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RACINE — Three dozen women and other under-represented LGBTQ+ people in the community got in front of Elizabeth Pedersen and Sam Vaughn’s cameras on March 31, the last day of Women’s History Month, to have headshot photos taken.

Rotarian Chris Slater asked Pederson, owner of Elizabeth Jean Photography, and Vaughn, of Sam Vaughn Photography, to be the photographers for the event.

Slater got the idea from Junoesque By Bree LLC, a business in Downtown Racine, that offered free professional headshots to individuals during Black History Month. The event was made possible with the help of  Racine Founder’s Rotary and collaboration with Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce (RAMAC).

women's history month headshot event
Sam Vaughn of Sam Vaughn Photography, Rotary member Chris Slater, and Elizabeth Pederson of Elizabeth Jean Photography successfully pulled off the first Women’s History Month free headshot event. – Credit: Emma Widmar

Rotarians give back

During Women’s History Month, Slater wanted to contribute to uplifting women in his community.

women's history month headshot event
Rotary member Chris Slater organized the event with RAMAC to offer free headshots to women and nonbinary individuals in need. – Credit: Emma Widmar

“We’re getting better as a society. However, I think there’s still a lot of education that needs to happen. A lot of learning needs to happen,” said Slater.

“A lot of times, especially in finance, or in business professional fields, they (women) are looked down upon as they’re not as confident or can’t be as successful as a man can be, which absolutely is not true.”

Slater was raised by a single mother, and living with his girlfriend has also helped him to recognize the inequalities that women face.

“I’m learning every day. They are opening my eyes to things that I didn’t realize were a problem,” he said.

This outreach event, on behalf of Rotary, is a part of the organization’s goal to connect with the community through service. There are 96 members in the club and it reigns as the second-largest club in the state.

“Rotary service above self,” said Club President Laura DeGroot. “It just exemplifies how we try to help others in the community.”

The 36 community members receiving headshots had them taken at RAMAC, 300 5th St., in Downtown Racine. Anna Clementi, Vice President of Operations, explained how this event was something RAMAC was happy to collaborate on.

“We are Racine’s business champion all across the board. We have made an effort in the past couple of years to highlight small businesses, women-owned, and veteran-owned. And actually, this is one way that we can have a partnership,” she said.

Women owners strive to elevate and empower

Individuals from various professional backgrounds were drawn to the giveback event. Not only were the headshots offered for free, but the event was structured so that appointments and accommodations were also made convenient by the photographers.

Pederson shared that when starting her own business, she faced doubt from others. It’s something she doesn’t want others to face.

“It’s important to give back to the community, especially if you’re building a business here. It’s not just even self-promotion, but just to show that you’re like here for the city and the people,” explained the owner of Elizabeth Jean Photography.

Support from fellow photographers in the community helped keep her going. She now encourages other women to follow their own paths, leading by example, through her passion in the art of photography.

women's history month headshot event
Elizabeth Pederson of Elizabeth Jean Photography reviews a photo with an attendee of the Women’s History Month headshot event. – Credit: Emma Widmar

“Power through, ignore all of the haters, and focus on you what you want your business to look like. Push yourself, believe in yourself, and also just take the time to talk to other women who are in business and get their feedback,” she said. “Build yourself a community in what you’re doing.”

Business owners invest in themselves

While the opportunity was made available to anyone, many of the women who were present at the free headshot event were women business owners or women who are striving to become business owners.

In attendance was Yolanda Coleman, owner of Plush Clothing and Be Plush. She runs multiple endeavors but lacked in the area of having professional photos of herself.

women's history month headshot event
Shamekia Harrell, owner of online web store, Bling and Things, poses in front of the camera. Receiving this headshot will help her get ahead with her new business. – Credit: Emma Widmar

“It is such an awesome opportunity. As business owners, because a lot of us are so into our business, we forget that we have to have our faces out there and have a good professional headshot,” said Coleman.

Another event-goer was Shamekia Harrell, owner of a small business called Bling and Things LLC.

“It’s a big deal,” said Harrell. She added, “It’s a blessing.”

She acknowledged that the cost of professional headshots can be expensive, therefore, deter people, including herself from getting a headshot taken.

To her, she says, it helps so that she can put herself out there properly and build connections so that people can get to know her business.

Leah Perez, another business professional who is working to enter the freelancing space, heard about the event from another small business owner, Zoey Braun of Tiger Lily Permanent Makeup.

“They’re allowing us to get headshots for free. It helps out as someone who’s starting,” said Perez. “Women helping women is a huge thing. When you see women helping other women, it’s just amazing. I love it. I love that we can grow together and have that opportunity to help build each other up.”

women's history month headshot event
Elizabeth Pederson of Elizabeth Jean Photography takes a photo of Leah Perez. – Credit: Emma Widmar

Those who attended and organized the event can agree, Friday’s event accomplished their mission to make a difference on the last day of Women’s History Month.


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