featured image via Laura Lee Creative
When she started marking her little ones’ milestones with photographs, Mallika Malhotra, our #NJMOMpreneur of the week, fell in love with storytelling and how it connects us. It was that, combined with her passion for entrepreneurship, that fueled her to start her company, MikiFoto + Co. As a professional brand photographer, branding expert, and author of The Brand Photography Playbook, Mallika helps women entrepreneurs hone in on what sets them apart in their field, then brings that spark to life, helping them shape the story of their brand to further build their business. From a creative and fun photo shoot that gives a fellow mompreneur more confidence as the face of their business, to mentoring other female business owners on how to take chances and find their tribe, we’re inspired by her steadfast mission to support other women. She sat down with us to talk about a new program she’s launching through her business, trips and goals she has on the family front before her son starts college next year, and some of her Garden State local faves, like The Book House in Millburn, where she runs her business book club.
Founder of MikiFoto + Co. & NJMOMpreneur Mallika Malhotra
NJMOM: What do you offer to your clients and how is it different than other professionals in your field?
Mallika: At MikiFoto + Co, I help women entrepreneurs move from invisible to impact with brand photography and brand mentorship. I bring my clients’ brands to life using storytelling and smart strategy. I am also the author of The Brand Photography Playbook.
What makes my business different is my mission and my passion. My work is not just about creating pretty pictures. It’s about empowering women to stop hiding and to start emerging as leaders. It’s about mastering your story, becoming the face of your business and creating a brand that has impact. I am my client’s business partner, their cheerleader, their confidence coach and their storyteller. Every step of the way, we work together and we also have fun too!
Give yourself grace. You’re doing the best you can. At the end of the day, we are modeling for our children a love, passion and drive for our work, and that is an important lesson. So go ahead and order in (again), it will all be okay!”
– Mallika, NJMOMpreneur
NJMOM: What inspired you to get into your line of work?
Mallika: My passion for photography began when my own children were young and I was documenting the big and little milestones of our everyday lives. I fell in love with storytelling and the power it had to connect people. Later in my creative career, I paired photography with my love for entrepreneurship to help business owners energize their brands with visuals and story.
NJMOM: What is your favorite part about your business?
Mallika: The client transformation. When I start to work with a client, they often feel confused, lost and scared to be seen as the heart of their brand. But after my branding process, they emerge as bold, confident and passionate leaders who are ready to make their mark! I love seeing them shine and feel ready to speak, publish, launch and grow.
NJMOM: What is your background in your business expertise?
Mallika: After college, I worked in advertising as an account executive on big brands like L’Oreal, Oil of Olay and Clorox. Once I had children, I became a serial entrepreneur looking for a path that would fulfill me and fit my lifestyle of being a stay-at-home mom. Before MikiFoto + Co, I had two other businesses: a handmade handbag line called Asiatic and an applique children’s t-shirt collection called Kid Guru.
NJMOM: What are you most proud of in your career?
Mallika: I’ve stayed in business for over 11 years through many highs, lows and pivots, so that in itself makes me proud. I am honored to have worked with hundreds of women to help them tell their story. I’ve been published in magazines, won awards like the Brand Builders award from Leading Women Entrepreneurs, and even published a book called The Brand Photography Playbook. It still makes my heart flutter when people say they’ve heard about me or read about me or seen my photos. It’s a dream come true!
NJMOM: What is something few people know about you?
Mallika: I’ve lived all across the country in 6 states including NY, MI, MA, CO, CA, FL and now NJ. My three sons were born in three different states, and my business was born in CA, the land of the most beautiful golden light.
NJMOM: What can we expect from you next year — personally and professionally?
Mallika: Personally, I hope to spend more together time with my family. My oldest son goes to college in 2020, so we’re planning some epic global trips in the near future. Professionally, I plan to launch an exciting new branding program called Brand On Fire that will combine online and in-person training for lady bosses who are ready to grow and glow. It will be a combo of group mentorship, masterminding, live retreats, workshops, branding photo sessions and more! I also would like to speak at bigger conferences about branding and visual storytelling, and I dream about getting published in Inc or Fast Company.
NJMOM: What charitable cause are you most passionate about?
Mallika: I am currently exploring volunteer opportunities with Dress for Success Northern New Jersey and Junior Achievement. I would love to provide headshots for women who are trying to get a job and back on their feet. I would also love to share my passion for branding and photography with middle and high schoolers.
NJMOM: Who is your role model? Why?
Mallika: My parents have been a huge influence in my life. They immigrated to America from India (my Dad) and the Philippines (my Mom) in the 1960s looking to create a better life for themselves and our family. They had no security net and worked hard for everything. They taught us a strong work ethic, a respect for education, and the importance of family. But they also shared a love for travel, books and LIFE!
NJMOM: What is the best piece of advice your mom (or parent/role model) ever gave to you?
Mallika: My straight-talking mom is full of advice…lol. The one thing that constantly stays with me are her words to, “Stay humble and always use your coconut shell!” (say that with a Filipino accent to get the full effect).
NJMOM: Do you have a favorite quote you live by? Why is this quote so important to you?
Don’t be like the rest of them, darling.” – Coco Chanel
The world doesn’t need more clones and copycats. We need trailblazers, innovators, mavericks, disruptors. Dare to be different. Go beyond Pinterest perfect and bring fresh, new ideas to the table — that is where change and creativity happen. That is how you get noticed and stay memorable! This is what I love, teach and preach about branding.
NJMOM: What are your favorite things to do in New Jersey with your family?
Mallika: My family loves to EAT, so you can find us at Arturo’s Osteria & Pizzeria in Maplewood, Saigon Cafe in Millburn, Cathay in Springfield, or Begum Place in Madison. When we’re not eating, we love to drive around different towns and check out real estate, homes and neighborhoods.
NJMOM: What is the best part about being a mom for you?
Mallika: My sons are now 16, 14 and 9. No more babies! They’re young men with strong interests, beliefs and passions. I love seeing their personalities form and how different they are from each other. My oldest son is a political junkie, news fanatic and foodie. My middle son is a huge sports fan, sneakerhead and music lover. My youngest has great rhythm and is an excellent dancer and drum player…but also loves house hunting, sports and medicine. Our house is loud and hectic, but we have fun together. I love that every day is different. They sure keep me on my toes!
NJMOM: What are your favorite businesses in New Jersey?
Mallika: I have so many local faves in Millburn! I adore Liv Breads — the best place for coffee and a croissant. I lead a business book club at The Book House plus attend their events. The best Italian food is at Peters, a cozy spot off Main Street. I am obsessed with working out at The Blast in Short Hills. Outside of Millburn, a favorite clothing boutique is Jules Closet in Warren. The best bundt cake I ever had was from Nothing Bundt Cakes. And all of my client gifts come from Adorn Market in Bernardsville, a creative studio specializing in hand lettering and handmade signs. I love to support small businesses!
NJMOM: Where do you reside and vacation in New Jersey?
Mallika: My family has lived in Short Hills, NJ for over 8 years. We live near downtown Millburn, so it’s super easy to walk into town to grab a coffee, visit the Farmers Market or stroll in Taylor Park. And if we want to head into NYC, there is a direct train right in town, or we can drive in less than an hour. For a weekend away, we often visit my brother who lives in Rumson and hang out at Sea Bright Beach.
NJMOM: What advice might you have for a fellow NJMOMpreneur who is just starting out?
Mallika: Find your tribe! Being a mom and having a business is hard work. Not everyone will understand your passion and your drive, not even your family. You must find like-minded and like-hearted women who you can lean on and who will support you through the highs and lows. Join a networking group, attend a meetup, ask a fellow mompreneur to coffee. Do whatever it takes to find your people. This will be a sanity saver and game changer for your business.
NJMOM: Anything else you’d like to tell moms in New Jersey?
Mallika: We all suffer from ‘mom guilt’. We’re either not cooking enough, cleaning enough, spending enough time with our kids — the list can go on! Please, cut yourself some slack. Give yourself grace. You’re doing the best you can. At the end of the day, we are modeling for our children a love, passion and drive for our work, and that is an important lesson. So go ahead and order in (again), it will all be okay!
Join Mallika’s free Facebook group: Brand Confidential.