Perched atop a hill formed from volcanic rock, with a panoramic view of the fiery orange sunset over the Pacific Ocean is Kristen Brown’s “office.”
It’s a far cry from her finance days in New York City.
“It all started with taking pictures of the sunset,” she says.
Kristen, like many, was drawn to Tamarindo, Costa Rica for its world-renowned surfing. It was during her second trip to the surf town in February 2012 that Kristen says it hit her; she wanted to quit her job and move. Something about being here just felt right.
“Photography has always been a hobby for me,” said Kristen. “A few months after my move was when I first noticed an opportunity to make money through my photographs.”
Postcards being sold at many of the local shops were donning fairly poor quality photos, and Kristen thought her photos would be well received, so she approached a couple of stores about the idea. A few owners tried them on consignment, and they sold quickly.
Since launching her business, Kristen has sold more than 8,000 postcards and she has developed a flourishing photography business specializing not only in capturing the Pacific coast’s famous sunsets, but also destination weddings, engagement and maternity shoots, family photos and the like—serving both locals and visitors.
“I love capturing people’s natural, happy moments and I could see lifestyle being a bigger portion of the business as I grow,” says Kristen.
However, postcards remain the foundation of her income. “My average cost per postcard is 50 cents and I sell them wholesale for 90 cents or to direct buyers for between $1 and $1.50,” Kristen explains. “Now I’m seeing consistent margins and still print them on 100% recycled paper which is important to me.”
Kristen recently provided the rights to a few of her photos to an online art print site. Her first print sold on the site for nearly $800, from which she received royalties.
“It’s an incredible feeling knowing someone has one of my photos on the wall in their home,” she says. “This was a point of validation for me.”
Still in a growth phase, Kristen takes on some other part-time jobs to supplement her income, but looks forward to a time soon where photography will be her only focus.
“I make my own schedule,” she says. “I can take a few hours in the middle of the day to go surfing and make them up somewhere else—that’s truly the best part of being my own boss.”
Kristen says she can’t imagine a better place for her to have landed.
“I don’t know where else I could live within walking distance to the beach for under $900 a month…surf whenever I want and call watching the sunset work,” she says.
“In the corporate world, people always ask about your long term plan; my experience in Tamarindo has taught me that as long as I’m happy and able to do what I love for a living that satisfies my long term plan.”
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