Updated: Jun 9
If you're not feeling like you in your job, it may be time to change careers. Take the leap: unlock your potential, experience growth, and come into the goodness of life. Stay true and be the best version of yourself. Be you, and people will love you for who you are!
In this episode of The Pollen Podcast, I bring on Crystal Whiteaker, founder and CEO of Crystal Lily Creative, to talk about her transition from a wedding photographer to a successful brand inclusivity consultant. We also dive deep into adding a personal touch to your branding and showing up as genuine as possible on social media. Listen as we share how to empower others by empowering yourself through your brand!
Tune in to this episode to learn when it's time to follow your heart and change careers! We all have a journey to walk, so let's make it the best we can.
Create your own creative entrepreneurship story of clarity, professional confidence, and profit. Join Diana’s 90-day group course Camp Clarity and learn everything you wish you already knew, like how to land dream clients, harness the power of social media, and make the money you deserve. Learn more here.
🔥Here are three reasons why you should listen to this episode:
Discover how to change your career to one that you truly love.
Understand the importance of your core values as you establish your brand.
Learn to be fearless as you take leaps in your career.
Achieve the life, career, and clients you’ve always wanted (and fully deserve!). Sign up for Diana’s Camp Clarity Course now!
If you’re an entrepreneur looking to fine-tune your business, hit us up at Ascend: the Elevated Entrepreneur Mastermind!
Access other courses from Diana Davis Creative
Get various free guides from Crystal Lily Creative!
[10:13] Introducing Crystal
Crystal is a biracial Black woman and is passionate about her work. Relationships and a sense of belonging are two important things for her.
She only works with leaders who profoundly care about diversity, equity, and inclusion and with people across various industries, from creatives to consultants.
[14:57] Crystal: “My role is to help them get deeply rooted in their core values so that they can ensure that everything that they are doing as leaders is clear, connected, and that the experience that they provide is streamlined for the people that they are inviting into the environments they're creating.” - Click Here to Tweet This
Younger Crystal was a very girly and free-spirited child.
[23:58] Starting A Photography Company
Crystal has always been curious about photography but didn't realize it could be a career.
She left her corporate job in 2016 and got a corporate contract to travel with her partner.
Her photography business began to grow and snowball.
Crystal later built an inclusive photography brand with a broad, diverse representation of humans in her portfolio.
[27:15] Crystal: “I would really want people to feel like they could be themselves. Yeah. And you know, like, they don't have to be a model in order to be in front of the camera.” - Click Here to Tweet This
[29:51] Follow Your Beliefs, Change Careers
Crystal wants to work with people and brands who want to use their businesses for good.
Crystal later decided to change careers from wedding to brand photography. She later became a consultant.
People started reaching out to consult her regarding inclusivity — something important to Crystal.
One of the biggest drivers of Crystal’s network was word of mouth, but she also got contacts from social media.
[36:56] Incorporating Core Values into Business
Crystal likes to revisit her core values to see how they evolve annually. She invites her clients to do the same.
Her values are freedom, empowerment, self-care, community, and trust.
She makes sure her clients align with and understand the values and mission of her business.
If someone comes in genuinely from your core values alone, the product you put out in the world won’t matter, as people will be there for it if they resonate with the core values.
[40:58] Defining Success
She never imagined herself being a business owner.
Crystal found that she could do things she never expected, believing she lacked the skills to do it.
[42:37] Crystal: “I'm not worried about how I'm going to pay my bills. I'm not worried about where my meals are coming from, I'm not worried about whether or not the environment that I'm in is safe. I'm not worried about the people around me, you know, causing harm. I feel peace. And that, to me, is success.” - Click Here to Tweet This
[58:53] What’s Next for Crystal
Crystal is looking to get her work into more college classrooms.
She wants to venture into thought leadership and public speaking.
She wants to be more creative and defines creativity as freedom of expression, resourcefulness, and experimentation.
She wants to incorporate supporting nonprofit organizations into her consulting business.
Crystal Whiteaker is a Leadership Development and DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging) Consultant specializing in inclusive coaching and consulting for brands and leaders that care deeply about diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.
She is from Los Angeles, California, and brings over 15 years of creative, relational, process-driven experience across multiple industries. Crystal is a known advocate for leaders and organizations that provide resources and support for trauma and sexual assault survivors, as she previously served on the Board of Survivor Lit. She launched Crystal Lily Creative in 2015 to offer inclusive brand consulting and coaching for leaders and businesses who want to disrupt the status quo to create inclusively empowered brands and social environments that are rooted in core values.
Fun fact: Crystal LOVES animals and will stop to show them affection any chance she gets. She is that person who will always ask to pet your fur-baby.
When you choose to work with Crystal Lily Creative, you’re helping to support organizations that provide resources for women and the LGBTQ+ community, as a portion of profits and services are donated annually.
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You're coming truly from your core values always. It doesn't matter what product you put out into the world, people are going to be here for it if they resonate with your core values. So whether you're a photographer, you pivot to consulting, you have these vendors wanting to hire you for consulting. Now, that makes so much sense. Because they love you. It's not that you're the only photographer they've ever met, or that you're the best photographer in the world, right? They love you.
Diana Davis: Welcome to Pollen: The Podcast for Creative Entrepreneurs. I'm your host, Diana Davis, multi-passionate creative, business coach, Gemini, manifesting generator, matcha drinker, and travel junkie. I'm also the founder of Diana Davis Creative, where I went from a six-figure photography business to coaching creative entrepreneurs like you. If you want to have a career and a life you love, you're in the right place.
On this show, I'll be coaching on all things creative entrepreneurship, and you'll hear stories from fellow creative entrepreneurs that will show you it is possible to do life the way you want to. They'll share the nitty-gritty of their journeys, like the real shit, and how they are doing it differently. I'm stoked to have you along on this journey. Let's go.
Hello, Pollen listeners. We have another killer guest episode coming in hot, coming right at you. My friend Crystal Whiteaker is on this episode, and she—I'm going to tell you about her in a second. But we just get into so much of her story, how she made it where she is now—the winding path as we always bring up. Everyone has this winding path. It is not the 30 days to success. It's a whole lifetime of building skills and following breadcrumbs and co-collaborating with the universe.
So without further ado, Crystal Whiteaker, pronouns she/her/hers, is a leadership development and DEIB consultants specializing in inclusive coaching, and consulting for brands and leaders that cared deeply about diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. Crystal brings over 15 years of creative, relational, process-driven experience across multiple industries. She is a self described corporate trained creative hippie. I love her, you're going to love her too. She puts a strong focus on core values so important to help people elevate their community connections to communicate and lead with clarity and confidence.
Crystal is an advocate for leaders and organizations that provide resources and support for healing, particularly in relation to trauma and sexual assault survivors and previously served on the board of Survivor Lit. You're going to hear a fun business idea she has in relation to this at the very end of the episode, so stay tuned. When she's not working. Crystal enjoys spending time at the beach. She lives in LA, connecting with people and exploring new places. Fun fact, Crystal loves animals and will stop to show them affection any chance she gets. She is that person who will always ask to pet your fur baby. When you choose to work with Crystal Lily Creative, you're helping to support organizations that provide resources for women and the LGBTQ+ community as a portion of profits and services are donated annually. Alright, let's dig in fam.
Okay, before we dig into this juicy episode, I have an announcement to make. Camp Clarity Round Six actually starts June 9, which should be two days from now, if you're listening to this episode, the day that it came out, which is also my birthday, the day that it comes out. Today is my birthday. So I want to just note that in a previous podcast episode, the date was actually pushed. So I had said Camp Clarity starts in a couple of days, and then I pushed it. And if you listen to Episode 8, you will know why. And I made a really amazing I think permission slip post about pushing dates, pushing launch dates, taking time for yourself as the CEO of your business. So go check that out. We'll drop that link in the show notes.
But I think it's really important and I want to model this, that yeah, I pushed my launch date for Camp Clarity by two weeks. And guess what? No one died. No one was upset. It's going smoothly. It's actually off the hook, this program is almost full. So I want to give you that permission slip, first and foremost, to take the time you need as a CEO of your business. But also, to let you know Camp Clarity is starting in two days. So if you are looking to build confidence online and show up authentically, even in this way that I'm doing now, this is the stuff I teach, to be able to show up as you, as a personal brand. So people can like, know, and trust you. And then learning about money mindset, and the business part of the business, right? Taxes, contracts, pricing, your product suite, client, workflow, programs, tech, all of that is within Camp Clarity. And you get to do that, alongside an amazing community of creative entrepreneurs that you will have for the rest of your life, I guarantee it.
And then you also opt in to being a part of the alumni group, which you were there for life. And we already have about 80 creative entrepreneurs to be in community with within that alumni group. So once you're in with me, you cannot get rid of me, truly, i the least toxic way. But if you are interested in Camp Clarity, please reach out. Shoot me a DM on Instagram @dianadaviscreative. Go apply with the link in the show notes or the link in my bio on Instagram. What does it cost you to wait for growth? So many people I hear, you know, I'll do it next time. I need to save up for it. And yeah, be smart with your money, of course. But a lot of times this is also just an excuse, and then we stay exactly where we are. So take the leap. If you haven't learned anything else from this podcast, the whole season, taking leaps is where it's at. Self trust is where it is at. So trust yourself. Come join us at Camp Clarity. If it's even calling you a little bit, follow that intuition, tap into that. Send me a DM, we would love to have you.
One more quick thing. Another opportunity I want to share with you because I always want to err on the side of invitation. And take this as a note for your own business. If you don't tell people what's going on and how to work with you and your business. They can't sign up with you. So here I am shamelessly plugging. Ascend: the Elevated Entrepreneur Mastermind starts June 16. We are already full, but we've decided to launch another cohort. Because I don't want you to have to wait. These groups are small, intimate. You get time to workshop, your business, every call with the help of the people around you. This is for the entrepreneur who is already landing clients, who already has a solid monthly income. But you are wanting to ascend. You're wanting to scale the next mountain. You're wanting to expand your business in PR, hiring a team, getting yourself out there, fine-tuning your messaging and showing up even more confidently and authentically. If that is you versus Camp Clarity, where you're looking more for the foundational pieces or kind of a rewiring of your business even if you've been in it for a long time. Then also send me a DM or apply in the link below. And let me know you're interested in Ascend.
Hello Pollen listeners. We have such a special guest today. Crystal Whiteaker and she is a inclusive brand consultant. We actually met, we think through Six Degree Society. Shout out to Emily Merrill. I actually went to the first in-person Six Degree Society event since 2020. Last night, so wild. But we actually got really connected through our friend and one of my clients and I was also her. She was like my boss for a minute. We have a whole story. Nina, so shout out to her too. So Crystal, it's so good to have you. Hello. How's it going?
Crystal Whiteaker: It's going well, thank you for having me. I'm really excited to talk to you.
Diana: Oh my god, we're gonna get into it. And we've had so many conversations already. I know like we did an IG Live. So if anyone wants to scroll a ways down and check that out, but also you came into my mastermind, Ascend, and taught about diversity and inclusion in branding and inclusive branding in general, which was so so powerful and actually Camp Clarity got to come into that as well and it was just really good for me, too. We're gonna get started here. I really want the world to hear your story because it is a winding one. Right? Do you agree?
Crystal: Yes, to say the least.
Diana: And as it is for everyone, and we were talking before we pressed record, like, we do want people to hear the real stuff, not just, Hey, here's success, please be triggered by my success. And the fact that it looks like I got here yesterday. And it just all fell into place for me. And I think, really, what Pollen is about is telling these winding stories. Like, if you really want to get into the analogy of like, pollen just kind of floating about the breeze and it gets planted, where it's planted, and that kind of thing. So I think, let's dig in. First of all, a question I've been asking lately. Just to give people an idea and also not be so defined by your career, who was Crystal like, as a little girl? Like, what was she like?
Crystal: Oh wow, this is such a fun question. Crystal as a little girl, very, very, very girly, like stereotypical for really girl, loved my Barbie dolls. Loved like picking flowers and I also had like a country girl streak as well. Like, I liked growing outside I liked you know, being with the animals and, you know, climbing trees. I was very flowery, free spirited, if you will. And I think a lot of that still comes out in me now as an adult, but yes, very, very, very frilly and girly, and maybe a little bit spoiled by my Nana. Yeah, yeah. I just think I was very whimsical in my own mind. Yeah.
Diana: Yeah. Do you feel like you said, a lot of that still comes through a little bit. But do you feel like that's still you?
Crystal: In some respects? I'm like, looking around in my apartment. Like, there are certain things that yes, still come out, I would say I am now to describe myself. I'm very grounded. A lot of my friends describe me as being really earthy, a little bit, woo. And just really probably a little too kind hearted. tender hearted, just very, super empathetic. Yeah.
Diana: I love that. And speaking of woo, everyone listening to this podcast is probably a little bit woowoo. So we can definitely go there per usual we're going to keep your astrology until the end. If we can, we're going to remember to bring it back up. But I want you to introduce yourself, as you would introduce yourself, what do you want people to know you as on this episode?
Crystal: Well, I think just by nature of what I do, and how I have finally found this really deep sense of belonging in myself, identity is very important to me. And my name is Crystal, and I am a queer, biracial Black woman, I am really passionate about the work that I do, I feel deeply, my relationships are incredibly important to me. And I believe that everybody deserves to feel a sense of belonging. And that's something that I care deeply about, which is why I do what I do. Like, I know that the idea is to really find separation between ourselves as individuals and who we are as business owners. And in a lot of ways I'm able to do that. But so much of what I do is stemmed from who I am. And it's been my work, I found a lot of personal healing for myself, in my work that I do with other people.
Diana: Yeah, I love that. So much of what I do is stemmed from who I am, that is such a resonant quality and like core value in a way of being a personal brand and a creative heart centered entrepreneur. In my opinion. I think a lot of people can resonate with that, like, we're, our businesses are just a branch of ourselves, right?
Diana: So much of what we're already passionate about. And a lot of times we ask people on here, what would you do if money didn't matter? And they'd be doing what they're doing, which is really beautiful. So I love that. So tell us what you do. What does now Crystal look like? And then we'll talk about how she got there.
Crystal: Yeah, so now, I work primarily, well only really I work with leaders who care deeply about diversity, equity and inclusion. And I work with people across a range of industries, a lot of creatives and consultants. And my role is to help them get deeply rooted in their core values so that they can ensure that everything that they are doing as leaders is clear, connected, and that the experience that they provide is streamlined for the people that they are inviting into the environments they're creating.
So, so much of my work is rooted in messaging, making sure that that messaging is clear and connected, and that it can be tied back to people's core values. I do a lot of work with people around disrupting and identifying bias. Because as an inclusive brand consultant, we have to also examine bias. And the end result when people work with me, the final product is really having a clear framework and blueprint for their business and themselves as leaders as far as the messaging that they're sharing the decisions that they make, they always have something to refer back to, to make sure that they continue to be in alignment with their mission and their purpose. And the things that they say are really important to them.
Diana: Yeah, mission and core values. And just messaging is so important. So important.
Crystal: Yeah. And the thing that I have found is that guiding people through ways in which they can tie every single thing they do back to their core values, really simplifies things for people. I had somebody email me recently, we had worked together about a year ago. And they're like, I feel like all of the work that we did, has made everything that I do so much more automatic, that you know, it's one of those things where I think people tend to overthink and over engineer and you just need a simplistic blueprint.
Diana: It's like the decision tree, I go back to this a lot. Like, I'm just reminded of, you know, being 15 reading, like, Cosmopolitan magazine, which is problematic in itself, having those decision trees, you know, like, like you Yes, or no, like, then go here, whatever. And there's always decision trees within our life and our business. And it's like, it comes up in business a lot. And especially when we have these clear core values, it's so easy to know where we're going. And everything is through that lens, right? Yeah.
Crystal: Even inclusivity that's probably the number one reason that people are like, Oh, this makes so much more sense. Because what I hear a lot from people, especially because, let's be honest, a lot of my clients tend to be white women. Yeah. And the number one fear is, you know, not wanting to say or do the wrong thing. And when I get people to figure out how they can speak even to inclusion through their values, it just clicks and everything just feels a lot more natural coming out.
Diana: So you're not worried about saying or doing the wrong thing? Because it's not performative anymore, right?
Diana: From the core, the core.
Diana: I love that. So important. And I'm just so grateful that you're in my circle, because I learned so much from you. And it's work that is so important in just branding, and nothing should be performative. Whether it has to do with race or inclusion, or just selling or just showing up, like, nothing should be performative. I am. So here for the authenticity and the realness always, and not like balling on Instagram, or something like that, that seems actually more performative to me. Really just showing up in an authentic way and just being a real human? Yes, following the trends that you have to post about this, etc, to be accepted. So I think this work is so important. Okay, let's dig in more to you. How did you get here? Where did you start?
Crystal: How far back should I go?
Diana: Go back as far as you would like.
Crystal: I can give a high level synopsis. So actually, one thing that I will share, that's a fun fact that people are always surprised to learn. I don't have a marketing degree or anything like that. My degree is actually in criminal justice.
Diana: Oh my god, that is surprising. I was like photography, maybe? That's amazing. Okay, let's start there. Why?
Crystal: This is just this is a byproduct of being the first person in my immediate family to go to college, and not having any, any framework, any guidance or anything like that, right. It was never really a conversation. And I actually went to school on my own accord. I just decided I'm gonna go to college and I was the first one and I at the time, had friends and neighbors because I moved out right after high school graduation. I was like, I'm done living at home. Yeah. And I knew people who were going through a criminal justice program. And they were like, Yeah, it's interesting. And I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. And I was like, Yeah, sure. Okay, I'll do that. I mean, there was no rhyme or reason to it at all.
Diana: Like, did you go through that degree? And was there anything that you're like, oh, that helps me do XYZ.
Crystal: I mean, from my perspective, the only thing having a college degree did for me, was that it opened doors that might not have otherwise been opened. And I view my degree as like, it was proof that I could commit to something and finish it. Yeah. Yeah. And because while I was in college, I had a few, you know, odd jobs here and there, because I worked through school. But by the time I graduated college, I had been working for a nonprofit organization in Florida called the Florida Bar Foundation. So I was surrounded by lawyers, everybody kept trying to convince me to go to law school. And I was like, “No, I don't want that.” I considered getting a master's so that I could maybe teach at the college level. And someone advised me a few people actually advised me to take a break, they were like, “Take a break. A master's degree is a big investment, you're still young, figure out what you want to do.”
And that was probably the best advice, because I would have been an extra 60k in the hole, you know. And I took a break. And from, I left the nonprofit that I was working for, and I ended up working for a couple of years in private for-profit education, which is super problematic, and did not feel good in that space. And at a certain — how old was I? I was 25, when I decided to sell everything that would not fit in my car, and pack up and move from Florida to Los Angeles. Wow, with just the stuff and my little dog that I had at the time. And I had no plan didn't know where I was gonna live didn't have a job. I had $5,000 to my name, which is not a lot of money when you're moving to LA.
Crystal: At all. And I was just very resourceful, very determined, I was waking up at 7am. Every morning, the week that I arrived in LA, and I think on day three or four, I got an interview at a music school in Hollywood to do like event coordinating and stuff for their campus. And I got the job. So I was in LA for less than a week. And I had a really fun job for a 25 year old.
Crystal: And I did that for about a year and a half before there were layoffs and that I got swept up into and I did what I just knew how to do which was go to a staffing agency because I was in survival mode, like I just need a job. They're like, Have you ever thought about recruiting. And I interviewed for this boutique executive recruiting firm and Beverly Hills and they liked me, I got the job. And I turned out to be pretty good at it for a while. And I was recruiting executives for huge companies. I mean, we're talking like Yahoo, Solar City and having conversations with people in the C suite.
So in a lot of ways that experience because I did that for about three years. It was like getting paid to get an MBA, I learned so much about business in different industries and organizational structures and all of these things. And by the time I left, I was just so exhausted from corporate, I didn't want to do it anymore. And I thought I'm going to be creative. And I'm never going to use any of these things. Not true. For anyone tuning in. FYI, literally all of your skills are transferable.
Crystal: I started a photography company.
Diana: Where does the photography stuff come from?
Crystal: I had always been curious about it. I just didn't know it could be a job. I knew they always hear like, oh, creative jobs. Like it's not a real job, you know, real money. Don't listen to that advice. And so actually, I had an experience with a photographer, I knew people who were photographers that were self taught. And I had an experience personally that left me not feeling super great. And so I decided that I was going to buy a camera and teach myself how to use a DSLR. At the time I had a partner who I'm no longer with and they were like Yeah, do it give it a shot. Why not?
And I did. And I just I started asking friends and friends of friends to model for me to help me build my portfolio and I just did it. It kind of snowballed. I honestly had zero strategy. Yeah, and I would get tossed odd jobs from photographers that I knew that they were like, I don't really want to do this. But hey, you can do it. And I did it. And I learn. And I left corporate in 2016. And I did end up getting a corporate contract to travel with my partner that I was with at the time. And we did that for a couple of years.
So I was doing things for this corporate client as a contractor, you know, during the week, and then on the weekends, I was photographing people and couples and shooting weddings and stuff. And it just kind of snowballed, and I ended up building this really inclusive photography brand. I had a wide diverse representation of humans in my portfolio. And anybody who's ever been married, can attest that the mainstream wedding industry has historically been very whitewashed, very straight washed, if you look at the publications up until fairly recently, and I was really vocal about how crappy I thought that was. And people started paying attention. And then people started asking me, how can you help me build a more inclusive business? And that's when the transition started happening? A lot of people think that I transitioned because of the pandemic, and everything that happened in 2020. But I was already starting to transition in the late summer, early fall of 2019.
Diana: Yeah, did this photography and feel free if you don't want to dig into it totally cool. Love a good boundary. Photography experience that you said didn't really sit with you well. Did it have to do with diversity and inclusion, why it didn't sit with you? Well, or can you tell us more about that?
Crystal: Yeah, yeah, sure. So it was my engagement photos. I just didn't have the best experience, I didn't feel like I was able to be my full self. Through that experience. The photographer was, you know, not quite as patient as I would have liked. It was a photographer who is used to working with models and not like regular folk, who have never had their pictures taken in that way before. And I just remember thinking, like, I would really want people to feel like they could be themselves. Yeah. And you know, like, they don't have to be a model in order to be in front of the camera.
Diana: Absolutely. Yeah. So you're thinking “I could do this better?”
Crystal: For lack of a better— yeah.
Diana: That's great. I think so much of our careers, often as personal brands, to our like, out of our own experiences. And we kind of become our own ideal clients, right, which I talked about a lot. So I love that. So you build this very inclusive photography, business, people are kind of starting to talk to you about diversity and inclusion. Where do we go from there?
Crystal: So I, 2019 comes in. I had gone through a divorce in early 2019. Which — that wasn't fun. And I was feeling a little burnt out on weddings in general, if anybody has ever photographed weddings in the industry, right?
Crystal: Yeah, and not because I had horrible couples. I've been very fortunate. I've had some really wonderful couples. It's just the energy that it takes to photograph a wedding because you're not just showing up on the day of and taking pictures. You're doing all kinds of pre wedding day prep work, you know, you're scouting, you're coordinating with vendors to make sure that the timelines are together, and then you're showing up on the day of and you're being really, really on.
Crystal: And as an introvert all day.
Diana: All day.
Crystal: Yes. And as an introvert, it was really challenging for me. I mean, the day after I would photograph a wedding, it was like having a hangover without the alcohol without the party. And I also felt like I wanted to use my business to do more, because I already at the time, I had this philanthropic element in my business where I was donating a percentage of my profits at the end of every year to a chosen nonprofit. Yeah. And I really liked the idea of having a mission driven business. Yeah. And then I started kind of poking around looking at brand photography and shout out to my friend, Paige Ray, who she had a similar trajectory. She left weddings and successfully pivoted into brand photography, and I hired her for some mentoring. And I was like, Yeah, I can do this. And I want to be really specific about it. I want to only work with people and brands who also want to use their businesses for good, you know? It's about more than just the bottom line, but they care about humanity and the planet.
Diana: What a concept.
Crystal: Right? Like we live here. Why wouldn't? Why wouldn't we want harmony amongst people and like a healthy place to breathe? Yeah, totally. And so I did that. And I was I realized I started pulling in knowledge, from my experience as an executive recruiter. Yeah. Where I was really distilling down the businesses that I was working with as a brand photographer, like, Okay, well, we're gonna create photos, but we're not going to do you just like the basic stuff of like sitting at a coffee shop. Like there's nothing wrong with that. But we can go deeper and create imagery that really expresses who you are and what you do and what you really care about in the world and create unique images. You did brand photography, too, right, Diana?
Diana: Yeah. Really, wedding wise. I second shot and did a few on my own. And by the time we were, you know, had guessed what the couple song first dance was going to be, like, 10 times I was like, I'm good. I went from like food photography after that product photography, and then into brand photography in New York City. Yeah.
Crystal: Okay. Yeah. And so I started looking at that, and I thought, Alright, so I can create this whole experience where you're not just getting brand photos, but you're also getting support with your messaging to make sure that the brand you're creating is your messaging is actually mission driven. And that's reflective of your imagery and the things that you're putting out, and also that it's welcoming and inclusive. And then people started reaching out to me asking if I would just do the consulting side for them. They're like, I love this idea. But I don't need photos. And in my mind, at the time, I was still somewhat in survival mode that the post divorce financial blow, so I was like, Yeah, I'll do it.
Diana: I was there as well. Much, much credit card debt, for sure.
Crystal: Oh, yeah. So I created these experiences. And then people were wanting specifically consulting for inclusivity. And that's really how I started getting more niche on the brand consulting. And that's what led to me just being known as the inclusive brand consultant. I don't know if there are other people that are using that title. I know there are people who just do similar work to me. But the way in which I do it and the markets that I've been able to tap into I think I'm one of few. Yeah.
Diana: I love that. I have a question that applies to many parts of this.
Diana: How did people find you? And it sounds like probably a lot of word of mouth, which is always the best, right? Spreads like wildfire. When you're doing something amazing. Somebody goes, Oh, my God, I just had my photos done by this woman. You have to know her. Right?
Diana: And that spreads. But how do people find you now? How did people find you even just as a photographer, besides the gigs that people were just passing along to you? What did that look like for you?
Crystal: Yeah, so definitely a lot of word of mouth as a photographer. When I was shooting weddings, I did invest in a handful of wedding shows. People call them bridal shows, but it's not inclusive. I hate that term.
Diana: Yeah. It’s a lot of things. They like hanging out with you. I'm like, Oh, yeah. Okay.
Crystal: Yeah. So I’d, as a wedding photographer, I did invest in a few of those shows. And people found me that way. I've had a few clients find me through Instagram, but a lot of my work is found through networking, and word of mouth referrals. I would also go to as a wedding vendor, I went to a couple of conferences. And I would say the one conference that I went to as a photographer that was the most beneficial for me, was one in New York City called Revolution.
Crystal: I happened to have a lot of contacts in New York. And revolution was thrown in 2019, by this wedding planning company called Modern Rebel and Co. And there were so many vendors there that I had already either met, or we had connected online, and then they connected me with other people. And it was just this room full of like minded people who thought that the wedding industry needed to do better.
Crystal: And I'm still even now very connected to those people there. Some of those people have even become clients, of course, and they refer me, you know, they share my information. And they have been, that group has been actually the most supportive of my business, since I transitioned from being a wedding photographer to a consultant because they were hiring me And they were like, Oh, she's great. You need to hire her, hire her to speak, hire her to look into your business. And then as a consultant, a lot of my work now I've gotten work from being in masterminds. Yeah. I've gotten work from guest coaching and masterminds. Yep. And LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a pretty sweet place to be if you're a consultant.
Diana: It's definitely a new, like, not new, but like the new hot place to be in a way, like, your clients don't even have to be in corporate anymore to be on LinkedIn. Like it's just kind of a hot place to be.
Crystal: Yeah, yeah. Well, what I appreciate about LinkedIn is the fact that people are there to work. It is a networking platform, if you're on LinkedIn, expect for people to reach out wanting to network, every now and then, you know, people will send me though, because I'll send messages to people. I'm like, Oh, your background, like looks really interesting. I'd love to have a conversation with you. And I'm not even always trying to sell to people on LinkedIn. I because I believe in connection and relationship totally first and foremost. And every now and then, you know, I'll get some snippy message back. And I'm like, that's not about me.
Diana: Like that, anyway.
Crystal: Yeah and it's like you're on LinkedIn. So if you're upset about people reaching out to you, and maybe this isn't the spot, like.
Diana: Right, right. Do you post kind of thought leadership stuff on there?
Crystal: Yeah, I'll share thought leadership stuff, you know, I'll reshare links to articles, things that are relevant to my work events that I'm hosting or speaking at just so that people know where to find me and how they can tap into my work.
Diana: Yeah, yeah. And this is going to be a common theme with pretty much everyone we have on this podcast as a guest, I think is this like no trust, right? Which none of us are new to. But it's true. It's like if people know you and you're coming in, this is the work you do, right. If you're coming truly from your core values, always, it doesn't matter what product you put out into the world, people are going to be here for it if they resonate with your core values. So whether you're a photographer, you pivot to consulting, you have these vendors wanting to hire you for consulting. Now, that makes so much sense. Because they love you. It's not that you're the only photographer they've ever met, or that you're the best photographer in the world. Right? They love you. And all these facets are just extensions of us. Do you agree?
Crystal: Oh, absolutely. And that's something that I have even been sitting with, as I've been scaling my business, you know, I brought on a team member and assistant to help me with things in the day to day, and I have consultants that I work with that I've been working with on and off for about a year, and I'm looking at wanting to bring someone else on. And even looking at that, I think, okay, it's really important that this person aligns with and understands the values and the mission of the business. And I want them to do their own values work to so that we can find where there's connectivity, you don't have to have the exact same values as me. But how can we connect the values that we do have? Like, where is there a common thread?
Diana: Yeah. Could you tell us off the top of your head, what your values are? Specifically?
Crystal: Yes. And I'm even in this space right now, where I'm revisiting to see, you know, where they have evolved, because that happens. But my values are freedom, empowerment, self care, community and trust. And then of course, there are sub values within each of those, but those are the pillars and even as pillars and kind of revisiting them. Like, for example, freedom, it's been a core value for a while, and it can be very overarching, it can be very vague, right? And so even as I look at how that value may be evolving, I'm thinking that it's probably more about autonomy. And it's still the same thing, but it's an evolution. So I look at those things and same thing with self care, like I think about self care, but maybe it's more about well being so when I do this work, I usually revisit my values to see how they're evolving on an annual basis. And I invite my clients to do the same. Yeah, I, it's so important to revisit everything.
Diana: Who says everything is just set in stone. It's like clients that go through for example, Camp Clarity, and they figure out their ideal client and maybe a niche which is kind of hilarious because we're multifaceted, multi passionate people, like we don't have to put ourselves in a box by any means. But they think sometimes that's just it, even their boundaries and like their schedule, like you got to revisit those. You need to revisit it from a very like low level, your calendar when daylight savings changes? Well, yeah, maybe stop taking calls at four so you can go enjoy the sunshine? Like there's a lot of different touch points that we need to like keep coming back to from those really simple things, two really big things like core value and mission and yeah, all that beautiful.
So let's see what was kind of the craziest thing in your career that happened that you weren't expecting? For example, I never thought I was going to be a business coach, you couldn't have like, pulled up a crystal ball and told me that. Was there something like that for you that you just kind of woke up? And were like, how did I get from recruiting to wedding photographer? Or something like that?
Crystal: I would say, probably, I mean, yes, like, A) I never would have imagined myself being a business owner. If somebody would have said to me, 10 years ago, you're gonna own a business and you're gonna be you're gonna inspire people, because people told me that too, which I'm like, I'm sorry. What? What do you mean, I inspire you. So the fact that I even own a business and I have been as successful as I've been through it, is I sometimes I surprise myself. And the number one thing that still surprises me is that I am able to speak in public, like, I got the highest passing D in my college speech class, because I was so terrified about public speaking. So the fact that I do it now is really surprising to me.
Diana: Mind blowing. That's incredible. I love that I love just being able, as it's a Steve Jobs quote, I believe, but like, connecting the dots backwards is so wild. You're like, how I barely passed that class. And here we are making a career out of it. Okay, two questions. And then we'll go into lightning, round excitingness, astrology, all the stuff, sound good?
Diana: So one of them, I want to know, what does success mean to you? Because I think it's so different for people. And I think we all look at it through the societal lens. What is and maybe it's when your business aligns with your core values. I don't know, freedom, autonomy, well-being. But what does success mean to you? And maybe it's changing?
Crystal: I love this question I've been getting it a lot lately. Success to me is actually pretty simple. It's peace, I find that with the success I've gained. And of course, we can always get more success, right. I mean, that if that weren't the case, we wouldn't have billionaires doing silly things with their money.
Crystal: But I personally feel that when I have the amount of peace that I do in my life, I'm not worried about how I'm going to pay my bills. I'm not worried about where my meals are coming from, I'm not worried about whether or not the environment that I'm in is safe. I'm not worried about the people around me, you know, causing harm. I feel peace. And that, to me, is success. It's just this lack of worry. It's this inner peace, and also a trust in myself, because I got myself here. Yes, there have been supporting roles and people along the way. But ultimately, it's been the decisions that I have made that I believed were in my own best interest that have gotten me to this space right now in my life where I genuinely have the most peace I've ever experienced.
Diana: So you would consider yourself currently successful?
Crystal: Absolutely. Yeah.
Diana: Yeah. That like, brings tears to my eyes. Yeah, I feel that self trust, I think, is it? That's it, it's like, even you know, you and I are both divorced, making that decision for ourselves, you know, it's spirals off into so many different things. But all of that looks like self trust. Like, can I take this leap? I had a similar story going to New York City without a job or a plan, you know, and like $3,000 in my bank account and a ton of debt. You know, it's like, you took the car and you packed up and you went, and you trusted yourself. If anyone could get anything out of this entire series of podcast episodes. It's that. It's like if you can just tap into you, but you have to know who you are first, which is the work that you do.
Diana: So where is Crystal going next? What’s next for you? What's the evolution look like? Even though God kind of laughs in our faces when we like think we have but like, where are we aspiring to go what's next for you?
Crystal: That's such a funny expression. I love it.
Diana: So true.
Crystal: Well, what's next for me? So I have been working behind the scenes. I've mentioned it a little bit in stories on Instagram. But I've been working with a professor who piloted my framework to get it into college. And so that is something that I'm working on for fall is getting my work, hopefully into more college classrooms.
Diana: That's incredible.
Crystal: Yeah, I'm still a little in awe of the fact I'm like, wow, somebody else was teaching something that I created. How cool is that?
Diana: That’s so cool, and what impact.
Crystal: I think I'm still digesting it, because the semester just ended. But that is one of the things that I'm looking to do. And also, I think, more thought leadership, more public speaking.
Diana: Public speaking. Wow.
Crystal: I know. Yeah, I actually, I got an invitation to keynote. I've done a lot of speaking, but my first keynote later this year, so I'm very excited about that.
Diana: That's incredible.
Crystal: Thank you. Yeah. So I think just really owning my voice and sharing the knowledge that I have with people and providing more tools and resources for people to also do that for themselves. I think it really just looks like a lot of what I've already been doing. But on a larger scale.
Diana: Yeah. So powerful. You're preaching, I love it. The self trust, owning your voice, like just standing in your power, the impact of it, and just being open to these things, right? Like, do you feel like when opportunities have come your way, it's a lot of times kind of out of nowhere? Like if you would have had your blinders on, you may not have noticed, like what has that looked like for you have things floated in mysterious ways?
Crystal: Maybe a little bit, I think that a lot of the things that have come my way have been because I am very organized. People tend to like that. And I'm incredibly determined. I've always been really, really determined. And I think that that determination comes from really wanting to get out of where I came from I grew up struggling. I grew up seeing the adults around me struggle, not not even just financially but just struggling as humans.
Crystal: And I from a relatively young age, I knew that I didn't want that. So I think for me, it's always been a matter of like, what can I do to prepare myself for whatever may come and try to go after what I think I want. Sometimes I go after things that I think I want, and I don't get it, but something that makes more sense comes along?
Diana: Absolutely. Yeah, it's so much about, you know, if we’re getting a little woo, like meeting the universe at least halfway, like three years, you know, and really like letting that be a determining factor. And you've truly made your own way and knocked on all the doors. You know, you can't just wait for the door to show up in front of your face. I love that. Okay. Love your story. I'm so excited for people to hear it. How do people connect with you? How do people work with you? Give us some invitations.
Crystal: All right. So invitations, you can connect with me directly on Instagram: @crystallilycreative. You can hit up my website, crystallily.com. If you have questions about working together, you can send inquiries to email@example.com. And I have a range of resources and services available for people. So if you are a self starter, and you're like I am either not interested in working one on one, or not financially at a place where I can do so I do have resources available that are more excessively priced. And then I have my coaching options available. And you can find all of those on my website.
Diana: I love that. Go do it. Go connect with her. Again, like you said, it's all about connection. Right? It starts there. It's not about transactions like gross.
Crystal: Yeah, yeah. And it cracks me up. Sometimes they'll have networking calls. And they're like, so I'm like terrible at sales. And I'm like, we're just having a conversation.
Diana: Yeah. Can we just have a good coffee? Thanks. Yeah, I love that. Some of my best clients have just been that organic conversation. Totally. I mean, that's even how I got my job in magazines, was just like, talking about LinkedIn, just being like, Hi, I'm a human, you're a human too. Want to like exchange stories? I would love to know how you got here and it's like, you seem like you'd be really a good fit here. And it's like, oh, okay, you know, I love that kind of thing. It's doesn't have to be so corporate-y, gross.
Diana: And people know when you're about to sell to them. Oh my god. Okay. Anyway that's a story for another time, another conversation. What is your astrology even if you don't resonate even if astrology is not quite your thing and if you don't know some things tell us what you do know. If you know your sun, your moon and your rising we'd love to hear it.
Crystal: I do. I know all of these things and I'm full of fire. I love it. So, Aries sun, Leo moon Aries rising.
Diana: You really are full of fire, holy smokes.
Crystal: And there’s more fire like in my whole chart. Yeah, I'm just burned shut down.
Diana: Oh my god. I love this. You're truly like a path maker. Yes. So cool. So if anyone guessed that, tag us on Instagram. Let us know, screenshot this episode. Okay, lightning round here. Crystal, what does creativity mean to you?
Crystal: Freedom of expression, the ability to be resourceful, and allowing yourself to get curious and experiment and play without judging what comes out?
Diana: Yeah, yeah, we all need to do that so much more. That's like our child's self. Right?
Crystal: Yeah, play.
Diana: What a concept.
Crystal: Yes. A friend had asked me too, like, what do you need to be creative? And I loved that question. Because it forced me to sit and be like, oh, what do I need to be creative? And that actually helped me figure out like, what creativity actually is to me.
Diana: Yeah. What was your answer to what you need to be creative?
Crystal: I need time. Curiosity, peace, connection and patience.
Diana: Yeah. Wow. I love that. That's such a great question. Good for everyone to think about too, everyone listening. Creativity is so important. Whether you're creative entrepreneur or not. Like, creativity is just like the lifeblood, in my opinion. Do you have an entrepreneurial crush? Someone you look up to, an expander, someone you admire.
Crystal: It's funny. I wouldn't describe it as a crush, but admire? Absolutely. Oprah. I mean.
Diana: Of course.
Crystal: Oprah, like, I just, I have so much admiration for her. I have a couple of her books. And I can also resonate with some of her own childhood experiences. And I just appreciate what she has built. Yeah. And talk about a person who can trust themself.
Diana: For real, her story is incredible.
Crystal: Truly, yeah.
Diana: Okay, what are you reading or listening to? Or really any kind of, you know, it could be awful. You could be reading an awful book. Like, let's talk about it.
Crystal: Well, so it's funny. I do love reading. And usually I have something on the docket. But I'm working on this huge project right now. So all of my reading is on pause. I can tell you that the last book that I was reading about halfway through it is Polysecure by Jessica Fern. Great book, even if you're not a poly person, just the things around relationships that she talks about was really good.
Diana: Oh my gosh, I can imagine.
Crystal: Yeah, and then I just bought Amanda Gorman's poetry book, Call Us What We Carry.
Diana: What was the title again?
Crystal: Call Us What We Carry
Diana: Beautiful, that’s two great recommendations. Amazing. Where do you get your books?
Crystal: So sometimes on Audible, if it's something that I'm like, I just need to listen to this. Now. I recently moved into a new neighborhood in Los Angeles. And there is a wonderful, wonderful Black-owned bookstore in Inglewood. Called The Salt Eaters. And it's owned by Black women, and they only stock books by Black authors. Wow. So any books by Black authors, I will be buying from there.
Diana: Absolutely. And that goes into the core values again, right? It's like, okay, I always use the example if I was at a photoshoot and I had an assistant and they go out to get coffee, they're not going to get Starbucks because my core values don't align with getting Starbucks. So it's the same thing. Like, are you buying your books off Amazon? Or are you ordering them from a small-owned bookstore? You know, that stuff I think is so good to bring into your everyday life too.
Crystal: Yeah, and another one that's great for books is bookshop.org. I don't know if you're familiar with them.
Diana: Yeah. And they do they kind of—
Crystal: They donate to local bookstores. So you can either choose the bookstore that you want your donation to go to or they will choose based on the area that your zip code is in.
Diana: Yeah, there is a, amazing of course. I am the worst with names. I need to stop saying that about myself and also just change that. But there's an amazing Black-owned bookstore in Chicago, that I think I go through that website, too, usually. Anyway, it's a great tool. So we'll link that all in the show notes for sure. Okay, kind of touched on this earlier. But the last question is, if money time resources, all of the things didn't matter, that you didn't need to have all those things to have peace, as you were saying, what would you create, just to create?
Crystal: Oh this is an easy one, I would create intimate portraits of people as a way for them to see themselves, like really see themselves as these, you know, the beautiful, powerful energetic beings that they are. And if I could get really specific, I would love love love to give portrait sessions to people who are trauma survivors, so that they would have a way to control their own image and their own story, and help them reconnect to their bodies. And just really recognize like, you are not what happened to you, and you get to decide how you're viewed.
That's so beautiful. I love how easy of an answer that was for you.
Crystal: It’s something that's been on my heart for a while.
Diana: And here it is, it's been released to the public, it's happening. I think you have a new business plan with this not being as familiar at all with the nonprofit world. But you are with this. If this thing that I think is going to come to life someday. But if it were, would it be something that could be like determined as a nonprofit, like, how would that work where people donate?
Crystal: I think it would? I do. I think it would, and I would probably also incorporate an element in my consulting business, where you if you want to donate a portion of your fee to support that, then that could be an option. It's just I haven't worked out all of those things yet. So it's not something that I've offered to people, but it is definitely something I want to do.
Diana: Yeah, well, I think you heard it here. First folks. happening, I can't wait to come to life and share it. Oh my god, I love it. Crystal, you're amazing. Thank you so much for being here. And thank you for being so vulnerable and real about your story and how you built this. I can't wait for people to connect with you and reach out to you and work with you and the more impact you're going to make and just the ripple effect that I get to see as a bystander. And I just, I really appreciate you being here and being in your circle.
Crystal: Thank you so much. I've appreciated this conversation. I've got the warm and fuzzy so yay.
Diana: All right, over and out.