Tell us something about yourself. What is your niche? How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
Hi! I am Irene de Prada 😊, I am 29 years old and live in Spain. I am a freelance artist in the pet niche. During my teenage years I began to dedicate my free time to draw, I began with abstract shapes without any real purpose, I simply loved expressing my feelings through colors and this is where it all started! My parents encouraged me to study Arts and to follow my passion… and that I did 😜. The concept of my business came up after losing my job earlier this year, I worked as an assistant to an Art Director in a graphic design company. After drawing for a little over 10 years, I had some time thinking about freelancing, I was afraid of all the ‘what ifs’ that come to mind in the scary path of becoming an independent artist. How glad I am that I took the leap! I must say I have had a better response than anything that I could ever imagine. You know that saying about when one door closes, a window opens? well yeah, that happened 😂.
What are your responsibilities as a business owner?
Being a business owner sure is overwhelming at times. Especially at the beginning when it’s all a learning curve and you need to balance social media, the actual product which in my case are personalized pet drawings and finances. Definitely couldn’t have done it without my family’s constant encouragement. The main responsibilities I take in my store is managing my availability in regards to the number of drawings that I can take in any given week. I offer unlimited revisions to all my customers, so I take on each drawing with personal care and an extra eye for details. As they are a personalized gift, my goal is 100% satisfaction! On the other hand, my father handles all the finances and payments that must be done in regards to properly running the website. And also, my sister steps in sometimes and helps me out on social media to answer questions when I am busy drawing.
What are your best selling products, what type of materials are used in your creations, how do you design your products, what makes your products stand out?
My products are Digital pet drawings, I draw by hand with a pen using my IPad Pro, Adobe Illustrator, and Photoshop. I believe they stand out because of the uniqueness of each pet that I draw. Every pet owner has their own story and when they share it with me, it personally helps me envision their pet’s personality and characteristics. I wanted to create this business to bring joy, happiness, a way to forever memorialize those special members of so many families which are our fur babies (how we call them😜). As I mentioned, I’ve been drawing for all my adult life so choosing a specific niche was a challenge! I also love drawing people and nature backgrounds. I sort of incorporate those into my pet drawings if my customers are open to the idea.
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? What’s the hardest about it?
Being an entrepreneur aside from being a tough path, it is very rewarding and fulfilling in terms of personal satisfaction. Making an impact on someone’s life, being responsible for creating everlasting memories of our beloved pets, has an amazing feeling that words cannot explain! The hardest part would be managing your time without it affecting the final results and delivery, having a small business is challenging and naturally, you want to take on more than you can handle, so when it starts feeling that way, definitely rely on others to help you. In my case, my family has been a great support since the beginning and I am so very grateful 🥰.
Who do you sell to (and how do you get customers)? What marketing tools or strategies you use to boost your sales? Are you satisfied with the results?
The market that I currently sell to is the US and recently added to Canada, UK, and Australia. I use social media, Facebook ads, Etsy, Fundraisers, and collaboration with influencers as marketing tools to grow my online presence and get out there! I am very satisfied with the results, especially because I am building a community of supportive and loving friends that support my small business and help me develop further my drawing abilities through constructive criticism.
Do you believe there is a winning formula for becoming a successful entrepreneur? What is yours?
I don’t think there is only one way of being a successful entrepreneur, this process will look different for everyone! For me there are multiple formulas, the important thing is to have the right balance. Finding out what you want to do I believe would be the first step, like really figuring out your niche and giving it your unique touch. Having the confidence to believe in your product and sticking to it (being consistent) will work better in the long run rather than changing thoughts every month or every time the going gets rough! Lastly, I’d say continue learning and growing as you go stumbling across problems. Trust me, everything has a way around it. Get out there and network, get to know people in your same field, ask questions, share experiences, and communicate!!
What was the toughest moment you have experienced in your business practice? How did you succeed to get over it and move forward?
Getting started for me was the most difficult moment. Getting out of my comfort zone and socializing with strangers that became part of my pet community was definitely something I’ve never ever thought of doing! My biggest challenge at the moment is the workload. Balancing the actual drawing that I must do and also the marketing/social media aspect which is super important to interact with potential and current customers. As an independent artist, I have many requests for drawings to be commissioned. Sometimes, I feel overwhelmed but thankfully I have support from my relatives that give me a hand during busy times.
What inspires you when you’re creating? How do you get ideas for new products? What are some methods or tools you use to get creative?
I draw pets and often get my inspiration from the pictures submitted by my customers. I love discussing background ideas and trying new sketches after interacting with each individual person that places an order, both imaginations working together, create a really unique portrait for each loving pet 😍.
Do you ship your product internationally? How do you handle postage pricing? What is the average time it takes from the order to the delivery? Do you use free shipping? If so, why? How do you package your products?
My main product is an HD Digital drawing sent by email, so it does not need shipping. I do offer printed Canvas as an added value to have a physical printed portrait of the drawing. If customers decide on adding it, as a small business, I outsource the shipping with different Canvas suppliers in the US, Canada, UK, and Australia.
What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful online business?
The key elements are, from the start, to have at least a clear idea of what you want to sell. If you will do it yourself or if you need a manufacturer to create the product for you. In my case, I create all my drawings from scratch. The second very important element is to know your competition, it is extremely crucial to know what is out there… If you do proper market research you can find out what’s working and (most importantly) what can be improved upon the current product that you are thinking of selling. The third element would be growing your online presence which is the area that I am personally working on with my brand. The list can go on and on 😂 I think those are the strong basic points to start.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are starting out?
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF 😍! Be confident, If you will start your own business, don’t do it only for the profit. Do it because it is something you’re passionate about. As the popular saying goes, Love what you do and you will never work a day in your life… or something like that, you get the idea 😜 .
How do you personally define business success? Is it money? Freedom? Influence? Creative expression and innovation? Something else?
Business success #1 spot for me is definitely the freedom you obtain when you are your own boss. With freedom comes great responsibility though! Being responsible for your own results sometimes can be daunting because there is no way of pointing fingers. So a lot of maturities are needed to assume failure as part of the learning curve in the road to success.
Describe your day-to-day operation. How do you manage your time?
The evening before I check on my store all my orders from the day. I classify them in the different folders depending on the difficulty level (number of cartoons to be drawn, the complexity of the background). If there are any missing details I reach out to my customers and create a pending folder as well. I go ahead and start my day early and answer any social media questions or requests, I then focus my attention on drawing most of the day. As I go finishing orders, I start sending the digital version through email. At night the whole process starts over! The key is to keep everything labeled and organized to avoid unnecessary delays.
How do you plan on growing your business? What is the biggest impact on your profitability?
Unfortunately… Since I am the main artist and want to offer the best quality possible, I cannot grow as other companies can because people purchase their portraits because they want me to draw them. What will help me grow is hiring customer service and operations managers which will take care of everything else but drawings… So I can focus on what I like the most, draw my customer’s pets🥰
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
I wish I had started sooner to invest in marketing. Many people overlook this fact, thinking that they just need to create a store on Etsy and it will be successful. WRONG! No matter what kind of business you have, marketing is going to be a part of that business, and doing it correctly will make all the difference in the world. I hardly got any sales in my first month, but I did not panic, I knew there was something I wasn’t doing right. After some research and reading online, I reflected on my store and what I had done to drive sales… pretty much nothing. From there I started investigating affordable marketing techniques and I found what worked for me which is online ads and customer interactions on social media 🤩.