Gaines Group Architects

Get to know “Jill Koeppen, Photographer Extraordinaire” Friday Featured Local Business

jill_picGive us some background on your company. What do you do and why do you do it?

Jill Koeppen Photography offers on-location portrait photography based on my clients’ photography needs. Living in the beautiful Shenandoah allows me to take advantage of the outdoors as my studio, using natural light for my photo sessions. I specialize in many types of portraits – from maternity photographs, to children, to families, to professionals looking for a great head and shoulders 13

While I offer my clients photos in both black and white and color, I admit I have a soft place in my heart for black and white. Portraits are so timeless and classic in black and white.

blog 10What I love about my business is that I can tailor the photo session to suit the personality of the client. If a client tells me that their favorite family activity is to go trout fishing, we head off to a gorgeous trout stream. I’ve done a mountain biking session in the woods with a very active family. Some clients prefer to stay in their back yard or on their front porch, and that is fine too. Photos from a session where the client is having a great time in a relaxed environment reflect an honest insight into that person.

I travel to my clients who live throughout the valley. Sometimes I even get to enjoy photo sessions on the beach where my family lives in the Tidewater area.

Give a brief summary of what your company does and who you are as a company.

I have been intrigued by photography since I was in my early teenage years. As a student at James Madison University, I studied photography and mentored under two amazing JMU staff photographers, Tommy Thompson and Diane Elliott. At the university, I photographed a wide range of university activities including sports events, ribbon cuttings, and even student life during the studies abroad program. Following college, I spent some years working in public relations and 11

blog8After years of photographic exploration, I discovered what I enjoyed most was capturing a portrait of a loved one that would be cherished for years to come.  In 2006, I opened Jill Koeppen Photography.

Getting to know my clients is one of my favorite aspects of my job. I feel very honored that they choose me to peer into their lives with my camera. I know sometimes it doesn’t feel so comfortable being in front of the lens, so I try to make the photo session fun and relaxed by talking and joking around. With kids, the joking around may even lead to some spastic dancing on my part to solicit a giggle or two. Parents, I apologize in advance if you witness that!blog 14

blog 3I work closely with my clients to get to know their personality and their goals before the photo shoot so that I am sure we all walk away feeling confident that we were able to achieve an end result the client will absolutely love. There is no feeling better than a client who gushes about the photos I took!

Do you have an ideal client? If so, what do they look like?

My ideal client has a goal in mind, but is also willing to try some different things and be flexible during a shoot in order to get a photo that pleases everyone. Working outside means that I have to constantly reassess if the light is tricky or the weather doesn’t cooperate. I love clients who don’t mind going to plan b if necessary. Who knows… plan b might even lead to an incredible photo.blog4

What is your favorite success story in the past few years?

The story that sticks out the most in my mind is a client who called me to say she had just been diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer.  Her future was uncertain and she wanted to have a family photo taken right away before she started her chemo treatments. We held her family photo session beside a small river and she was thrilled with the photos. I’m so happy to say that today she is cancer-free!

blog 12What do you like to do for fun? Favorite restaurant? Favorite place to spend a Saturday afternoon?

When I am not working, I spend my time with my husband, Jeff, and my daughters, Claire, 13, and Ellie, 10. We like to hike together at Big Meadows and other trails on Skyline Drive during the warmer months. Big Meadows has the most amazing light and I adore taking photos there in the tall summer grass.

We cook at home a lot since three of us are vegetarians. I love making homemade bread and homemade pizzas. As far as restaurants, my family loves ethnic food. When we go out, Thai Flavor and A Bowl of Good are favorites.

blog9What is on your (iPod, radio, phone) while you work?

When I edit my photos, I enjoy listening to Pandora because I can tune into some of my favorites like Mumford and Sons, Of Monsters and Men, or 5

What is your favorite book?

Historical fiction is always intriguing to me. I just finished reading World Without End by Ken Follett. Delving into medieval history gave me a keen appreciation of the modern conveniences we enjoy today.

 Where is your favorite place to vacation? 

Our favorite family vacation was to Providenciales, Turks and Caicos. I’ve never seen water as turquoise blue as the water is on Grace Bay. It was so interesting to see the pirate treasure maps carved into the cliffs there.

Our vacation this year will be spent exploring Quebec where we hope to learn more about our Canadian neighbors while eating our fill of French pastries!blog 7

What historical figure would you most like to have dinner with and why?

Sitting down to an Italian dinner of pasta and red wine with Michelangelo would make for an incredible evening. It is fascinating that someone can bring a piece of marble to life like he did. I would love to hear about life during the Renaissance in Italy.

blog6You can find more information on Jill Koeppen Photography on facebook at Jill Koeppen Photography or online at Call 540-560-4591.

Get to know “Universal Design Partners”: Friday Featured Local Business

This week’s featured local business is Universal Design Partners.



About: Universal Design Partners is run by Scott and Sarah Pruett; both of whom are health care professionals who specialize in Universal design and accessibility. Their passion is helping businesses design things that are functional for the greatest amount of people.

So, Sarah, give us some background on your company. What do you do and why do it?

We both have a background in physical rehabilitation and made a decision to apply our skills in the community instead of in a clinical setting. I’m an occupational therapist and Scott is a therapeutic recreation specialist. Back in 1999 Scott was in a skiing accident, broke his neck, bruised his spinal cord, and has been using a wheelchair ever since. It wasn’t really one of those things he planned for and life changed quickly. Lesson learned: life isn’t predictable. I know we’re not alone in realizing that.

We’ve each worked with people whose lives have been turned upside down by some sort of physical issue, whether age, injury, or illness – speaking very generally here – that has affected ways they interact with nearly everything in their homes and communities, and we see tremendous opportunity to help make life easier for them.

We’ve chosen two things to focus on:

  1. Encouraging widespread use of universal design, which is about the design of things that are highly accessible and highly usable for the greatest amount of people, regardless if a health condition exists or not.
  2. Consulting with businesses and organizations to help make the things they offer more accessible and usable. Not only does this increase value of what they offer, but if enough businesses and organizations get on board with the idea of universal design, it will ultimately will make communities more “welcoming” and easier to access for people who live in them, again regardless if health-related needs exist or not.

There are places that people want to go and things people want to do on a regular basis that are more difficult than needed, simply because of the design. When things are designed well, whether a place, product, or program, all sorts of stuff in life becomes easier and less stressful. Who doesn’t want that?

Do you have an ideal client? If so, what do they look like?

Yup. We ideally want to work with businesses or organizations who are designing, building, or creating new things. This can include everything from residential homebuilding, commercial construction, product development, leisure service, and all sorts of things in-between. We want to work with clients that value the intellectual capital that we can provide as healthcare professionals to increase the functionality of their products and/or services.

What is your favorite success story in the past few years?

We love to travel; two years ago we were able to move to a small mountain town in Colorado for 4 months as Scott was finishing his graduate degree in Parks and Recreation Management. We rooted ourselves in Crested Butte while Scott worked at The Adaptive Sports Center – an outdoor adventure organization that specializes in providing opportunity for people with disabilities to participate in outdoor adventure sports. These sports, activities, or programs offer tremendous therapeutic value through increased physical skills, confidence, and other context-specific benefits. It was a wonderful change of pace and gave us the time to challenge ourselves both physically and vocationally. We also worked with local lodging providers to increase accessibility for participants of the center, and we saw firsthand that all that’s necessary to catalyze big results in people’s lives is a little problem-solving. It was rewarding personally and professionally as we saw positive changes as the result of our efforts.

What do you like to do for fun in Harrisonburg? Favorite Restaurant? Favorite place to spend a Saturday afternoon?

Well, Strite’s Donuts isn’t really a restaurant, but we live downtown and they conveniently park their donut truck within easy walking distance on Tuesdays and Thursdays; we love their hot and fresh awesomeness. Union Station and Dave’s are also downtown favorites. We enjoy getting away from the quick pace of everyday life and getting outdoors, whether taking a walk around the neighborhood or taking our Subaru or Jeep up into the mountains for a little off-road adventure. If we stay in for something low-key, it often includes Netflix, coffee, and maybe a dark craft beer. We’ve also developed some close friendships through our church community, and regular evenings with them provide entertainment and some borderline unhealthy amounts of laughter. I play volleyball once a week too.

What is on your (iPod, radio, phone) while you work?

It depends. Sometimes we need to work in silence, but usually Pandora is streaming something in the background. I typically work best with music from film scores or other classical music without words so I won’t get distracted by the lyrics and start singing. However, when doing mindless data entry you’ll probably hear either oldies, folk, contemporary bluegrass, or acappella music of all kinds coming from my computer. Scott’s music preferences are a little different from mine, but again dependent on what he’s doing. It’s typical to hear everything from acoustic folk/bluegrass/americana to bass-heavy uptempo stuff.

What is your favorite book?

I’m not a big reader these days, but I read Real Simple Magazine often. Scott’s a nerd and reads mostly non-fiction. His recent recommendations for business-related stuff are “The Personal MBA” by Josh Kauffman, “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die” by Chip & Dan Heath, and the book of Proverbs from the Bible.

What is your favorite app for your phone?

Haha, other than Facebook and Pinterest? When out-of-town I use “Around Me” to locate places to eat or get gas. I’m definitely known to play several games of “Ticket To Ride” on long car trips. Scott’s are Any.Do, Buffer, Catch, and Flipboard.

Where is your favorite place to vacation?

I like the mountains and the beach. My favorite trip was a Caribbean cruise (our honeymoon). Scott doesn’t have a favorite, but he’d likely gravitate to the mountains for something quiet. Or, on the total flip side, he’d suggest a road trip to a big city for a bit of culture change and entertainment.

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