I have another Creative Spotlight post for everyone! As a small business owner, I will go out of my way to support others taking the same path.
I met Kim when I attended the Business With Intention Workshop, and I knew right away that this was one inspiring lady! You’ll see what I mean once you’ve finished reading and stalking her a bit (blog & shop)!
Her custom pet portraits are the most adorable things I’ve ever seen (and perfect for those of use who are obsessed with our pets).
01. TELL ME YOUR STORY
In June of 2009, my husband Scott and I started penning our blog, Yellow Brick Home. There, we share stories of DIY, small space living and the things we do in our tiny Chicago home – and outside in our beautiful city, too! At the time, we had a small family of the two of us and our two feline kiddos, Maddie and Libby. Scott had always wanted to add a pup to our home, and while I would have loved one (or two or three!), I just didn’t think the timing was quite right for us.
As a bit of a joke, I painted a 5″x5″ portrait of a small dog for Scott and gave it to him on his birthday. Here’s that dog you wanted!, I’d said. Of course he got a good laugh out of it, and he suggested that we share the painting on our blog. After doing so, I began receiving emails from readers requesting their own pet portraits. I was shocked, but I began accepting these orders as they rolled in, and within a year, I was painting in the evenings and weekends to fulfill the incoming orders! At the time, I was working a full time job, and ultimately, the scales tipped. I could no longer handle the paintings (which I loved) and my 9-5, so I took a giant leap of faith and left my day job.
I lined up a 2 day/week contract job as a photo editor for a good friend of mine (I have a BFA in Photography), and the rest of my time was dedicated to painting. By the fall of 2010, I set up The Pet Shop, a tiny division of our Yellow Brick Home, so anyone could commission a custom portrait of their pet. The rest, as they say, is history! I joke that while I’m the painter, I still consider Scott to be an integral part of the business – he’s my support system. I couldn’t do this without him, behind me every step of the way. On a bit of a side note, he eventually won the doggie battle, and I now spend my days with our loveable pitbull, Jack.
It’s amazing, really, and I feel incredibly fortunate and blessed to be able to do what I love every day.
2. What does a typical day look like for you? How do you juggle a full-time job and your photography business?
Earlier this year, Scott and I turned our second bedroom into my dedicated studio space. In my mind, it’s perfect – pale pink walls, inspirational art, and a lot of storage. It’s in a small 8′x10′ room, but it’s where I go to think and create.
I start every day at my desk and answer emails. This can actually take a couple of hours, because the large majority of these emails require discussing portraits, organizing photos of clients’ pets and giving feedback to ensure I’m able to make the best painting I can for them. From there, there are two ways my day can go:
1) I may write a blog post on a recent DIY project from the weekend and get a few things scheduled into Yellow Brick Home for the week. On days dedicated to YBH, I’ll take care of any accounting/receipts from the week, organize any guest posts or work on any loose ends that can add up to make sure everything is running smoothly.
or 2) I paint. On painting days, I’ll dedicate the whole day to it, since I need to lay down my drop cloths and get into a certain mindset. I’ll listen to music that’s likely to drive most people insane, but it helps me get in my groove and concentrate on those sweet pet paws and wet noses!
3. What is your favorite part about being an entrepreneur?
For the sake of not sounding too dramatic, I love having the freedom to create my own destiny. I control my day, and sometimes I can be a pretty tough boss – I’m working on that. That being said, nothing makes me happier than creating something new behind the scenes. This can include adding new stock sizes, working on a new product (we have some ideas in the works!) or tweaking the look and feel of our Pet Shop. It’s very rewarding to know that the hard work that’s put into the Shop (and blog) is not all for nothing. Every decision we make directly impacts our little family, and our hard work can pay off in more ways than one!
4. Do you have a specific creative process that you follow?
With custom work, I’m pretty disciplined with my process, starting with the first set of instructions I email to the client. From there, we’ll have a discussion on what they have in mind, what they don’t want, and how much they love their pet. I receive photographs, and we decide on colors and layout, and I take this information and turn it into art that someone will (hopefully!) love.
It can be scary to commission custom art; you can agree on a style and design, but you also have to put a lot of trust into the artist. This is why I love to hear about every pet I paint. It’s more than just sifting through photos – I want to know their personalities, their favorite toys, and the silly noises they make when it’s playtime. It helps me to get emotionally involved in every portrait, and to me, that’s crucial to creating a piece that I can’t wait to get in the hands of the pet’s owners!
5. What does the future of your business look like?
I see the future as more than just portraits. We’re working behind the scenes on new products, and we can’t wait to get our ducks in a row and share them with our readers and clients. I do think that everything will still be pet-related, as that’s our specialty – and it’s safe to say we are sort of over the moon about all animals. (I’ve painted everything from hamsters to horses!)
In addition, we’ve just started partnering with nonprofit animal rescues, and 10% of all our proceeds are directly donated to our current partner. Right now, we’re working with New Leash on Life Chicago. We can’t wait to continue to work with many more amazing volunteer run rescues and give back to the community that’s given us our three loves: Jack, Maddie and Libby.
Lastly, we both see our blog evolving. The majority of our clients have come to us as blog readers, so although the Pet Shop and Yellow Brick Home are not the same, they are still very much connected. We see ourselves sharing more of our personal selves, while still providing tutorials on DIY and small projects.
6. What advice would you give to others about starting their own small businesses?
Whether it’s a blog or a hobby of yours that you’d like to turn into a full time business, I always say, just start now. That certainly doesn’t mean to quit your job (yet!), but spend a few hours of your free time in the evenings or weekends on getting tasks done. Make a list, and check them off – one step at a time.
I think most people tend to get caught up in the details, and that in turn can freak anyone out. You don’t have to tell anyone that you’ve started x,y or z until you’re ready to, but the sooner you start, the sooner you can gain confidence in what you’re doing and want to share that with others. Everything else will fall into place – the paperwork, the fine tuned details, your following. But none of that can happen until you start, no matter how little that “start” is.
7. Favorite motivational/inspirational quote?
Being in a creative field, it’s true when people say that you are your own worst critic. But what makes that worse is listening to the naysayers and taking their words to heart. My favorite quote comes from Dr. Suess! He’s a smart one, that guy!
“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.”
THANK YOU SO MUCH KIM FOR TAKING THE TIME TO ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS!
Alright, it’s your turn! Head over to her amazing shop and check it out. Plus, you can enjoy a special little deal – 2 for $15 prints when you use the code DOUBLEDEAL at checkout!