headWhen I asked Christine to tell me who “Christine Meintjes” is, her first response was to clarify that she is indeed and firstly, Christine van Niekerk, and that Christine Meintjes was her brand.

Christine married her high school sweetheart Iaan van Niekerk in 2010 after dating for nine years. “Our strength lies in that we really support each other in everything that we do. A lot of my strengths are Iaan’s weakness and his strengths, my weakness, so we complement each other.” This adding of strength is also clearly expressed in their businesses. Iaan owns a web development- and design company called Plus Plus Minus which he started in 2009. “All that technical skill also flows into the Pretty Blog and my photography.”

Iaan proposed while Christine was busy with a wedding shoot in Germany. At that stage Christine was already known as an international photographer and just started the Pretty Blog. Hence the branding remained Christine Meintjes.

One of the perks of being in the wedding industry also meant that she was able to organize her dream wedding in a week. Consequently they were able to say ‘I do’ just three months after getting engaged. However, many of us are not that clued up with the wedding industry 12189654_10156153825470244_1685217465141019565_nand need some guidance and inspiration. With all of us in mind, Christine founded the Pretty Blog in 2010. The Pretty Blog is currently one of the most visited blogs in South Africa. It offers an array of wedding ideas and showcases the work of some of the top wedding photographers in the country. Over the years the blog has expanded to more than just wedding ideas. It is currently listed as a lifestyle blog where you can get ideas on interior design, gourmet food and many other things.

I (Bianca, that is), rate my success as a blogger on the fact that you are reading this article- thank you! However, this was not Christine’s benchmark. She has been an entrepreneur from a young age and has turned her blog into a trade. Her entrepreneurial skills were given life when at the age of 10, she started her first business with her little sister, Lydia (8). They made Christmas and birthday cards which they sold at a market. The Meintjes-house cultivated an attitude of ‘nothing is impossible’, leading to the freedom to continuously trying new things and not being scared to take risks.

Christine vividly recalls her sister commenting that she was born a grown-up. I suppose that reflective children sometimes are viewed as being more mature than others. It was indeed the art of reflection that allowed Christine not just to be more mature in life but also in seizing every opportunity to learn from those around her.

While everyone else in high school was doing odd waitressing jobs for extra pocket money, Christine was helping a local photograph with her shoots. “All I knew was that my weekend job was something like carrying heavy bags, handing over lenses and positioning brides’ dresses…Throughout this experience I never took a single photo.” Nevertheless, she gained skill and experience along with treasured social capital. The wedding industry soon became a well familiar terrain of friends. Today, Christine is renowned as an international wedding photographer. She has captured countless weddings including those of: Spingbok wing JP Pietersen; Protea fast-bowler Morne Morkel; Miss SA (2001) Jo-Ann Straus; Miss SA (2011 ) Melinda Bam. This month, November 2015, she will be capturing the wedding of Bismarch du Plessis. Her work is of excellent standard and her exposure to top class weddings is endless. Hence, numerous women regularly visit the Pretty Blog and dream about having Christine as their wedding photographer.

Christine has been a forerunner in the photography business, risking and setting new standard that liberates others to also step out and make a living from their passion. She started her photography business in 2007 just after graduating with a BA Visual Communication (Graphic design) degree at Stellenbosch University. At that time photography was something you did on the side, together with a “real job”. However, Christine and others broke those boundaries and revolutionized the concept of turning one’s passion into a business that supports your livelihood.

Christine is a visionary and therefore her dreams become bigger and take on new shapes as the years go on. Her future plans regarding The Pretty Blog is to develop it into a media company. She also aims to do more consulting as an entrepreneur that has learned the in’s and the outs of the industry.

In my (Bianca) spare time, I also like to take photos. Now and then I have a few friends asking me to take photos for them at birthday parties, matric balls and other occasions. I love taking photos because you get to capture the beauty in a moment. It also teaches you to keep the focus on what is good in life. Taking photos, is a great way to release stress, among other things. I highly recommend it. Considering that I am a lay-photographer, I was mostly interested in knowing: How does a creative person turn their passion into a business?  

 

Christine gladly shared ten valuable tips to take into consideration:

  1. “Create something that is of value to someone else – you cannot expect someone to invest money into something you are passionate about but they are not.”
  2. “Only if you create something of value will there be an exchange, whether monitory or exposure.”
  3. Timing is the biggest factor in starting a business – the industry and the environment that you find yourself in must be ready for your idea.”
  4. “You need to have some sense of business, to make it – do a course or two.”
  5. “Creative people are problem solvers, yet to be discovered to themselves – you403041_10151240091240244_134004383_n must be innovative, just because it was not done before does not mean that it cannot be done.”
  6. “Take your talent and your gift and apply it to the real world.”
  7. “Recognize the gaps in the market.”
  8. “Create a need.”
  9. “Dare to be different.”
  10. “Find a niche audience that loves what you do.”

 

I have learned invaluable lessons from my coffee with Christine and can concur that her consulting business will give you that extra lift. Apart from all the business tips, Christine’s story reminded me of a few verses in the bible:

“David came to Saul and entered his service. Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armor-bearers.” – 1 Samuel 16:21 NIV

 “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…” Zechariah 4:10 NLT

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much…” Luke 16:10 NIV68653_10153700317060244_584265841_n

Christine firstly seized every opportunity, no matter how small. Secondly, she was willing to serve another photographer without even taking one photo as part of her role and thirdly, she proved to be trustworthy with the “little”.

I highly appreciate the fact that Christine was willing to share her road to success so that others like myself can learn from her and hopefully follow in her footsteps.

Coffee with Bee has also benefitted from her wisdom. In 2013 while still contemplating the website I went to listen to Christine speak at a Launch Lab event. After listening to her and applying her advice my initial idea was reshaped to what Coffee with Bee is today.

I personally know Christine and Iaan from when they both studied at Stellenbosch University. They led the youth ministry at the local church that we attended. They have been an inspirational couple to the youth of our church and it is great to see them be an inspirational couple to business men and women and to those who have the courage to risk and start something new. The creative and innovative.