It’s tough to pigeon-hole Sean Callahan, a Coupeville photographer who’s also a clothing-maker, website developer and would-be art gallery owner. He seems to come up with new business ideas even while describing what he’s doing now.
“I’m a serial entrepreneur,” Callahan, 42, acknowledged during a recent visit to his photo studio. “I’m the guy who makes money off anything.”
Callahan grew up in Hollywood, Fla., and earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Florida, he said. He moved to Whidbey Island in 2012. His mom, a nurse, was already living here, as were the parents of his wife, Laura, now 34 and also a photographer. A Coupeville native, she’s the co-owner of one of his businesses, Island Life Photography.
That business, now eight years old, has photographed and built websites for virtually all the bed-and-breakfasts in Coupeville, Callahan said. It specializes in headshots, landscapes and weddings, both locally and elsewhere in the U.S.
In an era when everyone can afford a digital camera, it’s tough to be a photographer, he said. But both he and his wife have been “avid amateurs” all their lives, and “my wife isn’t just an AMWAC — Another Mom With A Camera — who wants to stay at home with her kids and start a photography business. She is the anti-AMWAC. She understands all the features of a camera. She’s not taking 100 shots to get one good one. She can nail it and be done with a project in 20 minutes.”
Laura’s specialty is headshots. “This island is going to experience us dominating, in some small way, the market for headshots,” he predicted.
Callahan has become the official photographer for the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce, he said.
The couple’s studio, a former yarn shop on Main Street, contains a large, naturally lighted, white-walled main room and a more edgy-feeling room with a corrugated steel wall and a dark floor. The pair just installed halogen track lighting in the main room to pursue the next idea: hosting art exhibits one weekend per month.
“We’ll sell tickets and provide catering on Friday nights, then open the exhibit to the public Saturday and Sunday,” Callahan said. “We already have a bunch of artists lined up — wood carvers, photographers, watercolorists.”
A third room in the studio, now functioning as the couple’s office, will become a gift shop, he said.
“We’ll sell my photos, other people’s art, and my wife and children’s crafty stuff.” Their two children, five and seven years old, “take Ikea mirror squares, staple mesh to them, put rocks on them, sign the backs, and then sell them for 12 bucks, maybe 15, under our ‘Made on Whidbey’ label,” he said.
The phrase “Island Life,” affixed to the photography business, is also part of his other businesses’ names. Island Life-brand clothing got started with $11,000 Callahan made from selling a catering company he’d been running. It sells t-shirts, hoodies and beanies, all made in the U.S. from 50-50 recycled water bottles and organic cotton.
Callahan until Aug. 31 was selling his clothing out of a space in a Front Street store in Coupeville. Now he’s selling from a space in downtown Oak Harbor, and online. The gift shop, of course, will also sell his clothing.
In August, about $1,000 of the $6,000 the couple grossed came from clothing sales, he said. Are the businesses profitable overall? “Gosh, yes,” he said. “We’re growing.” The couple grossed just over $50,000 last year.
“It’s not that I have the Midas touch — I’m not rich,” Callahan said. “But I literally see all the possibilities, and it’s about narrowing it down to which ones will make the most money and provide the most satisfaction.”