I have a new business! If you’ve been on Sofi Seck Photography social media this week, you likely know that my friend Rosebell and I (virtually) launched Expedition Subsahara. Our dream is to translate providing beautiful home decor and accessories into building and running a school for young women in Africa.

The idea to build an e-commerce business originated a few months ago with a desire to bring part of my African culture to America. Somehow, I wanted to find a way to bring amazing handcrafted  African home decor to the masses here in the U.S.

And while I was doing all of groundwork, Rosebell and I met up for brunch, where I found out that she had the same dream. While our cultures in Africa are different, we both are bi-cultural. I was born in Senegal and grew up in America. She was born in Uganda and grew up in Europe. No matter what, though, we both are African and we both have this insatiable need to do something bigger than ourselves. Our brunch turned into a partnership and now, we’ve taken the plunge. We’ve decided not to sit on the sidelines, but to get out there and make our dreams come true.

As we developed Expedition Subsahara, we came up with the idea of building a school for girls. A lot of people in Africa end up leaving their homes to get a better education, including my own family. But why?  We’re capable of teaching our children. There’s no reason people should have to leave their country for a higher education. We have the Field of Dreams mindset that if we build it, they will come. Our goal is to crowdsource funds to build the school and use proceeds from the handcrafted jewelry, handbags and home decor to help operate it in the future.

Is it scary? You better believe it! But we’re doing this in spite of our fear. Rosebell and I are a great team, and though she may not be crazy enough to jump on her own, she trusts me — and us — enough to put her faith into this business.  I’d say that’s a success already.

Worried about SSP? Don’t be! I’m not giving up on one dream to chase another, guys. I don’t believe in limiting myself. I’m going to work as hard as ever and put every ounce of determination into both companies. Since Tuesday, we’ve gotten amazing feedback from our friends and family, and for that, we couldn’t be more grateful. I feel so blessed and so energized . . . ready to take on the world!

Be sure to visit Expedition Subsahara on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/ExpeditionSubsahara/ and online, https://expeditionsubsahara.com/ and share with your friends and family!

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Everyone has a dream — something that they feel so strongly about that they would do almost anything to see it happen. We all stand at the foot of a bridge on the edge of an abyss, afraid to look down because we might fall and afraid to cross because we’re not sure what’s on the other side. Our hearts tell us to go for it, but our minds convince us that there are too many variables, too many unknowns. So we stay stagnant. We keep doing what’s comfortable and let our dreams wilt and die. Not today. That’s not the path for Sofi Seck and Rosebell Komugisha.

We’re both Africans, and our dream is to educate young women in Africa. We’re not tiptoeing across the bridge, we’re diving headfirst into the abyss, ready to see our dreams come to life. Failure is not an option.

Through Expedition Subsahara, we’re going to sell beautiful hand-crafted home decor and at the same time, raise enough money to build a school in Senegal. And with your help, we’re starting at an aggressive timeline of having our first school built in two years. The next two years of our lives will be absolutely dedicated to making this dream a reality. We hope you love the products and that you will share our dream with everyone you know so that we can build bridges, build communities and change lives.

www.expeditionsubsahara.com

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This year has been a year of style shoots. I’m not really sure why, but I’ve had a spike in clients wanting specific, themed photo shoots — and I love it. It has been the biggest, and best surprise of 2017 so far.

Style shoots are basically amped up portrait sessions. A lot of time is spent working through the details: a theme, locations, outfits, hair and makeup. I have recommended hair and makeup stylists and even have gone as far as heading to the mall with clients to help choose outfits to fit their vision. Everything is planned just right, and when the shoot is done, the time and effort really show.

Earlier this year I had someone call me with an idea for a graduation style session. She had all of these amazing ideas to turn her session into something completely different from what everyone else is doing. It was definitely not just another portrait session, and that’s what makes these sessions fun.

The Twins

I have another client, Karen, who I’ve known for many years and have created many images for. Our friendship started with a random email asking me to photograph her five year old son. I remember laughing and having fun with the little guy. Little did I know, this was a test for me to see if she wanted to book me for her wedding. Lucky for me, I passed. Since then, I’ve shot her engagement, wedding in Gulf Shores, a separate bridal shoot and her family photos. Now, we talk weekly about our life and experiences. And even though we are such different people, we get each other on a fundamental level, which is hard to come by.

Earlier this summer, Karen asked me what I thought about doing a Taylor Swift themed style shoot with her and her twin sister. Now, I love this girl, but if you know me at all — I do not love T. Swift. But for Karen . . . I agreed, and I’m so glad I did. We had an amazing, fun time. She and her sister Kristy just turned the big 3-1, and we used that as an excuse to get dolled up and take photos.

So.Much.Fun

I loved the shoot because I didn’t realize that the Karen I know isn’t the Karen she gives to the rest of the world. The regular, day-to-day Karen is quieter and more reserved with her thoughts. I found out that I get to see the Karen as her husband and sister see her, as outspoken, opinionated and fiercely fun. I love that Karen. And I got to get to know Kristy a little more. Karen and Kristy are identical, but completely different to me. I learned that Kristy is seen as more feisty and outgoing. She’s not afraid to share her opinions, and I love that about her. I honestly hope Kristy and I become closer as the years pass.

I love that Karen and Kristy decided to celebrate this stage in their lives. Are they happy? Yes. Are they where they want to be? In some ways, yes. In other ways, they have growing to do, as we all do. But they celebrated something unique to them with something they love. They took the time out of their busy schedules to say “this time in our lives is worth celebrating.” There’s so much beauty in that.  I think everyone deserves to celebrate where they are in life. I love that I get to be a part of that story.

The session and photos are fun and fierce — and, actually, pretty Swifty (apparently using Swifty is cool?). I can’t wait to do it all again, though maybe next time I’ll choose the inspiration. Oprah, anyone?

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*Hair and makeup by Savanah Summer.

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I’m a quitter.

I quit things. This is a fact I neither deny nor regret. In fact, quitting is something I love about myself, because over the years, I’ve realized that it’s something most people have a really hard time doing.  

Don’t Want to Be a Quitter

When people have a bad habit (smoking cigarettes comes to mind, but there are many unhealthy things that people should quit), they sometimes say “I would quit, but I don’t want to be a quitter.” It supposed to be funny because it’s obviously ridiculous. The truth is that they don’t want to, or can’t, quit. They haven’t made that choice and followed through. I’m the opposite of that. If I read the first few pages of a book and I’m not digging it, I put it down and don’t feel bad not picking it back up. If I’m a month into a project and I realize it’s not for me, I’m ok not seeing it through.

Don’t get me wrong. I know anything worth doing things take work — and a lot of it. I don’t advocate giving up on something, like a marriage or business, without working your tail off to make it work. My business took years to build, nurture and grow. I have been known, however, to quit friendships if I feel like it’s becoming toxic.

It’s OK to Quit!

I quit a friendship about a year ago. There’s no need to get into the details, but I had been hurt and I was angry. In quitting, people say, “Don’t quit, try harder.” But I think there’s a point when it’s ok to just pack it up and move on. If you’re doing something that doesn’t make you happy, stop. If it’s not your passion, don’t let it stay in your life. That doesn’t make you weak. It takes courage to put your happiness and self-worth first.

As humans, we often think so much of other people before ourselves that we stay in something — a job, a friendship, a business venture, you name it — even when it’s toxic. If you make the choice best for yourself, you’re seen as being selfish. But I would always choose being a quitter over being miserable.

It’s not easy to say no, and it’s definitely not easy to put yourself first. I think it’s one of those things that takes practice and that you get better with over time. There’s an initial fear there, but once you get past it and begin to flex those muscles, they will get stronger and stronger. They say quitters never win, but I don’t think that’s true. I think you can quit and win — for yourself. My point here is that it’s ok to quit, even though it can be scary. And sometimes, things will work out better than you ever imagined.

Happy Ending

The story with my friend I told you about earlier has a happy ending. I called her and told her what was on my heart. She initially said sorry you were hurt, but owned her decision. After the conversation, I was convinced I had made the right decision. . . until. . . She emailed me all of the things I needed to hear from her.

I’ve talked before about knowing how to speak other people’s love languages, in relationships of all sorts. This friend speaks mine. Her apology was genuine and in the end, we both vowed to be the friend each other deserves. This girl is more like a sister to me than a friend, and I am confident that we are bonded for a lifetime. We’ve been through everything together. But when our relationship became toxic to me, I quit. I threw in the towel.

By stepping away for the year and working through my emotions, our relationship will only get stronger. We both will have to work to rebuild trust and respect, but had I not quit, I think our friendship would have only eroded more, maybe even to a point beyond repair. Like everything worth having, relationships take work. Friendships are about give and take, mutual respect, understanding, love . . .  and forgiveness.

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Confession: I’m a travel addict. Sometimes I just want to get away from daily life, unwind and reset for the coming season. There’s no better way to collect your thoughts than to be alone with them for awhile. I think that’s why I don’t mind traveling alone. But one of the things I love most about my wandering spirit is that even if I travel alone, I’m never really alone.

I just spent six days traveling in the West Virginia/Washington, D.C., area. My goal was to hike 100 miles on the Appalachian Trail, just me and my camping equipment. When I told people my plans, they typically had one of three reactions. Some tried to convince me not to go. Others suggested I get hotel room to stay in at night and then take day trips. And then there were the friends who just told me I’m crazy (Which, let’s be honest— they already knew).

Making Connections

I’m not easily deterred, so I set off on my trip. This is not something new for me; In fact, I travel alone frequently. One thing I’ve found along the way is that people want to connect. Throughout my entire trip and on past adventures, I’ve always found other groups of people doing the same thing as me. More often than not, people love company and getting to know others.

On this trip, I met a family of three — a couple and their teenager, on the first day. Since we obviously have something in common (hiking!), we started talking and I ended up traveling with them for two days. We shared stories and had the most amazing conversations. They were on a three-day hike, so they left after a few days. Then, I met an older man who became a travel companion. He was a widower and told me stories about when he and his wife used to travel together, about how he is a nomad now, and about how bad my shoes were.

Human Nature

I have many stories of people I’ve met traveling that I probably wouldn’t have met had I been with another person. And even if I had met them, we probably wouldn’t have connected as deeply as we did. There’s no way around it . . . We connected because I was alone. It’s human nature to gravitate toward other people, and I think even more so if they’re on their own.

Because you likely won’t see each other again, people tend to open up to a complete stranger. They share their hopes and fears, and freely give advice on life. I honestly believe that there’s no greater lesson what what can be learned from a stranger.

Being Together

Community is so important, but it’s not something you have to spend forever creating. Every time I’ve been alone, like in coming to America, in moving to St. Louis, or on trips, I’ve found an amazing group of people. Sometimes a community is for years, other times it’s for days, or hours. Getting out of your comfort zone opens you to new experiences that make like so much more grand.

Were there times where I was uncomfortable, or even scared on my trip? You bet! But you can’t let fear rule you. Being fearless isn’t about the absence of fear, it’s about doing something in spite of that fear. The fear will pass. That uncomfortable feeling is just for a moment. And if you make decisions based on fear, you won’t open your soul to new experiences.  I can only hope that everyone gets to experience traveling alone some time in their life. I couldn’t be more thankful for the people I met on this trip and for the lessons they’ve taught me that I’ll carry forever.

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