How Unemployment Amid COVID-19 Led Patrick Osman To Launch His Own Artistic Venture, I'm Cartoonified I'm Cartoonified was launched over a month ago, and Osman says he has already made double the salary that he used to at his previous job.

By Aalia Mehreen Ahmed

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Patrick Osman

A year ago, Patrick Osman had moved to the UAE to work for the royal family of Dubai as the Senior Director of their Private Office. "I was working at The Al Maktoum Private Office assisting their entity in driving innovative technologies to the UAE market, as well as rebuilding the operational and sales infrastructure of the business," explains Osman. With the appeal of a bigger salary and the hope that he could help pay off the mortgage loans for his father living in Australia, his move to Dubai was a calculated one. But the COVID-19 pandemic bore bad news for Osman, as he lost his job at the Private Office.

"One night I was sitting on the couch, unemployed and down to my last AED600. And I realized that I can't just sit here– I needed to do something innovative. The situation really forced me to drive creativity. It was 3am, and I was looking at my bank account, and I was thinking, "Who is the richest man in the world?' So I started thinking about Jeff Bezos. Then I asked myself, "What business is he in?' E-commerce. So that's where the idea of launching my business online came about. I needed to launch an e-commerce business. I didn't want to launch just any e-commerce business, I wanted to sell something unique!"

Osman has always been passionate about cartoons, confessing that he enjoys drawing as a hobby. But this predicament brought along a unique opportunity– for him to use his artistic skills as a source of income. This led to the launch of his startup, I'm Cartoonified– an online portal that allows for its users to have customized cartoon-like portraits made of themselves and their friends and family, in any specific cartoon format of their choice, which can later be printed on canvases. Based in Dubai and US, the startup takes in the cartoon styles of The Simpsons, Rick & Morty, Bob's Burgers, and many others. "Personalization appeals to any and everyone. So, I came up with the idea of doing family portraits in cartoon style. While I was doing my research, I then came across the idea of theming the cartoon portrait into an existing cartoon theme."

But he did not jump into setting up the business headfirst. Osman spent an entire month researching the idea and attempting to validate it. An assessment of online competitors, and their following on social media, made it clear that if his services could provide more artistic value than what was currently on offer, the business idea he had in mind could be successful. "I was up till 6 am every day, for over a 30-day period, mastering my website. I built it all from scratch. Learning this game was brand new to me, but I believe if you have the patience and self-discipline to learn an art, you can master it."

I'm Cartoonified was launched over a month ago, and Osman says he has already made double the salary that he used to at his previous job. "The traction has been outstanding! This product appeals predominately to families, therefore the big rush of Father's Day has lead our business to be extensively busy throughout this period. We have had over 700 orders just in the last three weeks (550 UAE, 150 international)", exclaims Osman.

The response to the business was better than what Osman had hoped for, however, starting a venture in the middle of a global pandemic brought its own set of challenges- economically and mentally. "I had to hide the whole story from my parents, as they are heavily dependent on me to pay the mortgage. Therefore, I started this venture alone, learning the ins and outs of the e-commerce world," he says. But he also notes how his business model is recession-proof. "As long as there is a demand for a fun, quirky product like this, and these specific cartoons have a following, then we will remain in business. Artificial Intelligence could be a threat to our niche; but it will never provide the personal touch and the end-to-end experience that we provide."

At the start of this one-man entrepreneurial venture, Osman was assisted by a few designers living in India, Indonesia, and the Philippines. But over time, with increasing customer demand, an addition of three more locally-based artists was made to the team. Osman has also entered into signed agreements with eight canvas painters, located in different parts of the globe, with an express shipping option to the UAE (5-10 days). But with local demand on the rise, Osman says he's attempting to source more canvas printers locally.

Osman encourages entrepreneurs to take the leap, especially during the current crisis, "Stop thinking about what could happen, and find out what could happen!" But his advice comes with a word of caution about not rushing towards a business idea without ample research. "Financial efficiency is a big part of releasing your idea into the market; let's not forget that an idea is one component of a business, it is not the whole entire solution. So, you must understand the four functions of a business (human resources, operations, accounting and finance, and marketing). Have a basic understanding of the functions, and put that alongside your idea, and you will absolutely fly, if the market loves it."

If I'm Cartoonified's results so far are anything to go by, then these are profound words of advice for all aspiring entrepreneurs. "Invest whatever time you have into your dream, into your passion. But you must also understand the fundamentals of business," Osman concludes.

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Related: Starting A Business During A Downturn: The Stories Behind Two Dubai Ventures That Launched Amid The COVID-19 Crisis

Aalia Mehreen Ahmed

Features Writer, Entrepreneur Middle East

Aalia Mehreen Ahmed is the Features Writer at Entrepreneur Middle East.

She is an MBA (Finance) graduate with past experience in the corporate sector, and was also co-founder of CyberSWIFTT- an anti-cyberbullying campaign that ran from 2017-2018 as part of the e7: Daughters of the Emirates program.

Ahmed is keen on pursuing and writing stories on people-centric leadership, female-owned startups, and entrepreneurs who've beaten significant odds to realize their goals.

A bibliophile, chai addict, and photography enthusiast, she can be often found (animatedly) talking about Kdramas, BTS, cricket, novels, and comic book films.

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