SONIA JAFFAL’S STORY WILL SUPER CHARGE YOUR ENTREPRENEURIAL DREAMS

Picture Courtesy of Babies Props by Sonia

Everyone needs a little inspiration to launch that big idea, go for a goal or take up a challenge that might change the trajectory of their lives positively.  Inevitably once purpose has been activated, it is now left to that person to work on the tiny spark  of hope, fan it with the flames of hard work, consistency, passion, improved knowledge and the desire to make a change in the life of others.

When Sonia Jaffal launched the First Ever Photography studio for children in Sierra Leone it caught our attention for the right reasons! Pictures are essential to preserving memories, connecting people together and if done right, can be a source of joy, an occasion to look forward to.

It’s quite magical how we met with Sonia at her studio in Kingtom, Freetown, we had been contacted by the CNN African Voices- Changemakers producers and her story was going to be our next feature. Interestingly, Sonia’s passion for children and creativity merged so well with our Publisher’s story(Ariana Oluwole) and so we decided to do the interview when filming for CNN – it was a match-made in heaven! Please grab your favourite drink and join us as we enter the world of Babies Props by Sonia.

One of the hidden but powerful aspects of family photography that moms and most photographers rarely consider is how it can help us raise children with stronger confidence in their own worth and abilities. Psychologists and experts have done some work in recent decades exploring the link.

Sonia Jaffal prepping a baby for her first photoshoot

TAKE  1

Sonia is a journalist and entrepreneur that was born in the 90’s in Freetown, Sierra  Leone.  

My parents got separated when I was only a toddler and I and my baby brother were raised by my mother as a single parent.

She is enthusiastic and passionate about creativity and the arts, that led her to  the Limkokwing University of creative Technology where she completed a 3-years diploma course in Communication Media and Broadcasting. She has moved on to pursuing a degree in Professional Communications at the same University.

In 2018 I was employed at the Freetown Television Network as a reporter and presenter. The following year I started my internship at the Sierra Leone. Broadcasting Corporation SLBC) where I am employed as a contract staff to date.

Labour of Love, Picture of baby swaddled by Sonia

Take 2

While pursuing her career as a media practitioner, she also has interest in fashion, design, creative décor, etc.Realising how essential portfolio careers are in the 21st Century she has been exploring all of her interests side by side including carving a space in the world of academia. 

‘ The business idea and inspiration Babies Props by Sonia arose when I got pregnant with my now just-over-a-year old son, Tafari. I needed a change of environment; So, I traveled to Abu Dhabi and then Ghana throughout the pregnancy and first three months of the birth of my boy. In these countries, I saw that women were engaged a lot in creative photography and I visited and admired studios where young women were the creator, photographer and editors of really amazing photography for babies and kids’.

Her venture into creative photography for kids and mothers was a challenge to self as she was familiar with seeing mostly men behind the lens and  had subconsciously embraced the thought that these skills were reserved for men even though  she knew that she had the natural talent to create beautiful things. She became seriously inspired and thought this was something  she should do in her country.

Then she took time to identify her niche and create a unique selling point: ‘I had noticed that many entrepreneurs in photography were not focused on babies’ photography and kids’ portraits – except adults and I wanted to change the narrative of photography in Sierra Leone in that regard by starting a babies focused photography enterprise’.

Team Ariana Diaries were so excited when we realised that In order to properly understand the intricacies of the business and for better preparations, she expressed her interest with the ladies during the photo shoots abroad and they were very helpful, they shared valuable knowledge and gave her some tips. They also guided her as to where to get materials needed to set up that kind of kids photo studio. On her own, she spent countless hours doing research on the internet on designs, paraphernalia, materials and equipment.We cannot over emphasise the need to do research, seek for help and the power of coaching in entrepreneurship and personal development. 

Model: A client of Babies Props by Sonia – Mama and Baby at 0 month.

TAKE 3

Once her mind was made up about taking this risk of setting up Sierra Leone’s first ever Kids Photography studio she took the task head on.  Ms. Jaffal met with parents and offered them free shots at different studios, were she covered the cost of the photo-shoot, as she needed to showcase her idea and weigh in to the customer base.

These portraits were packaged and showcased on her Facebook and Instagram pages “Babies Prop by Sonia” and it started having hundreds of following and interest from clients across the country. Within a short time,  she started getting calls from studios and clients for her services – this time with a fee attached. She would set up the studio, and work with pre-booked clients.

Once the interest had been confirmed by the public, she focused on setting up her own photo studio for babies and toddlers. Within a few months, she was able to set up a beautiful and classical studio in central Freetown that has attracted a huge clientele and reputation. We were curious about challenges in this developing story.

Sonia says: Some of my challenges are minor – like managing time with children who have varying needs, mood swings and struggle adapting to new environments. Some parents showing up on the day of a special event without booking, imagine ruining someone’s birthday like that, high overhead costs, delayed or non-payment by some clients, and some sabotage attempts by competitors in the mostly male dominated photography market. One of my major problems that I faced earlier was moving from one studio to another with a car full of props. That was quite exhausting and another difficulty I faced and still face is getting my materials from mainly overseas and get them shipped to Sierra Leone. Every prop I own I have had to buy online, and then have them shipped – which is quite costly. But because I love quality and I want to ensure I give the best quality to my customers and keep the standards higher; I go the extra mile to ensure they get the best and compete with the quality available in more advanced countries or overseas. The brand has to be identified with quality.

After sharing her challenges, she was quick to say’ the best part however, is working with “tiny twinkling cuties” as I often refer to them. I love kids, I have always loved kids since I was a child, With this line of entrepreneurship, one needs to have passion and patience for the job, Moreover, me being a new mom has helped me understand kids more, respond to their needs and deal make them enjoy the experience.

Picture Courtesy of Babies Props by Sonia

KEEP ROLLING

Today, my business is a household name in babies and kids photography and I am a proud pioneer entrepreneur in my country which I believe will inspire other young girls and women to venture in the unknown and thrive.

When we asked her one behavior or trait that she had seen derail women in the
media?She was quick to say ‘
lack of professional training, education and also cultural background.
Most times women quit their jobs to take care of their homes because they have no one to care for their kids.  My hope is that they will find the courage to multi-task. I’m a good example, being a mom, a journalist and an entrepreneur. I must say it’s not easy to multitask but I believe in ‘Women Power’.

One key advice I would give to a media aspirant is that before entering the media field, they should harness these qualities: passion and resilience as this would support them from any upcoming obstacles.

SO SAD THAT WE HAVE TO SAY CUT

When saying goodbye as per our tradition at Ariana Diaries we asked Sonia to name two African women or of African descent leading in the media
that inspire her, what lessons have you learnt from their work?

I admire Oprah Winfrey,and my favorite quote of her is “Turn your wounds into wisdom” which clearly speaks of her life story and her now existence which is inspiring to many people worldwide. I admire her strength,courage and resilience,which sometimes helps me to keep going whenever I face difficulties in life

Another lady I admire in the media is Nana Aba Anamoah, who is a journalist and currently the General Manager at GHone tv Ghana. My focus is not about how she does her job but mainly how she promotes her girls(upcoming journalist) which is very idealistic to see a black woman upgrade by building a cordial relationship with them all and ensure she polish them into classic independent women and transform them into women warriors in the media.
I love seeing women empowering other women,it tells that the narratives are changing for the better.

 

CONTACT: 
Sonia Props by Sonia
19 Hennessy Street, Off Kingtom- Freetown
babiespropsbysonia2020@gmail.com
Written by: arianadiaries

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7 Comments

  • Franklyn Stanley

    I love the courage and you are doing great to change others perception

  • Isha Mansour

    This is so amazing,hope to visit you this year👍In Shaa Allah

  • Tommy Harding

    This is very inspiring. It’s always good when we follow our hearts passion and desires in realizing our dreams to be entrepreneurs. Be more inspired and continue to soar very high ladies.

  • Christopher Awolowo Reffell

    Great story. It was quite motivational as well

  • Phanta Esther Koroma

    Am super proud of u Sonia I live at kingtom when I always pass by at ur studios I put a smile at my face course I love what am seeing from the out side and now I love it more when I got the idea that it a woman behind the backbone, my friend pregnant photo shoot was done by ur studio can wait to did mind when am expecting love u so much keep doing what u does and keep winning, can’t wait to meet u some day

  • Thomas Moore Conteh

    Quite an interesting and inspiring story. Hearty congratulations Sonia. Keep on pressing !!

  • Samuel Bungi kargbo

    Great