After working in Corporate Social Responsibility for more than 13 years, including a four-year stint at Sky, Saskia Nelson decided to invest time and energy into her own business.
Combining her interest in photography and affinity for online dating, Nelson created Hey Saturday – a photography service for the dating scene.
During the three months of her notice period, she formulated a business plan, developed the brand and built a website. She spoke to First Women about launching the world’s first dedicated dating photography business.
Tell us bout your company. What type of clients do you work with, what inspired you to start it and how is it different to that of rivals on the market?
I knew I wanted to start a portrait photography business and I knew I wanted it to be aligned to my own personal experiences, passions and skills so that I would enjoy it and excel at it.
I had taken up photography in my spare time and found I was at my happiest a lot of the time, when behind the camera shooting people. Social media enabled me to share my photos to a wide audience and get feedback, which made me realise I had a talent that other people loved and appreciated.
Deeply engrained gender stereotyping and intense image-consciousness among young girls – exacerbated by the relentless pressures of social media – risk creating a generation of women who lack the ambition and confidence to become the female leaders of tomorrow.
After some research I realised that there was a gap in the market for photographers specialising in photos for people’s online dating profiles. I stopped to wonder why that was but I decided I’d give it a go. I had enough experience of online dating to know that a good set of photos would make a huge difference to how many people would interact with a profile.
And with that a new genre of photography was created – dating photography. At the time of launch, we had no rivals. After about two years a couple of photographers started copying what we do. But I have built up excellent contacts in both the dating and matchmaking industries, won awards and have become known as the leading dating photography expert in the UK and the US.
I love the fact that I set up the first and coolest dating photography business on the planet. I was inspired by the fact that I truly believe online dating works – I met my partner (who I’ve been with for seven years now) online – and I wanted to help others find partners too, or at the very least enjoy the search. Hey Saturday provides our clients with show-stopping, jaw-dropping dating photos to turbo-charge their dating response rate and kick-start their love lives.
We don’t just transform drab dating profile photos into pure awesomeness, we like to think we give people the belief that they can find love online and the confidence to go out there and do it.
At the start of the second year, I started training up and taking on freelance photographers to work alongside me and we now have seven photographers across London, Edinburgh and Brighton with more cities coming online within the next couple of months.
We have now worked with well over 1,000 single people across the UK and often have clients flying in from Europe to book shoots with us. We have also done shoots in New York both this year and last year.
What is a typical day for you? What does your role entail? What general challenges do you face (if any) as a founder and as a woman in your sector? Are you involved in other projects?
My role predominantly focuses on ensuring a great client experience alongside building a warm brand and getting the brand out to our target audience. I do that by connecting with industry experts, developing good collaborations, creating relevant and high quality content and finding different channels for showcasing our content.
So a typical day might kick off with me answering client emails, both new and existing clients, and getting them booked in with our photographers. I then usually spend time focusing on marketing and PR.
This might be anything from writing guest blog posts for places like Huffington Post or Metro, doing a shoot with a blogger, collaborating with colleagues in the dating and, or matchmaking industry on joint projects or being interviewed for webinars and podcasts. I always aim to connect with new industry experts across the UK and US to build the company’s profile within the industry too.
What are your company’s biggest achievements to date?
Kick-starting a new genre of photography and getting recognised by Time magazine and Martin Parr as a pioneer in this area is the company’s biggest achievement followed by helping 100s of single people kick-start their love lives.
Expanding from London to Brighton and Edinburgh have been highlights and I’m looking forward to launching Hey Saturday in Sheffield, Manchester and Leeds soon.
What have been the key challenges for your organisation?
When I started the business, dating photography wasn’t a thing, so I had to make a lot of noise about it. It’s now reached a point where clients regularly google ‘dating photography’ so I know I have succeeded in spreading the word.
The key challenge I’m facing at the moment is figuring out how to expand the business while maintaining the high quality service we currently offer. I have a solid plan on how I’m going to take this forward but need to find the right people to work with on it.
Another key challenge is finding the right photographers to work with. While it’s OK to find good portrait photographers, they need to have the right personality to work with our clients and that is harder to find.