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Secrets of Success: Laura Novak

We’ve launched Secrets of Success, a new weekly interview series here at’s Small Business Forum. I’ve asked some of the smartest, most innovative, most successful people I know to share their insights and success secrets.

Meet: Laura Novak, who started her career in photography more than 12 years ago in her one-bedroom apartment, with a few modest cameras and a passion for documenting real-life moments in a fresh, natural way. She then launched Little Nest Portraits, a boutique photography company in the Philadelphia metro area, specializing in innovative children’s portraiture.

Little Nest Portraits has two high-visibility retail studios and was recently voted the “Best Children’s Portrait Studio” by Main Line Today. The company has been featured in Philadelphia Magazine as well as on CBS Talk Philly and Good Day Philly. Novak was also selected as a 2014 Brava Winner by SmartCEO Magazine.

Novak’s latest endeavor is franchising Little Nest Portraits to major cities around the country.

Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Laura Novak: I wanted to be an artist and create things that would provide meaning to others. As a child I was always drawing and creating art projects to give to friends and family members.

Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?

Novak: My business came from that very passion—I loved the idea of being an artist but my heart felt more drawn to creating art for other people versus creating art for my own self-expression. Photography was the perfect outlet, and I started photographing weddings full time when I was just 22. Over time that morphed into a portrait business, which now has multiple locations, several divisions, and will be opening up our first set of franchises in 2015.

Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?

Novak: I have experienced many, but one that stands out to me in particular is when I read Blue Ocean Strategy. That book helped me realize the “blue ocean” opportunity in the photography industry—that many customers were settling for lower-quality and stressful experiences. I realized there was a better way to do it while still being accessible to most families.

Lesonsky: What’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?

Novak: Surround yourself with people who lift you higher. If you feel like you are pushing upstream, you probably have the wrong team.

Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?

Novak: Embracing customers through social media, which isn’t necessarily a new strategy, but there are new platforms emerging every day. It’s important to figure out where your customers are most often and connect with them on a personal level.

Lesonsky: Do you have a small business prediction?

Novak: Authentic and transparent marketing. Because of social media, blogs, Yelp!, Facebook, Google+, etc. customers can easily find out if you are for real or just dishing out a bunch of BS!

Lesonsky: Do you have a favorite book?

Novak: A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. I am constantly working on the art of being present. It will be a lifelong practice for me.

Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?

Novak: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou

Author information

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at [email protected], follow her on Google+ and, and visit her website,, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.