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How Tiffany Dnaka Creates Memories with Custom Pet Portraits

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Esther is a business strategist with over 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur, executive, educator, and management advisor.

How Tiffany Dnaka Creates Memories with Custom Pet Portraits

In this interview, we delve into the inspiring journey of Tiffany Dnaka, an accomplished digital watercolor pet portrait artist. Tiffany’s venture into this unique art form was born from personal loss and a desire to cherish the memories of her beloved pet. Her website, tiffanydnaka.com, reflects her passion for capturing the essence of pets and her dedication to animal welfare. As a one-woman powerhouse, Tiffany has transformed her creative hobby into a thriving business, balancing artistic integrity with commercial success, all while supporting animal rescues.

Inspiration Behind Digital Pet Portraits

SBS – What inspired you to start creating digital watercolor pet portraits?

Tiffany – My journey into creating digital watercolor pet portraits started with a personal loss. First, I lost my “soul” dog, Moxey, and then I lost my job. Both hit really hard. As a way to remember Moxey, I wanted to find a specific style of a custom-made pet portrait. Long story short, I couldn’t find what I wanted so I decided to create my own artwork while giving back to animal rescues. Fast forward to 2020, COVID hit. Like most people, I decided to pursue a new hobby and soft-launched my custom artwork on Etsy. Then, in 2021, I lost my job, and I decided it was time to turn my hobby into a full-time business. That’s when I launched Tiffanydnaka.com.

Capturing Pet Personalities in Portraits

SBS – How do you ensure each pet’s personality is accurately captured in your portraits?

Tiffany – The detail in the watercolor artwork is directly tied to the photos the customer submits. When it comes to capturing the features, such as their expressive eyes, cute nose, and overall facial expression, having a sharp and focused photo is essential. I also provide a photo guide to help ensure that my customers submit the right photo! As a general rule, front-facing, high-quality photos work best.

Creating Art from Photos

SBS – Can you describe your creative process, from receiving a photo to creating the final artwork?

Tiffany – I create my artwork digitally, which is what helps keep my artwork affordable. Each piece takes around 1–3 hours. I use high-quality watercolor paper for all my prints. One of the benefits of being a digital artist is that I can easily offer extra-large print sizes to my customers, and regardless of the size, the time it takes to complete a piece does not change! I have had customers order artwork from as small as 5×7 prints to as large as 18×24. Best of all, because my artwork is created digitally, my overhead costs are low. Last year, I decided to try drop shipping and added a clothing line. What’s great about drop shipping is that I don’t have to carry any physical product. I also expanded on my artwork and added custom ceramic keepsakes and keychains, which helped diversify my product line.

Maintaining Quality in Custom Art

SBS – How do you maintain quality and consistency in your artwork while managing customer expectations?

Tiffany – Each piece is custom-made-to-order by me. I never outsource my artwork, and I always ensure the highest quality and attention to detail with every custom order. With each watercolor portrait that is created, I carefully inspect every aspect of the artwork. I set my standards high and it is directly reflected in the quality of my work.

Challenges in Growing an Art Business

SBS – What challenges have you faced in establishing and growing your online art business?

Tiffany – The biggest obstacle I am facing is growing my brand. As a one-gal show, I realize I need help getting my brand out there. This year, my goal will be to focus on scaling my brand. To accomplish this, I plan to team up with celebrities and influencers who align with my brand’s mission of helping dogs in need.

Artistic Integrity and Commercial Success

SBS – How do you balance artistic integrity with commercial demands in your work?

Tiffany – I don’t compare myself to what other brands do and my process is never rushed. When it comes to creating artwork, each order is given the same amount of time and effort. The process is really sentimental for me, especially when an order comes around pet loss. I connect with the person behind the order. Even if I will never meet them, the artwork somehow makes me feel like I know them and what they are going through. This is how I keep the balance between my creativity and demand.

Marketing Strategies for Art Businesses

SBS – What marketing strategies have been most effective for your business?

Tiffany – I honestly think my foundation for growing and retaining customers through marketing has been vendor events and word of mouth/social media.

Customer Stories and Art Impact

SBS – Can you share a memorable story about how your artwork impacted a customer?

Tiffany – A story that stands out to me is that one day I received an email from a past customer saying that their father passed away. I did a custom pet portrait of their dad with their dog (late dog) and now that art piece is a reminder every day of the love that they shared with their beloved dad and dog.

Custom Art Requests and Creativity

SBS – How do you approach custom requests outside your usual offerings?

Tiffany – I always work with the customer. These orders are actually some of the most fun, as they challenge my creativity. I have done some really unique pieces. Within the first year of starting my artwork business, I connected with a hotel resort and created custom postcards of the property as well as their holiday card! I never would have imagined that a resort would be asking me to do custom artwork. This year, my most unique order was around Taylor Swift. A customer asked if I could create a custom ornament that said, “In my pregnant era,” which, for those that are not as familiar with Taylor Swift, her biggest world tour was called the “Era’s Tour.” Being a fan of hers myself, I was totally up for the challenge and the artwork came out so cute! I’ve also done custom horses, guinea pigs, birds, lizards, and drink menus.

Customer Feedback in Business Development

SBS – What role does customer feedback play in your creative process and business development?

Tiffany – Customer feedback is a priority. In today’s time, reviews are everything. I have 300+ reviews combined from various platforms. I try to encourage my customers to leave a review if they loved their artwork. So far, I have a 5-star rating on all platforms, so I think it is safe to say they have been happy with their purchase. 

Future Plans for Tiffany Dnaka’s Business

SBS – How do you see your business evolving in the next five years?

Tiffany – In the next five years, I hope to see my business continue to grow. Success is defined by how we define it and for me, as long as I am enjoying the process and helping animals in need, I have reached success.

Ideally, I would love to have a designated pop-up. I’ve always thought having a cute little vintage trailer in a shopping plaza would be a dream. I foresee establishing more relationships with dog rescues and doing more charity events to help drive awareness for dog rescues. 

Advice for Online Art Entrepreneurs

SBS – What advice would you give artists looking to start their own online business?

Tiffany – I would say the best thing I have learned about owning my own business is knowing when to pivot and being able to adapt to it. I don’t have any outside investment, which for anyone reading this, I am not opposed to it! I just haven’t had the opportunity yet to expand on that area. I have had to pivot many times.

For example, at the beginning of my business, I attended many vendor events where I displayed my artwork. But because my art is custom-made-to-order, people usually want something tangible to walk away with. More often than not, vendor fees outweighed the return on profit. So, instead of spending hundreds per month on vendor events, I decided to use my time to focus on other areas of growth, such as writing this interview!

Rescue Work Influence on Art

SBS – How has your work with rescue dogs and charities influenced your art and business philosophy?

Tiffany – Helping rescue dogs is at the core of my business. As of today, I have helped 20+ rescues across the US through my artwork. My mission has always been to give back to animal rescues. I always donate custom artwork for a pup in need free of charge. I’ve also done fundraisers and offered gift certificates for charity events.

Most of all, my clothing line is heavily influenced by advocacy. Some of my apparel has quotes like “rescue dog mom” or “adopt, rescue, foster-save-a-life,” I believe that wearing something that conveys a message can be really impactful. So many times I have sparked conversation with strangers just by wearing an “Adopt + Rescue” hat. It is always my goal to talk about the importance of adopting/rescuing and to educate others on the subject. After all, my rescue dog Finn is the face of the brand, and I wouldn’t be doing him justice if I didn’t share with the world how amazing a rescue dog he is!


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How Tiffany Dnaka Creates Memories with Custom Pet Portraits