Pet portraits, but make them fancy 🖼️

Carina Linhares
August 4, 2022

Renaissance paintings in the 21st century 

Welcome back to this week's breakdown of the My Biggest Lessons podcast! Adam Reed, founder of Crown & Paw, joined Chris Meade on the pod to chat about the success of his print-on-demand DTC brand. Check out the full episode below! ⤵


Combining your pet with Renaissance-style paintings sounds like a weird combo, right? For Adam Reed, this pairing turned out to be surprisingly life-changing. 

After arriving in rainy Amsterdam for a weekend away, Adam was left without much to do outdoors. Deciding to spend some time in one of the many beautiful museums in the city, he found himself in the presence of incredible paintings from the Renaissance era, known for its unmistakably detailed artwork from the likes of da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Botticelli. 

Not long after returning home, Adam was in search of a gift for his girlfriend at the time, who had just got a new dog. Inspired by his recent trip, and searching for something unique on Etsy, he came across hand painted, Renaissance-style pet portraits that cost upwards of $400. Adam knew that with a graphic designer and a bit of Photoshop magic, he could have the same type of pet portrait at a fraction of the cost.

Driven by his entrepreneurial mindset and the incredible digital pet portraits from a designer on Upwork, a new idea came to light: a print-on-demand renaissance pet portrait business.

Adam launched Crown & Paw in March of 2019 with high hopes of success, and by December of that year, saw over $10 million in revenue. Of course, with quick brand growth comes a lot of lessons to be learned. Wondering how Adam has taken these lessons to continue to sustainably grow his brand? Keep reading to find out! 


Big revenue, bigger ego 💸

Crown & Paw saw huge success right from the jump. Adam and his team earned over $100k in revenue in the first few weeks of business, and eventually scaled up to over $10 million in just 9 months. As a founder in his first year of business, seeing those huge numbers grow daily was one of the only things he cared about in 2019.

In the beginning, Adam's sole focus was on revenue, which left the customer experience hanging and turned out to be a huge lesson. From not having enough designers on staff, questionable order management, no previews or updates being sent to customers, and over 7000 emails from customers with order inquiries, Adam was close to losing his business due to chargebacks and poor customer management.

After having 24,000 orders frozen and inaccessible on Trello, and having the likes of Visa and other financial institutions ready to drop them if they didn't change their ways, Adam's focus shifted away from the revenue boom towards more sustainable brand growth with a focus on customer experience.


Don't think short term 💭

Adam knows firsthand that when you see your revenue grow each and every day, it can boost your ego if you're not careful. Learning a big lesson in order management and customer support in Crown & Paw's first year of business, Adam's mantra switched from wanting to earn the big bucks right now to creating a long-term plan to sustainably grow and eventually sell his business in the next 10 or so years.

For new entrepreneurs entering the ecommerce space, especially those jumping into dropshipping, it's extremely important to keep your long term goals at the forefront and not get distracted by the big revenue numbers. Building a brand that lasts will ultimately bring you more success than the short term, short lived ideas that are only focused on revenue.


Teamwork makes the dream work 🤝

Again, with a sole focus on revenue in their first year, Crown & Paw was severely understaffed and overworked. Starting out with about 50 artists on staff, they saw a huge spike in orders as the holiday season approached, and had to quickly hire over 250 more artists to clear out the 2000+ backlogged orders. With little to no staff structure and rushed onboarding, order management and production saw a wait time of 10+ business days and poorly produced artwork.

In the years following, they've built a team with proper management and structure, and have been forecasting the year ahead to more accurately predict their staffing and hiring needs to get the job done efficiently and accurately. 


Let (them) go 👋

When it comes to working with agencies and outside contractors, creating a good working relationship is important. But, when staff and performance changes start to negatively affect your business, letting them go is more important than your loyalty to the agency.

For Adam, his paid ad performance had dropped after the first year of success with the ad agency he was working with. It took him longer to let them go than he would have liked, using his great working relationship as an excuse to keep giving them chances.

With his internal staffing, Adam stressed the importance of putting the business first. If departments aren't meeting certain goals, especially outside of their peak season, then processes need to be changed, and staff may need to be cut.

Want to learn more about ecommerce growth through the personal trials and obstacles of industry professionals? Subscribe to the My Biggest Lessons podcast on YouTube, Spotify, and wherever else you listen to podcasts.