yourself is not necessarily the three hours that you're going to be in the right headspace.

Yeah, and deal with, and figure out ways to still be positive and still move forward. I have a lot of things to be really grateful for. My son now has a diagnosis for what's going on with him, he doesn't feel like it's all in his head anymore. There happens to be a medication that helps with it. It's going to be a lifelong thing and it's going to be debilitating for him for his life, but it's manageable and it's somewhat treatable and we're grateful for that. It could have been so much worse, and I thought it was so much worse for a couple of days.

My dad, he was suffering. He was hurting, and he was tired, and he wasn't living the life he wanted to be living. He died in his home and on his own terms. He wasn't in a hospital, and he wasn't alone. There are things to be grateful for, right? My son broke his freaking neck. But he's not paralyzed. And he's going to walk again.

There are all of these awful tragedies that just keep happening to me, and there's so many lights inside them, and I think that's a lot of how business works, right? As entrepreneurs, there's all this shit, like the books, and the insurance, and figuring out why so-and-so takes every Wednesday off when they said that they could work it. Finding the reasons why it's good, and the reason to keep going- it is so worth the bullshit of being an entrepreneur, right? You’ve gotta look for those silver linings or you're not going to be open next year.

You have to have a different kind of grit.

Yea, you do it because you need to because there's shit in life no matter what you do and how you deal with it. But there's a different kind of grit to be able to keep moving forward and multitask your emotions and get the work done. You can't just call in sick.

I had three weddings in one weekend, two weeks after my dad died. I had never done 3 weddings in a weekend. One of them was because I was hired 2 weeks prior- I was on the phone with this client when I got the call about my da. Her wedding was in two weeks and her photographer had backed out. She was helpless, and she was friends with other clients of mine that I dearly love. Of course, I'm going to take that wedding, but it meant there were three weddings in one weekend. That was a lot. The first wedding I shot after my dad passed was a wedding for a family who I loved dearly. I had shot the sister’s wedding, and then this was another sister’s wedding, and their dad had passed. So, there wasn't that father daughter dance. I didn’t think about that… There was a mother-daughter dance, and it was wonderful. It was beautiful. But the next wedding, don't you know that the freaking father of the bride reminded me of my dad so much. Here I am trying to separate personal from business while I'm standing here shooting this father daughter dance, and it's just breaking me. But you just find a way to keep going, and you just do, right? As business owners we just do. And it's when we stop wanting to do that, we close shop. And that's OK too, because there's a lot of people that that close up shop and they just get to the point where what they’re doing isn't fulfilling in the same way. I think respecting that is huge, right? To love yourself that much to be like “you know what? This isn't fulfilling me in the same way it was. I need I need something new.” I don't think we give that enough respect. I think we look down upon that and I think that's a huge thing to be able to gift yourself- the willingness to close your doors. You know?

Which is not easy.

I know right?

Well, OK. Where do we go from here?

Asa has continued to inspire BOSSYs through her openness and willingness to be real, raw, and honest about what it really takes to own business. We can’t wait to have her on again. Hear the whole interview at

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