This is a story years in the making. A tale of complete destruction of one small business, the beginning of my professional photography journey, unending determination in the face of constant setbacks, the story of birth, and finally, re-birth! (I've just said re-birth in my head at least twenty times over and it is starting to sound like gibberish. I could sit here for an hour trying to think of another way to say the same thing, but I'm going to just move on with the post!)
Here are the main players:
Scott - My boyfriend (and biggest supporter)
Vincent - Mine and Scott's best friend/roommate
Corey - Co-Owner of Mammoth Training Center
Stephanie - Corey's wife and Co-Owner of Mammoth Training Center
Extremely brief back story:
Scott and Vincent really enjoy martial arts and self-defense; boxing, kickboxing, jujitsu, kung-fu, etc. Also, we live in a relatively small town with limited gym/alternative workout options.
Let's zoom back to early 2017. Vincent told Scott and I that a new kickboxing gym was going to be opening soon. I'm honestly not super sure how Corey and Vincent knew each other, but they did, and it doesn't really matter to the story anyways. Scott was thrilled at the possibility of having a kickboxing gym, and within a day or two, we went to the not yet opened gym to meet Corey and Stephanie.
You know when you meet someone new, and something just clicks between the two of you? Well, that definitely happened when we met each other. Scott and I thought that we were just going to drop by to introduce ourselves and we ended up talking to Corey and Stephanie for nearly 3 hours. They told us all about how they had been dreaming of opening this business for years and how excited they were to build something that Rockport had never really had before. Over the next month or so, Scott and I went to the gym as much as possible to help Corey and Stephanie get ready for a grand opening. By the time the Mammoth Training Center was officially open, we were all excellent friends. That summer the gym thrived, I learned how to punch and kick, and we all worked out together on a (somewhat) regular basis.
Then Hurricane Harvey Hit.
More than a year later, these photos still bring tears to my eyes. Scott, Vincent, and I stayed in Rockport during the storm (Please let me stress how STUPID we were to stay during the storm. I will NEVER stay during a hurricane again. We are fortunate that our house came through the storm with relatively little damage. However, I have no doubt that our lives were endangered during the storm and we could have very easily been injured or worse.) and after checking on the few people we knew that also stayed, Mammoth was the first place we drove to. It took us almost half an hour to drive what would typically take 5 minutes, and what we saw when we arrived was gut-wrenching. I know it is super easy to say that this gym was just a building and that the equipment is just stuff, but when I say that Corey and Stephanie put everything into building this business... I mean they put everything into the business. They saved their money, sold their house, quit their other jobs, and were living the small business hustle life to the max.
Now you may be wondering at this point of the story what any of this has to do with my photography business? Let me tell you! One of the things that Stephanie and I had actually bonded over when we first met was our mutual love for photography. I was under the SOLID impression that I would always be a hobbyist photographer and Stephanie would constantly urge me to just TRY to do more with it. Almost every time we worked out or hung out together, she would ask me about my photography and encourage me to explore the idea of pursing photography more professionally. I was absolutely adamant that I could never make it as a "real" photographer.
Well, that first night after the storm hit, Scott and I were getting ready for bed in the dark (we didn't have electricity or water services for several weeks after the storm. Yes, I said weeks. But, we were lucky. We had a house with minimal damage. We lost almost nothing when others lost everything, so a few weeks without electricity and water was the least of our worries) while brainstorming ways that we could help Corey and Stephanie rebuild Mammoth. After a few days, I decided that I would offer donation based photo shoots to help raise money for Mammoth as well as help the families that lost their family photos to Harvey's destruction. I offered completely free sessions to families who lost everything, and for others, I just asked that a small donation be made to help rebuild Mammoth. I thought I was going to get $5-$10 donations, but I did not receive one donation less than $50. I was absolutely blown away by the generosity of all the families and couples that I met during my fundraising sessions. I offered these sessions October-December. It wasn't until about mid-December that I started to think that it might be possible for me to honestly do more with photography. By the end of December, I had decided to start my own small business. I was nervous and more than a little scared of putting myself out in the world to try to build something of my own, but I was even more terrified of how I would feel about myself in ten, twenty, or fifty years if I had never chased this dream.
In the past year, my business has grown so much more than I could have ever predicted while Mammoth faced setback after setback. And the whole time Stephanie and Corey cheered me on and remained determined to rebuild their business. I could list out all the things that set them back, but those hurdles aren't significant anymore. What is important is that they never stopped fighting to rebuild their business! Here are a few photos that I captured at the Grand Re-Opening of Mammoth!!!!
I am so incredibly grateful to have Corey and Stephanie as role models, encourage-rs, and friends. I'm not sure if I would have ever had the guts to pursue starting my business if it had not been for their example of perseverance, optimism, and determination in the face of incredible setbacks. Mammoth has been re-opened since January 2019.
Mammoth Training Center
410 Market St, Rockport, Texas