Be the change. That’s what Annamarie “Missy” Johnson decided to do when she put brush to canvas and painted a menagerie of mutts in need. Missy is our Pawer Woman for the weekend, but a celeb-r-artist in her own right. Talk about bringing a cause to life. I’ve dubbed her the “Rembrandt for Rovers.” She calls her mission Dogs for the Paws.
“I wanted to do some type of project or event that would bring awareness to the amazing work shelters and rescues do every day,” Johnson shared. Armed with a bevy of brushes, Johnson painted portraits of 80 dogs from all over the United States and shared their stories via social media and blog. Fast forward 500 days later, and Johnson has thousands of Facebook fans and a message of hope shared.
As Johnson continued painting and learning to incorporate social media into her message, a small wonder surfaced. People began to take notice and comment, spread the word and asked to get involved. Over time, a few celebrity dogs meandered into the mix, including two-legged miracle Faith and the Target, the Afghan Hero dog who was named USA Today’s Most Heroic Dog of 2010.
“I decided to challenge myself and paint 80 rescue dogs’ portraits and include the stories of their rescue in 80 days,” Johnson remarked. “That was the understatement of the year, as it took a total of 503 days to complete.” What kept Missy going were the stories of the dogs and their portraits nearby as she created masterpieces. Paint dripping and tears falling, her giving spirit never wavered.
So has the media recognized Missy? “That is one of the hardest things and an obstacle for many, how to get the media to notice their business,” she reported.
She put together a simple logo and press release that she sent out to all her rescue friends requesting dog submissions. From there she started a Facebook page, Twitter page and set up the Blog.
As Missy tells it, “I think in the early part I did post and send out to media sites and groups that I could find online to tell them about my project and it’s mission. Then DogTipper.com contacted me about being one of their Facebook Friday featured groups…and the rest is history. They really helped share the project and from there I met a dog magazine and had so many happy project dog parents that they started to post and share to their local and regional media too. It really turned into quite a chain of sharing and promotion. I do have to admit I got a little posting crazy and would spend hours every night promoting Dogs for the Paws to companies and news media.”
What advice does Missy give others wanting to have their own pet-oriented business?
“ Put all your ideas together in a package that is both engaging and interesting. Tell the public who you are and what you offer them in a simple yet fun way and the people will come! Use all the social media tools from HootSuite to WordPress to drive your business to the forefront of the pack. If it’s your passion and you love what you are doing it will shine through to your potential customers and they will take it and share, share, share! And you will have some mountains to move….but don’t get frustrated and give up….there is success on the other side! Be patient and don’t be someone or something you are not because you want to connect with your clients, consumers and fans…there is no one you-er than you…Be yourself!”
Resources Missy used in her business climb include WordPress and Blogger (blogging platforms) for inspiration. She searched through Facebook and join Twitter to see what other groups or businesses are doing to reach their customers. She wanted to blog so she found groups like BlogPaws and attended their events for education and networking with others.
With the aptly named Dogs for the PAWS project complete, Johnson focuses her efforts on fundraisers for rescues via her online Zazzle store and is currently accepting commissions and special projects. This Rembrandt for Rovers shared some inspirational advice in finding a passion: “Take all the parts and pieces and present it in an engaging and unique way and your passion will drive you to success.” We couldn’t agree more. Happy 2nd birthday, Paw-er Woman!
Where to find this fab Fidose friend:
Catch up: If you missed the first six parts of our Paw-er Women 10-part series, catch up below.
Feel free to ask questions of me or any of the women featured in the series.