ACT Photo Media – Helping small businesses tell their brand story

Aleka C. Thrash has a passion for organizations, particularly small businesses, as well as branding. She has personally experienced branding and rebranding, in her own business journey, which has continued with the clientele she serves through ACT Photo Media.

“My passion for my organization is to help small businesses understand their brand story, and then convey that to their audience, so they can get their clientele,” Thrash says.

Thrash, originally from Las Vegas, moved to the Grand Rapids area in 2007 for college. Beginning her higher education in Nevada, she completed her degree at Cornerstone University with a Bachelor of Science in journalism with a visual communications emphasis.

Recently celebrating her 40th birthday, Thrash, at an early age, had dreams of working in visual communications, sharing her story of how “exposure is everything, but words hit different.” She says that she grew up in a community being exposed to professionals who looked like her, adding that Black excellence was prominent in her life. It wasn’t until she began college that she heard — and took in— the demeaning and negative comments about Black culture, and her dreams faded.

Thrash’s childhood dream of becoming a mogul with an umbrella of businesses and becoming a creative director for Essence Magazine went away as her focus turned to living and working through her struggles of college and becoming an adult. Eventually, though, with supportive people she met in the Grand Rapids area, she began to return her focus to her photography business while working full-time.

Thrash refers to herself as having been a nomad for the past couple of years, traveling after quitting her job at Cornerstone in 2021, and has recently settled into a new chapter of her life in Charlotte, NC. She still spends a great deal of time in Grand Rapids where she has laid roots and built a connection with the community, both philanthropically and in business.

“I wanted to keep my clientele, because I love the community here that I serve,” says Thrash, who credits Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses (GRABB) and Local First as local organizations who initially helped her connect to the community when she first moved here already having already established ACT Photo Media before her move to Michigan.

“They were amazing at not only understanding and elevating small businesses, but they understood the microbusiness; they supported me as a microbusiness,” she says. 

Local First also presented Thrash with her first business award, serving as the perfect example of putting “actions behind what they said.”

Even with her awards and accolades, Thrash says that she still struggles with saying no when potential clientele attempt to undervalue her work and talk down her prices. She advises and encourages up-and-coming entrepreneurs to have self-worth and value themselves and the services they provide.

“Don’t discount yourself,” says Thrash. “Have high value. Value who you are, the work you’re doing and putting out there, and when you set your price, stand on it.” She adds that it is okay to be helpful but also recognize that an entrepreneur who discounts their talent will risk potential future business success.

Having recently rebranded ACT Photo Media and other business endeavors, including Naturally ACT, her blog for natural hair care and self-care, Thrash is ready to bounce back from some of the obstacles that came along with the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes growing as a freelance visual communicator and continuing to help build out her clientele and their businesses. 

Thrash will continue using her blog to tackle relevant issues of her communities, including mental health and fibroids, for example. It is also in her plans to own her own studio down the line, possibly offering co-op space for the various business needs of her clients.

Getting closer to realizing her Essence dream — her work was eventually published for the online brand of the publication — Thrash also believes in not giving up when success does not come immediately, referencing what she calls the “10-year overnight success plan.”

One local supporter and collaborator Thrash refers to as an example of this plan is Shannon Cohen, who she worked with years before Cohen’s business endeavors grew over the years to become the brand it is now reaching audiences and clients internationally. Thrash describes Cohen, and other entrepreneurial examples, as having that “get up and I have to keep going even when I don’t want to” drive.

For more information about A.C.T. Photo Media and Thrash’s collaborations, visit:


Upcoming events and collaborations:

November 25 — Small Business Saturday at 935 Baxter Street SE from noon to 5 p.m. (collaborative partnership with fellow small business owners with a focus on micro-business)

December 9-10 — Mini-photo sessions (contact Thrash for appointments)
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