Was it tough to start her business at the celeb level? “I’m not afraid of celebrities,” says Krich. “I treat them like regular people. I talk to them honestly, and they love that. Nobody talks to them honestly.” To extend her network, Krich again partnered with her friends in the wine and cheese industries to donate fund-raising events to her favorite charities. Soon corporations and individuals were paying her to do gigs at parties, weddings, wineries and conventions. She set her rates at $60 per person for fewer than 50 guests and $40 per person for 50 or more.
In 2011, Krich married and moved to St. Louis, where her husband lives. Today she travels around the country to speak and host tastings at events like the Ministry of Rum Festival in Chicago, the Wisconsin Cheese Originals Festival and LAWineFest. She does presentations at about six events a month, for groups ranging in size from 10 to 1,500. She occasionally writes a cheese column for The Beverly Hills Times, and she has created a series of 23 Internet TV shows about cheese (smallscreennetwork.com/cheeserules). She earns about half her old income, and the lack of job security sometimes keeps her awake at night. “But I’ve found this whole new part of myself,” she says. “I really like her. She’s fun.”
From: Patient advocate
Turning point: She took snapshots of her friend’s twins
Working out of Gloucester, Massachusetts, Melissa Nicastro snaps photos of beautiful, timeless moments: a bride and groom embracing in front of an elegant stone fountain; a cluster of bridesmaids swathed in satin, strolling down wooded paths; tuxedo-clad gentlemen raising toasts in mahogany-paneled billiard rooms. “The scenes sometimes remind me of a Regency novel,” says Nicastro, 39. But it’s the intimate moments that inspire her most. “I love watching couples in love, seeing that connection between two people,” she says. “I think I’ve become a sap!”
Eight years ago, Nicastro spent most of her time as a patient-care facilitator at a lung cancer center, a job that was upsetting. “One day they’d be talking to me and laughing. The next day I would get an e-mail saying they’d passed,” she says. Often she left her office crying. In April 2005, needing a break, she flew to Minneapolis to visit her childhood friend Rebecca Bell Sorensen. Nicastro began taking photos of Sorensen’s five-month-old twins with her point-and-shoot camera. “I always had my camera with me, and I was just snapping, snapping and getting such a rush from capturing their relationship,” she says. She caught them as they slept side by side in a baby jogger, draped in a blanket, their chubby legs and tiny feet sticking out. She visited again later that year, this time with an upgraded camera, a Sony SLR with a much faster shutter speed. On that trip, Sorensen marveled at how Nicastro seemed to anticipate which intimate exchanges best captured her twins’ interaction. “She saw little things that brought them together: the way they experienced something new to eat or cared for their baby dolls,” says Sorensen. “She has a true gift for telling stories with her camera.”
Back in Gloucester, to escape the sadness of her work, Nicastro began taking pictures of other friends’ babies. Yet her day job continued to weigh on her. “I felt myself shutting down emotionally,” she says. At a St. Patrick’s Day party in 2007, a friend commented on how depressed she seemed, and asked her what her dream job was. Without hesitating, Nicastro blurted, “A photographer.”
“What’s stopping you?” he asked.
“I can’t just be a photographer,” she replied.
“Well, you go to school first,” he said.