Salinan finds niche in making dog magnets


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12/29/2011
By ERIN MATHEWS Salina Journal

For Salinan Brianna Lennox, the attraction to dogs is magnetic.

Lennox, 26, has successfully combined her whimsical artistic style and love of dogs into a home-based business that ensures her creature creations are on refrigerator doors and other metal surfaces all over the world.

In Salina, the magnets are for sale at two locations downtown — the Toy Parade, 119 S. Santa Fe, and Ad Astra Books and Coffee House, 141 N. Santa Fe.

“It turns out people really love dogs,” Lennox said Wednesday. “Everybody has a big soft spot in their heart right where that pet is.”

The creator of Silly Dog Magnets, Lennox made her first set of magnets out of pictures she drew of Chinese Crested dogs in 2008.

At the time, she was managing CD TradePost and, in her spare time, had begun experimentally offering an array of handmade items for sale online at a website called etsy.com, which bills itself as the world’s handmade marketplace.

Swedish not selling

Lennox said her Dala horses, Viking finger puppets and other items weren’t finding enough buyers to replace the income from her day job.

It wasn’t until she posted the Chinese Crested dog magnets that she found she had something that would sell.

“I started making random things until I found my niche,” she said. “My niche turned out to be dog magnets.”

A Lindsborg native, Lennox attended Salina Area Technical College for training in commercial art. She also worked previously as a gallery attendant for the Salina Art Center. She said she learned her love of dogs from her mother, who worked as a dog groomer.

Lennox started to draw more dog breeds, and the colorful magnets quickly took off online. She developed her own Web site at sillydogmagnets.com, and the business continues to grow. In the past couple of years, her magnets have been featured in the magazines Modern Dog, City Dog and Tails.

This spring, she left CD TradePost to devote herself full-time to her magnetic canine creations — and to her real canine, Billie Bumbler, her 2-year-old dapple dachshund.

“I love it,” Lennox said. “It’s so fantastic. It frees me up a lot of time for me to spoil my dog rotten, which is what I do in my spare time.”

Billie, who can weave through Lennox’s legs and leap into the air on cue, has learned an impressive array of tricks now that Lennox is home more. Lennox calls Billie her “inspiration and quality control.”

“I refer to myself as the CEO and her as the DOL, which stands for ‘Dog on Lap’,” Lennox said. “You can’t have a dog magnet business without a mascot.”

Lennox may not be a Salinan much longer. She has her house on the market and plans to relocate to Omaha, Neb. Her business is portable, she said.

Lennox creates her drawings with artist-quality markers, then has them professionally copied. She cuts the copies into a circle with a press in her office, then presses the picture into a button maker.

Instead of a pin, she glues a magnet on the back, mounts her creations on a display card, and they are ready to ship.

On Wednesday, 100 freshly glued magnets were drying on the counter. They had been ordered by a couple of dog lovers who were getting married and planned to give any cash wedding gifts to a dog charity, Lennox said. The couple ordered the magnets to give to wedding guests.

Lennox said she has had the opportunity to work on projects for several breed rescue organizations, and she has created custom work for various fundraising projects — including magnets of Sparkles the fire safety dog and Frankie, the walk ‘n’ roll dog, a dog who makes presentations about living with disabilities. She has even created ribbons for wiener dog races.

“That’s the beauty of a handmade product,” she said. “A lot of times it’s customizable, too.”

Lennox’s boyfriend, Candy Pacheco, helps with the magnet production process and fulfillment of online orders, which are usually shipped within 48 hours.

“You know business is good when the guys at the post office know you by name,” she said.

Lennox said that in 2011 she sold more than 5,000 sets of six dog magnets, which easily doubled the amount she sold the previous year.

She has about 50 different dog breeds represented in her collections, and she said she intends to keep adding a new breed every couple of weeks, “just to keep things fresh.”

She also has one cat set.

“It’s not that we don’t like cats; it’s just that my business is silly dogs,” she said.

She said she doesn’t think she’ll do a “mutt” collection, but she does custom work. She charges $34.99 for one customized portrait of a dog and a set of six magnets, which can be ordered through her Web site.

Of course, her favorite — and her best seller — is the dachshund, which takes two magnets to depict — one for the front half and one for the hind quarters. She has dachshunds dressed in Halloween costumes, wearing sweaters and party attire, and riding in wheelchairs.

Lennox said that with most of her business being online, she doesn’t get a lot of feedback, which makes the contacts she does receive special. She said the biggest fan she is aware of is a 10-year-old girl in Colorado who asks for her magnets for birthdays and Christmases and has sent her letters and her own dog drawings.

“I love getting letters from people who say I captured one of their dogs in my drawings,” she said. “It makes my day.”

— Reporter Erin Mathews can be reached at 822-1415 or by email at [email protected]


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