This Girl Makes $500 a Pop Selling Dog Pillows to A-List Celebs
All month long, Galore is celebrating what it means to be independent. Click here for more.
If you’re obsessed with dogs, you’re not alone.
That’s why, from doggy salons to organic pet food, dog-related items are big business. Guys have also noticed your love for dogs, and I dare you to find a dude with a dog who hasn’t strategically placed a pic of his furry friend in his dating app profile pictures.
But Hyla Frank has found a way to turn dog obsession into an independent business. She’s crafted her company, Hyla F., around not only pet obsession but millennials’ love of all things quirky, handmade, and above all Instagram-friendly.
Some of her high profile clients include Hugh Jackman and Chrissy Teigen, and although she doesn’t only design dog pillows, they’re her best selling item.
We talked to Hyla to discover just how she realized that dog portraits were her niche, how she turned her passion into her own business, and the funniest custom order she’s ever received.
Have you always had a love for dogs?
I have always loved dogs and all animals, but never thought my work would revolve around them until I got my dog about two years ago and just wanted to draw his name and face all over everything.
Where did you get the idea to start your business?
I had the idea to go into home textiles, make pillows and accessories when I was about half way through college. I just started making quilts and creating textile surfaces in my free time and fell in love with it. It also evolved when I started turning my class projects into what I needed for myself. The dog pillow idea didn’t come until after I graduated and was making a gift for a friend moving away without her dogs.
Do you ever find it a bit crazy that people are paying $425+ for a custom dog pillow? Or did you know that people would be willing to pay this much for your product all along?
I think most people who are just starting out probably think it’s crazy that anyone wants to buy anything from them, at any price! I have been really lucky to have amazing clients that appreciate the time, effort, and techniques that I put into making what I do. I think that most of my clients see my products, especially the pet pillows, as a personal experience, a memory (when I draw animals that have passed away) or me capturing a moment in their lives.
Who is your target customer?
Dog and animal lovers are definitely a huge target customer. But for my non-pet work, my target customers are people who have a bit of an edgier design sensibility, who like the wonky imperfections of the lines I draw and people who are looking to create new, fresh interiors. I have clients of all ages and from all over the country, so my work is really geared towards people who are looking for interesting items in their home.
You’ve sold to Hugh Jackman and John Legend and Chrissy Teigen, did they both order dog pillows?
Yes, the pillows for them were all dog pillows and were sold to mutual friends that were then given as gifts to Hugh Jackman, John Legend, Chrissy Teigen, and others. One of my favorite aspects of the pet pillows is that they are really great presents for animal lovers and for people that may have everything. They are obviously high end items, but they become so much more personal then just a product.
You’ve clearly turned your passion into a career, can you tell us about your journey?
When I was young I always assumed I would go into fashion, and started on that route, but when I was in college I was lucky enough to meet a textile designer and an owner of a fabric mill in Los Angeles and I was then introduced to this whole new world of textiles and interiors. I still took jobs in a variety of areas in the design industry with clothing companies, retailers, and designers and I love that I had the opportunity to see a broad view of different aspects of the this industry.
The path I’ve created in recent years has been really based on intuition and what I observe around me. My personal work started getting recognized the most when I started making products that I genuinely needed or wanted or what my friends needed as well, which helped make the work accessible and desirable. It’s been a bit of a no-brainer for me to follow my passion and turn it into a career because it’s my number one motivator to get my work done, create new products, and grow my company. Work is never going to be easy, but you should always love it.
Do you have dogs of your own?
I have one little foxy dog, Ollie who is my first dog ever! I never had a dog growing up but always felt like I did from being around dogs that my friends had. I wasn’t looking for a dog at the time, but was visiting my brother at a Wags and Walks adoption event and in that totally cliche way fell in love with him at first sight. It’s been really awesome having him, we go hiking almost everyday and he hangs out in my studio with me while I work. It’s so hard not to adopt more, but I’m sure I will one day.
A portion of proceeds go to WAGS FOR WALKS, do you also volunteer with dogs in your free time?
Yes, when Wags and Walks is mentioned by the customer I donate a portion to them. They are a really great organization and I was introduced to them through my twin brother who does volunteer work with their adoptable dogs. I mainly donate products to them, for example, a dog bed for their offices or custom pillows at their fundraisers. I adopted my dog through them so they will always be really important to me.
You have done human portraits as well, why do you not offer those for custom orders?
Human portraits aren’t as much of my niche and are not ordered as much as the dogs/pets. I do have an option on my website for any type of custom pillow so the portraits would be able to be ordered from that feature. I like to keep the images of the human portraits in my portfolio section so they can be seen but they are just not my main focus at this point.
What’s the funniest custom order you’ve ever received?
The funniest order was from a client who was pregnant at the time and about to have twins. She ordered a pillow of portraits of her two OB/GYN doctors in their lab coats, each holding up a baby by the ankles with the baby butts showing. It was great, the doctors even posted the pillow on their Instagram which I thought was awesome.