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  • Writer's pictureAshley Wenger

Virginia Creative Collective

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

The Shenandoah Valley is home to a flourishing environment of imaginative entrepreneurs, from painters and photographers to florists and upcycled jewelry makers; creativity is always in the air. Community is crucial for entrepreneurs to feel empowered, but so often creatives are isolated in their own work. That’s why Jo Mahaney and Amanda Shrader were determined to unite their fellow creative entrepreneurs, and thus, the Virginia Creative Collective (VCC), a photography studio located in Downtown Staunton, Virginia, was born.

Meet the owners of Virginia Creative Collective

Jo and Amanda have both had their independent businesses for almost 10 years. Together, they have a wealth of knowledge about marketing, branding, and entrepreneurship.

Jo has been a marketing strategy expert and Wedding Photographer since 2014. She was born and raised in Staunton and has a passion for uplifting and uniting her small business community. Through her business, she strives to provide support across many platforms, supporting everyone from working mothers to industry leaders. Marketing coaching and teaching basic SEO so small businesses can gain more customers is her favorite aspect of the multi-faceted businesses she runs.

Amanda is a Graphic Designer, Instagram Guru, and passionate Wedding Photographer as well as the founder of The Skirt Project, a women’s empowerment and body positivity community. Her industry knowledge and creative energy help bring a unique vision to life within the studio. Through her work with the Skirt Project, which began in 2019, she aims to encourage and empower women through meaningful conversations that recognize each woman's accomplishments, highlight shared experiences, and promote confidence and self-awareness. The Skirt Project is holding its second annual Brunch with Beauties event on April 30th. The event brings women together for an uplifting experience, highlights women-owned small businesses in the Shenandoah Valley, and raises money for the American Cancer Society.

The idea for a rental studio in Staunton

Before there was VCC, a search for a rentable location for headshots showed the nearby options were 90 minutes away, despite the booming creative industry in the Staunton area. “Although we were technically competitors in the wedding photography space, we became fast friends and went into business together after realizing the Valley has a need for these creative spaces,” said the co-founders of the studio. Within a few short months, they had combined forces and opened a new space, with lots of help from friends and family. What started as an idea for a very hands-off rental studio has turned into a full-blown community. They not only lend their space, props, lights, and wardrobe to others, but also coach, teach, and encourage photographers and content creators, sharing their knowledge of photography and marketing.

Getting startup support through SCCF

Jo and Amanda first became involved with SCCF through our loan program, and in the past year have leaned into the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Last fall, Amanda attended the Inaugural Shenandoah Valley Entrepreneurship Summit, “I really enjoyed all of the speakers at the Summit. It was great learning that we’re not alone in being an entrepreneur and that we all struggle but we’re all here for each other. It was really empowering.” This spring, Jo completed SCCF’s Business Bootcamp, “I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. The group discussion with our peers was really helpful, and it’s good to go back to the basics.” The pair also give back to their fellow entrepreneurs by hosting various marketing, content, and photography workshops at the studio each month, as well as community events!

Celebrating the first year in business!

Virginia Creative Collective is now celebrating its one-year anniversary! Today, the studio offers multiple spaces that can be rented hourly for photoshoots, headshots, video shooting, meetings, and other creative projects. For more information about studio space, workshops, and events, check out Virginia Creative Collective.

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