Meet the Mom Monday - Leah O'Connell (Owner of Firefly Photography)

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you support the Charlottesville community?

I'm Leah, behind the lens at Firefly Photography. I specialize in stress-free sessions of families at all stages that focus on storytelling and personality. I also photograph small businesses with a behind-the-scenes approach to help them better engage with their customers online, as well as outdoor school photos! I'm passionate about community and kids, so we aim to donate every quarter to different local charities that specifically serve families and children,  as well as a percentage of all our profits from school photos back to the school itself. 

If we want to support you and learn more about your business, how can we find you?

IG: @fireflyphoto_leah
FB: @fireflyphoto_leah
What inspired you to start your own business?

A month after graduating college with my masters in education, I married my military husband and moved across the ocean to his station on Oahu, HI. With no experience and fresh to the island a month before the school year started, I couldn’t get a teaching job, so we had some tough conversations about how I would use the unique opportunity of 1.5 years we would be there. He asked me -- “if you could do anything in the world for a job, what would make you happiest?” And I said - “I think I’d want to be a photographer.”

We went out the next day and bought the camera I still use today.

Of course, in the years since, I've become a mama to 2 as well, which has only further inspired my style and vision for Firefly and how I photograph other families, as well as my own.

What advice would you give to another mom looking to start her own business?

Don't start small - if you're going to do it, invest in the right tools, the right education, and the help you need to do it well. 

How do you manage home life and work life? 

The answer to this is different than usual thanks to COVID - this past year has been a juggle as we've opted to fore-go childcare in favor of safety at home and for the families I work with sometimes in the home. With a newborn and a kiddo in pre-K, I've had to rearrange my schedule a lot to keep things rolling. The biggest factor is that I have a part-time team member who runs much of the studio-side of Firefly, including timely communications, orders, gallery management etc, which has freed me up immensely to be able to balance better in my personal life. While I'm a big fan of early mornings and certainly operate in the nap-time hustle, I'm also a huge advocate for listening to your body's boundaries and need for sleep to function creatively and kindly, along with working smarter not harder. 

What are your top 3 must dos in the Charlottesville/surrounding area?

Strolling the downtown mall with gelato from Splendora's
Hiking along the Rivanna
Polo matches at King Family Vineyard!
What is your favorite Green Bean product and why?
We love the ezpz placemat - it's been amazing for starting solids with our little guy, and the Itzy Ritzy Sweetie Soother pacifiers are the best! 
Tell us one of your favorite “mom hacks”!
Never cook for just one meal - if you're roasting potatoes, cut up a head of cauliflower and some carrots to throw on there, too and you'll have something to add into a salad, feed baby, and/or add to a stew the next day. Multipurpose cooking all.the.time. 
Also, get yourself a Q&A 5 year journal - one line a day for five years. I have this one. Such a beautiful and simple way to keep memories and reflections of the everyday.
Share one of your family’s favorite recipes! 

Everybody can get on board with this clean banana bread recipe from the SimplyRealHealth cookbook (including baby!)

3-4 ripe bananas

2 eggs
1 2/3 c gluten free flour (or almond + coconut flour combined)
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla, baking soda, cinnamon each
Mix together and bake at 350 for 45 mins-1 hour. Couldn't be simpler :-) 

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