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My definition of success as a creative business owner.

Shay is a product stylist who created styled stock photography and flatlays for creative business owners.

Per usual, I’m late to the game but when I saw the topic of yesterdays @risingtidesociety #TheRechargeChallenge it was a topic I’m SO STINKIN’ PASSIONATE about that I had to jump in! Better late than never!  This might seem like an odd picture to choose to represent what success looks like to me as a commercial photographer and styled stock photography shop owner. I almost chose a joy-filled picture of my family because that does, in a way, capture what success looks like for me but this picture captures what is happening beneath the surface that allows for the happy family photo.

For our family that is finding a way to make a business flourish and thrive within hard boundaries.

Wind me up and let me loose and I will attempt to take over the world. haha I LOVE owning a business, I love what I do, I love teaching others, I love working hard and seeing results BUT all of that, when not given hard boundaries, will wreck havoc on the elements of my life that are actually of much more valuable to me in the long run; A joy-filled home. A love & friendship filled marriage. Deep community and friendships. Radical generosity. Intentionality and connection with my children…So about 5 years ago when I was in the throws of trying to get a grasp of what being a business-owning mom of two would look like I sat down and defined what success was going to look like for me.  The idea being that no matter how much money the business was bringing in, it was ONLY a success – a win – worth still doing – if ALL of the following things were true. So here it is – My business is a success if:

  1. It is a financial blessing to my family and not a financial burden.  This means that it operates debt free and brings in additional income that our family can enjoy/give/save/spend.
  2. It is an emotional and physical blessing to our family and not an emotional or physical burden. The goal is that both me and the family thrive and that the business is not a constant drain on me emotionally, physically, creatively, and mentally.  If it is, then something needs to change.
  3. It is fun!  Not all the time, and not every day because nothing good comes without hard work and sometimes hard work is HARD but overall, the business needs to be fun and life-giving for me and if it isn’t than something needs to change.
  4. The business exists to serve our lives and not the other way around – we do not build our lives in such a way that everything serves the business (our schedule, availability, mental space etc). I run a big business in two days a week from 9-5 and with rare exceptions, neither Graham nor I pick up work or even open work e-mail on off days, nights, weekends or vacations.
  5. It is not only self-serving but others-serving. To me this means that it provides an avenue for generosity – not only financially but also with teaching, encouragement and truth.
  6. It can be shut down if needed.  This might sound like a silly measure of success in business but it is one that keeps my heart in the right place.  Success is when this work does not define me.  It is not my identity. I would not be crushed or fall apart if one day the whole thing ceased to exist.  I work as hard as I can to be excellent at it but all the while I hold it with an open hand knowing that it does not define me and I can let it go if I felt God asking me to.

So there you have it!  This is my definition of success as a business owner. I hope that it has been encouraging and helpful and, if nothing else, I hope that it has inspired you to define what success looks like for you!

I would love to hear some of your measures of success below!  What resonates with you? What are your deal breakers as a business owner?

Momma said there’d be days like this.

Just a little something FREAKIN’ ADORABLE to brighten your day!

Momma said there'd be days like this. Commercial Photographer Shay Cochrane 2015. Ipad mini. Apple iphone.

The things you do to your kids when you are a commercial photographer.  T-shirt from Little Adi Co.

Momma said there'd be days like this. Commercial Photographer Shay Cochrane 2015. Ipad mini. Apple iphone.


Finding Balance and Fighting Mom-guilt as a Small Business Owner

“How do you balance it all so well?”

This is one of the most frequent questions that I get asked.  The (absurd) subtext behind that question sounds something like this – “I have followed your Instagram feed and you have two perfectly behaved kids, an always clean and beautiful home, an effortless thriving business, you cook Pinterest dinners, go on regular romantic date nights, have thriving friendships, you dress well and (obviously) wear a gold sequence dress and heels to work every day. How do you do it all!?”

To which I have one response.


If there is anything that I have learned in ten years of business ownership and six years of being a business-owning mom of young kids its that there is no such thing as “balance” as we envision it in our heads (or imagine it in other women’s lives).

I think that we look at the idea of “balance” as if it operates like juggling; all things are simultaneously kept suspended in the air in perfect unison.

The reality is that in order to have healthy bodies, families, marriages, friendships and businesses they each need their own individualized attention and effort – to the (momentary) neglect of the others.  Juggling them all simultaneously usually results in not being able to do any of them well.

Thriving comes when you are willing and able to pick each area up, one at a time, and give it your undivided attention; saying “no” to one thing so that you can say “yes” to another.

This is very different from the cultural pressure to say yes to everything simultaneously and to do it all well. To be honest, I can’t even do two things at once well, especially if its trying to parent and work at the same time. Sitting at my computer while trying to entertain my kids at my feet only ever resulted in tears for everyone! I learned this the hard way and spent the first year of my daughter’s life resenting parenting and then feeling full of guilt for that resentment. Painful. My husband and I both own creative businesses that allow us to work from home so finding natural rhythms and setting firm boundaries has been critical to our health individually and the health of our family.

Last week my best friend and fellow creative-business-owning mom, Ashlee Proffitt, sat down on Periscope to talk about this idea of finding “balance” fighting mom-guilt and what we have found to work (and not work) in our own lives.  Today I am sharing that conversation, along with the top 10 practical  rhythms and boundaries that have enabled our family to thrive with two small business owning parents.

Here are my top 10 rhythms and boundaries that Graham and I have found to work for our family.  We don’t do them perfectly, but the key is that they are the norm that we fight for:

1. I limit my work to a set consistent two days a week (Tues and Thurs from 9-5) without kids in the house. My children are both in school or daycare out of the home for that set amount of time.  All of my work (with rare exception) has to take place during that window of time. I take only the amount of work that fits into this schedule.
2. No work after 5:00pm for either of us.
3. No work on the weekends.
4. No checking work e-mail on nights, weekends, or vacations.
5. Regular weekly date night with a consistent babysitter. Even if all we do is go for a walk or to Starbucks.
6. I hired a cleaning lady to come once every other week to help with deep cleaning.
7. We put our kids down for bed between 7-8pm every night in their room so that we get regular mommy and daddy time to reconnect.
8. We eat family dinners at the dinner table.
9. Friday night is family movie night.
10. The kids have to stay in bed until 7am each morning and daddy fixes them breakfast and packs their lunches each morning so that I can have some alone time to read my Bible and really actually get dressed for the day in peace (haha).

What is healthy for you and for your family is going to look very different then what is healthy for me and mine.  There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to life rhythms and boundaries.  What I would encourage you to do is to be brave enough to ask your spouse or your friends to speak honestly into your work by asking these question, “Is what I am doing working for us?  Am I present? Is this healthy? Do you feel loved?” and being willing to listen to the answers. These are difficult conversations to have but so critical to thriving and I want you, your family, your marriage and your business to thrive friends and I know without a shadow of a doubt that it is possible.




Any excuse to wear a gold sequins blazer.

Sooooo, as many of you know by now, my bestie Ashlee and I shared some big news yesterday on the blog and Instagram!  This super exciting collaboration has been a long time coming and so, of course, we needed to have a best friend photo shoot for all of the (shameless) self promotion that we would be doing!  Its pretty sad that Ashlee and I have almost no pictures together in almost 14 years of friendship.  So, needless to say, a best friend photo shoot was in order and in celebration of the launch yesterday I thought that I would share some of the images with you along with some of the fun outtakes and details behind the shoot!  You will actually see this first set of images again in another secret project that Ashlee and I have in the works! Shhhhh!

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For this shoot we brought in our friend and clothing stylist Megan Adams who pulled from our closets to create two looks for us – one casual and one…let’s say “fancy”.  For the first look we wanted something dressy casual, polished but approachable, fun and also representative of our two different brands and styles! (You got that all Megan?)  For Ashlee that meant boyfriend jeans, nude heels, a classic white t-shirt and a silk blush pink J Crew bomber jacket that she borrowed from my closet.  To compliment this look with a “Shay” spin Megan pulled white denim, my favorite gray J Crew t-shirt, strappy black heels and a black lightweight H&M blazer that she pulled from Ashlee’s closet (real friends share clothes right!?).  Megan pulled it all together in a way that represented us each individually while looking cohesive for the shoot.  I can’t wait to tell you what this first set of images is for but thats news for another day! Ashlee+Proffitt+Shay+Cochrane+Collaborate+Tampa+Florida_1892 Ashlee+Proffitt+Shay+Cochrane+Collaborate+Tampa+Florida_1893 Ashlee+Proffitt+Shay+Cochrane+Collaborate+Tampa+Florida_1894 Ashlee+Proffitt+Shay+Cochrane+Collaborate+Tampa+Florida_1895 Ashlee+Proffitt+Shay+Cochrane+Collaborate+Tampa+Florida_1896

We are goobers when you get us together so Laura of CIHI photo had her work cut out for her!  Laura is a mutual friend and super talented portrait photographer. We shot in Davis Island on the most perfect little street as a massive storm rolled in. I’m not even kidding. By the end of the shoot the whole street was without electricity! Despite having almost no light, Laura made it happen!  We love you Laura!Ashlee+Proffitt+Shay+Cochrane+Collaborate+Tampa+Florida_1897

The second portion of the shoot was going to be used for the launch of our new line of inspiration wall art for the stylish home so we knew that we wanted this look to be a bit, shall we say, fancier!  For this look Megan put Ashlee in black fitted pants with a beautiful mixed media black blouse and nude pumps. How smokin’ hot is Ashlee is all black!? (She will hate me for saying that! tehehe) For me she pulled my favorite leather pants, white t-shirt, strappy black shoes and this phenomenal gold sequins Sam Edelman blazer that I picked up earlier this year for a special occasion (perfect right?)!

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Megan  was on hand for the whole shoot to ensure that not a messy cuff or sloppy tuck was out of place. Seriously, everything in the #scstyleguide I learned from her!  She is phenomenal and does closet consultations, personal shopping, and wardrobing styling for events (and every day life!). I would be lost without her.  If you are drowning in a closet full of mediocre stuff you don’t wear with no idea where to even start to be fashionable – she is your girl!

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This next one is possibly my favorite from this set!  I love this girl.

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Warning, sometimes in a best friend photo shoot things start to get awkward when people walk by wondering what in the world you are doing… and you tend to fill that awkward with…more awkwardness. haha

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SA (153 of 169)blogAnd now, for the best part!  Enjoy a little behind the scenes goofiness.  Because, lets be honest, I’m not really cool enough to be in black leather pants and a gold sequins blazer. haha

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Thank you Megan and Laura for your help pulling this fun little shoot together!  If you missed the big reveal yesterday then take a peek below!  Thanks friends!

Newsletter-1 Shay-Composite 2015 Shay Cochrane Web-Address
It’s Time to Stop Choosing Busy

Have you heard the buzzwords being thrown around a lot lately?  They are #hashtagged on Instagram. Vented about on Facebook. Tweeted, Shared, Liked and Sent.  You’ve probably thrown them around in a conversation or two yourself recently.  I know I have; so much so that I’m sick and tired of hearing them come out of my mouth. What are they?

Busy. Exhausted. Overwhelmed.

Most of us feel it. And Hate it. And Complain about it.  And then we continue to choose it.

For months I have said, “Things will settle down after…” or  “I know things are crazy but it’s only until…” and “If I can just get past…” and then I explain why there is no other alternative and every single thing I have committed myself to NEEDS me.

And the problem is that you have to choose to stop the madness because in the day and age we live in busy is the new black and the world will tell you that your value and importance is in direct relation to the volume of your to-do list.  Have you ever had a slow day and when asked how your day was you felt guilt or shame at the thought of saying that you took it easy and didn’t really do much.  Maybe you couldn’t even bring yourself to say it and instead focused on the things that you did accomplish to validate yourself in that moment. I know this because I do it. All. The. Time.
Styled Desktop by Shay Cochrane Peonies Styled Stock photography for bloggers


In our house things have gotten dangerously busy. It’s time to say enough is enough and to actually DO something about our chronic busyness. Our schedule is dangerously full. Our heads are dangerously full.  And what hangs in the balance is our physical health, our intimacy in marriage, our closeness to our children, our compassion toward others and the peace and joy that comes from walking closely with God.

I do not want busy to be my family’s “normal.”  

I think it makes me less effective at every role and opportunity that I am given. Every specific “good work” that God has prepared in advance for me. Every relationship that he has entrusted me with.

Stopping busy is hard. So hard that we usually don’t even really try to stop it. Because it means saying no…something my people-pleasing heart struggles with.  Often times it means saying no to really really good things.  Things you are good at. Things you enjoy. Things you are expected to do.

I truly hope that as this “busy” holiday season approaches, you and I are both willing to take an honest look at our lives and have the necessary conversations with our spouses and friends about the quality of life that we are choosing. I don’t want to sprinkle myself out into the world. I want to pour deeply into the few truly valuable things in this life. Who’s with me?

**This post was originally part of the SC Insiders monthly newsletter. If you want to receive more posts like this and free monthly images directly to your inbox, subscribe to the newsletter today!**

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