9 min 2 sec

Cat Lover Creates Cat-tivating Portrait Series

A 21-year-old college student combines her obsession with pets and love for painting to pay her way through school with customized animal portraits.
Animals Arts & Crafts Etsy Niche Ideas Service

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What It's About

A college student taps into her love of pets and watercolors to create customized pet portraits.

Business Model
Arts & Crafts
Skills Required
Painting & Communication
Profit Potential

Words of Wisdom

Even though she’s a marketing major, Sarah found that running a business in the real world was very different than studying it. She had to learn how to shift her skills from simply meeting a demand to actively building a brand, through conducting portrait giveaways, improving her packaging, and encouraging word-of-mouth marketing through her personalized services. She also learned to use business analytics from Instagram to post at the right time and target followers. And painting every day quickly improved her artistic skills.

Fun Fact

sarahpaintspets founder Sarah Miller sold her first customized pet portrait for $10. She remembers this first order was from a guy who needed a birthday present for his girlfriend. Sarah painted her golden retriever, and when the guy came to pick it up, Sarah watched as his girlfriend cried when he gave it to her in his car. Sarah says, as she watched, she probably cried more than that girl did—in celebration, of course.

Notes from Chris

Episode 223

Twenty-one-year-old Sarah Miller has a bit of an animal obsession. She considers herself a cat person, and has long held to the tongue-in-cheek motto of “boys whatever; cats forever.” Her current obsession is her chubby, cross-eyed Siamese feline, Cooper, who she cares for amid her busy student schedule at Georgia College and State University. Her love for dogs comes in a close second. She also has a boyfriend, but he knows his place.

Less than a year ago, Sarah’s love for animals unexpectedly led to a promising side hustle. At that time, like most students, Sarah was low on cash. So when she and her boyfriend’s anniversary rolled around in October, she knew she didn’t have the money to get him something pricey. She had to get creative.

Luckily, Sarah had always had a knack for painting, so she chose to put this skill to use by painting a watercolor portrait of his tabby cat, Merlin. The boyfriend loved the finished product, and Sarah figured maybe other people would too.

She decided to post about it on her school’s Facebook page, and the responses were explosive, with dozens of order requests for animal portraits flooding in. Sarah quickly got to work and managed to fill 100 orders before Christmas—charging just $15 a pop, for a $1500 profit.

In addition to running an e-commerce site, she opened an Etsy storefront in July of this year, and now, just 9 months into managing her business, Sarah has painted more than 300 pets and earned $5,000.


  • sarahpaintspets: See more of Sarah's cat-tivating portraits on her website!
  • Wix: The online website platform that Sarah is using to set up her e-commerce store front

Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,


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Quote of the Day
"The greatest skill I have learned in painting is to slow down. I learned to put in tremendous effort without calculating how much it had earned me that hour. Once I stopped worrying about making money, my paintings hit a higher level of quality. Their worth then increased and the money followed."
—Sarah Miller #SideHustleSchool

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Chris Guillebeau