Photography entrepreneurs continue to grow businesses while studying marketing


Many students graduate from the Costello College of Business at George Mason University with bold plans to start their own companies. Bethany Rivera and Alex Tugbang, both undergraduate marketing students and classmates in Jiyeon Hong’s marketing course, had already launched their respective businesses, Rivera’s Photography and Photuggraphy, prior to enrolling.

“In my digital marketing course, I’m trying my best to keep my materials up to date and focus on skills and lessons of practical value, offering many opportunities for students to apply what they learn in class to real-world scenarios,” says Hong. “This is because the digital world is constantly changing, and I believe the best learning can come from hands-on experience.” Focused on their career ambitions and passions, Rivera and Tugbang knew what they wanted to learn more about to become even more successful entrepreneurs. 

Bethany Rivera
Bethany Rivera

Her family and friends knew it was only a matter of time until Bethany Rivera became an avid photographer. “Ever since I was born, I was surrounded with cameras and pictures,” she says. She fondly recalls her father giving her a Canon camera when she was 12 years old, but it wasn’t until high school that she realized she could make a living with it. She had taken a picture at a pep rally and sent it to her English teacher, who also taught the yearbook class. They selected the photo to use on the cover, and Rivera quickly became involved with working on the yearbook.

Since officially launching her business in 2021, she has steadily grown her clientele from people she knows in the local Hispanic community. In addition, many of her clients are of Indian background, connections stemming from befriending the owner of an Indian restaurant. 

Alex Tugbang
Alex Tugbang

Alex Tugbang’s passion for photography began more recently. Inspired by videos he watched on YouTube, he decided to bring a camera with him on a family vacation to Hawaii in 2016. At first, he wasn’t happy with how his pictures were turning out, but he continued to practice and teach himself until they got better and better.

“When I was in Hawaii, there was this crazy moment when the concierge sat me down and asked me if I made money off photography, and he walked me through how to open a business,” he says.

Shortly after the trip, he started doing photo shoots for friends performing activities like dance. As his content was put out there, dance studios began to contact him. As a graduate of Bishop Ireton High School, he became friends with the bishop who recommended him to several other churches in the area for projects. And so, his client network grew rapidly, all while being a self-taught photographer and videographer. 

Both Rivera and Tugbang find their current coursework, especially Jiyeon Hong’s course, immensely helpful in growing professionally. “She doesn’t know this, but every time she’s teaching something I always make the changes on my website,” says Rivera. “Like when she was talking about SEO and how to optimize your SEO and everything, I was on my website making those changes in real time.” One of the course’s projects that Tugbang finds particularly helpful is analyzing a company’s website and social media presence to make recommendations. In fact, it’s something he finds himself doing often for his business. “For example, this dental company reached out to me, and I could see they didn’t even have a website and needed this and that,” he says. With an analytical eye and a strong marketing skillset, he can help clients reach their goals. “I’m very proud of my students who are pursuing their entrepreneurial spirits while managing their academic responsibilities,” says Hong. “I wish them all the best for the continued growth of their businesses.” 

Rivera is already doing professionally what she’s always wanted to do. Now her goals are just bigger and more ambitious. In addition to photography and marketing, she finds much to love about being an entrepreneur. “Before I started my business, I was a homebody who didn’t go too far unless it was with family or friends,” she says. “Now that I have clients in different locations, I get to see different locations I wasn’t aware about, and I get to connect with different people from different cultures.” The sky is the limit for Tugbang’s business as well. “I definitely want to keep focusing on my business,” he says. “It allows me to grow myself and grow the community as well because there’s other photographers I’m helping, and they help me with my own projects as well.” With ever-expanding client networks and skillsets, Bethany Rivera and Alex Tugbang are excited to continue growing their businesses to new heights. 

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