Small Business Startup: Lavender Lullabies



BY: Holly Boname
     Inspired by her father, it was easy for St. Lawrence County photographer Marina LaBaff to know early in life exactly what her calling would be.

    “When someone asks me why I choose photography I always joke that it choose me,” said Marina.

    Growing up, her father always had a camera in hand, photographing her family as a hobby. For Marina, this was the start of her passion and dream to one day create her own photography works and in sixth grade her mother bought her a camera, “a basic pink point and shoot,” she recalled.

     In the summer of 2016, Marina materialized her passion for the art and opened Lavender Lullabies and now concentrates her efforts full time working over 50 hours a week for the full calendar year.


     After earning her bachelor of science degree and having every intention of attending medical school, she returned to the north country.

     “I met my husband and was blessed to have my daughter,” said Marina. “This is really when the magic of Lavender Lullabies began to come to fruition.”

     After the birth of her first daughter Lilly she, as many new mothers do, wanted to capture each moment of her daughter’s growth and preserve the memories. She couldn’t find any other artists in the area that could shoot and edit what she envisioned, so she set out to learn it for herself and her business was born.

     “If you told me five years ago that I would be making my living through fine art stylized photography, I would have laughed. It has really been a surreal dream,” she said.

     Her style is artistic and she focuses on babies, children, maternity and weddings. Her whimsical images capture the magic of newborns, the love between family members and the event that connects two people.

     “Ask me how much I love what I do, and I’ll ask you how much time you have,” she said. “I have 2018 wedding clients booked from as far as the United Kingdom. Weddings take me to an array of beautiful places with the most beautiful of people. This season I have fairytale brides getting married on mountain tops, waterfalls, in rustic barns, with island backdrops, equestrian farms, and even a location so high end that the interior was recently featured in Vogue fashion magazine. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Newborns must be in a clean, temperature controlled studio environment for safety and comfort (99% of cases). The diversity in my work allows me to stay in my toasty warm studio space but also venture to different destinations, it keeps me fresh. I love that no two clients are the same.”

     Marina doesn’t only rely on her creative visions, she works and partners with many other local entrepreneurs to ‘set the stage’ for her diverse shoots.

     “I consistently work with the very best talent in the area. Belle Pastry design makes all of our artisan cakes which come with every first birthday celebratory smash session. Tisha Thompson from Babes cosmetics is another one of our favorite businesses to work with, she is a celebrity makeup artist whose talent makes clients glow. The Madrid Mercantile helps me search locally for props I can’t find anywhere else,” said Marina. “My list of favorite local talent who work with Lavender Lullabies is too long to list.”


     At Lavender Lullabies, Marina doesn’t feel that she has a targeted audience other than those who have a big milestone coming up.

     When she first began her business she started with pro bono work, contacting everyone she knew who would let her practice her art and begin to develop a portfolio.

     “I was in for a big surprise with how difficult the process would be and how dedicated I would have to be to the craft. There was a lot of puzzle pieces that needed to fit together to make my vision of the business come to life. I was powered by the love of the craft and it ignited this intense passion inside of me,” she said. “At times the pro bono period of Lavender Lullabies startup was painful but it taught me a lot of good lessons about the art of business and working with clients. I’m thankful I was able to take this time to grow and learn. It was the base that built my client preparation guides and studio policies. Now, every session with the studio comes with a guide that fully educates and prepares clients for the most successful session possible. This has made all the difference with an exceptional client experience.”


     From her inspiration as a child, to her development of a business plan, Marina is seeing fast growth of Lavender Lullabies and says that it’s enthralling.

     “My dream for the future (within the year) is to purchase a specific local storefront and contribute to the revitalization efforts of downtown Main Street Massena. This is the first time plans have been spoken about publicly. The storefront would serve as an art gallery, makeup studio, consult space, and designated shooting area. There are very specific qualities needed, so it was best I design a building floor to ceiling myself. The features of the studio would build onto the existing structure, preserving what I am able to while adding qualities truly unlike anything you’ve ever seen or experienced in the region,” she said.

     She is always striving to learn more, develop her portfolio and grow her business. She says she is eager to learn and because of this Lavender Lullabies is always evolving and expanding.