Jenna Kutcher's Wisconsin Home Tour
Jenna Kutcher is a photographer, designer, watercolor artist, and blogger. Hard to believe that a single person can be this multi-talented? That's just Jenna! Yes, she is supremely talented but not without her fair share of grit, determination, and plain old hard work. In just one year, Jenna grew her photography side business into a full-time position that matched her former corporate salary. These days, she's the top wedding photographer in all of Wisconsin and for good reason.
"I started painting this off-season when I fell into a creative slump. I wanted to try something new and do something other than stare at a computer screen for hours on end," Jenna tells us. This is perhaps the most telling secret behind her success: the constant evolution of her skill set, and the desire to learn more when work feels mundane rather than stay stagnant.
Since launching her photography business, she has also taken on plenty of other creative roles, including designing one of the mugs in The Everygirl shop and filming and directing the awesome (if we do say so ourselves) video of The Everygirl co-founder and editor Alaina Kaczmarski's home tour. We were beyond thrilled to chat with Jenna as she gave us the grand tour of her cozy bungalow while sharing insights on how to stay connected with other creative Everygirls and the ins-and-outs of keeping a business thriving while living in a small town. Enjoy!
Full Name: Jenna Leigh Kutcher
Current title/company: Photographer, Blogger, and Watercolor Artist
Educational background: University of Wisconsin (Stevens Point); Business Administration and Public Relations with a minor in Economics (double major)
What was your first job out of college and how did you land it?
I was an executive team leader for Target Corporation. I interned with Target the summer before I graduated and was offered a position after my internship! I oversaw all of the clothing departments in one of the retail stores and then went into human resources, overseeing 158 employees.
You have a beautiful website and a thriving freelance business in wedding photography! Did you have formal training or are you self-taught?
Thanks! I didn't plan on being a photographer, nor do I have a drop of formal training. Everything I do is self taught, which is a little crazy for this industry. It's been a process of trial and error and slowly but surely I came into my own and built a business that makes my heart want to burst. My brother-in-law was married in Jamaica and didn't want to hire the resort photographer so he asked if I would shoot his wedding (with my used camera from Craigslist). I had no clue what I was doing but I had fun and rose to the challenge! After Jamaica, I started a blog and began to grow a business around photography. I knew it was something I wanted to pursue but I also had to be financially responsible. I told myself that once I could match my corporate salary, I would quit and pursue photography full-time. One year later I left Target with a full calendar of 25 weddings! It was crazy growing my business while working full-time and planning my own wedding but I was on fire and knew I wanted to chase my dreams with reckless abandon.
In addition to photography, you're also an artist and designer. You even designed one of the mugs in The Everygirl shop! Tell us about your design process. Where do you begin with a new project?
I started painting when I fell into a creative slump. I wanted to try something new and do something other than stare at a computer screen for hours on end. My mother-in-law was an art teacher so she gladly gifted me an assortment of paints and brushes! I fell in love with watercolor and after getting requests from Instagram to open a shop, I decided it was something I wanted to do! I love painting floral, fun quotes, and designing pieces for collaborations, like the design I did for The Everygirl. I am a perfectionist at heart so learning to embrace the imperfections of painting has been a process for me. But it's encouraging to see my shop grow! Painting is entirely therapeutic for me and I try to approach each project with an open mind.
What has surprised you the most about owning your own business?
Many people think owning a business is the ultimate freedom but in reality it can be all consuming. While I love that I make my own schedule and have the freedom to travel, I never realized how hard it would be to find a balance with life and work. While it's incredible to be passionate about what I do, it's a true struggle to shut down at night and just be. Working from home is a blessing (um, hello yoga pants and working from bed) but it is also isolating and hard to separate work and life. I am always seeking balance! It's definitely a struggle I didn't fully anticipate.
Tell us about what it's like to be an artist living in a small Wisconsin town. What inspires you about where you live? Do you have any advice for other creatives who live in smaller towns where the creative community might not seem as accessible? What has helped you connect with others in your industry?
I live in a tiny farm town with less than 3,000 people. It's kind of crazy because it's a place even I had never heard of until I moved here! My husband, Drew, and I both grew up in small communities so it feels like home for us. It's an amazing place to live because we are between two major Wisconsin cities. When we realized we loved this little town we decided to stop renting and buy a home. I absolutely love our space! It's been a journey of creating a home that feels like ours and is different; it totally inspires me.
I am a major homebody so I don't mind living in a town that doesn't even have a coffee shop! Although I have zero local friends in creative industries, I made friends at our local CrossFit gym and a handful of them are also business owners. It's nice to be surrounded with people who understand the triumphs and struggles of an entrepreneur and it pushes me to continue to think outside of the box in terms of my business.
I also try to stay connected through social media. While I am isolated in our town, I feel like I am constantly inspired by the individuals I follow from all over the world! Because the market in our town is tiny, I travel in order to continue to grow my business. It's not about where you live, it's how you work with your circumstances and market yourself!
Let’s talk about your home! Tell us about the home search process. Do you rent or own? How long have you been there?
We bought our home just over a year ago! I always pictured myself buying an old but remodeled craftsman with creaky floors and character but instead we ended up in a new home development. While we technically live in a "suburbia" style community, it doesn't feel like it. Our backyard view is a giant corn field that the sun sets behind and is a little oasis for us! We have the best neighbors, the kind that you can borrow an egg or a cup of sugar from. We adore going on walks with our pups. We looked at a handful of homes before this one; it was the perfect fit for us because it had so much of what we wanted and we snatched it up immediately!
Describe your personal decorating style.
Old meets new! I love antiquing and searching flea markets to find one of a kind items to add character that our new home lacks. While I adore finding fun trinkets and furniture that tell stories, I also have a modern and clean aesthetic that tells me to edit our decor! I am a West-Elm-meets-flea-market-find sort of girl!
You share your home with your husband. How did you combine your personal aesthetics to create a space you both love?
Drew definitely prefers more modern pieces while I love vintage, so it's been fun mixing the style he wants with the treasures I find! He is great about letting me run with my ideas and helps me edit to create a cohesive space representative of us. While our home is new and modern, our decor is interesting and unique! I think it's the perfect marriage and makes for a cozy, interesting, and inviting space.
Many Everygirls would love to work from home, but we know that it isn't always as easy as it seems. How did you carve out a functional workspace that keeps you inspired and productive?
I'm going to be totally honest, I have a gorgeous office that I rarely use. There is something about working from the couch or bed that always sucks me in! While I love our office, I would rather snuggle with my dogs while I work on my laptop! Sticking to a consistent schedule helps me stay productive. I treat my business just like any other job!
We love how comfortable and rustic yet refined your space is. How long has the decorating process taken you from start to finish? Is there anything still on your to-do list?
Oh goodness, I will never be done! We've been in our home for a year and it's crazy to watch our space continue to change and transform! I am constantly rearranging and moving things. I am always on the hunt for the next great piece! Everything has slowly evolved over the last year and we take things one item at a time! I would love to do a back splash in our kitchen, landscaping out front, a few more gallery walls, and add wainscoting to our bathrooms. We also have an entire unfinished basement waiting, so we'll tackle that someday soon! (Ahem, girl cave? Yes.)
Tell us how you decorate on a budget. What items are most important to invest in? What items do you recommend saving on?
I am a total budget shopper! I love sales and discounts and flea market finds! A good portion of our home is from flea markets and antique stores while a few of our bigger pieces were custom made or large purchases. If you are going to invest in anything for your home, make it your bed. You spend so much time in your bed so you might as well have one that is perfectly comfortable and one you love!
We also just purchased a new couch; it was something we invested in because we plan to give it a lot of use. I decorate using budget finds because I am constantly changing our style. I love finding affordable pieces that can be moved around the house whenever the mood strikes! Don't be afraid to hit the sale rack, the "as is" section, or a flea market because you'll find items that are affordable. And you won't feel bad if you decide to get rid of it after a few years!
What do you love most about living in Wisconsin? Favorite things to do?
Being a Duluth, Minnesota native, I never dreamed that I would live in Wisconsin! The land of beer and cheese makes me laugh because I love both of those things and don't feel guilty about it! I absolutely love summers in Wisconsin and all of the incredible food spots in Madison and Milwaukee. Drew and I try to do weekly date nights; we are huge fans of sushi, beer, and live music. During my busy season I am a homebody but on our weekends off we go to my parents cabin for a north woods getaway (and a place with zero cell reception!)
Describe a typical day.
I wake up at 6:45 a.m. and schedule my blog and social media posts, and check my emails from bed. Drew and I walk the dogs before he goes to work and then I head to CrossFit. After my work out I edit/blog/email until lunch. I catch up on my favorite TV shows over lunch and then get back to work until Drew gets home (from selling wine). I am a huge fan of naps so I usually take an afternoon snooze. Drew and I make dinner together, watch TV, hang out, and go to bed. I am a very Type A person, so my schedule is pretty consistent!
Where would you like to see yourself in five years?
I want to be happy. Five years ago I never dreamed that I would own my own business and be named the top wedding photographer in Wisconsin. I thought I would work in the corporate world forever. It's hard to imagine where I will be in five years but I want to be happy. I hope to still be shooting weddings, painting, and writing because I love it so much! I am open to possibilities and am excited to see how my life will grown and evolve! The opportunities are endless and my dreams are mighty large -- I plan to chase and seize every opportunity. Truthfully, I want to be present and enjoy each day. Time isn't money, time is life and I want to live a full life!
What advice would you give your 23-year-old self?
I would tell myself to go for it! 23 was a pivotal year in my life and I am so thankful I took some risky chances. It was the year that I married to my handsome husband and decided that I wanted to quit my corporate salaried job, becoming a business owner in a field I had zero professional schooling in. I am so glad that I was gutsy and went for it because it dramaically changed my path. I would tell myself to jump and chase and climb because life is short and being happy trumps everything in life! I would tell myself to go for it, believe that you are capable, and that the sky is the limit.
Jenna Kutcher is The Everygirl...
Favorite thing about living in the midwest?
I love the four seasons! Each season holds something different for me and my business and I love that we get such diverse climates (but I do travel a ton in the winter to avoid the snow!). I love the creative culture and our home roots!
Skill you'd love to learn?
I would love to learn calligraphy! I am so smitten with beautiful flowy penmanship and I wish I could learn how to correctly write in calligraphy! Although I love to make things up as I go, this would be something I would love to learn.
Best advice you’ve ever received?
“...the secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is.” - Ann Voskamp
I have learned that His plan is always better than my own. When in doubt, seek God and have the faith that everything serves a purpose in your life. Choosing joy is a lifestyle that I try to encompass everyday and seeking beauty in the mundane is a state of mind I hope to maintain. Life isn't always pretty but there's always beauty in it.
Go-to music while you work?
Beyonce, Needtobreathe, and The Head and the Heart
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and what would you order?
I would love to sit down with my girl, Beyonce, and chat with her! I am so inspired by the empire she has created and the business woman she is. I also think she could teach me a dance move or two. I would order lobster mac and cheese because…. well, does that really need an explanation? It's delicious.
Couch and Ottoman: Slumberland
TV Stand, Book Shelf, TV tray, throw pillows, picture frames, bar stools, dining chairs, white and wicker basket, book ends: Target
Gallery Wall Frames, throw pillows, striped throw, dining room rug, lamps: IKEA
Vintage ladder, vintage lamp, gold collage frame, various decor pieces: Antique Shop
Vintage American Flag, Deer Mount, "You make me happy" Embroidery Hoop, World Map: Etsy
Custom Harvest Table: Holtzer Custom Wood Working
Bar cart, deer antlers, large letter "K", old barrel: Flea Market Finds
Heart Print: Ork Posters
Wine Rack: IKEA
Floral mug: Jenna Kutcher Shop
Canvas map print: Etsy
Cactus terrarrium: Etsy
Desk Chair: Amazon
Office Desk: Craigslist
Shelving unit, cafe lights: Target
Let's Make Out print: Jenna Kutcher Shop
Let's Be Adventurers print: Jenna Kutcher Shop
Large Frame above desk: gift (from Alaina!)
Wood Crates: Antique finds
Rug: Rugs USA
Bed and Bedroom Dresser and Nightstands: Steinhafels
White Eames inspired chair, white window shutter, bed tray, vintage trunk: Flea Market Finds
White bedroom set: Craigslist and hand me downs refinished
Vintage Oars: Antique Shop
Vintage Cameras: Antique Shop
I love you more pillow: Etsy