“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”Robert Collier
Could you tell us about the company you created and/or the professional services you offer?
Dash and Hound Designs was created when I (Margo) decided I wanted a creative outlet to explore my love of painting and illustration while bringing fun and charismatic designs to people’s lives.
When I was thinking of a focus for my new illustration business I couldn’t help but remember my first experience with entrepreneurship, which was back in highschool. My friend – now business partner – Sammi and I were in FBLA – Future Business Leaders of America – and had developed a wrapping paper company called Woof Wrap. The wrapping paper had my illustrations of various dog breeds paired with Sammi’s dog breed themed poems in a black and white tossed pattern. That was a great product because it focused on a clear theme, which was dogs, and had a clear audience, which was dog lovers.
Over a decade later, I still felt that the dog niche was a great place to be because dogs have so much character that it’s a lot of fun to illustrate them, and because the dog market is doing well right now and there is an audience to market to. After a year or so of dabbling in Dash and Hound, Sammi started to help out with the marketing and now we work closely on developing products and running day-to-day business needs.
Now our Dash and Hound Designs shop on Etsy stocks cheery, hand-painted, dog-inspired stationery and accessories for dog lovers. Our most recent products feature dogs wearing facemasks. They are meant to bring a little cheer to the challenging times we are in with the pandemic. The Quarantine Canines are on products such as greeting cards with phrases like “Happy Birthday From a Safe Social Distance”. We also have face coverings with dog patterns on them. We hope they can bring a little brightness to a “ruff” time. Dogs can be very supportive to humans. They can give unconditional love, be there for their owners to provide friendship and company, and they are often just really cute and heartwarming to observe. We hope the illustrated dog characters evoke these sentiments.
When I was thinking of a name for the business I liked the idea of the two part name with “and” in between. I wanted something that was creative and sounded timeless. I played with a lot of different word combinations but nothing really sounded like it paired the dog theme with the illustration. A friend actually suggested Dash and Hound and I liked it right away because “dash” reminded me of a pen mark or a paint stroke while “hound” was very related to dogs. Also, “dash-hound” is a common, albeit technically incorrect pronunciation of dachshund.
You can check out all of Margo’s work on her Etsy Shop here.
What did you do before starting your own project?
Currently this is a part time venture while I work as a home textile designer in New York City and Sammi works in the aviation industry in Denver. Building up a side business in addition to having full-time jobs is a challenge but also rewarding. It is a fun and creative outlet that is exciting to have autonomy over. It gives me a chance to use my hand painting skills and Sammi a chance to have fun with social media marketing. It’s also a fun project that we can both do together even from different states. Finding time is always a challenge but it’s been getting easier as we stick with it and see things grow! We hope that we can grow the Etsy shop and eventually plan to open a shop on Shopify and potentially have booths at dog shows and gift fairs.
What tools or skills were the most useful for planning the start of your project?
For me, having a background in print and pattern design has proven very useful. In my daily work designing textiles for bedding, I use graphic programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator and use hand painting techniques whenever possible. I also attended SCAD – Savannah College of Art and Design – where I originally gained the discipline and creative thinking skills that it takes to create a successful creative project. For Sammi, working in the aviation industry has helped to hone her skills in organization, creative thinking, and project management.
Which were the main economic challenges you faced during your project?
As a small, two-person startup with limited funding, we have focused on platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and soon Pinterest to get the word out because they are free and easy ways to get in front of an audience. We are pretty budget-conscious and have personally funded our samples and test prints. Most of our items are drop shipped products or digital downloads, so fortunately there aren’t a lot of inventory-related overheads, and that we did on purpose, too.
How did you get your first customer/ client/ money earned?
When I originally started Dash and Hound Designs, I decided to use Etsy as a platform for the business instead of starting a separate shop using Shopify or a website. The theory was that to get started it would be helpful to be in a location where there was already traffic and people shopping for fun handmade items. Etsy is a good marketplace for that. This has paid off because a lot of shop traffic has come from people organically finding the shop on Etsy. Later down the road when we have more traffic and have built up more of a brand and customer awareness, we plan to start a shop on Shopify as well. It’s our goal to expand Dash and Hound Designs to offer cards, prints and digital downloadable products like planners. We also would like to create product lines such as dog beds and bowls and other giftable items for dog lovers. We love the idea of creating a world of cheery dog characters that brighten dog lover’s homes and lives.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
We have learned that it’s helpful to focus on doing at least one thing everyday for the business, even if it is something small. Small things create forward momentum. It takes some faith but more often than not things will grow and develop if you just keep at it and continue to put in the work.
Is there a book, series or podcast that you’re particularly into right now?
I like to listen to the “Simplify Your Sales” podcast by Morgan Nield, an Etsy business coach. Sammi is currently hooked on “My Favorite Murder”, which is not business-related!
What have you found are the pros and cons of being your own boss?
We can create our own working schedule. However, this also means we have to set our own deadlines and make tough decisions.
What has been the most challenging moment of your project/ business? How did you overcome it?
Sometimes it’s overwhelming to think about all the things that should get done to grow a business and it can be challenging to find the time to do it. However, just dedicating some time to do at least one thing every day has helped things move along and gain momentum.
Who was an important figure during this process? How did he/ she/ they support you?
Our parents have emotionally supported us throughout this process. They have always encouraged us to develop our creative passions.
What is the most important learning you take from this stage of your life?
In order to make progress and be successful, you have to be consistent and have faith. Things usually don’t just happen, you have to put in the work and you can’t give up. However, if you enjoy the work and have a greater vision that you believe in, it is usually worth it and pays off. Sometimes we want all the good without putting in the work, but we usually feel the best after we attain goals that took more effort to achieve. It feels good and is often a relief to push past hurdles.
Have you ever suffered from “impostor syndrome”? If so, how did you overcome it?
This is something that we both feel sometimes. We try to use it to motivate ourselves to keep learning and growing. We also recognize that most people deal with this on some level and that it isn’t something unique to us. Knowing that other successful people deal with imposter syndrome is reassuring. You just have to push through it.
What is your perspective or philosophy regarding uncertainty or the unknown?
Uncertainty and the unknown are inevitable and we feel we just have to do the best we can with the knowledge that we have at the time to prepare for scenarios. It’s helpful when we remember that we are doing the best we can, because the best is all we can do. Researching and asking advice from people who are in the know is helpful. That’s one thing we try not to be afraid of, asking for help.
If you could give some advice to yourself a few years ago, what would you tell yourself?
Just keep going. Everything is leading somewhere, even if it doesn’t always seem like it is. It’s good to remember the classic concept that it’s about the journey not the destination.