Meet Francesca – a long time Zazzle Designer and Associate whose combined passion for animals and technology led her to create the fun and unique website called Cartoonize My Pet. Along with her website, Francesca is also the owner of several Zazzle stores including Sugar Vs. Spice and CartoonizeMyPet.
Tell us a little about you!
I was born and raised in the UK, just outside London. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t “the drawer” at school. I always gravitated towards drawing animals and monsters over people -never figured out why, but it’s always stuck with me.
When I was young, I was diagnosed with a variety of eye problems and the doctor recommended my parents encourage me to play computer games to strengthen my hand-eye coordination. Best doctor’s advice EVER! Being an 80’s kid, I grew up playing Mario, Zelda and Monkey Island to name but a few! My eyesight still isn’t great, but I’ve always credited growing up gaming as a big part of what makes me the person I am today.
Fast forward to 2000 when I met my husband. He’s US-born, but grew up in England; so he’d been scratching at the door trying to get back to the “Land of Ice-Cream Sandwiches” for years (can you believe they don’t sell them in the UK? Horrifying!) Our dreams of living in the US came true in 2010 when we moved to sunny Austin, Texas. We absolutely love it here and have settled into a fantastic artistic community of like-minded weirdos.
We have a son who is 2 and another on the way. Now that I’m a parent, I’m interested in venturing into illustrating childrens’ books or apps. I started a page on Facebook under the name Aaarrrggg Monster (https://www.facebook.com/AaarrrgggMonster) to chart my artistic endeavors.
What is your background in?
My love of animals and computer games has always driven me. The best thing in the world to me is creating a drawing that DOES something – be it a virtual pet or some sort of interactive game. The difficulty with that kind of drive is picking a project that isn’t too big. Through the years I’ve had many half-baked projects that just became too big for one person to finish. It’s taught me a lot though, so I don’t regret any of my failed grand designs.
How did you get started with Zazzle? How did you hear about us?
I discovered Zazzle in Summer of 2008 and uploaded a handful of designs for fun. That Christmas I made a little money and realized there might be something to it all! My husband and I opened a store called Sugar Vs Spice (http://www.zazzle.com/sugarvsspice) and filled it with silly cartoon designs. It quickly became clear that the store was becoming skewed towards cartoon pet products, so I decided to start a new dedicated store called Cartoonize My Pet (http://www.zazzle.com/cartoonizemypet).
At the time we had 4 dogs. I always found products with their likenesses irresistible, but frustratingly rare. Often the “default” chihuahuas depicted on merchandise are smooth coated fawns and long-haired tricolors – which wasn’t quite “right”.
I realized that there was a market here. If I could offer customers products with their exact pet, they’d be MUCH more likely to buy. I started drawing every color combination I could think of for each given pet, but it was never enough and adding products for every single iteration meant that I started spending less time drawing and more time mouse clicking. That’s when I stumbled upon the Zazzle API.
How do you promote Zazzle products (own website, social media, ect.) and what tools do you use (linking, API, RSS feed, etc.)? How do you choose what products to promote? Which areas do you find the most success in?
The Zazzle API is what makes everything I do possible. Simply put, it lets you create a single batch of products, that the customer can then change to whatever image they choose. Kind of like letting the customer do “Quick Create” for you.
Originally, all my pet designs were set images which could be chosen by the customer and applied to my products. This let me spend more time drawing, but I still fell short on capturing the incredible array of variation in nature. I didn’t want people to have to settle. I wanted them to be able to cartoonize THEIR pet.
In 2010, I had the idea of making a Flash program that allowed users to customize a cartoon cat. Dubbed The Catoonizer (http://www.cartoonizemypet.com/catoonizer), it was inspired by computer game character creation tools that let you cycle though options until you created your “one of a kind” cat. The idea took off, but at the same time, support for Flash began to dwindle. I needed a new, mobile friendly approach. In 2013, after one and a half years of hard work, I released the current incarnation of the website http://www.cartoonizemypet.com. Where users can customize their pet, add accessories and a background; then with the single click of a button, add their creation to a whole range of products.
What new Associate Program features would you like to see on Zazzle?
I’m always up for improvements to the “Template Buffet” – the shop front which is generated when you use the API. Whatever helps customers browse products and find that perfect “something” is a win in my book.
What advice would you give to a new Associate starting to promote Zazzle products?
Give the Zazzle API a try http://www.zazzle.com/api! It’s a little daunting to figure out, but once you do, it’s a HUGE time-saver! Plus, you can attach your referral code to an API link, so when a customer buys one of your products you get the royalty AND the referral!