Karli Foster

Co-Founder of Hyperblack Studios

Karli is the co-founder of full-service ecommerce photography studio, Hyperblack Studios, located in Los Angeles, CA. Hyperblack caters to brands looking for an alternative to in-house content creation and has quickly grown to the premier full-service studio on the west coast with 50+ clients and producing 50,000 images annually. Karli has managed ecommerce photo production for nearly 20 years and built photo studios from the ground up throughout the US. She has helped hundreds of brands within the fashion and apparel industry redesign their ecommerce content and streamline their photo production processes.

What is your typical day, and how do you make it productive?

As a startup, I wear many hats so everyday is a little different. I still like to be hands on and I get to be on-set for photo shoots a few times a month. I spend the rest of my time on operations and growing the business. Prioritizing my to-do list every morning is key to being productive. There is always an endless list to do but setting priorities helps me focus on what’s most important as nd not waste time on tasks that aren’t going to move the dial. I think that’s a big problem with our culture, filling every minute of our day but you have to ask yourself what value is each task going to bring.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Collaboration! My team at Hyperblack is what makes us great. I always bounce ideas off my colleagues and employees. Listening to other perspectives helps expand the way I think and relate to people better.

What’s one trend that excites you?

AI in the photography industry is rapidly growing right now and changing the photo studio industry dramatically. Services that we offer and how we do things now may be completely different in a year. What tool 30 minutes if photoshop previously now takes 1 minute.

What is one habit that helps you be productive?

Start your day with a quiet time to focus and recenter yourself.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Being a good leader starts with trust. Listen to your employees and gain their trust before you can effectively lead them.

Tell us something you believe almost nobody agrees with you.

Revenue shouldn’t be your top priority when building a company. I believe that if you focus your efforts first on client and employee relationships, you will have lasting success.

What is the one thing you repeatedly do and recommend everyone else do?

Getting out of my comfort zone! If something interests me but sounds way too intimidating to do, it most likely means that it’s worth doing. Everytime you face your fears, you grow and evolve as a person.

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?

Go outside! I try to walk or run outside 4-5 times per week. Being outside and away from your computer screen helps with creativity and helps me gain new perspective. I make better decisions when I step away from the computer and immerse myself in nature.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business or advance in your career?

Take time to invest in your team. Many years of experience has helped me build relationships that have stood the test of time and came back around when starting my own business. Employees are my greatest asset and being able to bring on employees that I already knew were superstars is priceless when growing your business.

What is one failure in your career, how did you overcome it, and what lessons did you take away from it?

Being too hard on my employees as a new manager. I thought I had to be strict to gain respect but in fact it did just the opposite. After reading a number of different leadership books, listening to podcasts and Ted talks, I tried a people-first management approach and found much better results.

What is one business idea you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I would like to see a temp agency that focuses on entry-level creative jobs. I’d love to hire and teach young adults that are just starting their career and looking at what the creative industry has to offer. Creative companies would benefit from being able to easily hire entry level workers that could turn into long term employees and artists and creatives would get some insight into the types of jobs available to them. The creative industry can often be a tough industry to break into and often art school doesn’t prepare you. This would be a great gateway to creatives just starting out.

What is one piece of software that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

Google Sheets. It can be used for status reports, asset or sample management, cost analysis, etc. Being able to share them, collaborate on them, and customize them to exactly your need allows for endless use cases.

What is the best $100 you recently spent?

Airpods. I held off way too long to get these but being able to be hand free without any cords helps me be productive and multi-task while on calls.

Do you have a favorite book or podcast from which you’ve received much value?

I love the Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer. It’s easy to get caught up in the rush of every day but this book helped me see that doing more doesn’t always add more value. This book had great perspective on how to be a more well-rounded, present human being.

What’s a movie or series you recently enjoyed and why?

Only Murders in the Building on Hulu. Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez are an excellent ensemble. It’s a great way to relax and laugh at the end of the day!

Key learnings:

  • Employees are your greatest asset. Take time to invest in them and gain their trust.
  • Prioritize client and employee relationships above your income for lasting success and happiness.
  • Slowing down and giving yourself time to refocus each day will help you be more productive.
  • Don’t stay comfortable for too long– face your fears regularly.