A little girl fascinated by pictures. An 18-year-old with a little “point-and-shoot” camera. A young mother who got a camera in hopes to help out at her church. A photographer with a passion, a dream, and a work ethic that helped her create a livelihood for herself. All of these descriptions can be used when talking about the person behind the lens of Welch Photography.
Samantha Welch is a wedding/engagement photographer located in Clarksville, AR that had her true start in the photography business in 2016. Samantha took some time to sit down with me and share the ins and outs, and the past and present, of Welch Photography.
Welch reflected upon being a little girl that loved pictures, photography, and just all of it. Once she got married and started having children, her interest in photography resurfaced but was still held on the back burner.
“From the time I can remember, I liked photos and taking pictures. And I can remember being a kid when I didn’t have the luxury of having copy photos and I would take pictures of pictures–so I would have multiple copies of photos. I’ve always just liked them,” Samantha said.
After holding this interest on the back burner, she had the realization that for a while she had been a mom but she did not have anything truly for herself. When she got a camera to help out with different things at her church, the “thing” she was looking to do for herself, kind of fell right into her lap.
Welch shared, “When my second child was born, I got a camera, mostly, to help out at my church. From there it kind of turned into more of a passion, and then I fully became obsessed. I started to learn everything about how to take photos and then I started my business as soon as I could (maybe even a little bit before I should have).”
This entire journey seems simple in writing, but it was a constant learning process for Samantha. She jumped into the photography world with a hunger for knowledge. She looked to free programs that she could use to play around on, invested in Lightroom and Photoshop, and watched any YouTube video she could find in regards to both taking pictures and editing pictures.
When asked what her favorite things were to photograph when she first became interested in it, her answer was simply “flowers and piles of junk.” Those two subjects have changed quite a bit in her professional life, but she still enjoys taking pictures in nature and of landscapes with something as simple as a cell phone.
Welch was really diving into photography in 2015 and that is the year that she shot her first wedding for a friend at church. In 2016, she started to take photography more seriously and shot her second wedding for her cousin. Since then, she has taken pictures for every occasion but always fell back on her love for weddings.
“After shooting my first wedding as a photographer, I knew that was where I wanted to be…I really just love everything about weddings. I love being able to see how two families connect with each other and just all of the detail that goes into weddings. Each wedding is very different so I just enjoy being able to experience everything from an outsider's point of view,” Welch shared.
Welch spent several years taking pictures for free, learning on her own, taking pictures of all types of subjects for many different occasions, and even listed photography sessions on Facebook Marketplace before Welch Photography became an official business in 2018.
“Small businesses will generally get really excited in their first year, and burn themselves out until their business fizzles out. I didn’t want that, so I went into owning my business with the mindset of intentionality. I knew that I could only do so much at once and that was it,” Welch said.
Ever since the formalities of Welch Photography were in order, Welch was able to work towards growing her business more, doing photography full-time, and she was able to announce that she was only able to photograph weddings and engagements (that announcement was made at the beginning of 2021). Welch’s business continues to develop and change with the seasons of her life, but one season that has stayed the same throughout this journey has been motherhood. As mentioned above, she got one of her first “real” cameras when her second child was born, and now, she has three little girls that she homeschools full-time, along with running Welch Photography full-time.
Welch shared a little bit about her juggling act as a home-schooling mom and a photographer in that she allows her business to ebb and flow and change and grow just as her seasons of life do. The role of being a mother is so important to her, and being able to photograph weddings and engagements on the weekends allows for her to fulfill that role, while also living out her dream and working with a passion as a photographer. It is her “entrepreneurial spirit” that allowed her to find something that she is passionate about and decide that she wanted to make a business out of it.
From her first point-and-shoot camera at the age of 18 to now being a mom, a wife, a homeschool teacher, and a successful wedding/engagement photographer, Welch truly has been through it all. She set her mind on pursuing photography and has worked tirelessly to achieve that goal she has set for herself. If you or anyone you know is looking for a photographer that is up for a little bit of an adventure, loves nature, and has a passion for capturing life’s most precious moments, reach out to Samantha Welch at Welch Photography for your special day!
It’s very common to hear people say, “it’s never too late to go after your dreams.” It’s a nice thing to hear, but what about actually living it out? Thinking about this phrase as a reality suddenly becomes harder to grasp because of life, risk, fear, and the list goes on. Michelle Reeves had a dream of owning a restaurant but kept pushing it to the back burner. After getting the chance to sit down and chat with Michelle, it is evident that life had other plans for her. It was not too late for her dream; rather, it was a perfect time.
Michelle Reeves is the co-owner of Evie Sue’s Country Market that is situated right off AR-21. Currently, Evie Sue’s Country Market is a gas station, a small country market, and a restaurant all bundled into one. This charming local spot is approaching its 1st anniversary of being in business with the hope of many more years to come.
Looking back to the very beginning of this story, Michelle was working at a plant that required her to commute to it every single day. She was already starting to feel burnt out, she was trying to brainstorm ideas of things she could do on her own, but she was just a few years from being able to retire. These back-and-forth moments and mixture of feelings still never discouraged Michelle's dream of owning a restaurant.
“I kept trying to find something that I could do, just by myself, and have confidence in it (and cooking was one of them). Everybody just always kept talking about the food I would cook and kept talking about it, and they still come in every day to tell me ‘Your food is delicious,’” Reeves shared.
After placing her dream on the back burner, Michelle received a wake-up call that she just could not run from anymore. Her commute to work (and her work itself) was wearing on her, and one day it all just became too much.
Michelle said, “I was driving one morning to work. It was Martin Luther King Day and they needed some people to come in, and I told them I would. On the way there, I fell asleep. I ran into barrels and almost hit a bridge before I woke up. And I thank God that He was watching out for me that day and that I didn’t hit anyone else. From that point on, though, I didn’t want to make that drive, I didn’t want to go to work, and I knew that something different had to happen.”
The “something different” that Michelle was looking for, finally came to fruition when she started working towards her goal of owning a restaurant. She shared that if the company she was working for had not moved locations, her commute would have been next to nothing, and she probably would not have ever pursued Evie Sue’s Country Market.
“Everything just came about at the right time,” Michelle said.
When going back to Michelle’s passion for cooking, she mentioned cooking all of the time for family, for holidays, and just for people in her everyday life. She always has loved to cook and has learned a lot of what she knows from her mother, her mother-in-law, and just from her own kitchen and experiments.
It is as if the stars aligned when Michelle approached her sister, Tracy Fisher, about opening a restaurant. Tracy made it her mission to help her sister's dream become a reality and sought out a realtor, who found the building she needed. On Michelle’s birthday, they made an offer on, what is now, Evie Sue’s Country Market (spoiler alert: their offer was approved).
What started as a family endeavor for Michelle and her sister, has developed into a family business. Michelle shared that her father helped a lot with the renovation of the building, her son is a plumber and aided in the renovation process as well, her mother can be found in the kitchen peeling potatoes or washing dishes from time to time (or sharing a meal with her regular customers), her cousin that helped open Evie Sue’s with her, her husband can be found around the market helping out with odds and ends tasks as he needed, her granddaughter, Ivy, has been with her since the beginning as a waitress, and the list just goes on. The saying that ‘it takes a village’ was put into a literal sense for Evie Sue’s, and it still does every single day.
Along with her various family members, Michelle can be found at Evie Sue’s 6, sometimes 7 days out of the week either in the kitchen cooking, prepping on the day that they are closed, visiting with customers, and more.
One thing that is near and dear to Michelle’s heart is all of the people she meets through Evie Sue’s, and the strangers that become regulars and friends. Michelle mentioned that at times she gets caught up in the kitchen, but, every chance she gets, she loves to get out onto the floor to check on people, catch up, and really get to know her customers. Even if Michelle cannot make it onto the floor, there is almost always a familiar face for people to see when they walk in.
A story Michelle shared about one of her customers stuck out to me in that, “My sister, Tracy, will help me out on the weekends when she can, and the other day she came in and ate with my mom. There was a lady that came in and sat down that had been at the restaurant the day before. My sister noticed this woman going to sit down alone and invited her to sit with them. It was just cool to see because this lady will come in alone and one day Tracy happened to be here and just went out and started talking to her. So now when she comes in and Tracy is here, she always has her sit with them…It’s just pretty neat getting to meet all of these people.”
A family restaurant. There is no other way to truly describe Evie Sue’s Country Market other than that. Not only can you see it when you walk in based on who is working that day, but you can also feel it. What all started as a far away dream was able to become a reality for Michelle Reeves and her family.
If you or anyone you know lives in the Johnson County area (or you just happen to be passing through), be sure to stop by Evie Sue’s Country Market to say hello (and while you are at it, stay for a meal too).
After her time at the University of the Ozarks, Abby Asencio graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English. She now works as our Community Relations Director, continuing to connect our community.