Sarah Maggs is not only studying Year 12 at BSSC, but is also a committed business-woman.
Now in her second year of running her own photography business—SM.art Photos—Sarah is using her studies at BSSC to complement her passions.
Unsurprisingly her VCE subject repertoire includes Photography, Business Management and Accounting. And it’s not just about the theory. In Year 11, as the Business students were going through the steps of how one starts a business, Sarah actually applied the lessons to real life and set up her photography business!
It’s growing slowly—mostly because Sarah is busy with her studies—but she also maintains a part-time job in a bakery/cafe where she has worked since she was 15 years old, usually doing around 20 hours work per week.
Baker’s hours can be unfriendly. On work days Sarah is up at 3am so she can be at work by 4am.
“These hours just feel normal for me now,” she says. “I do have to go to bed earlier—around 9.30pm at the latest—and I really feel it if I stay up later.
“At 7.30 am when I’m heading home, most people I know are just waking up. By the time I get to school I feel like I’m at the peak of my day.”
While there’s no question about the amount of personal commitment this requires, Sarah is aware that without her family supporting her—driving her to work before she had her own license—she would have found the challenge much more daunting.
“When I got this job, my main aim was to save up and buy a car—which I did last year,” she says. “Then I decided to upgrade to a top-quality camera. So at the end of last year I bought a Canon 6D Mark II as a kind of very expensive Christmas present for myself.”
Sarah actually has a long history of being an excellent money manager. Even when she was much younger she was saving the coins she received for doing chores around the house, and at the ripe old age of 11 she was the owner of a money box containing $500—not that she let anyone know such a thing!
Now she has her car and camera, owning her own home is now a long-term goal.
Sarah describes being good with money as a life skill she has really benefitted from. And while this discipline is surely a natural aptitude, Sarah believes she learnt a lot about managing finances from her Mum—also a successful business-woman.
However, long before Sarah began working in the bakery, her heart beat for photography.
“My Dad was a videographer back when I was in Year 7 and also had a really nice camera,” she says. “I asked him if I could borrow it to take some pictures to put into the Bendigo Show. He was cool with it, so I went out into the garden and took pictures of flowers and other random stuff.”
Sarah’s Dad helped her print, enlarge and mount her photographs which were then submitted for the show.
“But we hadn’t read the fine print properly,” Sarah winces, remembering how devastating the consequences were.
“When we turned up to see my pictures, we found them in a section of photos that had been disqualified—we’d blown them up to be too large.”
Her initial reaction, that she was ‘never going to take another stupid photo’, didn’t last long. Even in the heat of her disappointment, Sarah joked privately to herself that maybe they had pulled the pics because they were too good.
By Year 8 she was back—and this time she won a first, a second and a third. By Year 10, sixteen of the nineteen photos she submitted received a placing. Then, in Year 11, now a photography student at BSSC, Sarah submitted an image called ‘Reflection’. The photo was a combination of her father and his father’s faces.
“I entered it in the ‘framed’ section and as I walked through the exhibition it was the last one I saw. It had two banners and big ribbon on it—it had won ‘Best Exhibition 18 years & Under’ and ‘Best Exhibition Junior Photography’. I just started to cry.”
Photography is Sarah’s future, but her Dad was concerned—from his own experiences about the fickleness of such businesses—that she would not be able to make a living.
“I know they want the best for me, but they now accept that this is really what I want to do and are completely supportive,” Sarah says.
“In fact, when I think about all the ways they’ve been so good to me—Mum is always doing something for someone else as well—I realise they are fantastic role models.
“I think they’re my heroes.”
As well as school, her part-time job, and managing her business, one of her recent commissions was to take photographs for BSSC’s Formal and Open Day.
Sarah has also produced a book of photographic tips and tricks and stories of her photographic journey. She was in Year 10 at Eaglehawk Secondary College at the time and her principal said he had actually learnt a great deal about taking quality pictures from this straightforward, practical guide.
Leaving the predictable and positive relationships she enjoyed at ESC to come to BSSC was something of a wrench for Sarah.
“People had told me how hard it would be, how much work it would be and how much homework I would get,” she says. “The size of the college also had me worried I would get lost.
“Step Up was really reassuring, and once I got here I just fell in love with the freedom I had to organise my own time.”
Study Centre—a requirement in Year 11 at BSSC—actually turned out to be a boon for Sarah who says it really helped her to develop good study habits.
“Year 12 felt like a massive step up,” she says. “Everything was cranked up to 100… I really did feel a bit overwhelmed at the start of Year 12.”
So, what are Sarah’s hot tips for coping with this?
“I think working out the priorities every week is really important… focusing on what’s due. I’m now in the habit of making a checklist and I always do the small or easy stuff first, so the list gets shorter really quickly. Then the big things seem easier.
“I’m not strong in English, but I do enjoy all my subjects. My Business teachers—Annemarie Burgess and Erica Masters—have been fantastic and helped me as I developed my own business.”
Once VCE is behind her, Sarah hopes to work more hours and keep building her photography business.
And while life may be very busy, Sarah is not oblivious to issues that are worldwide problems. Issues around personal safety are felt by many women around the world and Sarah shares their concerns.
“I was followed in my car one night and it was terrifying,” she recalls. “I would love to go running around the lake in the evenings, but I don’t feel safe going out alone at night. You hear some really scary stories and I hate the thought that one day, if we don’t sort this out, my kids will also have to face the same things.”
Sarah also strives hard not to be overly influenced by others.
“If I could go back and give my 12-year-old self some advice, I’d say, ‘don’t care so much what other people think of you, don’t change for anyone, and don’t take things too seriously’.
“I was—and still am—pretty shy in some settings, though my friends and family would never say that I was shy!” she laughs. “I’m really just one of those people who takes time to become comfortable with someone I’ve just met. If someone can’t take time to let that process unfold, well…
“I think of myself as more observant than shy.”
So, if you’re looking for an observant, highly-awarded and committed photographer for your next function or portrait shoot, check out the SM.art Photos website: https://smartphotos.com.au/