Jeanine McLeod, owner of Cloud 9 Studios, grew up in Florida in a family of engineers, the daughter of New Yorkers who fled to Florida after the Blizzard of ’78. A flair for mathematics took her to the University of Florida to study mechanical engineering, but even then, she was always drawn to art and design. You may know her early work: As an engineer for Motorola living in Atlanta, she designed a cellular battery used in many of their cell phones. It was while she worked for Motorola that McLeod began traveling the world and photographing what she saw.
“It was during one of these courses that I met a photographer who would forever change my life’s journey,” she says. She began taking classes, and on weekends, working with the instructor, who was a wedding photographer. “This is when I realized how much I enjoyed photographing people and not just places. When I saw the joy that capturing a memory and making someone look beautiful created, I knew this is what I needed to be doing with my life.”
In 2004, she left Atlanta and moved back here to be closer to family and the warmth. She launched her photography studio in Wesley Chapel a year later and now spends her days balancing that work with being a mom to 9-year-old daughter Eryn and 4-month-old baby boy James. She’s also “keeping my house from looking like a tornado hit it, finding time to work out at the gym, stopping at Starbucks in the morning, spending too much time at Publix (I really should make better lists) … And of course not letting my husband feel too neglected with my busy schedule. It sounds a bit crazy, but then again, I like crazy. In a weird way it keeps me sane.”
What do you think is the secret to your family’s success?
My husband is extremely patient and understanding! This is no joke. As an artist and business owner, I am all over the place. If I am not at the studio photographing, then I am out marketing, networking and doing whatever I need to hustle and get business. This often means that I need to rely on him for help around the house, with the kids and also at the studio. We attack each day as a team and divvy up what needs to get done. The fact that we are able to figure out our weekly calendar is proof that miracles do exist. As a business owner I feel it is important to involve your family, including your children, in what you do. My daughter Eryn spends a lot of time with me at the studio and I give her tasks that give her responsibility and keep her engaged. This way she doesn’t view my business as something that takes me away from her but instead is something we can do together. As a result we spend more time together and she is learning the basics of running a business as well!
What is your biggest fear?
My husband thinks my biggest fear is missing out on a post on Facebook. Ok, so I may be a social media addict. I can’t help that I always need to know what is going on with my friends! Does that make me addicted?
Seriously though … my biggest fear is the fear of loss. They say “if you want to learn what someone fears losing, watch what they photograph.” I photograph my children all the time. If anything ever happened to either of them you would have to lock me away.
What advice would you give to other women?
Chug your coffee, eat chocolate, drink wine, wear flip flops whenever you feel like it, accept the fact you may never fit into an outfit purchased in the juniors section of Macy’s again, exercise even if you hate it, drink a ton of water, remember your friends’ birthdays and always call your mother!
If you are a mother, enjoy every moment with your children. With Eryn I don’t feel I lived in the moment and was always looking forward to the next stage. Now with James, even when I am awake with him in the middle of the night I savor the minutes because I know when I blink he will be 9 years old and she will be in college.
What is your proudest moment?
This is a hard question for me. I am always pushing and moving forward, never thinking what I have achieved is good enough. However, with my clients, each time I capture that perfect moment, that perfect expression, that perfect family connection I am filled with a feeling of success. When I see a parent proud of their child, a dad hold his baby girl, siblings who love each other, families laughing together, and moms who aren’t afraid to be in a photograph, I am proud to have created the artwork that inspired those feelings.
What is your biggest achievement?
Running a successful photography studio for the past 10 years and still loving what I do! It isn’t easy owning any small business, and a photography studio is especially challenging.
What makes you happy?
Seeing my children laugh and smile makes me happy. Knowing that through all the craziness of life and for all the mistakes I make on a daily basis, my kids are happy—that makes me happy. When the Gators win a football game, the Lighting make it to the Stanley Cup and my fantasy football team wins: That makes me happy. And of course, having a husband who loves me unconditionally, also makes me happy.
How do you relax and take time for yourself?
Ha! Time for myself. I am not sure I know what that means. I honestly can’t remember the last moment I was alone. My quiet times are found when my kids and husband have gone to bed. In those rare stolen moments, I like to either read a good book or binge watch a TV series. Right now I am watching “Odd Mom Out” on Bravo. Hilarious!
What kind of message would you like to give women in the area?
I am a true believer in getting involved in your community. Four years ago I became a Rotarian and am actively involved in the Wesley Chapel Rotary Club. As a Rotarian we live by the motto of Service Above Self. Regularly volunteering to serve others gives you perspective on your own life. For women in our area I highly encourage looking in to a service club near you and find out how you can get involved. When you are given the tools to truly make an impact on the lives of those in need it will change the way you live and your priorities.
What else would you like to share?
I believe the biggest struggle as a working mom is finding this mythical balance that people speak of. If you spend too much time at work you feel like you aren’t there enough for your kids. If you spend too much time with your kids then you feel you aren’t achieving your potential at work (or in the case of owning a business, you aren’t making money!). I truly believe that each woman has to find what works for her. With all of the “perfect lives” that are lived on social media it is easy to get too hard on yourself. To feel like you are failing at everything and succeeding at nothing. STOP DOING THAT! Stop comparing your version of balance and happiness with everyone else’s. Find what works, ask for help when needed and always be true to yourself and your children.