Dana Simmons knows how to freeze time. For nearly two decades, the Cleveland native has preserved the memories of families and told the stories of brands through his work at Image Voice Productions, a multi-media company he founded after recognizing that he could turn his passion for photography and video into something more. Image Voice Productions specializes in professional high-resolution digital photography and video for weddings, events, commercial use and much more.

Dana is also a graduate of JumpStart’s Core City: Cleveland Impact program, an intensive business assistance program designed to support the development and growth of businesses located within Cleveland’s core neighborhoods.

We recently sat down with Dana as he shared the root of his passion for photography, details about his experience with the Core City program and what the future holds for his business.

What inspired you to create Image Voice Productions? Where did the idea come from?
My love for photography and video grew from my childhood love for all the family photos displayed on the walls in our home. My father took so many photos over the years that captured moments and froze time, and I was always intrigued by that.

And seeing photos like my father’s military headshot on the wall gave me a real sense of pride. Then there were the photos of my sisters—I have five sisters. Seeing all their graduation photos on the wall let me know that I could do it too.

What problem does Image Voice Productions solve?
My customer base is primarily proud moms and businesses that lack a media department. For the moms, I listen to them to see exactly what it is that they want as an outcome and I make it happen. I give them something to brag about.

For the businesses, I basically do the same thing. I sit down, I listen, I get an idea for what their brand is and how they want to be perceived—it’s all about perception. We can make it fun, we can make it whatever they like.

How did you connect with the Core City: Cleveland program, and what do you think so far? Any surprises?
Core City is the best program that I’ve come into contact with. Over the years, I’ve looked for a little help with my business as far as just learning how to predict financials—like a five-year projection—or just to get some good direction to know that I’m on the right track. This program has definitely done that for me. It’s been a great help and I’ve appreciated all the advice and assistance that I’ve gotten.

A big surprise in the program for me was meeting other participants that had a similar story to mine. They were working dead-ends jobs for years and had the talent or know-how to start their own businesses, but never stepped out to actually do it—that was definitely my story.

What are your future plans for your business?
I’m always adding new products and always staying on top of new technology.

My business consists of me wearing a lot of hats. So, what I want to do is grow the business by training people—especially young people—and share with them the skills that I have developed over the years.

Are there any unique challenges you feel you’ve had to face as a minority entrepreneur?
I believe the challenges I face as a minority existed on all the jobs I’ve had over the years before I worked for myself. That was actually one of things that made me say to myself, you have to do this on your own. Racism is alive and well to this day. So, the best thing for me was to step out on my own and grow my talents and my business and get to the place that I am now.

Watch Dana’s elevator pitch for Image Voice Productions below. To learn more about the Core City: Cleveland program, click here.

Gloria Ware
Gloria leads JumpStart’s strategic efforts to create inclusive, high-impact entrepreneurial ecosystems. She brings a wealth of finance and business development expertise to the organization, along with a passion for community engagement.