01 Sep How I decided to take my business to the next level
Dave Sharman is a photographer who was brave enough to quit his office job in order to earn money doing what he really likes, taking photos.
Originally from Lincoln in the UK, he moved to The Hague for love in the year 2000. He’s been married to Barbara for 6 years and they live with their two kids in Bezuidenhout.
Dave started as a landscape photographer until he finally discovered his passion, the hospitality business. He then decided to specialise in restaurant & food photography and today he is a renowned professional among restaurant and cafes owners in The Hague area.
After 7 years of working solo, he’s decided to take his business to the next level and has created Sharman Media.
His new company offers every service a restaurant or cafe needs in order to really exist in the digital world: photos, videos, Social Media management and web design.
I wanted to talk to him about this interesting project so we met at a new hip place in The Hague, the Gastropub van Kinsbergen on the Prins Hendrikplein, on a sunny afternoon.
Gastropub Van Kinsbergen
Elena: How did this idea come to your mind? Were you having a shower and suddenly thought, I have a dream! 😊
Dave: Actually no, gradually I started to get the feeling that I should be offering a wider range of services to customers and that I was probably going to need help to do that. For example, a customer would ask if I made videos. And I would reluctantly answer no. Sometimes, I saw a great restaurant with fantastic photos but they were not really using them very well on Social Media, so I thought that was something that could be worked on. I really like the restaurants I work with and their passion and want to help them succeed as best as I can.
Elena: What were the first steps?
Dave: The first steps were to decide on exactly what services I wanted to offer and start to find the right people to work with. I have spent months looking for great photographers, filmmakers and social media experts and have now found a great team of professionals to work with.
Elena: How did you know the other photographers? Wasn’t there a sense of fierce competition amongst you all?
Dave: I found most of the other photographers on Instagram, where I follow lots of great food photographers. There are so many different styles and I am a fan of most of them.
“Different photographers have their own specific characters and passions and you see that in their photos”.
We are not necessarily competing directly with each other, but I like to think that we are all following the same dream and that there are enough restaurants and cafes to match up with the styles and strengths of many photographers.
Elena: You are completely right. People think you need to hate your competition but actually you can learn lots and even help each other.
So, tell me, how many people collaborate in this project?
Dave: At the moment, there are about 20 but I would really like to get more people involved if possible. I really think that with a large group of professionals a lot can be achieved.
Elena: It must have been a lot of work to talk to all of them, explain the details of the project, agreeing about conditions, etc. How long did it take you to get the whole team on board?
Dave: I think I met up with the first photographer to discuss my idea in September last year, so it has taken some time, indeed.
Elena: What is your short term goal?
Dave: The first priority is to make people in the industry aware of what I am doing and the services that my company can offer. And then to start getting some great assignments for all the great professionals and experts who collaborate with me.
Elena: And in the long term?
Dave: That is a harder question. I suppose in the long term I would like to see some success stories. For example, a struggling restaurant that becomes a successful one after working with Sharman Media.
I would like to see Sharman Media establish itself as a reliable and consistent supplier to restaurants of great content for social media and website use.
Also, to improve the overall visual identity of restaurants we work with and in turn help them to attract more customers and be more successful.
Elena: Have you followed some specific training for entrepreneurs?
Dave: Not specific to entrepreneurs, but I have a degree in Business Studies, which covered everything from marketing to economics and from law to accounting.
Elena: That helps 😊. I’m curious, who has been your best adviser on this?
Dave: I am not sure to be honest, I have discussed my new company with friends and family and have got lots of ideas and feedback over the past months.
At the start of the process, I had a great brainstorming session with Valerie Ketjen, who used her experience in brand management to help formalise my ideas.
Patrick van Aller (one of the owners of Gastropub van Kinsbergen) also offered good advice from a customer’s point of view and that has been very helpful.
My wife is probably my best adviser and I have obviously discussed Sharman Media with her the most. She knows me the best and being Dutch is very direct when giving her opinion.
Elena: I know what you mean (laughs) But isn’t it wonderful? Dutch people are the best ones to ask for honest feedback!
So, you have gone from being a freelancer to organise a company with more than 20 collaborators in only one year. Do you sometimes feel vertigo?
Dave: No. Well sometimes. It is a challenge to go from working on your own for 7 years to working with over 20 people and therefore having a wider range of responsibilities. I really believe in this idea and company and would only have regrets if I did not set it up and get started as soon as possible.
Elena: What is your dream?
Dave: To be happy, but that is everyone’s dream. I think if you spend your working life doing something you are passionate about and work with people who share that passion, then that is a good start. If you can build something that helps others as well as yourself then that sense of achievement would create happiness. Well it would for me!
Elena: What do you like the most about your work?
Dave: Being my own boss. Freedom to make decisions about what, when and how I will be working. I have had a regular office job in the past for a big international company and while I liked parts of the it, I would not like to go back.
Elena: I understand you perfectly 😊
What would you say to people who might be thinking about quitting their jobs to do what they really like?
Dave: I would say that they should go for it, as long as they do plenty of research and planning in advance to make sure it is feasible.
Do as much as you can in terms of building up a customer base whilst you still have a guaranteed salary from your current job.
Make sure you have sufficient funds to last you a few months, because it will probably take a while to get up and running.
Elena: Great advice. And what you would say to freelancers who want to start a company like you have done?
Dave: Well, an expansion on this scale is quite a big step and will be a lot different to work alone.
“You will need to find the right balance between adapting to how other people work whilst ensuring that this fits in with the way you want to operate as a company. Compromise and flexibility are important here”.
Elena: It’s been a pleasure to talk to you Dave. Thanks very much. I think there’s a lot of great advice here for anyone who wants to follow their dream and start a project of their own.
Just to finish, this is the one-million-dollar question. Ready?
Since you know so many restaurants in The Hague, would you tell us your favourite ones? I know, I’m putting you in a difficult situation…
Dave: You are indeed! (laughs) There are so many great restaurants in The Hague and Scheveningen it is almost impossible to choose. And new ones are popping up all the time. Like where we are now.
Gastropub Van Kinsbergen
I agree with Dave, it is almost impossible to choose among so many great options.
I also enjoy trying new places and tasting unusual dishes a lot. We are so lucky to live in such a gastronomically speaking rich city! Enjoy the food variety and see you next time!
Thanks for reading.