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Meet Rick Gardner

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rick Gardner. He and his team share their story with us below:

Rick Gardner and Mark Bell met in 2013 through a career transition networking group. They discovered they were both passionate about their hobbies, Rick about dogs and Mark about woodworking. Together they collaborate to create original cartoon dog art to support homeless pets through rescue groups, shelters and other non-profits.

For Rick, dogs bring joy, happiness, unconditional love, and a passion to capture these feelings and share them with others. Mark looks to bring out the beauty in the wood, celebrate its texture and grains, and enhance the dog art creations of Rick.

Rick’s influences include James Thurber, Charles Shultz and numerous modern day graphic artists. Mark’s influences include his background growing up in the suburbs of Detroit and Boston as well his professional experiences in Germany and Switzerland.

Together, their collaboration is called Binky & Bell.

The Binky and Bell name came from Rick’s first dog, “Binky” and Mark’s last name, “Bell”.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
In the beginning, it was a challenge to see a path forward and describe what success looked like for us. There were so many questions…branding, purpose, inventory, expense of having inventory, cash flow, creating a website. We wanted to tackle them all at the same time and it was overwhelming…How do we reach the ideal customer? How do we use our social media to attract customers and convert their visits to sales? Which groups do we help and how much do we donate to them from our sales? Is there some way to find a balance between philanthropy and entrepreneurship?

A mentor once asked me, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” While I never cared for the metaphor, the takeaway was try to find something small I can do every day to keep moving forward. Sometimes it’s small like creating a doodle that I can share on Instagram or it can be big like having our Naughty Dog joke book published and available on Amazon.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I do cartoon dog art and use it to help homeless pets through rescues and shelters. We donate 10% of every sale of our art to a rescue or shelter. My art is old school, I start my designs in pen or pencil, coloring in with markers and then scan and convert the image to digital. I really enjoy incorporating Zentangle art into my designs. I wasn’t formally trained in the arts, so I have enjoyed exploring different styles, learning from other artists and being inspired by their journey and work.

Whenever I am out somewhere and I see a car with one of our stickers or someone wearing one of our shirts…I feel on top of the world! It is a great feeling writing and mailing our donation checks to the rescues and shelters and then getting their thank you note back. It is amazing to feel like what I am doing is bigger than me and that I am having an impact, no matter how small.

I believe our passion for dogs and animals sets us apart from everyone else. Are there better artists than we are? Yes. Is there a business that cares as much we do for homeless pets? No. We know our actions speak louder than our words and that is why so many rescues, shelters and businesses have been willing to collaborate with us.

Have you learned any interesting or important lessons due to the Covid-19 Crisis?
We used the time during COVID-19 to focus on creating new artwork, creating The Naughty Dog Joke Book, upgrading our website with coloring pages, learning more about social media (especially TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook) and how to be a better craft entrepreneur.

I am very glad that I invested my time in reading books like Unhackable by Kerry Oberbrunner and Ideas, Influence and Income by Tanya Hall. I also would recommend the educational opportunities offered by Triangle Artworks and Wake Tech Small Business Center.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
All images credit to Binky and Bell

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