It's no secret that Instagram is a haven for animal lovers. Not only do pet owners love to share their favourite photos of their furry friends, many dogs, cats and other animals even have their own accounts, posting daily images to thousands of followers.
One business making the most of such a trend is Pickle's Pawtraits, a digital pet portrait company run by Abbey Cosnett and Harley Care.
The couple, who are based in Rolleston and started the business in August last year, say they were moved to create the company after getting their own dog, a miniature dachshund called Pickle.
"Our inspiration was Pickle," says Cosnett. "We got her just before the lockdown in 2020 and then we made an Instagram account for her."
After realising that Instagram was full of pet-related businesses, the couple decided there might be potential to combine their passion for animals with their interest in entrepreneurship.
"We thought let's get into this thing and make a business in the pet industry," says Cosnett.
"Then it kind of just took off so we thought let's keep going with it."
Pickle's Pawtraits is this month's Dell Passion Project recipient. Dell and The Project are recognising passionate people who turn their side-hustles into full-time gigs, while maintaining a day job. The company will receive a Dell XPS laptop.
Cosnett says the majority of the couple's clients are people with dog Instagrams and are after a profile picture for their pooch's account.
"We do want to expand out of that but at the moment it's been heaps of dog Instagrams."
Despite the creative nature of the work, neither Cosnett nor Care have a background in art or graphic design. Cosnett works as a chemistry laboratory supervisor by day, while Care works in a manufacturing plant dealing with infant formula.
Because they both work full-time, they end up having to fit in the Pawtrait work around their day jobs, which can mean some long hours.
"I work 8-4 and then I probably work most nights from like 5-9 at least," says Cosnett. "Some days when we're really busy I'll take my laptop to work and do it on lunch breaks, and pretty much Saturday and Sunday for me is mostly Pawtraits – so it's getting pretty busy."
Cosnett says Care primarily deals with the business side of things while she focuses more on communications and the creative part. Although the couple do some of the design work themselves, the business has now grown to a size where they collaborate with other artists to help out.
"We have a small team of people that work with us," says Cosnett. "And I've started to do more of the edits at the end and the tweaks, adding things on to them."
Pet owners keen for their beloved animal to be turned into art can upload a photo to the company's website, which the artists then use as a base to create a digital portrait.
And it's not just dogs they draw.
"We actually get a lot of cows and bunnies and we had a lizard the other day, and sheep and things like that as well – so it's actually quite a variety, we've had some birds too."
The company has done around 1200 portraits since they started and has also expanded into selling mugs and stickers, with t-shirts and tote bags on the way soon as well.
The pair have also created a 2022 calendar, turning to their followers on Instagram to vote for their 12 favourite animals to be included.
The business also contributes to a different animal-related charity each month, giving $5 from each order containing a portrait. Last month they raised around $570 for the New Zealand Chihuahua Rescue in Christchurch while this month's donations will go to 9 Lives Orphanage, a kitten and cat charity in Auckland.
And while the aim is to eventually turn the company into a full-time gig, the short term goal is to keep growing slowly "so we can cope with every bit of expansion until we do get to that point of being able to do it full-time."
As for Pickle, despite being the inspiration for the couple's growing business she hasn't let the success go to her head.
"She just sleeps under the desk most of the time, barks at the courier and rips up delivery stickers," says Cosnett.
This article was created for Dell.