As regular readers of this blog will know, I have struggled for over three years since my release from prison to find gainful employment. The combination of a felony and my age has closed many a door for me and I can somewhat understand an employer’s hesitation to not only trust someone with a record, but to bring someone into a business when I am at an age when most are looking forward to retirement. During one interview with an IT firm in the Morrisville area, I was asked when I planned to retire; my response of “…four minutes after my heart stops…” seemed to allay their fears regarding my age somewhat, but then questions turned to my felony and the interview quickly ended.
A good friend and Realtor asked me if I’d ever considered becoming a real estate agent; at that point I had not, but over time began to examine my options for this field when all else seemed closed to me. I successfully completed the pre-licensing class at Go School and the folks at Go Realty were incredibly supportive to the point where I was taken in as a helper for the office administrator of the Go Durham office. It seemed that things were going very well when I passed the state exam for licensure and applied for a license to become a real estate agent in North Carolina. I knew going into the process that there would be a hearing to determine if I was to be licensed, but assumed that my demonstrated character since my release and the support of those at Go Realty and friends from the Chapel Hill Bible Church would carry the day.
The hearing was essentially a reiteration of my trial from 1987; the counsel for the NC Real Estate Commission went over and over my crime, ignoring the testimony of those who were supporting me (especially those who knew the ‘old’ Tony and shared their belief that the person I was now was totally different than the man judged in 1987. The Commission ruled against licensing me, however, and that dream ended as many others had.
Several weeks ago I began wondering if perhaps starting my own business in photography would be an option; it would both combine my own love of photography with my growing skill in this field with the possibility of adding to our family budget, even if only in small amounts initially. I spoke with several friends about this (one of whom has done photography for an extended period of time) and decided to begin the process of launching Tony’s Take Photography. It has been slow; I’ve continued donating my time and talents (including photography) to such organizations as the USO-NC, Our Children’s Place, and The Coalition of Prison Evangelists and have even had a paying gig for a local Realtor in shooting some listing photos for two of his properties.
At present I am planning on taking advantage of the Small Business courses offered at Durham Tech to help me put some skin on the bones of Tony’s Take Photography; as I shared with another volunteer at the USO-NC who is also in the middle of launching a small business, there is so much that I do not know or even know to ask and am hoping some of those answers can be found there. Anyway, it does provide me with an opportunity to learn and grow as a photographer and business owner; stay tuned and I’ll let you know what happens next.