Barry Shainbaum [Hope and Heroes]

Rick Hansen © Barry Shainbaum Studios

Wheelchair athlete Rick Hansen is founder of the "Rick Hansen Institute" whose mission is to remove the barriers that limit people with disabilities from reaching their full potential.

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It took a good three years to re-build my business. I had stored all of my old equipment and belongings after I lost the first studio. Days after getting back on my feet, I called up old clients and said, "Hi, it's Barry Shainbaum, remember me? I did work for you three years ago? I never invoiced you. Well, I have to send you an invoice now because I had some problems and I'm back in business, so I'm just confirming your address.

And everyone paid me who had an invoice from three years before, and I just got back on my feet, bit by bit. But it was different...

I couldn't sit down and telemarket anymore, I met more people, more by networking, but it was different. Year after year after year after making very little money, I just couldn't quite kick in. And then, I got involved with a speakers' association, by amazing synchronicity. I was attracted more to entrepreneurs, people who had made successes of their lives and I was more on a path than before, when it had all fallen apart in '86. So I rebuilt my business, beginning in '89. I was doing commercial corporate work and portrait and some involved travel - just like before, but it was different because my whole modus operandi had changed and I couldn't quite understand it. I was more drawn to spiritual and inspirational stuff, and people overcoming adversity.

In all my years in business no one has refused to pay me. I had a shoot for a company who knew they were going bankrupt but they didn't tell me about it, and they hired me to do a shoot at the Royal York Hotel. They had an amazing speaker named Og Mandino, who's now passed on. He was a famous motivational speaker, so I photographed Og and other people and none of us got paid. Then, I called up one of the speakers and discovered that none of them had been paid and I said, "By the way, I'd be interested in doing some speaking and how do I get involved?" So in other words, if this client hadn't stiffed me, I may never have had the opportunity to talk to some of those people. They told me about the OSA, Ontario Speakers Association, now called CAPS, Canadian Association of Professional Speakers and I went to a meeting here and there and met a lot of upbeat, motivated people. Some very interesting people, and I really liked it and I liked the people that I met.

Eventually, I got some work from some of these speakers doing portraits and videos and other jobs and it more than made up for the money I didn't get paid from the client. Events sort of came together from going to meetings about motivated people and reading about people I admire, like Richard Branson and Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey and Rick Hansen. Rick's now in my book. Somehow, the events came together so that once I had the idea, (after talking to Charles Templeton) I kept on thinking "Well, what a great idea for a book". About a week later I was still thinking about this idea and I was speaking to my then girlfriend. I was telling her about it when suddenly I realized that I needed someone to work with me to pull it all together.

Ironically, 20 minutes later there was a knock on the door and there's a guy (Steve Thomson) standing there who was hustling some music CDs. He said, "By the way, I also sell tripods, come down to my car". I went down to his Mercedes Benz and we took tripods out of his trunk. He had this unique tripod he was selling and I was impressed by his chutzpah so I said, "Steve can we talk business?".

We got together and had coffee and I told him my ideas for the book. We made up a list of subjects we wanted for the book - Nelson Mandela, Billy Graham, Rick Hansen and half the people who are now in my book. But it was sort of intangible. How do we do it? How does an unknown photographer from Toronto, who just a few years ago was sitting in a park eating potato chips - you know, when his whole life had faded this sort of thing?


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