PHOTOS BY JULIE OLDFIELD & MAKENNA RIVASFAR PHOTOGRAPHY
For 2023 we are excited to be able to bring a fresh, talented and inspiring young woman on board with the Rochester Woman Online team, and as our January/Fenruary cover woman. Please welcome Makenna Rivazfar!
Let us take you behind the lens as we dig into her incredible background, family, and what inspires her on her life’s journey both personally and professionally. You will see, just as we did, that she is more than just a pretty face!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. Who is MaKenna Rivazfar?
This is always a difficult question for me. With that said, I am a lot of things. I am the second youngest of 7 children, a first generation Iranian-American, a sister, a girlfriend, an aunt, and a guardian to my nephew, an entrepreneur, and an artist. I own and run multiple businesses. MaKenna Rivazfar Photography & ROC Reels, and then Cakewalk Events & Co. with my sister and partner in business, Chloe. I’d also say I’m a bit of a gypsy. I’ve lived in several states around the country, but somehow ended up back here in Rochester!
Where were you born? Tell us about your family.
I was born and raised in Rochester, NY in an incredibly large, but loving and passionate family. I have five sisters and one brother. So, as you can imagine, I have had a lifetime of chaos and competition. We were raised by an immigrant father from Iran which brought a ton of tradition and culture into my life. All of my sisters are hard-working successful women with big hearts. We as a family have dedicated our lives to charity and helping others, and do our best to make sure we give back to our community.
What does family mean to you? Tell us about something you have learned from your family and how it has changed you.
As I mentioned before, I have a ton of siblings whom I love with my whole heart, but I am a firm believer in building your family yourself—filling your circle with people who will unconditionally love and support you through all the trials and tribulations of life. So, my family is filled with more than just my biological relatives, but it’s also curated with people who not only are loyal, loving, and supportive to them; but they are to me. With that, I have learned that family is much more than DNA but is a natural attraction to the people you were meant to have in your life. Holidays and traditions are always filled with my family, as well as those I have chosen to be my family by my side.
What made you decide to get into photography?
What is your favorite kind of photography?
In middle school, I took a film photography class where one of the assignments was to take the camera home and take pictures of things that we loved and inspired us. Growing up, we lived on a farm so naturally, I went and started to snap photos of the apple blossoms, all of the animals, and even some of my baby sister! I felt a feeling that I had never really felt before… and that was passion. From that moment on, it was a dream of mine to become a professional and now, 21 years later, I am able to make people’s visions come true, everyday. My favorite by far is real estate photography. I love architecture. Sometimes I’m amazed by the fact that I get paid to do what I love. I cannot imagine not waking up everyday, and doing anything but being creative.
What was it like growing up in your family, especially with so many strong females?
There were five girls and one boy growing up in one house. Each of us were at different points in our lives so things got complicated at times. Large age gaps, and many different personalities. All of us, abused and traumatized. Our childhood wasn’t a fairytale, and it definitely wasn’t what we all deserved. With that said, I wouldn’t have developed the life skills that I have now without them pushing me to be my best and inspiring me to be a strong and independent woman myself.
What do you feel is the real key to women empowering other women?
Acceptance is key. Women have faced an endless amount of terror and have put decades of work into creating a safe space for us to be ourselves, to love everyone, and to create more beauty. If we don’t lift each other up, who will?
Tell us about some of your goals and dreams both personally and professionally.
Personally, I’d like to buy land with my partner in life, Joel. He and I both share dreams of land development and possibly a farm. Maybe one day, have a family. But mostly, I would like to continue to grow as a person and learn to love myself more. Professionally, I really would love to expand my business and possibly hire on staff. Create a job market with well paying jobs in my community.
What are some of the pros and cons of being a female entrepreneur, especially in such an ever changing field? What do you feel sets you apart from others?
From one woman to another, it can be tough. There are days where I question my place in this industry since it is very male driven. I have been told on multiple occasions that my work is a hobby and that I should get a ‘big girl job’. I’m not really taken seriously by some people. And truthfully that’s the worst part about being a female entrepreneur. On the other hand, I have had so much support from other women in the industry, specifically in real estate. I get to create relationships with people that are not only supportive of my career, but help me gain business by spreading word of mouth.
I think the most important aspect to having a business in the service industry is creating positive, every lasting relationships with your clients. So, what sets me apart from others is that I don’t do it for the money. I do it because I love to be a part of and capture people’s life celebrations whether it’s someone’s wedding or them selling their home!
If you could do one thing you have never done, what would it be and why?
Most people want to travel the world. Me? I want to own a Christmas tree farm. I want chickens, and a few cows to make my own cheese! Maybe do grow some fall harvest veggies. I lived and worked on a farm as a kid I would love that opportunity again.
What’s the most important risk you’ve ever taken? How did it play out for you?
When I decided to quit my day job and go full time as a photographer. I was 25 working as a manager at Victoria’s Secret and decided that it was time to take the plunge. Starving artist aren’t even the words for it. Now, eight years later, I am doing my dream job everyday.
How do you continue to constantly grow both personally and professionally? What have been some things that have worked well for you, and some that have not.
Personally, therapy. Lots and lots of therapy. Really coming to the realization that most things are out of my control. Being my own cheerleader, and gaining some self confidence. Also, I recently became the guardian to one of my nephews. I am not a parent, so this has been a bit of a challenge for me. I’m learning new things everyday about myself and motherhood, it has been real growth. I surprise myself sometimes with how well I adapt.
Professionally, I contract with a women owned and run company called Virtual Real Estate Shop, which is a one-stop-shop for realtors, offering a CRM, Real Estate administrative support as well as photography and aerial photography. This company has been a life changer, and has made being in this male dominated industry a bit easier to navigate. The woman who owns the company has been very supportive of my career, and gives me the opportunity to have a work-life balance– Thanks Kelly!
What have you found to be your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
Self confidence in every aspect of my life. I worked through it by pushing myself to be successful in my career as well as surrounding myself with people who love, accept, and lift me up.
What do you feel you have been successful at in your life?
I could take the photography route, but I have also put in a lot of work into being as genuine and honest as I possibly can.
What is your vision for the future? Where do you see yourself in the next 3 years? What about 5 years?
Sometimes when you create a plan for yourself, it doesn’t always turn out the way you wanted it to. So, what I prefer to do is set realistic short term goals for myself. I am currently in the finishing stages of launching an event planning company with my sister, Chloe called Cakewalk Events & Co. As a business. Our first year our goal is to market as much as possible so we can get our name out and gain trust in the community. I also would love to open my own wedding venue. Maybe on that land that I buy someday! Hopefully, the next three to five years are filled with happiness and growth.
If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would that be knowing what you know now?
The only opinion that matters is your own. Don’t let other people’s words diminish your self worth.
What is your favorite form of social media and why?
I use Facebook and Instagram the most for business… I’m not a huge social media user. But I do love a good puppy video!
Have you drawn professional inspiration from other women? If so, who and why?
With the amount of inspiring local artists in Rochester, it’s hard not to. One of my favorites is Malorie DePerna. Her amazing skill to be able to capture a person’s special moment is one thing, but her ability to naturally create a community around her work is incredibly motivating and inspiring. I also gain lots of inspiration from my sisters. All of them have pushed through adversity with great resilience to become successful at most everything they do. With all we have been through as sisters, somehow they’re still the strongest women I know.
What do you feel has made you a strong independent woman?
Growing up in a household where my mother was the opposite of a feminist, and was incredibly negligent specifically during my young adolescence when I was in the prime of my developmental years. It wasn’t until after she left in my early teens, that I was forced to grow up and become self-sufficient. I took her abuse and abandonment, and turned it into motivation for myself. From then on, I have always taken pride in being the strong independent woman I am today.
Tell us one of your favorite family stories growing up.
Many of my favorite memories with my family happened at our Iranian New Year celebration called Norooz. We spend weeks preparing by getting new outfits, setting up a traditional display called a haft-sin, and jumping over small fires to rid any bad juju you may be carrying. The day of Norooz, we get up super early, eat breakfast together, and spend the rest of the day getting ready to drink, eat, and dance our hearts out all night at a big party!
What types of things interest you?
I am really fascinated with architecture and the way that it has evolved through time. I spend hours looking up different types of architecture all over the world. How geography affects a build. Cultural differences. I love it all. I am also a huge fan of dogs, specifically my two dogs, Oliver and Niles. But I do love all dogs… Any dog really. Your dog, my dog, the random dogs on my Instagram feed. Oh, and I can’t forget about food. Trying and learning about food in different cultures makes me really happy.
What do you value?
I value honest and loyal relationships/friendships in my life. My family, of course. Also, caffeine… lots and lots of caffeine.
MaKenna Rivazfar Photography
Cakewalk Events & Co.