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Life and Work with Margaret Bienert

Today we’d like to introduce you to Margaret Bienert.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I’m an artist living in Pasadena, CA but am originally from the midwest. I grew up being homeschooled in Wisconsin and got my start in the arts as a musician when I began playing harp and piano in middle school. I’ve always loved music and have continued playing throughout my life and perform music under the name Faux Margaux although it’s never been a full-time career for me.

Music hasn’t always been my main artistic practice, I picked up photography in high school and since then, have loved documenting my life and directing stories. I dropped out of college when I realized most of the work I was interested in didn’t need a degree, and since then, I’ve had a variety of jobs that involve photography. I got married in 2011 and now run a business with my husband called Marginal Creative where I do photography, video, editing, and directing. Extended education can be incredibly valuable in some fields but what I found with my art as I was able to get the experience I needed just by practicing. My husband and I moved here from the Midwest in 2015 and found that there is so much opportunity in creative work especially out in LA so this has really been a dreamland for me. Last year, I opened an office/creative space in Pasadena called A Pretty Cool Space and it’s boosted my business and my dreams even more to have a place to work away from home. I also have a wedding film company called Margaret & Corey with my husband. Working in the wedding industry taught me so many valuable lessons that still apply in the commercial world. They’re very different genres, but so many lessons in business and in practice cross over.

Beyond running a production company where I get to make a living being creative, I have a personal project I’m working on called A Pretty Cool Hotel Tour. I’ve been going to different hotels across the US that have something weird or wonderful or just unique about them, whether that’s heart-shaped tubs, theme suites, or a hotel that’s 30′ underwater in a lagoon in Florida. So far, I’ve just been posting the adventures on Instagram and sharing each hotel as a highlight but soon, I’ll have a website dedicated to the project. It’s been so fun and wild to photograph and document so I’m excited to take things to the next level on our next tour where I’ll be filming more of the experience.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Probably the biggest challenge in my career has been shifting the expectations I had for myself and allowing myself to have dreams and desires of my own. I know that might sound vague or basic, but growing up in a religious, conservative place in the midwest will really convince you that women don’t have a place in the world beyond homemaking. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a homemaker, mother, housewife, etc., however, I didn’t even consider that I could have a different path until I was well into college. My family was under the impression that husbands would take care of their families financially, and women should go to college just in case their husband dies before them and they need to care for their children alone. No, really, when I asked if I could drop out of college that was why my parents said I needed to stay. No disrespect to them, that mindset works for some people, but it turns out that wasn’t the path for me. Once I got married and found a new community, I slowly discovered more of what I was interested in. Suddenly, I had dreams and goals and drive and I no longer wanted to stay and get an education somewhere I didn’t feel inspired by. Fortunately, my husband and I have grown in the same direction where we both wanted to move to LA and find our creative world out here. In a matter of six years, I went from having no dreams or goals to having a giant list of dreams that I really think I can accomplish, and I’m well on my way. I finally have a business and a space to create and I feel like I’m just getting warmed up.

Please tell us about your business.
When people ask what I do, I’m torn between telling them about my professional work, which I’m incredibly proud of, and my personal work, which I’m also excited to talk about. My professional work has been building a production company where I get to work with new clients and do a mixture of commercial photography and video. We’ve gotten to work with so many great brands like Modcloth, Warby Parker, Honest Beauty, Allbirds, and many others. It’s been so exciting to make a living from this type of creative work. It’s difficult and takes time to build a solid foundation and to learn all the ins and outs of the business, and I’m definitely still learning, but I’m proud of how much I’ve accomplished in the four years since moving to LA.

When it comes to my personal work, I’m so passionate about getting to create for me. No clients to please, no checklist or boundaries, just making work for me that I’m proud of and excites me. This might mean no one connects with it in the way that I want them to, but it’s so fun to try and make people feel things or help them see the world in new ways. With my music projects, I love to create space for people to feel. I’m a big feeler and often joke that everything makes me cry… but it’s not really a joke, I cry a lot. I feel a lot and I process through tears and writing and I just love offering others that space with music. With my Instagram and online presence, I love to create a sense of community. I love to show people they’re not alone. The internet can be such a dangerous place where it feels discouraging to see other peoples seemingly perfect lives and their progress, but you’re never seeing the whole picture. I like to remind people of that. I like to share as much of the real process as I can and invite others to be open and vulnerable too. I also just like connecting with a like-minded community and Instagram is such an incredible place for that. I love seeing what others are up to and sharing what I’m working on. It really feels like I’ve found a support system on there in so many ways.

The Hotel project I’m working on has really taken off on Instagram as well, so that’s been such a fun thing to share. I honestly didn’t know so many people would be excited about following that but there’s a whole community of people who want to go to these weird hotels so I’m hoping to do some meetups in the future for those interested in the experience! At the moment, I’m working on a website (aprettycoolhoteltour.com) where I’ll have a list of these hotels you can find for yourself. For now, you can check out the hashtag #aprettycoolhoteltour or watch the highlights on my profile (@aprettycoolgirl) to see some of the hotels!

Often it feels as if the media, by and large, is only focused on the obstacles faced by women, but we feel it’s important to also look for the opportunities. In your view, are there opportunities that you see that women are particularly well positioned for?
Women are just starting to get the space they deserve in the world. Seriously, there are still so many “firsts” for women happening today. As silly as that is, it shows there is a shift happening where women aren’t necessarily given space, but they can fight for it. We have to work twice as hard to get the respect we deserve, and women of color have to fight even harder. It’s not a level playing field, even among women, but I’m encouraged to see that changing little by little as more of us listen and learn. I think women are surprising themselves with how capable we are. Like, I for one didn’t realize how much men are just faking it til they make it, and here we are waiting until we’re over-qualified for every job we apply for. Sometimes, I’ll hear people say “have the confidence of a man” when applying for something and that actually makes sense to me, because men, in general, have not been taught by society that they’re not good enough or inferior to someone else. We have to convince ourselves that we’re just as capable, or even more capable, and act accordingly. Take the space you deserve!

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Image Credit:
Margaret Bienert

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