5 Questions: Natalie Simmons, Simmons Pics Promos
BY CLYDE HUGHES | AC JosepH Media
BLACKWOOD — While saving lives didn’t get Natalie Simmons into her current business as a photographer and marketing, headlines about the death of young Black men during traffic stops compelled her to create one of her latest products.
ClearView ID is designed to allow drivers to display their identification, insurance and other critical information without reaching to a glove compartment of the car when dealing with law enforcement.
For Simmons, a mother and relative to young Black men, she knows how dangerous those routine traffic stops can go wrong and she hopes her product can help alleviate that fear to the driver and law enforcement officers.
Evolving from a beauty consultant and makeup artist, Simmons have gathers a wide-range of experiences in creating her business. Simmons, who showed off her ClearView ID at the latest South Jersey Small Business Expo in Willingboro, talks about that, her business and inspirations in our latest 5 Questions Business Profile.
The Natalie Simmons File
Name: Natalie Simmons
Business Name: Simmons Pics Promos
Years in business: 8 years
Specializes in: Photography, marketing and creative services
Contact information: email@example.com, www.simmonspicspromos.com, mobile: 609/280-5685
1. FRNJ: What made you become a business owner?
Natalie Simmons: I first began my own business while at the Art Institute of Philadelphia. I was working as a beauty advisor and makeup artist for Lancome Cosmetics at Macys, when many customers began asking me to style them at home. I became really busy especially with brides and birthday parties for makeup and hairstyling, connecting with many photographers along the way. Additionally, I began styling for photoshoots at studios throughout the northeast. After having my sons, I was offered an office position at a photography studio doing sales, customer service as well as continuing to style for shoots. Right around this time photography was transitioning to digital and the owner John Tannock was at the forefront. He and the manager Mary Quinn began training me in photography and Photoshop. When I had my daughter in 2004, I decided to start my own photography business at home to be with the kids. My husband Gil who always had an eye for photography as well, and I worked together to become established in our area for family portraits, sports and special events. Over the years he began traveling more frequently for his main work and could no longer continue our photography business. So, in 2015, I transferred the ownership in my name and became Simmons Pics Promos, LLC. I had begun additional services following business headshots for small business owners. Many hired me as their social media marketing manager, hence the name (Simmons Photography + Marketing + Promotions) aka Simmons Pics Promos!
2. FRNJ: Why did you select your current field?
Natalie Simmons: I’ve loved the arts since as a child I was always drawing so my parents had me take art lessons where I learned different mediums such as charcoal and pastels then watercolor. I was also in ballet and jazz dance classes at Marcia Hyland school. Going to Moorestown High School, besides art classes I was even able to take AP art history courses. I went on to study art history and costume design at the University of Maryland. Towards the end of my first semester my father who was battling cancer passed away. I completed the semester then came back home. My mom then heard great things about the Art Institute of Philadelphia and I ended up pursuing an art and fashion marketing degree while commuting from home. That’s where I learned how to create a career in business. We had amazing art exhibits and fashions shows throughout Philadelphia. There are so many ways to unleash your creativity, from makeup, photography, graphic arts etc.
3. FRNJ: What do you enjoy the most about being a business owner?
Natalie Simmons: Having my own business has allowed me the flexibility to work from home and be there for my family before it was as common as today. Being an entrepreneur, I was able to adapt with trends and keep expanding the business. I even started my kids in modeling and acting, which led me in front of the camera as well while on set with my oldest son Michael. We worked successfully in print, tv and film to many family bookings where we all worked together.
4. FRNJ: How important is it for you to have positive women and minority role models in business?
Natalie Simmons: Being a first-generation Haitian American I grew up embracing our heritage, culture and strong family values. Both my parents believed in education and had strong work ethics. My father was an engineer and received a promotion causing us to move from Queens, N.Y. to Moorestown. My mom was my inspiration for how she juggled work and family life plus always having a side business. As my business grew, I always tried to network with other women and support one another knowing the challenges of work and home life. Collaboratively with my industry experience both in front and behind the camera has led me to help talent break into the entertainment business, especially minorities. Oftentimes I saw many of us who didn’t fit a certain mold be misrepresented for castings or just not understood. Besides headshots, portfolios and reels, I also provide talent development and consulting to help brand themselves to reach their full potential.
5. FRNJ: Anything else would you like to add?
Natalie Simmons: As a mom and aunt of young Black males, I recently created a public safety product called ClearView ID. It’s designed to help make traffic stops safer for both drivers and police. It’s a small way to de-escalate the initial threat of reaching into a concealed glove box when pulled over at a routine traffic stop. The ClearView ID keeps your documents handy and accessible on either your dashboard, sun-visor or interior door pocket. You can quickly present them to officers at traffic stops and even add your license by the time they approach them to see all items clearly! Having friends and family in law enforcement there is a significant threat of not knowing what else could be in a concealed glove compartment. The ClearView ID puts both officer and driver at ease. With unfortunate stories like Philando Castille and Duane Wright, I found it necessary to create this product and has ultimately become my new mission of working together for mutual benefit and change. I am currently selling these vehicle document holders on Etsy and hope to spread the word with the potential to save lives.
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