Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Boss Babes - Kelly Peloza

This week's Boss Babes interview is with the incredibly talented photographer, food stylist, cookbook author and food blogger Kelly Peloza.

Kelly writes about food and shares recipes and beautiful photos on her blog Seitan Beats Your Meat, she also writes vegan baking cookbooks (her first was published when she was just 15!) and works as a freelance photographer and writer in Chicago where she lives with her partner Alicia, their cat and house rabbit.

How did your business get started? 
I've had side projects in addition to my full-time pursuits for the past several years, such as photography work, writing The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur and Cheers to Vegan Sweets, blogging at Seitan Beats Your Meat, and freelance writing. I've always been interested the lifestyle of many entrepreneurial ventures! When I was 14, I sold handmade purses and wallets at the farmer's market, and I experimented with selling zines and baked goods online in high school.
Nowadays, my main focus is running my photography business, Kelly Peloza Photo and all the admin work that comes along with it. I do freelance writing, write cookbooks, blog at Seitan Beats Your Meat, and run an online shop called SHOP | kelly peloza photo as well, so my full-time job is a combination of everything. I'd been working on many of those projects all along, but my focus shifted to photography full-time about a year and a half ago. I was working at an advertising agency Monday through Friday, 9-to-5, as a retoucher for print advertisements, and one day, most of my department was laid off. While I was using my newfound free time to update my website and brand, make new work, and look for a new full-time job, I started getting some freelance work. After a few months of this, the amount of work was becoming more sustainable, so I decided, "hey, I can do this full-time!" and laid the groundwork for the business. I now provide food and product styling and photography services to brands and restaurants, interior photography for designers and local businesses, event photography, and portraits for people's professional presence or just for fun!

Where do you find your inspiration? 
Looking at All of the Things and reading All of the Blogs, and wandering around my own city or traveling somewhere new. I read several art and photography blogs, subscribe to a few magazines, and belong to networking groups online and in person, and all of those things are important. But it's also essential to unplug every once in a while and find inspiration while attending local art shows, or even just walking around without any distractions. I've developed my own styles and approaches over the years, but I'm also aware of what's trending and relevant. I very rarely come up with ideas when I'm typing out emails, scrolling through social media, or accounting and budgeting, but I can't avoid any of that entirely and still stay connected and afloat. As with anything, balance is key!

What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own business? 
Be as organized as humanly possible, don't cut corners, keep a paper trail of everything, make sure you have the proper permits and insurance in case of emergency, never work without a contract (and ditch anyone who refuses to sign a fair contract), invest in quality where it's important, back up your files, then back them up again! All of these precautions will save you time, money, and the distress of the inevitable damage control you'll face every once in a while.

There are going to be ups and downs. Even when you know there are ups and downs, it's easy to give in to self doubt and feel out of control when things are going less than swimmingly. During the busy times, make a to-do list of tasks and projects you'd do, if only you had more time! When things are slow, break out that list. This is also a good time to update your website, catch up on admin work, reach out to an old friend or colleague, or take some personal time!

Save as much money as possible when you have lots of work coming in. That added layer of security will make you feel better when you don't know when your next check is coming through. I am extremely meticulous with budgeting and saving money, and have managed to stretch dollars almost impossibly far by DIYing, and only buying things I need and 100% love.

Be nice! Kindness goes a long way, and you never know who you're talking to. But also respect yourself and your work. People will try to take advantage of you no matter what (and it suuuucks, especially if they were great before/you can't afford to lose this work/you like the project!), but don't be afraid to stand your ground. They didn't care enough to treat you or your working relationship with respect, so you don't owe them a damn thing.
When I mention all of the things that could go horribly wrong, the advice I'm really giving is to be prepared! If you're thinking of turning something you love into a career, I'm assuming you know your stuff, you've got the skills, and you have the passion!

How do you balance work and play? 

Combine work and play? Just kidding (for the most part)! If you're turning something you love into work, hopefully you're enjoying your work sometimes! But no job is 100% fun, all of the time. Not all projects are inspiring and align with your interests completely. Some are just boring, but you take them on to practice a skill you want to improve, or just because you need to pay rent. But bottom line, if someone is counting on me to exchange their money for goods and services by a particular date, it is work. Even if I enjoy it.

I avoid working 14 hour days everyday (it won't make things happen any faster because you'll burn out), I make sure to spend time doing things I enjoy, and I don't bring my cameras everywhere. I'm not super attached to my phone when I'm not working. Constant communication culture stresses me out in all aspects of life (INTJ personality type!), so I need breaks from that. I love Inbox by Gmail and wish more things had snooze buttons and "mark as unread" options.

For fun! What's your favourite food, film, music & holiday?
At restaurants, I love Indian and Ethiopian food. Some of my favorite places to get vegan food in Chicago include The Chicago Diner, Sultan's Market, Upton's Breakroom, and Urban Vegan. I keep it simple at home most of the time with tofu veggie stir fries, pasta, and sometimes homemade pizza. If I'm cooking for just myself one evening, my favorite meal is basically an antipasto plate based on what's in the kitchen, such as: olives, pickles, vegan cheese, veggies, dolmas, olive oil, bread, crackers, dried fruit, and chocolate. Paired with wine, and it's automatically fancy.
When I'm not binge watching a bunch of terrible (and excellent!) TV shows, a couple favorite movies include Amélie and Saved! My favorite musical genre is indie/alternative. My everyday playlist includes Rilo Kiley, Jenny Lewis, St. Vincent, Liz Phair, Tegan and Sara, Ted Leo, and Morrissey. My favorite holiday is probably Christmas and the gift giving, lights, gatherings, flavors, and smells that come along with it (but not the cold weather!).

Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom with us Kelly! A new, updated version of The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur comes out this year and is full of lots of amazing cookie recipes, and even a macaron recipe from me! I can't wait to get my copy!

To see the other posts in this series just click 'Boss Babes' in the sidebar!


  1. This was great! I love Kelly. I was lucky enough to hang out with her at VVC last year, and then a week later when I was visiting Chicago. She's amazing!
    She also has totally awesome taste in TV shows.

  2. Yay! I love Kelly! Her pictures are always amazing and there are some ridiculously good cookie recipes in The Cookie Connoisseur.