Introduction: Who I Am and What My Business Is About
Hello there, fellow animal lovers! I'm Tiffany, the owner and founder of Custom Pet Portraits by Tiffany Dnaka, where I transform photos of your furry companions into bespoke watercolor masterpieces.
My brand mission goes beyond just creating art—it's about making a difference. I regularly collaborate with animal rescues across the US and donate custom artwork for dogs desperately seeking their forever homes. The business officially took flight on Tiffanydnaka.com in 2021, and since then, our revenue has increased two-fold every year.
While it is something to take pride in, I am still grappling with the challenge of extending my brand's reach. As the sole proprietor, I've realized that I need assistance in making my brand more visible. Therefore, my goal for this year is to partner with celebrities and influencers who resonate with our mission of aiding dogs in need.
I started creating custom pet portraits out of a personal loss. I lost my beloved Moxey (my fur-baby), and soon after, my job. In my search for a custom pet portrait that would do justice to Moxey's memory, I was disappointed by the lack of offerings in the style I wanted. It then dawned upon me that I could use my innate creativity and high school art class experience to create the art piece I sought. That's how my journey as an artist began, and the first artwork I created bears a close resemblance to my current style.
The onset of COVID-19 in 2020 nudged me towards pursuing my art as a hobby and I soft-launched my work on Etsy. Losing my job in 2021 was the catalyst that turned this hobby into a full-fledged business. The constant stream of positive feedback from customers who adore their custom pet portraits is heartening. Looking back, I see losing my job as a blessing in disguise—it led me to embark on this rewarding journey of being a business owner. It's truly incredible to create art pieces featuring dogs and use my talent to aid rescue efforts across the country.
Creating Custom Pet Art
When it comes to the creation process, I rely heavily on digital art. This approach makes my artwork affordable while retaining high quality. Using high-quality watercolor paper for prints, I start with the photo provided by the customer and create multiple layers to achieve the final watercolor rendition. In the case of custom ceramic keepsakes, I use a professional sublimation press to transfer my artwork.
Recently, I introduced drop shipping and expanded my offerings with a clothing line. This method has the advantage of not requiring any physical product storage on my end. I've also diversified my product line with ceramic keepsakes and keychains.
While I started selling my artwork on Etsy, I soon found limitations on the platform that didn't suit my business needs. The inability to maintain a record of customers and the associated costs led me to transition my brand away from Etsy. I then designed my website on Wix, as it proved more cost-effective and user-friendly than other options.
Building My Brand
To attract and retain customers, I've leveraged various channels. From social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook to old-fashioned word-of-mouth, I've tried different strategies. I also engaged an SEO company, hoping it would help boost my brand visibility. However, their results fell short of my expectations, and I decided to terminate their services. A word of caution for new businesses: Be sure to learn as much as you can about any new processes before implementing them, to avoid unnecessary expenses.
As I march into my second business year, I am glad to report that my business has been profitable year after year. Despite the challenges and the occasional necessity to pivot, owning my business remains one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
Advice For Others
My advice to budding entrepreneurs is to remain consistent. At times, you may question your abilities or feel like giving up, but persistence is key. If you see potential and growth in your venture, persevere through the tough times—your efforts will indeed pay off.
Currently, I'm on the lookout for business mentors, investors, and sponsorships, and open to partnerships with pet brands and influencers.