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  • Writer's pictureLahna Marie

The Collective Project

Updated: Jul 21, 2020


Grab your tea or coffee this will be a long one. We started our journey long ago before we even knew we were on our journey.

I think it is about time I shared this story of THE COLLECTIVE, how it came to be, how it dissipated, and what the future holds. Since so much has change in the last three years, I felt it time to document this journey since our current state of affairs has been so impactful! The Collective started at full speed, and has now come to a full stop. I think a lot of us have lives that are constantly morphing into the next chapter, and the next chapter, and then the next. Well this is one of those chapters.

Let's start with the idea, the idea of how the collective came to be in the first place. As most of you know I am a full time photographer. I have been a full time photographer for over 7 years now and going on 14 years the date of this blog post. When I first started in photography, I would say the first oh two or three years, I tried to reach out to others for support, education, and guidance with absolutely no luck. Now this would have been roughly 12 years ago and the photography industry was much different then than it is now. There wasn't a-lot of creative workshops and education like we see today. I was pretty disappointed to say the least, and felt like others were acting very competitive and that was the norm, so I became very guarded.

Then a photographer contacted me out of the blue one day, and said "I have a weird request," well first she said, "hi my name is Rachel and I own Pixy Prints Photography" and then she said the first thing =) .... so I asked her whats up? Rachel proceeded to tell me that she had a client that has already retained her for a wedding, but that same client wanted to retain me as well for photographing her wedding. I had to think on this for a minute, so to confirm, I asked Rachel if she was wanting two primary photographers, and Rachel said yes.... for two different perspectives. We both agreed it was different but we were skeptically excited. We had never talked, never met, let alone NEVER worked together.

Well to try and keep this post shorter, lets just say it was AMAZING working with Rachel and we really hit it off. It broke down barriers that I always thought existed because of my own personal experiences. Rachel and I began to help each other navigate the wedding industry and referring work to each other and leaning on each when we needed. I can honestly say, helping each other, encouraging each other, and supporting each other's business was the best thing that could have happened to my business at the time.

This really opened my eyes to being supportive and encouraging of all small business, but being in the wedding and events industry, I felt we really were left to our own devices here in Southern Oregon. Some time had passed and I began to feel discouraged at the lack of recognition Southern Oregon got in magazines, websites, online registries etc. This transitioned into, "how are others being promoted, supported, and found" here in Southern Oregon. Well, they are really not. There are not a lot of places that really identified (at the time) Southern Oregon as Roseburg to Ashland, instead what I was finding was bigger publications and advertising platforms saw Southern Oregon as Eugene!!! Uh what????? Eugene really? Like there is a whole second half to the state down here. I found it pretty odd to be honest. So with that in mind I looked at it as an opportunity to get a platform developed to represent just our Southern Oregon region. Southern Oregon wedding and event professionals had really been left in the shadows of Oregon's wedding and event industry. During the course of questioning the lack of a platform used to represent our region, and formulating ideas, I had shared this idea with one of my interns and I was frequently bouncing ideas off of her. Yet more time had passed and I had let that idea sit on the shelf. My intern came to me years later and asked me if she could develop a business plan off my idea and construct the business in Southern Oregon. Being that person that I came to be from my experience with Rachel many years earlier, I said "yes of course" because lets be honest I have a lot of different ideas, some good and some bad, and I don't really know when or if I will ever get to them so why not let someone else have a go at it to see if they will have a chance at success

Weeeeellllll another photographer friend and I were talking about it, and she had a very nice, but stern talking to me about how I may regret not taking the lead on my idea and trying to develop it. After a very great talk I decided that I concurred with her. This entire scenario was a huge learning experience, one that could have taken my life in a totally different direction had I not taken the advice of said friend, so Lindsey Boling if you are reading this thank you! What I took away from this is if you have a dream or idea, go with it, if you know its good, just do it..... no regrets at all! I also do have to thank my intern, which I know was a confusing moment for her, but had she not decided to try to pursue my idea as a business model, I probably would have never got off my ass to start it up.

So, this ultimately led to me building and launching the website in February of 2017. The online platform was designed primarily to promote Southern Oregon professionals and a handful of people outside the area looking to capture the Southern Oregon audience. The premise of the business was to have a platform dedicated to Southern Oregon in an effort to help local couples and out of area coupes find the resource they needed to plan a wedding here. It was also intended for corporate professionals to source vendors for events and parties. It was really a pride and joy for me to bring this to our valley. It was also intended to be a networking group of sorts. My wish was that all our collective members would refer strictly to other members of our online collective and drop the competitiveness that can come along with being in the industry and small valley.

As the online business grew and morphed, I had always hoped that one day I would be able provide a brick and mortar location to our members. Being a small business myself I know the financial burden of trying to cover the expenses of an office or studio space. Small businesses are on a limited income but still need the same professional environment to be able to meet and work as the rest of the corporate world.

It so happened that there was a dilapidated building for sale one block away from my home, zoned commercial, in a high traffic location. THIS WAS A PROJECT PIECE FOR SURE.... see reference image below

Ron (my husband) and I had NEVER taken on anything like this place. It was falling apart! There were rats, walls falling down, dead trees, homeless people using drugs in the garage, you name it, it was crazy! SO WE BOUGHT IT LOL!!!!!! First it took us a couple months to get the homeless out of the garage, lots of phone calls to the police, lots of boarding and screws, etc,,,, it was a tiny nightmare. The VERY VERY first thing we did was tear out the old fence and build a new privacy fence to secure the property. We began gutting the inside next. Since we bought it in February we had to do things based on what weather would allow.

It was quite the job to do all the demo. We saved NOTHING from the house except this bathtub. I had some help from some lovely ladies with the demo portion of it which I am so grateful for! At the time my husband was working two jobs to help pay for all the repairs on the home as we were running low on savings. Therefore I was doing a lot of the labor myself for the first half of the renovation and well as dealing with and hiring contractors to help. We were determined to not take out any loans for this project!!!


There seemed to be an infinite amount of work that needed to be done on this house. We have done plumbing, HVAC, new paint, new roof, new baths, new kitchen, new (redone) flooring, new windows, new landscaping, in ground sprinklers, new fencing, RV gates, new laundry room (updated room) and now we are finishing up a few projects and we are finally done.

The initial completion of the home doing it on our own and parsing in contractors like plumbers and electricians etc took a total of about 10 months. It was a very long and stressful process. We spent EVERY LAST DIME on this house and didnt have to take out a loan and are so so proud we were able to do that.

We then turned the house into a meeting and studio space for one of my sister businesses "THE COLLECTIVE" which allowed people to do photo shoots and meet with clients or host meetings!

BUT before we began doing all the work, I actually taught a boudoir photography workshop here and did a maternity shoot here because I LOVED the old vibe of it, see images below:

Well as we got closer to December of 2018 we were finally getting ready to open! We got all our decor in line and announced we were officially open as THE COLLECTIVE!!! It was a pretty huge deal for me as I had been thinking about this for many years by this time. I was excited to share this space and help small businesses have an EXTREMELY affordable place they could work in.

This was the beginning of something that I was truly excited about, things were coming to fruition, even though my photography work flow had suffered a bit, my clients were so so amazing and understanding about what I was doing and working on. Every time I think about the clients I have had over the years I am overwhelmed with gratitude because I couldnt have asked for better clients in my years as a photographer.

I digress, as I announced the grand opening of our collective space I was thrilled to introduce the new building to our collective members.

We were OPEN!!!!! Now time to plan our grand opening event! We were able to pull together a VERY sweet intimate event and some of the most special people came and supported it and it was definitely a lot of fun!!! Son Ravello provided music, Lora Wilde provided coordination, Penny and lulu provided florals, and Mrs cards cakes dropped us off some of the sweetest cake pops ever!


We had a good run for about a year and a half, then fast forward to fall 2019. My husband and I decided to put the collective house and our personal house up for sale due to trying to move to Texas and be with family. We told ourselves whichever one sold first we would live in the other. All the while I am running The Collective, my photography business, a very small on the side textiles company and two airbnbs...... needless to say I had put too much on my plate and I was feeling very down, very drained, very depressed and passionless. I NEEDED TO LET GO. Projects would continue on the collective space as I decided to move it downtown Medford into the historic district. The collective house turned into another airbnb while we listed it for sale. It actually ended up doing quite well for the 5 months we had it listed, but it is a bit of work running multiple airbnbs and no matter how good the income was I was ready to slow down and re focus my lifelong passion again back into photography. The AIRBNB took on a little life of its own going through a different transformation than our COLLECTIVE SPACE.

Well!!!!! We ended up selling OUR HOME, the one we lived in first. I knew it in my heart it would sell first because of the guest cottage it had separate in the back...... so we had to move into the collective AIRBNB. With that came a lot more projects. We ended up HAVING to redo all the tile in the downstairs bathroom shower due to a tile contractor messing it up, as well as the tile in the kitchen. So in the kitchen we opted for a lighter colored tile floor to open the space up a bit. We also painted all the hardwood floors downstairs white.... they look very pretty. We added all new structural support columns to our basement as the basement was old and it was time. We added a shiplap accent wall to our stairwell. We opened up the master closet upstairs for more space for clothes. We created an accent wall inside the insert for our television in the upstairs living room. We added a wrought iron fence and gate to our side yard. We installed a EXTREMELY antique moroccan garden gate doors to the side of the house. We extended our drip systems sprinklers and added more plants. We put a dogwood tree in the front center of the yard. We also stencil painted our entire walkway leading up to the front door.



The projects really seem to just keep coming. We are planning to list this home again for sale in the coming weeks once we finish the last of our projects! Building a back patio, installing some great wood plank walls and adding more plants to the back yard!


Lets get into that in a minute. You thought this blog post was wrapping up didnt you? Close but not quite.... =)

So, COVID-19 hit and the collective had barely just moved to a new downtown location, we just sold our house and had moved into the old collective house, and it was hitting the fan and fast. Years ago, many years ago, my husband and I talked about living a debt free life and what that would look like. To this point through our creative aspirations we are living a debt free life with the exceptions of our cars, then student loans. Our cars are the next to be paid, then finally student loans. Lemme give you a backstory.

In 2004 I had to file bankruptcy due to a ton of credit card debt I obtained in college as all the big credit card companies would come set up tables on the university campus (back then they did that) and instantly approved you for $2K here $3K there and I fell for it. Growing up with nothing, like wearing the same halloween costume for 6 years in a row, living on state aid, getting utilities cut off, going to food banks, etc,,,, I had no idea the value of money and was never taught the value to money. Even though I had my first job at 14 years old and have never NOT worked my entire life, I was young and irresponsible.... AND excited to have "fun" money. That led me to filing bankruptcy which was a huge lesson for me. I knew I never wanted to be in that place ever again. I recovered from that, met my husband and we bought our first house. We bought in 2006, then the housing market crashed. When the market crashed I lost my job, I was the bread winner at the time with an executive level salary. That was hard hitting and ultimately led to us having a foreclosure on our record. AGAIN, another learning experience. I knew at that time I never wanted to depend on anyone else for my earnings. I wanted to be self employed and be my own company. After losing my job I took a government position for a couple years while I built my photography business. Almost 8 years ago I went full time into photography. Best decision I ever made. I had paid for a photography studio for about 7 years... one day I sat down and tallied it up, about $45,000 I had spent helping someone else live a debt free life. This hit me in the gut, and I decided then I wanted to own my own studio, which was one of the reason we dove so far into the purchase of the Collective building. Now still all the while the husband and I are on the debt free life path. We had talked about how we can make that happen and how long it might take. We talked about our goals back in 2012... and then drew out a plan.

We are closer than ever before, it did take a long time for us to even reach the goals we had set in place for us and we are not done, but it is happening. In order for us to continue this journey, we have to sell this house.... yes the house we just finished remodeling and live in. One day we will get to relax, but today is not that day.

So I realize that is a lot of information to digest. The thing is, I wanted to share our journey because I think the current state of affairs is an awakening for a lot of people. An awaking of the heart and mind. It has allowed a lot of us the think about where we are in life and where we want to be. I am grateful I have had the opportunities before me this far that have allowed me to reach goals we have set for our family. Our airbnbs, at home studios, and so on. Finding ways to maximize your income and minimize your risk while adding benefit has been the simplest of our awakenings. With that said, lets revisit the house shall we?

SO,,,, what I LOVE about this house?

This home is almost 100 years old and is just so darn cute! I am totally enamored by old homes in the neighborhood. This home has a GREAT layout. Its got a living space, two bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen, laundry and dining on the first level, and the second level houses two bedrooms, a livingroom, and full bathroom. We spend a significant amount upstairs because it is just so cozy. I have my photography studio downstairs in bedroom one and my office in bedroom two where I do all my editing. This home does sit on a busy street, but the home inside is quiet. The benefit to this location is that it is high traffic, and the home is zoned commercial making it perfect for my photography business and being able to operate here with signage and fantastic visibility. Even though we have RV gates to the backyard, we usually only park in the drive because I intentionally carved out three side by side private parking spaces for the building/business. There is street parking directly in front of the building as well for easy access for clients. This home would be great for any small family starting out and running a business self employed. Barbers, Salon Owners, Photographers, Lawyers, Therapists, Beauticians, Massage, and the list goes on. It is ideal for eliminating debt, not helping someone else live debt free by paying their mortgage, and helping you and your family by combing your live and work situation. We have a few more plans to make this sweet little commercial home even better before listing it, but here is a little preview. I hope you enjoyed my personal journey to becoming debt free (which the moral of all that was to save save save and seize opportunities) as well as the story/journey of the collective house.

Thanks all if you read this far before falling asleep! We hope to list the commercial live and work home in about a month or less! If you know someone who is looking for this type of set up to help them save money and live debt free life too please have them email and no offense but if your an agent please dont contact me about listing it, but we sure would love to show it to your clients! Thank you!

PS the collective is not gone, as I have decided that I can not just let it go, our digital online community is still alive and waiting for business to come back so please check them out!


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