Passing the Torch -- Meet MJP's new office manager!

As many of you know, MJP has been in search of a new office manager for a number of months. To be completely honest, it has been a tough and emotional road for me. I have come to rely so heavily on Sara over the past 3 1/2 years and it was so hard for me to imagine replacing her. Sara has helped grow MJP into what it is today and as many of you know who have had the opportunity to work with her in some capacity -- she wears MANY hats. And she wears them all with a cute smile on her face, always giving her best effort to each task, and caring for the people she comes in contact with well. She is so special to me and will be GREATLY missed in the office.

But I'm SO excited to announce that we have found a new, brilliant office manager to take the torch from Sara and forge new paths that are undoubtedly in MJP's future. I'm SO thrilled to introduce you all to Alaine! I could go on an on about both Sara and Alaine, but I thought it would be better to hand over the blog to them for this torch-passing ceremony. So here we go, starting with a note from Sara:

I’m going to try to do this without crying. Ha.

When I first started working for Melissa 3 1/2 years ago, I was lost but motivated. I never expected she’d offer me a job that day I asked her out to lunch. I just wanted to pick her brain and seek advice, like so many photographers do. But in that moment, sitting across the table from her, I felt my world shift. I no longer felt lost and was beyond excited for the future. At one point, I even told MJ that this was a dream job. And it was. It still is.

Which is why this is so difficult for me. I have loved working for Melissa and with all of our amazing associates. I feel so connected & intertwined, proud & accomplished for all the changes & growth we’ve made over the years. But unfortunately, I never had any intention of working in the wedding industry long-term. I am a strong believer in taking risks and not living your life in fear. It’s never easy, especially when you’re comfortable & valued as much as I have been. But it’s a necessity in life if you want to continue growing. There are other passions that I feel compelled to pursue – the kinds of passions you lose sleep over because you can’t stop thinking about them. And you can only ignore those feelings for so long before they start to consume you.

The first time I shared these feelings with Melissa, I cried. And those weren’t the only tears I’ve shed throughout this transition, because how do you leave a job you love so much only to pursue the unknown? How do you let go when you’ve been so connected and intertwined for so long? It’s just a job, right?

No - it’s not just a job. And I guess that’s what makes this different from any other job I’ve had before. Melissa has become family to me – an older sister that I look up to and have tried so hard to emulate. She has given me endless advice – both personally and professionally – and she’s been there for me during some pretty tough times. But at the end of the day, I have to be true to myself – be myself – and listen to my heart’s desire for a new journey.

I’m beyond thankful for these past 3 1/2 years. I have learned more than my brain could hold at times, haha. I felt incredibly valued and appreciated. And even though the day-to-day has always just been MJ and I in the office, I’ve had the great pleasure of working alongside and building friendships with SO many wonderful human beings – from our associates, wedding vendors, sponsors, workshop attendees, to the photography community as a whole – but most importantly, our clients. It has been an absolute honor getting to know all of you!

To our current clients, whose weddings I will not be here to experience, I wish you all my very best!! And I promise I'm leaving you in good hands! I’m super proud to be passing the torch to one of the most thoughtful, most understanding, and best of all, most bubbly personalities I've had the pleasure to meet! I’ve taken everything in my brain and given it to her. Mix that with her own amazing skill-set and background, and she’s been a dream to train! I trust that she will, without a doubt, take great care of all your needs.

With that said, I'm SO happy to introduce to you MJP's new office manager, Alaine! To help you get to know her a bit better, we decided to do a fun little Q&A session:

Hi Alaine! So I'm sure everyone is curious to know - how did you get connect to Melissa?

Hi! Well, a few months ago, Kindra Hall, a college friend/previous co-worker of mine, knew I was looking for a new opportunity, and texted me with a link to Melissa's blog post about her ongoing search for an office manager. I'd admired Melissa's photography for years (ever since Kindra & Michael's wedding, in fact), so I looked into it. A flurry of emails and a lunch meeting later, and I was pretty sure I'd found a great place to work ... one that has cool people to connect with, gorgeous pictures to work with, and a cute dog to play with. Who wouldn't love that?!

Aww, agreed!! Do you have a background in photography?

Not at all! I'm one of those people who doesn't even own a camera; I have to rely on my phone for capturing important moments. My degrees are actually in Communication Studies, and my previous work experience hasn't gone near the wedding or photography industries. So this is a whole new world for me! Luckily, you have been working hard to get me up to speed, and Melissa is great with explaining her business and brand. It's exciting to be learning so much, and I'm touched to be trusted with such an important role.

Because you're now surrounded by all things wedding related, I must ask - are you married yourself?

I am! My husband Michael and I have been together since high school. He helped me make friends when I was the new kid in my junior year, and then he sent me flowers and asked me to prom. That was over 19 years ago. We have one son, Gabriel, who will be turning 16 soon. He enjoys being taller than I am waaaay too much. If you ever hear me say "my boys," I'm referring to Michael and Gabriel.

What do you do when you're not working with Melissa?

I read a whole lot. I have a lifelong love of fairy tales, mysteries, and historical novels. I even write my own tales of derring-do! I enjoy crafting resin jewelry, talking with friends, and roaming the Valley with my husband and son. And I spend way more time than the average woman decorating my nails with different colors and designs. They're like ten little canvases that I take with me everywhere. So fun to paint!

What are three interesting things about yourself that people wouldn't guess just by meeting you?

Ooh, difficult! Three interesting things about me:
1. I was born in Germany. My dad was stationed at Rhein Main Air Force Base, but I was born in Wiesbaden. When I was 14, we moved back to Germany, so I spent two years attending Frankfurt American High School. It was amazing! My swim team went to Italy and Belgium, and my drama club went to London. It's been two decades, and I'm still astounded by how huge America is in comparison to most European countries!
2. I worked at Walt Disney World after high school instead of going straight to college. It was such a good choice for my first "grown up" job! I learned tons about customer service. There was a lot of job flexibility, so I got to transfer around to different parts of the resorts. And there was a real sense of community; my husband and I still meet up with one of our Disney co-workers in California every year. Most importantly, it taught me the crucial skills of drawing Mickey Mouse's face and forging his signature. :)
3. I am the queen of no-sew family costumes! My husband, son, and I dress up together for Halloween every year, and sometimes for geeky occasions like Phoenix Comicon. If you ever desperately need to sculpt a platypus bill mask, I'm your girl! From Jedi to comic book villains to cereal box mascots, we have had a blast creating our costumes together every year.


This is MJ again! See what I mean -- SO talented. Costumes and Mickey Mouse's signature. I hit the jackpot -- haha! No, but seriously, Alaine has been training with us for 6 weeks now and she has impressed me so much. She has tackled every task put in front of her and picked them up much more quickly than I could have asked for someone who has not been in the photography or wedding industry before. She's already a color-correcting pro! And she is so kind-spirited. I can't wait for our clients to get to know her!

Sara, I have been so blessed to have you on my team for the past 3+ years! Thank you for your friendship and everything you've done to make MJP a success! And Alaine -- welcome!! I'm thrilled to have you join our team and can't wait to see what the future holds for us!

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Beach Sessions: July 15-19

I am going to be in the San Diego/Coronado area next week from July 15-19th and I am opening up a limited number of beach portrait sessions and mini sessions! If you're going to be in the area, and want to celebrate your love with a couples shoot, get updated photos with your kids, or even include fido, I would love to help you capture some one-of-a-kind memories that you can cherish forever!

Full sessions start at $500 and mini-sessions begin at $250. Please email me at melissa@melissajill.com for more details and to schedule your session!

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I'm out in LA for a couple of days collaborating with Promise Tangeman and the Sitehouse Designs team on a new brand and website design for MJP! I'm SO thrilled with how it is coming along and can't wait to share it with you! We have a ways to go because the site still needs to be coded, but hopefully I will be able to share the results with you soon! Regardless, it's going to be worth the wait!

My current branding is 10 years old and my current website is coming up on 5 years old. There has been so much evolution in my work and technology in the past five years that it is definitely time for a refresh! Eek! I can't wait!

We are doing the entire rebrand of the logo and website in 2 days so we are putting in LONG hours. Unfortunately one of our teammates is sleeping on the job, despite our best efforts to get him to pull his weight:

But I have such an amazing team with so many talents! Can't wait to share more soon!

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MJ's Camera Bag


Seasons of Business and a job opening

As much as I wish it wasn't true, I'm learning that just like nature, businesses go through seasons.

And maybe seasons is even a positive spin on what inevitably happens in every business: set-backs. Set-backs happen. And sometimes you just have to suck it up and deal with them.

I'm an entrepreneur at heart. Like I eluded to a few weeks back in this post -- I have a hard time sitting still and being content with where my business is now. I always want to be pushing forward. To be making it better, faster, stronger. On any given day I have five new ideas I want to implement -- all of them tomorrow if possible. And even though I'm not anywhere near cool enough to actually BE, or even strive to be, a marathon runner, I'm going to apply a running analogy to myself: I'm like a runner who always wants to be training for the big race. I like the challenge. I always want to be pushing myself forward toward bigger and better things.

Can anyone relate?

The hard lesson I'm learning is that, as much as I'd like to always be training for a marathon, sometimes I have to stop for one reason or another. Sometimes it's for something as unexpected or difficult as back surgery.

Last November, my office manager of 3 years, Sara, let me know that she would be leaving. She gave me plenty of notice so we could find someone new and so that she would be able to train them and leave the business in a good position. Since then we have gone through 3 different trainees -- all of whom have not worked out for one reason or another. The most recent one was with us for a little over a month and then found out she was pregnant. We are SO thrilled for her, but also a little bummed out because that changed her long-term plans with MJP. Meanwhile, each time Sara has graciously extended her last day with us so that she can stay on to train someone new. All this to say, six months later, we find ourselves back at square one in need of an office manager. As much as I would love to move on and get running again, I find myself needing to stop and find a new backbone. Surgery it is! haha!

MJP is in need of a new full-time office manager. Although a full-time employee is ideal, we are opening it up to part-time applicants as well.

As with any small business, this employee will be asked to wear many hats and work on a variety of tasks within the business. If you or anyone you know is interested, you can find a full job description by clicking here.

Please note that I will not be entertaining any applicants who have their own photography business or aspire to start their own business at any point in the future. While that may sound harsh, I want to be clear that I am not looking to train someone who plans to leave and start their own business. I teach workshops and offer one-on-one coaching for current and aspiring business owners, so if you fit this description, I would encourage you to look into one of these avenues for further training. This position is open to those who would like to be a part of our team, preferably for the long-term, and who will be thrilled to be an employee of a growing business where their gifts and input will be highly valued and utilized.

This employee will be required to work from the MJP office located in the Arcadia area of Phoenix, just north of Sky Harbor Airport.

Who wants to be a backbone and help us train for marathons? :)
Please forward any questions or resumes to me at melissa{at}melissajill{dot}com. Thank you!

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News!, Janelle

New Associate Photographer -- meet Janelle!

We've had such a great response to our associate photographer team, and I'm excited to introduce you to Janelle -- our newest member!

Janelle -- pictured far right with her beautiful big eyes -- is genuine, friendly, and puts everyone around her instantly at ease. I've adored her since the moment I met her and I feel confident our clients will feel the same way.

Here is some of Janelle's beautiful work:

Click here to get to know Janelle a bit and see even more of her work!

And if you're a bride who loves the quality, service and unique style of Melissa Jill Photography, but can't justify spending $6,500+ on your wedding photography the great news is you can still receive many of the benefits that come with the Melissa Jill brand. Click on the "associates" button under the "about us" tab in the above navigation to find out more about how our associate program works. Then use the contact form to communicate about your wedding and we will match you up with the photographer who is available on your wedding date and fits your budget needs!

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