Entrepreneur: Fran Reisner
Location: The Open Road, USA
Twitter: Fran Reisner Twitter
Facebook: Fran Reisner Facebook
How many of us have considered selling everything and hitting the road to see what is out there? I would guess that more than one or two of us have. I am also going to guess that not many of us ever work up the courage to leave our comfort zone and explore the country, leaving behind everything that we are used to and heading into the unknown.
This installment of the Talking Small Biz interview series features an intrepid individual, who decided that the life she was living wasn’t necessarily the life she wanted. Fran Reisner had a successful photography business in Texas, but was looking for a change. Once her daughter left for college, she decided the time was right to sell her house, most of her personal possessions, buy a motorhome, and see where life would take her!
Fran is a great example of someone who doesn’t let fear get in the way of seeing what else life has to offer. She retooled her business to allow for a mobile lifestyle, and decided to make a change in her life for the better.
You went from a large house on 2 acres of land to living in an RV comprising of only a few hundred square feet of living space. What was that transition like?
Fran: I had been longing to simplify my life for quite a long time, so on an emotional level, it was not a difficult one. On a physical level though, it was a grueling process. I had seven weeks from the time I went into contract on the sale of my home until I handed off the keys. In that time, I sold or gave away almost everything I owned, closed my existing business, tucked my daughter into college, bought an RV, and prepared to hit the road for an indefinite period of time. I believe it was the most physically and mentally exhausting thing I’ve ever put myself through, but worth it in the long run. I’m now free of the things that trapped me in a life I was not happy with. I am free to follow my passions, pursue new goals, and really live life fully.
In January, you wrote a blog post about why you chose to sell everything and hit the road in a Winnebago. You are truly living the life that many people dream about having. Many people feel trapped in their situation and yet seem to lack the courage to make a major life change, whether professionally or personally. What advice do you have for these people?
Fran: That is a tough question. The further I travel, the more I hear people say they’d love to do what I’m doing. The sense I get from most of these people is that they are very disillusioned with the lives they have found themselves in and long for a change. I find myself thinking about the advice I used to give my daughter when she found herself in a funk or bad mood, and she heard it enough she could easily quote me verbatim, “It can be a good day or a bad day. It’s really up to you. What do you have to do to make it a good day?” Our time on this earth is far too precious to waste in a funk, so my advice to those who are not happy with the life they are living would be the same. It’s completely up to us to find joy and happiness in our lives. It’s not a given, it’s a choice. It’s a matter of resolve. It took me many years to find that resolve, and several more years taking care of my responsibilities as a mother before I could take action.
Your situation as a small business owner is a bit unique in that you work out of an RV. What obstacles have you had to overcome to get your business completely mobile?
Fran: Moving into an RV and living a nomadic life meant walking away from business as I once knew it, but I’m working on several new projects as I travel. I’ve always had far more ideas than I had time to implement them, and time is still my biggest obstacle. It can be difficult to tackle all the projects, especially when they perpetuate more projects, while I’m on the move. I’m still seeking the perfect balance, and sometimes it means sitting still for awhile.
An RV is a small space, even if there is only one of you (and your two dogs). Utilizing limited space for both personal and business use has to be a big challenge. How do you stay organized in such tight quarters?
Fran: The personal space has not been a problem for me, which is almost surprising, considering the space I moved out of. The business space has taken a bit of getting used to, however. I moved in here with the assumption that I’d need everything I used to have at my fingertips. It has taken me awhile to figure out what I need to keep close at hand (sticky notes, pens, paperclips, notepads) and what can be tucked away in less convenient places. For the items I want handy, I’ve added a few organizational cubbies to the ”decor”, and the other items are stored within reach.
You were recently featured on the website Second Act, which is part of the Entrepreneur Magazine family. How did this opportunity come about?
Fran: I believe they found me on Twitter, and requested an interview.
You have become a bit disillusioned with the current state of the photography industry. As a result, you don’t currently have a desire to operate a traditional studio and, instead, have decided to change your business to suit your current mobile lifestyle. How important is it for an entrepreneur to identify the need for a major shift in their business, instead of going down the same path that isn’t working for them?
Fran: I can really only speak for myself, but the best of what I’ve accomplished in my life has come from my heart. It’s my passions that inspire my work, not my pocketbook. I’m sure that’s not true for everyone. If I had to create a formula, this would be it:
Since I seem to have unwittingly taken the role of inspiring people to reconsider their lives, I’d like to encourage your readers to consider this: You can race through your life until you reach the finish line (not such a desirable place if you think about it), or you can choose to live your life like the precious gift that it is, slow down, and enjoy the journey. It really is a choice. It’s your choice.
You have published a book, The Dogs of Central Park, which was well received, and features gorgeous pictures of canines in the iconic park. Currently, you are working on The Mountain Dogs of Colorado, which is the second book in the series. This seems like an ideal way to combine your new nomadic lifestyle with your photography business. Was it always your intent to create a series of books featuring photos of dogs, or is it something that you stumbled upon and figured it would be a good way to support your new lifestyle?
Fran: I stumbled upon the community of dogs in Central Park actually, and recognized the tremendous market for a book about them. During the two years I spent working on that book, ideas for others emerged. Those ideas played a key roll in my decision to buy a motorhome and set out on this journey.
Technology obviously plays a major part in your travels, even though you are not a huge fan of it. You utilize the Internet to stay connected to the world via your blog and email. What other ways do you use technology within your business?
Fran: It’s amazing how deeply immersed I am in technology on a daily basis. I shoot digital and use computer programs for sorting and resizing my images for the Internet. I’m creating an online art gallery/storefront of the amazing images I’m capturing during my travels. I use a GPS device that is designed for RVs to keep me on good and safe routes as I go. And then there’s the all important “web presence” that is so key to marketing these days. Staying connected via Facebook, blogging, and Twitter, is crucial in today’s business world.
Where do you see your business in the next year or two? Do you have any concrete plans, besides continuing your book series, or are you willing to see where this journey takes you?
Fran: In addition to the books and the online art gallery, I’ve got several irons in the fire that I’m stoking right now. That said… I trust that I was drawn to this journey for a reason, and I’m faithful that life will fall into place as it is meant to. In the meantime… I’m enjoying the amazing ride!
Note: This interview has been edited for clarity.
Read more Talking Small Biz interviews with other entrepreneurs to learn what they are doing.