From the origin story of their businesses to the ways they allowed themselves to grow as entrepreneurs, our Female Founders series gives a view into the lives of successful women from a variety of industries. Join us for today’s feature, Ari Leo, offering a behind the scenes look at some of what she has done to succeed so far, advice for those starting off, and plans for the future.

What’s your business and how did you get started?

I specialize in custom-crafting unique, adventurous outdoor boudoir experiences for nature-loving women who want to embrace their beauty and discover a whole new level of self-confidence. I have been a professional portrait photographer for about 6 years now. In 2021, I went full-time with my photography business and made boudoir one of my two primary niches (the other being weddings). I was struggling a lot with my own confidence, and found myself looking back at old photos of me often trying to re-discover that confidence I’d worked so hard to build. I wanted to provide the same for other women – a permanent reminder of their inherent beauty and badassery, that they could look back on whenever they needed that reminder.

What’s your favorite thing about being a business owner?

The connections I get to make with my clients! Over the years, I have truly formed some amazing, special relationships and helped people in other ways besides just providing them with beautiful images. I strive to make my sessions a safe space where clients can be themselves, be vulnerable, and open up about their struggles (whether they’re related to body image or not). I’ve had clients tell me that just by hyping them up, making them feel comfortable and getting to know them on a personal level, I’ve helped to bring them happiness during dark/difficult times in their lives, or simply helped them see themselves in a way they never could before. This is what it’s all about, for me. Plus, I absolutely love getting to create art for a living. I LOVE what I do, and my clients often tell me they can sense that passion just from the way I talk about my photography. It’s been my dream since I was 12-13 years old to have a creative career, and I feel incredibly lucky to have made that dream a reality.

What is one thing you’re really proud of that you’ve created or accomplished?

Building not only a great brand, but a true community around my work. My Facebook group is now up to almost 900 members. Not every single one of those members has booked a session (or will ever book a session, necessarily), but just having that large of an audience in general is something I never imagined I could achieve. Last year, one of the girls in my Facebook group – someone I’d never met before or had any previous contact with – commented on one of my posts saying she was long overdue for a session with me. That was such an amazing feeling! I want to continue building up my community and eventually get my group to a point where other members are posting and engaging regularly and are just loving being part of it.

What is the boldest thing you’ve ever done in business?

Leaving my 9-5 job and going “all in” full-time with my photography business, with really hardly any safety net. (Just to clarify, I’m not advocating for this! I would encourage other aspiring entrepreneurs to NOT do what I did and to have a safety net.) But I guess I just knew deep down that I had the drive and dedication to make this work. Failure wasn’t an option for me.

What’s one thing you’re currently excited about for the future of your business?

I’m excited to begin focusing more on media/PR and in-person networking to increase visibility and ultimately grow my business. I’m excited to see where these efforts take me. I’m always trying to improve things and find the best paths toward achieving my goals, and I’m really hoping this will be one of them!

What’s your best business advice you would give to other women?

There’s this Facebook post that always pops up in my feed that says ‘building a business from the ground up is not for the weak’ (which is true), and that you’ve gotta have some crazy faith to make it work. Faith is part of it, sure, but you also need that unwavering drive, dedication, passion and tenacity. You have to be willing to hustle and work INSANELY hard to find strategies, methods and systems that work for you and can be sustained long-term. Clients and opportunities aren’t going to just come to you. You really have to get out there and do the work.

Connect with Ari Leo


Photo credit: Courtesy of Ari Leo

This feature is part of our Female Founder Series, where female founders share about their businesses and lives. Submit to take part in the series!
  1. Patricia Leo says:

    This is absolutely amazing and I could not be prouder of you, Ari! Keep reaching for the stars my girl!

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