What inspired you to turn your dog drawings into a business?
I was at this point in my life where I had been working remotely for a while. This ended up being a good transition. I realized that is was time for me to shift careers and find a new job. So I decided to hit pause, quit my job, and take a year sabbatical to figure things out. The grand plan was to simply take time to enjoy my family and friends - a rare opportunity. I had been dog walking during my lunch breaks while I was working remotely, so once I quit my job I ramped that up just to stay busy and be productive. I started getting to know all of these dogs and, in a lot of ways, becoming friends with them. As far back as I can remember, I had always been - I think “doodling” is the right word. It started with our family dog of 18 years, a mini schnauzer. Then I started doodling Jack and Sophie. I would use these doodles to sign greeting cards and these two things [dog walking and doodling] sort of bumped into each other. I drew my family's dog and my dogs because I knew them so well and it was fun to capture them in this way. Bonding with these other dogs, it seemed natural to want to draw these new dog friends that I was making. Pretty soon I scraped something together with the intention of it being a fun project. I made an Etsy store. Then one day I thought to myself, “if I’m really going to do this, I just need to do it for real." The next day, I filed the LLC paperwork. It’s been a big transition from my previous career, but in the best way possible. There are a lot of things I want to grow and improve, but I’m also really excited to see my passion project continue to grow and become what it is meant to be.
What is your “dream big” vision for your company?
The company started unofficially back in November (2017) and it officially became a business in June (2018). In a lot of ways I feel like I’m still just getting started; but my core mission is to create things I love for other people and their dogs to enjoy. It may take many forms in the future, but if I’m loving what I’m making and I’m proud of it, then that's a win. Creating and selling these products and goods with the intention to bring and create joy.
The other crucial puzzle piece is that I’m donating 20% of the profits to animal rescues and animal non-profits. I feel like that is such a motivator for me to grow, because the more I improve and grow, the bigger of an impact and the more good that can come as a consequence of this business. If I have to choose a concrete manifestation of growth, it would be wonderful for the items from my Etsy store to be featured in local pet supply stores. We are fortunate that there are so many pet supply stores around here that want to create and do good and also focus on funding and sponsoring animal rescues. In the meantime, it’s been a lot of fun to take these products to events and interact with people. It’s been the best way to receive feedback and to make sure people know about the work that I’m doing.
What are your current products and your short-term goals for your company?
I just launched a Dog Party Kit. It’s intended to include everything you need to celebrate a dog in your life. You can customize the party size: it could be for just your dog, to take wonderful photos of them celebrating, or you can invite dogs and people friends over and have a larger party. The Kit includes a handmade, custom-sized party bandana and crown for the honorary dog of the party. It’s been fun to make and have my dogs test these crowns. One of my focuses for these crowns or hats is that they are comfortable and that the dog doesn’t hate wearing it. The crown is made out of felt, so it can get squished and the dog can shake its head and it doesn’t fall apart. The party guests get a gift bag that includes a dog party hat, sticker sheets and a pin to wear, and a tassel garland that makes a pretty backdrop for dog party photos.
The foundation of this business was built on the Custom Portrait Pack. The customer sends me some photos of their dog and I draft a portrait of the pup. When you’re happy with the portrait, I turn the portrait into a lapel pin, a pack of 5 vinyl stickers, and the portrait is matted and framed. This is a lot of fun because it goes back to the original focus of trying to capture the personality of someone’s pet. I would say the majority of the people purchasing the portrait package are using it as a gift. A lot of customers have said “I don’t know what to get this person, but I know that they love their dog and this is wonderful."
I make the bandanas by hand and the pins and stickers are made from the portraits of my dog friends.
For my short-term goals, I have Mini Kits coming out for Halloween and the holidays. With any luck, I’ll be able to pull off a Thanksgiving one this year. They include a dog hat - made out of felt that can be squished, etc. - and stickers to keep the kit at a lower price point so someone can splurge for the holidays. <Definitely, because everyone wants to share a fun picture of their dog dressed up for the holidays.> For the Thanksgiving version, I envision a pumpkin pie hat. Seeing pictures of dogs wearing a slice of pumpkin pie on their heads sounds wonderful.