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Changing the Conversation on Trauma | Personal Brand Photography Pittsburgh, PA

The best part of my job as a brand photographer is getting to work with amazing women who are bravely chasing their dreams. These amazing women aren't blessed with unshakeable confidence or courage. They are everyday women standing up and saying today, I will be the woman I know I am.

In December I teamed up with GrlPwrProjects to give away a personal branding shoot with one amazing female-owned business here in Pittsburgh.

Katie Maloney was the lucky winner and this brand shoot couldn't have come at a better time as she was in the midst of rebranding to launch her very first book Cake Pops & Coffee A New Conversation About Trauma.

Katie's view on the conversations that surround trauma and her desire to change and expand those conversations is refreshing and empowering. Through raw honesty and humor, she is here to help trauma survivors change the way they conversate forever!

Personal brand shoot in Pittsburgh studio for trauma coach Katie Maloney.
Brand shoot for book launch by LeeAnn Stromyer.

What prompted you to start your business?

When I first started working through the trauma that I experienced, I found that the only resources available to trauma survivors were therapy or support groups/movements. Both of these resources are incredible.

But I was already going to therapy and I had attended trauma support groups/events and all of them were surrounded by so much seriousness and heaviness.

After a certain point, I needed more. I needed to be able to laugh about some of my experiences trying to navigate relationships or careers or life after experiencing trauma. And I needed to do this with people who have similar experiences as me.

I wanted a way for trauma survivors to gather and work through their trauma in practical, easy ways while laughing and having fun.

Studio lifetsyle brand photography by LeeAnn K photography.

At the end of the day, what impact do you want to have on the world as a business & person?

I want to start a new conversation about trauma. I am going to be very honest with you - I stopped going to events for sexual assault survivors a long time ago. And for a while, I felt guilty about it. How could I claim to be all for empowering people who have experienced trauma when I don’t go to events for trauma survivors?

The answer was a little harsh but simple, “Because I feel depressed AF during those events.”

Because I feel depressed AF during those events.

The first time I attended an event for survivors, I felt incredibly empowered. I shared my story out loud and was immediately supported by a group of people who, in their own way, understood exactly how I was feeling.

Simply having a supportive space to tell my story out loud was incredibly empowering. But as I continued to attend these events, the experience turned from empowering to depressing.

I was sharing the same stories over and over again and I no longer felt powerful doing so.

Instead, I felt stuck - stuck in the past and stuck in my old stories. “What’s next?” I thought.

I wanted to talk about more than just my memories of abuse.

I wanted to talk about how to work through my fear of intimacy so that I could hold someone’s hand.

I wanted to talk about how to work through triggers so that I could touch my own body in the shower.

I wanted to talk about how to stop looking for safety in other people and things.

I wanted to talk about my life outside of the abuse.

I wanted to laugh and be lighthearted.

And I needed a new conversation to do that.

I share a lot in my books and in the work that I do. Like a lot a lot - I share my journey with learning to masturbate and experience pleasure again after trauma. That's a lot!

Some may call this oversharing but I think it’s necessary. For a long time, I thought that I was the only person struggling to hold someone’s hand or to touch myself in the shower or find safety within myself.

Professional brand photography for book launch by LeeAnn Stromyer.

I thought I was the only one because no one ever talked about any of these topics. No one ever talked about these topics, not because they didn’t want to, but because they didn’t know-how.

The reason we only talked about our abuse stories during events was because no one is teaching us how to have other types of conversations about trauma.

So, my mission in creating my book and my business is to share as much as I possibly can so that anyone who has experienced trauma and is struggling with the same things can know that they are not alone in any of their experiences.

My mission is to start this new conversation and for this new type of conversation about trauma to become the norm.

I want every single person who has ever experienced trauma to feel comfortable sharing their stories and asking questions so that they can truly grow, heal and live beyond the trauma.

What's the biggest mindset shift you have had to make as a business owner?

Powerful female pose for brand shoot by LeeAnn Stromyer

Wow! Such an incredible question! I have had to shift so many mindsets. The biggest shift I've had to make is with my perception of receiving.

Growing up in an abusive household, if I ever received anything from my parents it was immediately followed by abuse or humiliation. So I eventually believed that receiving was unsafe.

This manifested in my adult life and refusing to allow myself to receive support in my business, or even sabotaging my ability to make money from my business.

I was closing off my ability to grow because I was so freaking afraid of receiving. I had to do a lot of work to heal those wounds and allow myself to receive, and I am so grateful that I did.

Now that I have opened myself to receiving from people who truly believe in the work that I do my ability to enjoy my life and business has grown beyond anything I ever could have imagined.

What advice do you have for other women who may be facing the same struggles as you once did?

Brand photo shoot by LeeAnn K Photography, Pittsburgh based branding photographer.

Talk to yourself constantly. This may sound crazy but do it.

Parent the little girl who is feeling insecure in her ability to succeed - be her supportive loving mommy and tell her how absolutely incredible she is.

Be your best friend and call yourself out when you are playing small or making excuses. At the very minimum, I talk to myself once a day.

I check in with myself and simply ask, "Hey gurl, how are you feeling right now?" or "What's going on? You seem a little stressed?" or "Gurl, you just cranked out those emails like a total boss!"

Obviously, remain in communication with other people and foster the relationships you have in your life!

But you are the best source of support and love that you have 24/7 access to, so use it! I can't emphasize enough how talking to yourself regularly will change your life.

Where do you see your business in 5 years?

Lifestyle brand photography in Pittsburgh studio by LeeAnn Stromyer

Oh gurl, I have big plans!

I plan to have published several other books. I'm going to be traveling all over the world holding workshops and speaking to groups of trauma survivors.

I am going to be working with couples where either one or both have experienced trauma and helping them navigate those connections.

I cannot wait to see how conversations evolve for trauma survivors.

Branding flat lay product shot by LeeAnn Stromyer Pittsburgh brand photographer.

What have been game-changers for you when it comes to running your business?

Holding a passion in my heart for building up other women who are making things happen in their lives, has been the biggest game-changer for me.

Connecting with other women who have the unexplainable entrepreneur fire inside them has inspired me, fueled me to play bigger, and encouraged me to hang in there when I felt like giving up.

So get out there and support the people in your community who are working towards big changes in their lives and the world - they need support - and the love and support you'll receive in return is priceless.

Where can people find you online?

Brand shoot with life coach by LeeAnn K Photography




Hey friend!


I'm LeeAnn a Pittsburgh-based personal brand photographer helping women create memorable brands that align with who they are  while attracting the right people. 

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