It took a series of disasters to launch my business

Sunday October 18 2020

Nassolo adjusts a camera during a photoshoot. PHOTO/Joan salmon

By Joan Salmon

When we see people do something they are good at, we might think that it is a walk in the park until we dig our fingers into it. When Valerie Nassolo, the proprietor of Val Media started out, she thought all she needed was a camera to start off her business. “I had previously gone for photoshoots and things just seemed to happen. I even thought that the most costly camera was only Shs3,000,000,” she recalls shocked by her ignorance. 

Disastrous beginnings

However, that changed when she got her first client who she charged only Shs100,000. “I hired a camera at Shs30,000 from my school from the money that the client had given me then went and photographed,” she laughs. It was a blessing that there was enough sunlight on that day so she did not have to struggle with light adjustments.

“Nonetheless, they were not that thrilled with the output but it gave me courage to go on,” she says.

The second gig was even more disastrous because not even the weather cooperated with her. “It was a cloudy day and the product was so bad. After being made to wait for a week by the editor, even the edited version was not worth seeing. The clients were so bitter but thankfully, there were a few good ones. I took them to another editor who did their best so that I could have something to calm my clients with,” she reminisces. Having charged them Shs200,000 on the basis that it was a big group, she decided to refund Shs100,000 to pacify them. However, their bitterness was at another level and they bad mouthed her, something she says she could not blame them for because it was surely bad.

Acquiring skills


Starting in January 2019, all Nassolo had was her passion as capital and Shs50,000 which she paid someone to design her logo.

“I was working for a project as a field intern that closed in 2017 and spent the whole of 2018 doing short gigs but had a deep seated desire for photography and marketing,”  says Nassolo. Deciding to take a course in photography in late 2018 at Affcad Business and Vocational Institute, at Shs500,000 per term for two terms, Nassolo hoped to turn the passion into a business.

“So with Shs50,000, I called up a friend who is a graphics designer and told him to design for me a logo. Posting it on my Whatsapp status got me my first client,” Nassolo relates.

 With lessons from her first two clients, Nassolo knew she would only thrive if she found someone to hold her hand through the practical learning process.

“I went to Ronnie Bob Mukasa of Ronnie Bob Photography who took me under his wings. With him, I did a lot of field work such as pre-wedding shoots, and wedding shoots and with time, my art greatly improved.”

She also went to Era23 Media to learn more about lighting that cost her Shs300,000 per term for two terms.

From that experience and training, her work got polished and she started posting good work on her Facebook page hoping that friends and family would now be drawn to give her business.

“I was so wrong because whenever I looked at people’s Whatsapp statuses or Facebook pages, I saw that while they had had photo moments or celebrations, their photography had been done by another. It broke my heart,” she shares about the start.

The breakthrough

But one time, as she pondered on whether to quit or keep at it, Nassolo got a call.

“It was from a decorator with whom I had worked at a certain function and had given her decor pictures. She said that she liked that we were punctual unlike other photographers. So she needed me to do her daughter’s birthday photography,” she recollects.

It was surely an oasis in what had seemed like a desert and gave her hope as well as a lesson that it is the little things, such as timekeeping, that matter.

“I also told myself that solely relying on family and friends was never going to pay off,” she says. Thereafter came another call for work and with that, she knew she would make it.

 Located at Equatorial Mall, room 304B, Val Media which also deals in branding, events management and marketing was registered in July 2019. Her clientele is comprised of individuals with specific photography needs of events such as weddings, birthdays, baby and bridal showers, baptisms, and personal photoshoots. That is not forgetting small and medium sized businesses that want professional adverts, and professional product photoshoots to be used for marketing. “I also work with organisations that need media consultants to do documentaries for them or promote a specific behavioural change,” Nassolo says.

Winning the Rising Woman awards gave her confidence.

“Being given an opportunity to present my proposal gave me hope.  I told myself that even if this where it ended, at least I had written a proposal worth reading.  I posted about the winning and knew that this would boost my business,” she shares.