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Innovation fuels child photography startup

Mark Parker



Alison Amick (right), founder of Little Llamas Portraits, said she can't expect business to explode as it did before the pandemic. However, she's ready if it does. Photos provided.

Alison Amick was on a business trip in Atlanta the day a global pandemic caused the country to shut down in March 2020.

The St. Petersburg native launched Little Llamas Portraits about two months prior, and the startup grew exponentially. A new take on the stale child photography business model, combined with a thriving social media presence, led to bookings in Dallas, Portland and Boston.

After nearly a decade in the business, Amick had called on trusted colleagues to work events across the country. Within a couple of months, she onboarded 10 additional photographers. The sessions, which she described as Tupperware parties for moms, focus on capturing kids as they are – messy hair, crazy clothes and funny faces.

“And then Covid literally killed the party,” said Amick.

Alison Amick officially relaunched Little Llamas in September.

Conducting one-on-one sessions in masks was the antithesis of Amick’s innovative take on the industry, so the burgeoning entrepreneur put her business on hold. She eventually began hosting outdoor parties, which “worked okay” before deciding to refocus and relaunch.

The former data scientist went back to the lab, so to speak, before officially relaunching in September with a new vigor and focus.

“I wasn’t idle on this company after Covid,” said Amick. “I’ve worked really hard on systems and processes so that I can literally pull up everything I did into a new market with a photographer that I trust.”

Amick – born and raised in St. Pete – is taking a more cautious approach to growing Little Llamas. Since relaunching in her hometown, she expanded to Tampa and Orlando and will rely on those trusted photographers to handle most bookings outside the state.

The idea, Amick explained, is to create a national Little Llamas network. She will provide her photography contractors with all the necessary workflows, customer relationship management (CRM) processes and brand awareness.

“Hopefully, I expand nationwide again,” she relayed. “But I’ve worked hard to make sure all of the SOPs (standard operating procedures) and everything is ready for that. I don’t hope to be in gazillions of places.”

A wife and mother to two “wild kiddos,” Amick said she “thrives in the beautiful chaos of real family life.” Her child photography startup embodies that passion, which she believes sets it apart from traditional business models.

Amick’s portraits focus on capturing kids as they are in the moment.

Amick prides herself in taking candid personality photos in as little as 10 minutes. As a mother of two young children, she realizes time is fleeting.

Loading up the kids and sitting through one-hour photo sessions, Amick explained, doesn’t fit well with many schedules. She brings the studio to a client’s house, and the informal parties typically include around 10 moms and their children.

Amick said she asks questions to discern personality traits before starting for efficiency and takes 10 photos of each child in about 10 minutes.

She noted her experience working with children with various disabilities, such as blindness, brain tumors and autism. That patience and understanding that every child is different, Amick added, sometimes eludes school and studio photographers.

“The wild children – the ones that are jumping off the walls everywhere – those are my favorite,” she said. “I use the same tools that I use for my own kids to wrangle them in with these other children.”

Amick relayed that she incorporates those personality traits into the photos.

If a child is hyperactive, she will have them jump in the same spot three times while making a silly face. She has inverse strategies for introverts and said the ultimate goal is allowing kids to act naturally while still getting great shots.

“It’s all about telling the kid’s story at this moment in their life,” explained Amick. “Why would I take silly photos of them if that’s not who they are?”

Amick said about 90% of her business comes through a thriving social media presence.

She said the immediate focus for Little Llamas, which receives about 90% of its referrals through a significant social media presence, is scaling throughout the region. Along with her a foothold in St. Pete and Tampa, she has one in Bradenton.

Establishing photographers in Lakeland and Orlando is next, before hopefully expanding throughout the state and major national markets.

“I can’t expect things to explode like they did before,” said Amick. “But I’m ready for that to happen.”


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    December 4, 2022at1:15 pm

    Love this! Such a cool concept.

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