I met Helengrey Dobrenski a number of years ago at an evening bootcamp, of all things. I was drawn to her quiet nature and gorgeous smile. At that time, she was living here with her parents during the summer months and then always went back to the US for school in the fall.
In a way, I’ve been witness to a blossoming young woman.
Maybe it’s her southern charm, or possibly the way she carries herself but you can’t help but feel like Helengrey gives you all her attention when she’s talking to you. She easily could be the sweetest person I know (maybe tied with her mom, Maryfrances!) Once, for Christmas they gave me the most gawdy tree ornament- the shape of Texas, with a cowboy hat on top. It’s still one of my favourites that has a place on my tree every year.
I remember when she got engaged to a local boy and planned one of the most beautiful weddings I’ve ever been to. A few years later she launched her photography business that has absolutely thrived. Doubtless she has spent hours and hours honing in her craft but I would be remiss if I didn’t compliment the gift that she has too. Many people in our town, province, and beyond have been captured by her magic.
Now, she’s recently become a mother and life has taken on another level of meaning as she pours into her sweet family of 3. It’s been such a pleasure watching from the sidelines and cheering her on.
Welcome to the table, Helengrey!
How long have you called the Bulkley Valley home?
This magical little valley has been my home for five years. I was born and raised in west Texas and to escape the hot Texas summers, my family ventured way up north to the Bulkley Valley. During University, I spent several summers in Smithers and one summer I met my husband, Cole. We were married in August of 2016, and that was the start of my journey living in the north! This town has a special place in my heart and I feel so blessed to call this place my home.
What is one thing you’ve learned about friendship or community?
Community was always a challenge for me growing up. I was definitely always the girl who enjoyed only having one close friend. So throughout Elementary, High School, and University I always had that “one friend” who filled my social cup. Coming to Smithers and being married to an extrovert, has definitely impacted and grown my view of community. Finding community in Smithers has honestly been such a joy, my husband and I find you can easily create different friendships through all the diverse activities Smithers has to offer such as mountain biking, skiing, working, small business communities, and church.
Over the years, I have also seen the importance of mentorship. I was mentored in High School and University by several different ladies and they had such a beautiful impact on my life and mental health. I think taking a step of faith and meeting with someone younger or older than you can make such a difference in your life. “Mentoring is simply sharing your life experiences and perspective with younger people, learning from older women, and living life together.”
I was also mentored by two photographers and I found these relationships to be one of the most valuable investments in my small business. I had several mentor sessions with Grant Daniels Photography and Cottonwood Photography. Their expertise and experience saved me from making many of the mistakes that they went through when growing their small business.
For my small business, community has been such an important factor as I continue to grow. Community over competition is definitely the motto I recite over and over. It’s such a beautiful reminder and movement! We are so beyond blessed to live in a community that celebrates all small businesses. Living out community over competition isn’t always easy but it is so rewarding when you look back and see all the meaningful connections and support you have created with other talented makers. It’s so easy to get caught up in this fear of falling “behind” or “comparison” but when we stop and take a moment of gratitude, we can learn so much from others. We have an abundance of talented small business owners in our little valley and we all bring different talents and strengths to the table! I love watching other businesses bloom, I love learning from others, and most of all I am so thankful for the supportive community we have in Smithers! “A candle never loses any of its light by lighting another.”
What is one area you are growing in?
Being present and living in the moment is a goal I am always working on. I find myself always dreaming of the future or counting down the days to the next big life event. Covid-19 definitely has forced me to slow down and prioritize life and work. I find myself overbooking, overcommitting, and saying “yes” all the time. I have realized that for me to be the best version of myself I need to say “no” and prioritize my relationship with the Lord, relationships with family and friends, and my own physical and mental health. We live in a culture that is addicted to busy-ness. We go through the week being over-committed and come home feeling so overwhelmed. I think Covid-19 has taught us all that it is okay to slow down and sometimes it’s best to say “no.”
What would you say to your younger self?
I would say “slow down” enjoy and appreciate the “now” rather than always looking forward to the next step in life.
Who inspires you and why?
My family inspires me! I grew up with parents who are very creative and talented entrepreneurs. Watching my mom and dad grow their small business through the successes, hardships, failed projects, and joys. They always strived to trust that God would provide but also be brave and take steps of faith. Cole, my husband, also inspires me with his passion for life. Cole has an abundance of passions and hobbies. It’s been pretty inspiring to watch him learn and grow the many talents that he has. Leatherwork, forging, electrical work, mountain biking, skiing, and the list goes on and on!
What do you know is true, and how do you carry that day to day?
Rest. Resting in the Lord. I find if I didn’t have the peace, rest, and comfort of the Lord I would be so lost. I would have no hope in life, I would be an anxious basket-case, and I would have nothing to look forward to. Pausing to listen and find rest in the Lord has been the biggest life change that I try and carry day to day!
What a beautiful interview with an inspiring young entrepreneur. A wonderful example of how to take your gifts and passions and make them work for you.