• VisionPassionFaith

With Ryan and Corinne Priest

I decided to start another blog series, based upon an older blog post titled "Entrepreneurs Do Not Live in Vanilla Reality" (link below). Entrepreneurs are out of the box thinkers, and have a lot of wisdom and depth that they acquire through the school of hard knocks. Anyone can read a book about being an entrepreneur, but the ones who are actually putting in the action to build a business are the ones I tend to gravitate towards. I love those entrepreneurs especially, who believe that there are "riches in niches," and by "riches" I do not mean money only. There are many things that lifestyle entrepreneurs want to create; and they love the process and love the organic unfolding of a truly great idea. For them, "bigger" is not always "better."

My first interview is with Ryan and his wife Corinne, who are the Founders of Aloha Zoe Photography, based on the Big Island of Hawaii. Hope you enjoy, and get some jewels of wisdom that you may want to incorporate in your own journey through life and entrepreneurship.

Me: So Ryan, you and I worked together back when you were at the Fairmont Orchid, and I am thrilled at what you have created with your wife, Corinne. Tell me a bit about that transition. What did the process look like?

Ryan: It was a quite interesting transition. Corinne was a teacher, and I was at Fairmont. We both left our jobs, and traveled through South America for ten months. We went from the tip of Columbia to the tip of Patagonia, and to Brazil. Photography was a casual hobby of mine. We traveled, and took photos of orphanages in Columbia, and the photos of the kids we gave to the organization. Corinne and I love working together and serving others. Whether it was taking photos of different coffee farms in the Galapagos, or taking photos at an environmental company, this trip was a way for us to really be able to combine our passion for adventure and serving others.

My Takeaway:

Entrepreneurs by nature, love to create, and they want to feel that they are free to create something that aligns with who they are. We all have innate gifts, talents, as well as passions. The most successful ones, (and not pertaining to just money), are the ones who can combine all of their gifts, talents and passions, to create something wonderful. And what is better than creating with the one you love!!! Ryan and Corinne are two of the most amazing people, and I am so thrilled to have been able to "experience" during our interview the joy, love, and passion they have for each other, their business, as well as others.






Me: Is this love of travel, adventure, and serving others how you started Aloha Zoe? Do you both photograph the adventure weddings/elopements that you do?

Ryan: Before I worked at Fairmont I had internships in hospitality where i traveled to Nicaragua, Guam, and Corinne is from a 'travel industry' family. So we both love traveling and have traveled a lot, and we wanted to create something where couples could have an amazing adventure wedding. It has a lot of the elements of a larger traditional wedding. When we started I was pretty much the lead photographer, and Corinne learned a lot by watching. The photos we take are a combination of our different eyes and this adds to the variety of the galleries of photos we take.



Me: So, tell me a bit about some of the elements of a traditional wedding that you incorporate, and how wonderful it must be to share in a couple's wedding day.

Ryan: It is really amazing. Some family members write letters to the couple, and they read them at the beach; there are champagne celebrations; we can bring speakers for the couple's first dance at the beach, etc.... There is not the stress of having to accommodate so many people, and some couples when they go back home, they have a casual celebration. This is an amazing way for a couple to have an adventure on their honeymoon with trails, hikes, etc... many marry on the mainland, and have an adventure honeymoon.

Corinne: It is so wonderful to be a part of a couple's journey together. The photos we take, they can look back on, and for us, the coolest part of our job is we get to be with our couples. It is an all time high to get married, and be in love, so we are so passionate as we watch them step into marriage.

My Takeaway:

Clearly Ryan and Corinne love what they do. I believe love is the best and most sacred thing on this planet, and the vibration of love, and being around people who deeply love one another – what a great way to share in some powerfully special experiences.

"Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit" - Kahill Gibran







Me: You and Ryan are such an amazing couple, and have such joy and love in your hearts. All the couples must love working with you both, and having you as part of this amazing time in their lives and sharing in memories. What do you think are some of the things that keep a love vibrant and strong, and keep two people in love; sharing and growing through life's journey? There is so much negativity in the world, and on the news 24/7, and I truly believe love is the most powerful force in the universe, and not too many talk about love, true love. Thoughts?

Corinne: Yes, there is a lot of negativity around, and I think the love journey together can be most amazing. Our couples can look back on the photos, and see how they experienced all their adventures. Many of our couples wake up early, they carry their wedding attire on a hike to a beautiful view. We can have an amazing hike on muddy trails to get to a great place. We are all in this together. I think this can be a type of metaphor for their entire relationship. There will be peaks and valleys, and walking up a mountain, down a valley, etc.... there is a commitment to work through things together. Being in love and having a strong bond, couples work through things, and continue to love each other and see each other through life. It is also quite interesting to see...usually it is one of the partners who is more stoked on the adventure than the other. This is where I see the importance of compromise, as compromise is indeed an element of this as well.

My Takeaway:

I love the metaphor aspect Corinne shares. There will indeed be peaks and valleys in life and in any love relationship. As long as two people are rooted in their commitment to work though things together, and also the ability to compromise, there is no mountain or valley they can not walk through and to, together.





Me: Let's talk a bit about balance in entrepreneurship, which I think is essential for people like us, who want to have a lifestyle, and not be working 24/7. As I mentioned, I believe there are "riches in niches" and I also believe that "smaller" is better. The more niche, the better. and it is not always about bigger, and "more more more." I was so excited when Ryan told me that you were going off grid for three and a half weeks, since at the time he told me this, I was also trying to take some time off. I really see how obsessively connected people are to their phones, and have seen this for many years, but the extent to which it is most recently, uggh!! LOL. Thankfully there are many like us who do not want to be connected to their phones 24/7, as they do not want to be a part of the "robot" culture. Strong boundaries and a strong commitment to taking time away from the phone are essential and imperative. Thoughts?

Ryan: Corinne and I took three and a half weeks traveling to Montana, Idaho, and we also took the inquiry link down from our website to contact us. We also have date nights where we do not take our phones, and we spend time at the beach, and we also do not bring our phones there, even if we are there eight hours, or so. Every quarter, we plan a three day trip. and there are no phones. It is very intentional and it is indeed a choice. You are right about the boundaries. I think for us, our audience, slowly got to know us, and our lifestyle. The reason we started our business was to enjoy life, and not to be prisoners to our business. We have a life outside of our business, and we prioritize our life as a couple. We live a very simple life. We don't need to make a lot of money, or have too many clients, it is really more about booking clients who are the right people and fit for us.

My Takeaway:

Many do not want to be "prisoners" to their business or "prisoners" to their cell phones. There are so many of us, that love to escape, and break free from our phones and technology, and we all need to support and encourage those who want to consistently make these choices and decisions. Life is meant to be simple and beautiful, and not so complex. As with any niche business, the right people with the right clients, who are indeed the right fit, are the keys to building a wonderful endeavor. Unfortunately, some remain "stuck" with the wrong clients, and need to understand not everyone is the right fit. Clarity, awareness, alignment, and intention – Ryan and Corinne understand this and live this. They certainly do walk their talk, and embody the lifestyle entrepreneurial journey.






I want to thank Ryan and Corinne for their time, as this interview was indeed a true joy and blessing! I love engaging with those who create a beautifully grounded and aligned life. Ryan and Corinne are true examples of passion, beauty, simplicity, wellness, joy, abundance, heart, and also deep and loving connection. No doubt, they live a life full of "aloha" – "they have a heart so overflowing with love and they have the ability to influence others with their spirit." To learn more about Ryan and Corinne, and Aloha Zoe Photography – please visit: www.alohazoephotography.com/big-island-adventure-elopement-photographers


Me: Favorite ice cream flavor?

Ryan: Mint Chocolate Chip.

Corinne: I love sorbet, mango sorbet.


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  • VisionPassionFaith

With Luis Tello

Following is my interview with Luis Tello, Assistant Director of Purchasing, The Beverly Hills Hotel and Bungalows and Hotel Bel-Air. Hope you enjoy!

Me: So you know in my last series, "Hospitality Heroes," I interviewed Veronica (Hotel Bel Air Boutique Clerk), who is such a pleasure to work with. You also were so kind to offer a great quote which I included in the main piece of that series. This last year and a half has been quite challenging for those in the hospitality arena as you know, and many have come out of this last year stronger, and learned a lot. What do you think are the most important things you have learned through all this so far?

Luis: I think patience. So much of what has gone on, and continues to go on is out of our control. What is in our control? Obviously we need to know patience, and to not stress about certain things. Understanding that things come up that are out of our control, and I control what I can and what I can't is really out of my hands. Each day is a blessing, and I am grateful first. At any moment, things can change. Gratitude is very important. This past year has made a lot of people better, and a lot of us are coming out better people.

My Takeaway:

Patience and gratitude! Also, letting go and surrendering are key takeaways, especially from this past year.









Me: In my opinion, Dorchester Collection, is one of the best brands. I know that so many employees stay for so many years and there is loyalty, as well as longevity. I think this speaks volumes to the management, leadership, and also work culture at Dorchester.

Luis: Yes, indeed. There are over fifty people who are part of the Quarter Century Club. Another forty team members are here more than twenty. I've been here thirteen plus years.

Me: Yes, I think Arnel Ramirez who you work with, has been there a long time right? He is an awesome guy too!

Luis: Arnel is part of the Quarter Century Club, and has been here since the renovation in 1996. Without a doubt the work culture is great and the company is terrific to work for. This does indeed play a huge part in the retention of employees such as myself, Arnel, and many others. The longevity and the environment here is also great for our guests.

My Takeaway:

Great leaders, and great brands inspire and create loyalty, longevity among their people. This also creates loyalty, longevity among guests.







Me: There is a quote on your website from Denise Flanders, who is the General Manager of Hotel Bel Air. She says "the emotional attachment that some have for Hotel Bel Air is so very special." I was so intrigued by this, as I feel emotions and emotional connections are extremely important in business. Working with many of the individuals at your hotel brand since the early 2000s, I know building, establishing and maintaining connections are important to your brand. Thoughts about this quote?

Luis: We genuinely care about people and understand the importance of emotional connections. Every person is different, and appreciates different things. It is the emotional connection that drives people to come back, and we build connections from an emotional level. We have many locals that come just for dinner, or for a night, and we respect the community and the community respects us. I believe we all do a great job here, in how we treat and service our guests, so they keep coming back.

My Takeaway:

Actions speak way louder than words. I still remember Regina Davis, who worked in the boutique at The Beverly Hills Hotel and Bungalows, who wrote me a handwritten thank you note on their pink and white striped stationery, back in 2005/6. To this day, I remember the impression that it made on me. I mentioned this to Luis during our interview, as he worked with Regina, and is familiar with that pink and white stationery. True connection, appreciation, and caring, will always be evident and felt on a deep level. This is why i believe that robots will never replace human connections!









Me: Knowing that we are all doing our best to navigate these times, and with almost everyone in our industry spread so thin, how do you prioritize your workload each day? Do you have a daily to do list? weekly calendar? monthly?

Luis: At the end of the day, I send an email to myself. I set it up as a draft, and I add to it during the day. I put on there the things that are still pending, any new projects that come in that I need to follow up on. Things that I did not get to, I set reminders for myself. I also recap what I took care of and what needs to get done. What is pending, done, what is urgent, etc...

My Takeaway:

Priorities are important and staying in the day. One day at a time works well for me, and I think what Luis does to manage his work load is a great and empowering practice. This way, one gets to review, and acknowledge what did get done, and what moves into the next day/future. Unreasonable expectations we may put on ourselves, or others' unreasonable expectations projected upon us, does not serve anyone well. Daily progress and process!








Me: As you know, there are many delays with production, and all that is involved with that. I know your property does appreciate USA made products, and I think more and more are understanding the benefits of buying made in the USA. Thoughts on this?

Luis: Yes, with all the delays getting products from overseas, with freight, shortages, etc... I think buying USA is a better way to go about business. I think there is a shift over to USA/ locally made. In general, I believe people are starting to care more about where products are made, whereas in the past many looked at what is cheaper. Even with our food, we have been looking for more options, more local farmers markets, supporting local breweries, etc...

My Takeaway:

Supporting USA made and locally made/grown is hopefully a trend with many, that will continue.






Me: As you probably know from many of my other interviews, I love nature. Big fan of art and nature. Tell me a bit about your swan pond.

Luis: Yes, our historic swan lake. We have three swans in there. A majestic walk across the bridge and it transforms our guests beyond Los Angeles. Our plush gardens really help to make our guests feel like they are on a real get away, away from city life.

My Takeaway:

Along with the historic swan lake, Hotel Bel-Air has twelve acres of tropical gardens, 483 specimen trees, more than four thousand plants. One of my favorite Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes: "Accept the pace of nature – her secret is patience."







I want to thank Luis for his time, as I truly enjoyed this interview. Luis is a joy, and a true professional! What an asset to the Dorchester brand!

Hotel Bel-Air is celebrating its 75th year anniversary this month August.

For more information on The Beverly Hills Hotel and Bungalows and Hotel Bel-Air, visit:


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I had written a series on this topic a few years ago, and it is as relevant today, in my opinion, as it was back then (possibly even more so...)

Some Excerpts...

One of my first jobs was at an ice cream parlor, and possibly this is why I have a genuine love of ice cream and all flavors. Most people have their "favorite," and stick with that. Myself, I always have loved mint chocolate chip; but also like all the others: strawberry, coffee, fudge brownie – even vanilla. Even vanilla? Yes, even vanilla!

If we are to respect and value one another, we must indeed respect all flavors, as every flavor offers a unique perspective. The fact that I am not "vanilla" and instead more of a "mint chocolate chip" gal, does not mean that others have the luxury to criticize my perspectives, judge my life choices, or condemn my opinions.

Most, if not all entrepreneurs I know, are strawberry, fudge swirl, rainbow sherbet or even bubble gum. Why? Because they create their life day by day; moment by moment. Yes, they have a plan, but when the plan does not "work" - they pivot, and try something else. They are not afraid to go with the flow, and live in the moment. They are creative, thoughtful, unique, and if you ask any entrepreneur their thoughts on any given topic, I am sure they will get you thinking. Why? Because entrepreneurs by nature are artists and creatives - and they view life different than most. Most, if not all "vanillas" like to live in certainty, imagined "security," with a plan, routine, and clear direction - which is fine, but it is quite different than the entrepreneurial mindset. Line up twelve entrepreneurs and ask them a question, and you will probably get twelve interesting and compelling perspectives. Line up twelve "vanillas" and you will probably get one common answer that will be more "cookie-cutter" and possibly something "programmed" from their early years or from media/culture.

We live in a world now, where those who think different than others, and have a variety of unique perspectives are not only criticized, but are also being ridiculed, and made to feel like they do not "belong." The worst thing anyone can do to another human being, is to make them feel like they do not belong. Possibly many entrepreneurs do not "fit in" - but that is different than "belonging." We all deserve the journey to find our unique blueprint, and share our gifts with the world. We all have innate gifts where we can shine, and for another person to try and dim our light, or make us feel undeserving to live a life of fulfillment, is not only wrong - it is heart breaking!

I hope any entrepreneur reading this post will follow their own heart, find their own unique gifts, and stop playing small. Whether you are strawberry fudge, cookies and cream, or blueberry sherbet - be that! Be who you are!

Always "Keep the Faith" in your own heart and journey.

Faith Smith

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