What inspired you to start your business?
I’ve always freelanced as a graphic designer and illustrator in addition to a full-time job. It helps me stay inspired and keeps the workload interesting, because it’s so varied. Forming the LLC two years ago and building what I’ve created into more of a brand seemed the next logical step. Plus, being able to show my daughter that you can manifest a life that you love by doing what you love is important, too. It’s hard work, but can be rewarding in unexpected ways.

What’s your business best known for?
My whimsical illustration work—mostly children’s books and cat art—as well as my large-scale abstract paintings.

What do you love most about what you do?
Connecting with people. One of the most gratifying parts of what I do is receiving a personal message saying how my work made an impact, or simply made someone smile. One of the biggest compliments was a parent thanking me for making a kid’s book character look like her babies. Diversity really does matter and make a difference!

What’s your best seller?
Private commissions and any cat art. I sell my work at cat conventions (yes, it’s a thing) and have built a base of loyal customers and furriends in the past few years. I’ve gotten many repeat customers through the conventions.

What was the hardest thing about getting the business off the ground?
Time management and work/life balance. Working my side hustle around a full-time job and spending quality time with my family meant a big shift in my daily schedule. It took time to adjust, but I now have a formula that works and I’m able to take it all in my stride with little to no stress.

How’s your business invested in your community?
I work with a not-for-profit organization visiting inner city second- and third-graders in New Jersey and NYC helping raise awareness of the importance of early literacy and sharing stories. Plus, a percentage of proceeds of art prints sold in my Etsy shop is donated to local animal shelters.

What would you like people to know about running your own business?
Patience and perseverance is key. It’s taken years for me to get to the point where I’m comfortable with facing challenges head-on instead of getting frustrated, freaking out or throwing in the towel.
Establish a support system. It can be exhausting and sometimes overwhelming trying to do it all when you’re a party of one. Having a spouse, partner, friend, relative or impartial third party to sound off ideas, vent to, celebrate milestones with (big or small) or keep your feet on the ground makes a world of difference. Hang in there, trust your gut, take your time… you got this!

What’s next for you and your business?
Continuing to grow my body of work is a big focus, and I’m currently revamping my newsletter to stay in touch with my community of customers and supporters. I’m also expanding into art licensing, so you’ll see my work on fabric in the near future. Yay!
Instagram @leezaworks

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