Entrepreneurship is a community sport.
Entrepreneurs from every race, creed, industry, and background need the help and support of our entire community. Our team at the Cherokee Office of Economic Development (COED) works day and night to support businesses from kids to CEOs and industries to startups.
August is “Black-Owned Business Month” in America. In light of COVID-19 and the issues facing our nation and, as a way of showing our support, we will be featuring four black entrepreneurs who are closely connected to our local Cherokee entrepreneurship community — Fresh Start Cherokee, the entrepreneurship initiative of COED. These entrepreneurs have unique stories to tell, are working hard to pivot and thrive, and are staying positive despite the challenging environment.
These inspiring stories will shed a well-deserved light on their incredible leadership, business, and resilience. Follow all the stories on the cherokeega.org news page each Monday and via social media to like, follow, and share these stories.
Story 2: Jerry King, J King Images
Jerry King is a professional headshot photographer based in Woodstock, Ga, and serves metro Atlanta. He specializes in great headshots and professional portrait photography. His goal is to provide you with all the necessary images you need to successfully market yourself today. He enjoys teaching and helping people look their best in front of the lens.
Tell us about your background, career journey, and how you became an entrepreneur? What is J King Images?
I am originally from Corinth, Mississippi – a fairly small city in the northeast corner of the state. I joined the military after high school and spent 1988 to 1998 as a Forward Observer in the U.S. Army. My last three years were spent at Fort Bragg, NC. After leaving the Army, I joined the Dekalb County Police Department. During my 17 years as an officer, I spent 11 of those on the SWAT team. It was during this time that I picked up a camera and fell in love with photography. Actually, I completely geeked out on it and started devoting all my free time to photography. Eventually, with the encouragement of my fiancée Tabitha, I resigned from law enforcement to pursue photography full time.
Have you personally experienced any unique challenges or obstacles? If so, how have you overcome those?
When I first moved to Woodstock, I was not quite sure how I would be perceived in the community. I was concerned the color of my skin might influence my opportunities when it came to the new business venture. I initially used my fiancée’s or daughter’s photo as the business avatars. I soon decided to use my own photo. I figured, if someone was going to take issue with my race, I did not want them as a client anyway. I personally feel that my work should speak for me and hopefully open dialogue, so people can see we are not all that different.
Has COVID-19 caused you or your business, J King Images, to adapt?
Covid-19 has caused me to reflect and take a hard look at myself and J King Images. I value my work more now than I did prior to the pandemic. It is funny how that worked, but it is true. I did not turtle up and wait for the sky to fall. I just kept looking for new opportunities without being tone deaf to what is going on in the world.
You have been part of Fresh Start Cherokee’s inaugural program, The Lunch Circuit – monthly lunch and learn where an entrepreneur shares their story as well as lessons learned and successes – and connected to this local creative community for a few years. How has staying engaged within the community and a team helped you in ways that being alone could not?
The Lunch Circuit was huge for me. I laid it all out and was open. This was and is not an easy journey. The struggle is real. It let me know I am not an island and others are experiencing the same thing.
How did you come to have such a positive perspective in the midst of challenges? Why is that important?
I always look at the positive. Negativity will get you nowhere. If you are reading this, you are a survivor. It is easy to blame others for our present situations. If we take an honest look at ourselves and realize we are our biggest obstacle, we can navigate around it and move forward, grow, and achieve.
How are you working to stay visible and keep a competitive advantage?
I try to stay visible by just being out in the community any way I safely can. Social media is hot right now. Hotter than it has been in a while. If you are an entrepreneur, you can find your audience easier because people are tired of the doom and gloom in their feeds. Give them something to feel good about.
What lessons have you learned recently about yourself or your business?
I am not, nor have I been a quitter. I take it day by day, and I do not lose sight of why I started this venture. I have faith.
How can we as a community best support you now and in the future?
I think the only support I have ever wanted from this community is to be given an equal opportunity – not a special opportunity – and to be judged by my merits.
Tell us how we can learn more about you and your business.
You can learn more about J King Images on Facebook or our website www.jkingimages.com.
Stay tuned for the next two Mondays in August as we continue to shed a light on black entrepreneurs in Cherokee — from Waleska to Woodstock and in between to Ball Ground, Holly Springs, and Canton. We hope you are inspired by these stories and motivated to patronize and support these local entrepreneurs.
Have ideas, questions, or stories? Reach out to us at cherokeega.org or emailing us directly at [email protected]
This press release was produced by The Cherokee Office of Economic Development. The views expressed here are the author’s own.