Dreams Coming True is a Thursday feature on my blog, a way to highlight those whose goal is to create community. The dream might be a blog, a published book, a small business, volunteering, or even fundraising for a charity. Something that makes the world a better place . . . for others.
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin” (Zechariah 4:10, NLT).
Katie: I’m 16 years old and homeschooled, but first and foremost I am a Christian. I love martial arts and music (I play the violin and piano); and I love to draw.
Karen: I’m Katie’s mom (not telling my age) and have run Simply Amusing Designs for the last seven years. I am a creative who loves coffee, family, art, and God—but not necessarily in that order.
When did this creative dream begin?
Katie: I’ve always wanted to own my own business—the freedom of being about to choose the hours that work for me is appealing. If I have my own business, I can also devote more time to the things I enjoy and personally want to do, rather than be bound by someone else’s schedule.
Karen: I have always wanted my kids to be entrepreneurs, to be independent in their thinking and culture their interests so they spend time doing what is important to them. It’s also a great way to earn a living: being of service to others, while at the same time doing something you love.
How did this project/idea get started?
Katie: My mom enrolled me in a few Adobe courses so I could learn to use Illustrator and Photoshop and help her in her business. One night, we were sitting around and the idea just came to her that with the skills I am learning, this might be a good way for me to start my own business. I’ve always loved animals, so the idea for Digital Pet Portrait was born.
Karen: We had been kicking around several ideas for how I could “hire” Katie to work for me; she’s done work for me in the past, but the day-to-day coding and website work was not really interesting to her. So I thought, “What if she could do something she loved (art) and offer it as a service somehow?” And that’s sort of how the idea was born. Pets are part of our family; it’s a nice way to memorialize them.
What makes your project stand out from the crowd?
Katie: We researched what others were doing and found the cost was really, really high, and the artists didn’t give people an option to use the same image on different things for the same price.
Karen: We wanted to offer something clients could afford and even give them a file so they had the option to use the image for future items, such as postcards, mugs, canvases, etc. We didn’t see anyone else doing this and certainly not for such a low price. We do not believe in gleaning all we can from folks; it’s OK to leave a little on the table for them. ☺
What are the goals and intentions of this project?
Katie: I’m still learning digital art, so it’s a fun way for me to grow my skills and give people something of value they will cherish. Ultimately, I hope to grow the business and branch out into other forms of digital art, such as animation and caricatures.
Karen: My goal for the project is to teach my daughter about entrepreneurship; there’s a lot that goes with starting a business, from the website, to SEO, to marketing, to the actual work. I want her to have ownership and really benefit from the learning process. We have homeschooled for ten years, and we try and teach our kids it’s important to have a skill that is needed. This is a first step for her toward business ownership because she is learning to do it all.
How does your project create community?
Katie: Pet lovers already have a common bond. We want to unite them through our drawings and bring them together on our Facebook page. We have lots of fun things planned for the future.
Karen: Who doesn’t want to show off their cute dog or rabbit or duck? I’m constantly surprised by the amount of interest we have already garnered with our project. As with children, everyone thinks their pet is the best or cutest. ☺ We are working on building a community on our Facebook page by sponsoring promotions, and we eventually would like to be able to offer a portion of our proceeds to a charity that benefits animals.
Many have creative ideas but have trouble following through with them. What advice would you give to creative types who start projects eagerly . . . but then enthusiasm drizzles off?
Katie: I think people should research whatever it is before they decide to start it. Is it something they are passionate about? If this business was something I wasn’t passionate about (art and animals), I would have trouble staying motivated.
Karen: I agree with what Katie says: Enthusiasm is related to your knowledge about the subject, interest in the subject, and your end goals. Our end goal is that Katie is able to take this business on her own and grow it to the point that it provides a steady income for her. We aren’t looking to get rich quick. I think too often people place unrealistic expectations on a project or themselves, and when those expectations aren’t met, their enthusiasm dwindles.
Describe the behind-the-scenes effort of your project. Where do the ideas come from? How many are involved in the process? Does each contributor have a specific role?
Katie: Well, the ideas come from the client themselves. They send us a photo, we open up Photoshop, and the magic begins. My mom and I share in the editing process. If something is more complex, I might pass it to her, since she has more experience.
Karen: Katie pretty much summed it up. We take client photos of their pets and make them beautiful in Photoshop. The process involves one or both of us, depending on how much editing needs to be done. Since she is still learning, there are times I have to help get her started or finish something. It’s a team effort all the way around.
What’s been the hardest part about getting it off the ground?
Katie: Advertising—getting the word out, definitely!
Karen: The marketing aspect has got to be the hardest. We are working on flyers for local vet offices, getting our website live, running Facebook contests, and tweeting up a storm. My existing business already has a decent mailing list, so we also plan on including a little intro to my existing clients when we send out our next newsletter.
What have you learned?
Katie: My mom is a smart woman!
Karen: Ha . . . brownie points there, Kate! Seriously, we have helped our clients with this type of promotion, but it’s so different when it’s your own. It’s more personal, and you really take to heart when something you thought would work didn’t. Makes me a little more empathetic with my clients, which is always a good thing. ☺
Have there been any unexpected surprises?
Katie: I’m surprised at the response to our art has been; people seem very interested.
Karen: I knew that almost anything to do with pets would be a good venture, based on the research, but like Katie, I’m still surprised at the reaction we get whenever we post a new photo.
What are the biggest misconceptions people have about starting your project?
Katie: I have no idea!
Karen: People think we can work magic, and unfortunately, we cannot. A digital portrait is based on the original photo, and the original photo must be good quality. We have had to tell a couple of people that their photos taken on their blackberry at 320px were just not high quality enough for us to use. It’s always so disappointing to have to turn someone away, but if we can’t make out details, we can’t do the project.
What are some ways you promote your project?
Katie: Right now, we are running a Facebook promotion where we are giving one portrait away for every 100 likes on this post. But we have more things in the works!
Karen: We would like to get the website finished (that’s on ME) and run promotions on both the website and Facebook, as well as getting the info out to our community. I am thinking about adding information about charity donations from every sale to a flyer to distribute to our local vets and groomers.
Creating something is one skill. Marketing and promoting it is an entirely different skill set. How has that gone for you? Shocked by the amount of work marketing takes? Or pleasantly surprised?
Katie: My mom handles that. I just add photos to Facebook and answer some of the comments right now. She’s teaching me as we go.
Karen: I could be doing better, but with another full-time business, it’s been difficult to spend the amount of time I should to promote this business with Katie. I sometimes secretly wish I could hire a marketing agency to do it for me!
Any marketing mistakes you would avoid?
Katie: I’m not sure . . . Mom?
Karen: We’ve only just begun. ☺ I’m sure there will be a few.
What social network has worked best for you?
Katie: So far, we have only used Facebook, but there are plans for more.
Karen: We are currently active on Facebook, but have seen a few responses from Twitter, and once we have enough digital portraits, we will start a Pinterest and Instagram account—probably in the next couple of weeks.
What advice would you give someone else who has a creative dream like yours?
Katie: Make sure it’s something you really like doing and are interested in on a deeper level. That way, you are less likely to burn out if things don’t take off right away.
Karen: Go for it. Even if you don’t have the success you dream of, at least you will have tried. Consult close and trusted friends and gauge reactions to your idea; this is something I did that helped me tremendously. It gave me the confidence to forge ahead and start this business with (and for) Katie.
Where do you see Digital Pet Design in five years?
Katie: Hopefully, it will succeed and be a nice way to earn income from wherever I am living.
Karen: I’d love it if Digital Pet Design really took off and provided Katie with a business she could expand into other areas of digital art she is interested in. She won’t always live at home, so it would be nice to know that she had a way to earn extra income if needed.
How can we find your creative dream come true?
For your chance to win a digital portrait of your pet, leave a comment below! Winner will be announced next week on the Dreams Coming True post!
[Tweet “Read more about the mother-daughter team behind Digital Pet Design. @SuzanneWFisher”]