Mechanical Engineer turned Personal Brand Photographer

Meet Olivia, the girl from Indonesia who wants to be forever 30.

KREW Creative Entrepreneurs Spotlight Olivia Giovanni Photography The Hague Amsterdam Rotterdam Netherlands Orange

BY MARC RODAN

 Posted: 12 January 2021

Every Tuesday, we put one KREW Member in the Spotlight. This week it’s engineer-turned-personal-brand-photographer Olivia Giovanni

Full name: Olivia Theresia Giovanni
Business name: Olivia Giovanni Photography
Currently lives in: Delft (NL)
Grew up in: Jakarta, Indonesia
Entrepreneur since: September 2019

Who is Olivia? I am Indonesian, but my sister has been living in The Netherlands since 1999. So when it was time for me to go to university, my family said ‘okay, go to the Netherlands and be with your sister’. First I moved to Eindhoven and then I started studying at TU Delft. I was in the mechanical engineering department. But it wasn’t such a happy time. It was quite rough. Engineering just didn’t feel like what I wanted to do, so at some point I had to take a break. 

I had already been into photography since 2014, because I love cooking which led me to create my own cooking blog and Instagram page. I gained a lot of my photography skills through that. So during my break, I first worked in a hostel for a while. But at some point I thought ‘let me see if I can turn my hobby into something more’. So I started advertising myself and built a portfolio through free photoshoots. Then I slowly ventured into fashion and making pictures of families, couples and weddings. At the moment, I’m mainly positioning myself as a personal brand photographer.

Olivia Giovanni Food Photography on Instagram

I still enjoy cooking though! I do it for my boyfriend. He enjoys it. But not in a very detailed way, of course. When I take photos of food, everything has to be right: the styling, the background, additional props like flowers or cups of tea… producing just one blog post for a meal can easily take about 10 hours of work. It takes up a lot of time. 

Fun fact: my name sounds very Italian, but I’m not. My mom heard from a fellow mom in the hospital that Giovanni means “gift from God”. And she liked the sound of that. Thus, my name is Olivia Giovanni. I have an Indonesian family name as well, but for some reason it wasn’t allowed in my birth certificate. People are always surprised when they see my name and I tell them that I’m not Italian.

What is your biggest superpower? I think I’m very kind. Sometimes I feel like life is just so tough and it’s so easy to be kind to people. It helps me to be kind to myself too. To be more easy going. I prefer that kind of personality. For example, when I was studying and I was having a rough time, I was studying hard for all the mathematical formulas that I couldn’t get and at some point I thought ‘I’m not going to make it’ and I needed to be okay with that. It took quite some time to understand that I should just find my happiness and be kind to myself.

What can be your kryptonite? Lots, haha. Procrastination, for sure, as everybody else. Being an introvert is also something that can hold me back. It causes me to lose opportunities sometimes. To not take chances and think that maybe I’m not the right person or that they would have somebody else whom they are more interested in. If I would put myself out there a little bit more, I would definitely get more opportunities.

Just so we can refer them to you: who are your typical clients? I like to work with people who are in the creative industry. I also like working with solo entrepreneurs, who are maybe also a little bit introverted. Because when I’m among other introverts, I get more extroverted. That can lead to a nicer working relationship sometimes. 

Which products and/or services do you offer? Photography, styling advice, product photography and food photography. But these days I’m trying to specialise in personal brand photography.

Olivia Giovanni personal brand photography example KREW Community for Creative Entrepreneurs

^ Example of Olivia’s personal brand photography

Through photography, I like to convey a visual story about a person and that from one shot, someone looking at a photo will know who this person is. Like ‘which products and services do they sell, ‘why?’, and ‘why are they the best at selling these products and services?’. That’s what I aim for.

What does success look like to you? I think being happy with where you are in your life is a success. Rather than just material successes, I’m more focused on achieving spiritual successes. What I’m pursuing right now, for example, I am really happy about. I was having such a rough time when I was studying mechanical engineering. It’s not something that I’d like to go back to. There’s some pressure from my family though. They still want me to go back. I’m still figuring out ways for how to solve that problem. But for now, I’m really happy with the path that I’ve chosen.

What is your favourite way to celebrate achievements? Definitely something food related! That goes for when I’m sad and when I’m happy. I particularly like to have chocolate cakes or just something Asian. Actually, something easy that I really like is rice with scrambled eggs. That’s one of my favourite foods. It’s one of the first things that I learned to cook when I was growing up, so it’s such a comfort food for me. 

What is a major challenge you have faced as an entrepreneur and how have you overcome it?
My insecurities and trying to prove to myself and the people around me that I could be right about choosing photography over mechanical engineering. That’s still a challenge for me. I’m trying my best to overcome this challenge by thinking that I can only control my own actions. So I just get to work, basically. I try to be more productive. I try to think of more ideas to make an income, like creating events, and I implement those ideas. 

And actually… it has been quite okay! I am still growing and I am still not at my target yet, but there has always been work. So that’s good.

What do you love to do when you’re not working?
Well, watching TV is the easiest thing, because it’s so mindless. I like to watch trashy reality TV shows like Jersey Shore especially. Just seeing people partying, drunk, having a good time and doing stupid things… it makes me laugh. 

Olivia Giovanni Photography KREW Community for Creative Entrepreneurs The Hague Rotterdam Amsterdam Netherlands (1)

^ Olivia wants to forever be 30 years old and never age

I also like cooking and playing board games! Before covid, I played board games weekly. I’m very good at Catan. That’s what I play most. But I also think that games like Cards Against Humanity, Exploding Kittens and Rummikub are a lot of fun.

Who is your superhero (fictional or real)? I’m not sure about superheroes, but I’ve thought about this question before and who I look up to and I would say it’s my mom and my brother. My mom because she is just such a hard working mom who raised five very well-educated children with only a high school degree. We would always joke about that actually, because my family places such a high importance on education. But she managed her time and her money very well! She always remained focused on her children and took care of everybody in the house. For example, my school in Jakarta would start at 7 am, so she woke me up at 5:30 and we’d be out of the house at 6. Just so we’d be able to beat traffic. She would always wake up earliest to cook and prepare lunch boxes for all of us. To me, that’s still very impressive.

Then about my brother, well, he is just a very straight arrow… really intelligent. He is the smartest out of all of us. I grew up as a Christian and he is a very Christian guy. I actually appreciate that about him a lot. I think because of his straightness and no-nonsense attitude, he is very blessed in life.

Which book has made a major impact on you? Oh no! I don’t read many books actually. And when I do, it’s usually by comedians or funny people. There’s one comedian, a lady, whose TV shows I’ve always watched and I read four of her books. Her name is Chelsea Handler. She’s just very funny, very out there, very sarcastic and very much like ‘I’m a woman and I can do whatever I want’, ‘I should feel no shame in being a woman’. Her presence has actually been somewhat life changing for me with my Asian point of view.

“Ask me anything about entrepreneurship, which KREW Members to reach out to for help or how to get more out of KREW.”

I grew up in a very cultural and religious family. So when I moved here at the age of 17, everything was completely new, the lifestyle was really new and I soon couldn’t go back to the strictness of my original culture and religion anymore. I don’t see a big deal in doing certain things now, which would still be a big deal in Asia. I no longer relate to a lot of Indonesian beliefs. The books of Chelsea Handler have helped me with this change of becoming more Western.

Which tools do you love to use for your business? I invested in one camera a long time ago and then I bought another one last year when I became a photographer for real. I now own the Canon 5D Mark I and Mark II. I also like to buy second hand lenses through Marktplaats at about 50 to 60 percent discount. I have about 6 lenses in total now — way more than I need actually. I could sell some of them, but I have some sentimental feelings for them, haha. Other tools that I really like to use are Photoshop and Lightroom. And I have been making a lot of flyers using Canva. The next tool I’d like to learn how to use is Adobe InDesign

Why did you join KREW and what is the value that you got out of it so far? I joined KREW because of the first meetup that we had when we brainstormed about our ideal coworking space. Where we got the idea for “Weed & Whiskey Wednesdays”, haha. I think that was really fun and it was right around the time when I was really excited to get in contact with other creative entrepreneurs. 

I haven’t been using much of the platform yet and I haven’t joined a lot of events so I’m excited to do that next year. Joining a Mastermind group with other entrepreneurs seems very valuable to me as well. To learn from other people and help each other grow. I look forward to trying that out. Currently I’m following the KREW Course about Mastermind groups to learn more about how they work and how to get the most value out of them.

What can KREW Members reach out to you for? Photography, definitely. Also, if there are any beginner photographers that would like to get into it, I can give some tips and details of what I’ve been doing to get clients, network, connect with people… things like that. I would love to help other photographers who want to start a business. 

Olivia Giovanni Personal Brand Photography KREW Community of Creative Entrepreneurs

^ Examples of Olivia’s personal brand photography

When I started, of course I didn’t have any client base, so I went to Facebook looking for photography groups. There are a lot of photography groups on Facebook where photographers are looking for models and the other way around. So one tip that I can give to starting photographers is to think of projects that you’d like to work on with your business. Then posts your projects on these Facebook groups and see who would want to be your model. I did that a lot in the beginning for fashion photography especially and that’s how I found most of my early clients.

Where can we best find your business and you online? Probably finding me on Instagram would be the best. I also have two websites, one is oliviagiovanniphotography.com and the other one is oliviagiovannistudio.com.

Thanks for reading the weekly KREW Spotlight! Don’t hesitate to reach out to Olivia and start a new meaningful connection or collaboration.

Marc Rodan is the Founder of KREW and Chief Editor of KREW Stories. In 2015 he started his first business as the tallest (mini) pancake baker in Sweden. Since then, he has travelled the world to start businesses in both branding and online education. Marc loves penguins, UFOs and anything blue and orange, always makes up songs while doing the dishes and dreams of one day living in a tree house as big as Jake and Finn’s. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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