Nicole's Classes—Photo workshops that see the big picture

The idea to start holding workshops didn’t come from Nicole Gerulat herself—it came from the readers of her blog. “They wanted classes,” says the photographer and writer of “A Little Sussy.” Who was she to disappoint her audience? So Gerulat took her operation from the online world to the real one, in the form of an initial photography course. It was an instant hit.

Branch out

That was in 2007. In the short years since, the San Francisco-based Gerulat has expanded her offerings to cover a wide range of class types, including both full courses and crash sessions, as well as art weekends. There are courses for both beginner and experienced shutterbugs, and she has continued to broaden her more commercial offerings, with courses such as the “Seller’s Retreat,” for online shops. She’s managed to spread the load, bringing on the Salt Lake City-based husband-and-wife team of Alma and Mike Loveland for classes in InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator. And she’s spread out geographically, too: Events in 2010 range from Phoenix to France.

Find your audience

That’s a lot of growth, and fast. But to hear Gerulat tell it, the process has been pretty straightforward. She’s simply been responsive and open-minded at each stage. And she’s made the most of an audience. Moving beyond San Francisco, for example, started with a simple idea. “I was visiting friends, and I knew I had blog readers there, so I had a class to pay for the trip.” Her eyes were opened to the possibility of taking her classes to further destinations, which she selects in a organic but modern way: “I look through analytics to see where my readers are,” she says. That’s where she goes next. She recommends all bloggers looking to expand into events put an analytics or stats program to good use.

Go big, but think small

For all those frequent flier miles, Gerulat’s real trick may be how locally she thinks. When it comes to sponsors, she doesn’t just reach out for the large gatherings—she actually gets sponsors for individual classes. This allows her to present a highly filtered target group to any companies she contacts. It’s a win-win.

What’s more, even her biggest events are structured to have an intimate feel. When hosting a retreat at a hotel, she stages the event so that all attendees are in the same area, with continual chances to interact. It keeps them talking—to one another, while they’re there, and to others, long after the event is done.