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Hidden Gems: Meet Lana Kotov of Deluxe Photo

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lana Kotov.

Hi Lana, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I was born in Belarus in a small city and have always been dreaming about coming to California one day. Ocean, mountains, sun, palms and some of the most beautiful and diverse nature – all in one state, have been beckoning me all the time. If anyone would ever told me that California will be my home state one day I would never believe it. But I’m a big dreamer and always knew that everything is possible if you sincerely want it. And 12 years ago, I bought my airplane ticket and changed my life forever. First, I moved to Los Angeles – the city where many dreams are made. I didn’t know anyone here in the USA at that moment, but I wasn’t scared or anxious; conversely, I was very excited and prepared for any challenges on my life’s path. I will never forget that moment and that feeling of happiness and excitement for what my life prepared for me. I felt like a bird who just hatched from the egg and spread her wings towards all the possibilities.

From that day, I promised myself that I would never give up and do my best to pursue all my dreams and achieve all my goals. I have always been passionate about art, design, and drawing and always thought that art is what connects people on a deeper, some kind of new level. To continue with my passion for art and design, I went to Santa Monica College, where I have been studying Interior design for two years. At the same time, I discovered a deep love for photography. I realized how powerful Photography actually is. It connects us with all the events and moments and brings all the memories and feelings back to life. While studying and taking some business courses, I also discovered a true love for marketing, which, in my opinion, is another form of art – it is all about creativity and expression. That’s how I started my own business eight years ago, which helps restaurants build an emotional connection with their customers through the power of photography. By creating a business model where photography and marketing meets, we built a unique marketing tool which helps restaurants improve their customer loyalty and word-of-mouth advertising.

San Diego came to my life unexpectedly when I met my husband, who happened to be from here. That was love at first sight… with my husband and this beautiful city. And the decision to move here was one of the best decisions of my life, as I found the place where I am in harmony with myself and everything and everyone around me. I met so many wonderful people who have always believed in me and supported me, and I am so grateful for all of them in my life. I continued doing my business in San Diego, and now I’m working with a lot of local restaurants and helping them with their marketing.

I’ve always believed in the importance of education and continuous learning. And as a young entrepreneur, I was always looking to gain more knowledge about all the concepts of business, especially marketing and management. My long-awaited goal was studying at Harvard University, and last year I finally did it. Now I pursue my Bachelor’s degree at Harvard Extension school and learn every day about all the specifics of marketing and how it can be implemented in our constantly changing world. I’m so happy and so thankful I found my passion and can’t wait to see where the road leads from here.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
In most cases, when you start your own business, struggles and failures are an inevitable part of the journey to your success. And my journey has not been the exception; there were also a lot of challenges and obstacles – roadblocks, that were preventing me from moving forward. Being away from my family and building the new chapter of my life in a new country, all on your own, was not easy, but I’m so grateful for all the lessons life prepared for me and for all the people I have met on my way, who believed me and always supported me. The main lesson I learned – to never give up. When you start your own business, there will always be some ups and downs, moments of doubt and uncertainty, fear and disappointments. But when those moments hit you, that’s when you need to push even harder. Challenges are not there to make you quit but to learn a lesson and keep pushing forward. If you truly love what you do and believe in it, do not ever think of giving up. Surround yourself with people who encourage you, support you and lift you higher. Stay resilient and keep pushing forward; your dream will thank you later.

As you know, we’re big fans of Deluxe Photo. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about the brand?
My company – Deluxe Photo, offers a unique marketing solution for the restaurant industry. With the power of photography, we help restaurants to attract new customers, increase their customer loyalty, enhance their social media presence, reduce their marketing costs and increase their profits. The uniqueness of our services is that they are completely at no cost to the restaurants. We help to build a personal connection between restaurants and their customers by capturing their dining experiences through our professional photography and then creating effective customer retention tools that guests can freely share online and take home as a reminder of their great time at the restaurant. As all the restaurants are recovering right now after a long year of uncertainty and struggles, our services are especially much needed, and we want to do everything we can to help restaurants to recover faster. In addition, I also started the @forrestaurantswithlove project, where I’m encouraging people to help our local restaurants in any way possible. I was inspired by Helen Lao, who started this incredible #stepuptothetable challenge to help the restaurant industry during these difficult times. She is a true inspiration, and I wanted to join this challenge and support my favorite restaurants in any way I can. More than ever, it is important right now to support each other, because when people come together, magic happens…

If we knew you growing up, how would we have described you?
I have always been passionate about art and drawing. I loved to draw and express my feelings and emotions in my drawings. By letting your energy or feelings flow onto the surface with your brush or pencil, you often find the answers to many questions. One year, when I was in high school, my drawing won an international competition in Europe. That was the moment when I realized that if you truly love what you do if you put your heart in it, people will always feel it and appreciate it. Today I’m in love with what I do. I’m so happy and so thankful I found my passion and keep pursuing my dreams. And while growing up, I have always had my main principles: be true to yourself and others, believe in yourself and be grateful for what you have. And when you find your passion – never give up on it.

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