We had the good fortune of connecting with Allison Wilkins McPhail and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Allison, what role has risk played in your life or career?
“Do one thing every day that scares you.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

I love this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt because it not only speaks to my life as a portrait artist, it describes each day as a business owner. A little over three years ago my former business partner and I were approached by the legendary portrait photographer Evin Thayer to transition as the new owners of his studio. Evin started his portrait journey in Houston in 1976 and grew one of the most successful studios not only in Houston but in the US. We knew we had big shoes to fill!

My business partner and I had each been running our own portrait businesses prior to joining forces in 2018. Our partnership included many years of being solo entrepreneurs, but running a portrait studio that included employees and overhead was not something we had much experience with!

After many meetings with Evin we decided to take on the challenge. The huge risk we were taking was that Evin’s clients would not embrace us as the new owners of the studio. Did we have the skills to step into this roll and make the transition comfortable and seamless for his existing clients? Would we be able to reach new clients?

We took over the studio in February 2019. Over the course of the next year, we spent learning how to run the business, meeting his clients and managing staff. We also started working on some rebranding strategies that felt appropriate with a new website and marketing materials. As skilled photographers, we were also able to bring our artistic visions to the table. The transition seemed to be going smoothly. When the pandemic hit in March 2020, many businesses found themselves facing uncharted territories. We were not an exception but continued to find ways to pivot.

We unfortunately lost Evin to pancreatic cancer in May 2020 and my business partner left the partnership in the summer of 2021. For the past year and half I have continually found new ways to let the community know about the studio transition and more specifically, about my unique skillset. I love working with families and children and it brings me great joy to bring out the personalities of each family.

Every day I realize how lucky I am to be running a successful portrait studio. While the transition has not been easy, I am a firm believer that most things in life that matter are not. These are the values that I try to teach my children. Put yourself out there and take risks. Try new things. You won’t always find success, but you will always be proud that you tried.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
After I graduated with my Master’s Degree in Adverting in 2008, my first daughter was born. Being a new mom, I decided going to work full time wasn’t my desired path. I wanted to create a career for myself that was more flexible. Photography had always been a passion and hobby of mine. Many of my friends were also having children around the same time, so I was asked to take their family photos. During the early years, I continued to grow my artistic skills and in 2015 gained my CPP (Certified Professional Photography degree) awarded by the Professional Photographers of America. While I feel there is always more to learn with lighting and posing, for the past few years, more of my focus has been on business education and marketing. I’ve learned that I could be the best photographer in the world, but without the business knowledge, I couldn’t be successful. My main focus for the past few years is the respectful transition of this studio. Evin built an incredible legacy and I am honored to continue down the path he carved. In saying that, and as the new photographer, I need to let my talents and skill set step into the forefront. What I do best is create amazing pieces of artwork for our clients that showcases connection and what is awesome about their family!

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Here are a few of my favorite spots! Eat/Drink:
KA Sushi
Nua Thai
Local Foods
Crisp
Seaside Poke
Postino
Holler Brewery
Spring Street Beer and Wine Garden
How to Survive on Land & Sea

Go see:
Live local music
MFAH
The Orange Show
Houston Botanic Garden
Rothko Chapel
Houston Arboretum

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My husband Eric and our two girls Avery and Darcy first and foremost. They have been so supportive of my journey. My former business partner Laura King – even though things did not work out for the partnership in the end, there is absolutely no way I would have been able to take on the challenge without her. My business coaches Megan DiPiero and Allison Tyler Jones – these two ladies are incredibly inspiring and are fantastic educators and business owners. Last but not least my mom Marilyn – as a business owner herself since 1994, she has been an amazing roll model.

Website: www.evinthayer.com

Instagram: instagram.com/evinthayerstudios

Facebook: facebook.com/evinthayerstudios

Image Credits
Allison Wilkins McPhail Studio Interior – Sonya Bertolino

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