Hi everyone, today I’d like to introduce you to Leila Talmadge and, of course, Marlene! Leila is an artist who creates amazing, colour-packed illustrations inspired by tattoo art, Mexican day of the dead Sugar Skulls and cute pets. Sounds like an odd mash-up perhaps, but every piece is colourful, cool and original and it completely works.
Leila started out drawing her own french bulldog Marlene, but soon other pets wanted to join in the fun, and Marlene’s Gang was born! As well as bespoke pet portraits, Leila now sells prints, textiles, ornaments and other homewares featuring her designs at her online shop marlenesgang.co.uk. We caught up with Leila to find out how she went from doodling to running her own biz.
My Biz Story by Leila Talmadge
Marlene’s Gang was born out of a few personal sketches that I did of my French Bulldog, Marlene. She inspired me! But I never intended other people to see the sketches. In many ways the business wasn’t planned. One day I came up with my first design, and it happened that people loved what I was creating. From here it just grew organically into Marlene’s Gang, and the birth of the brand I suppose! I now create animal designs for cushions, home accessories and artwork, as well as the bespoke portraits of people’s pets.
Although my business really wasn’t planned, I have always been the kind of person that dabbles with new ideas. I thrive off variety and never wanted to live within the typical 9 to 5 working day. Having said that, from sketches to running my own business hasn’t been completely smooth. There have been many difficult things that any start-up will be familiar with: juggling time and resources, trying to build a loyal following, finding reliable manufacturers, to name a few. However, for me the most difficult thing about starting a business was getting over my own creative shyness. When Marlene’s Gang was born, it had been a long time since I’d actually put my own artwork out to the world. As a creative, you can feel exposed and vulnerable because each design is a very personal creation.
Every time I create a design which is loved by the client, it’s a real success and a confidence boost. Being able to create a bespoke commission of someone’s loved pet and actually capturing their character in the design gives me great pleasure. A lot of clients will send me a photo of their dog or cat standing next to their bespoke print. It is one of the best testimonials to receive! Customers’ pride that their pet is now a member of Marlene’s Gang makes our “family” stronger.
Marlene’s Gang has grown mainly with the power of social networking. The support from people we (both Marlene and I!) have met on social has helped spread the word to like-minded people. Instagram, facebook and twitter have all been invaluable tools for introducing Marlene’s Gang to be shown to a wider audience, just from positive word of mouth. I’d recommend being all over social to anyone thinking of starting out on their own creative or entrepreneurial adventure!
The main tip I can give to anyone starting out is that if you are passionate about what you do, then you’re already halfway there. For the same reason, it is also important to surround yourself with people who believe in your business as much as you do. This can really help, if like me, you are essentially a one-woman business. Being able to work on something that inspires you and puts a smile on your face everyday is the best thing in the world.