Joe Russell grew up having a dog around the house and even had a dog while serving in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.
Now, the Arlington Heights man owns and operates Laughing Dog Artworks, an online e-commerce business that creates, produces and sells dog-themed framed art and T-shirts. The business was inspired by C.M. Coolidge's "Dogs Playing Poker" painting, he said.
He launched the business in September 2013 because "we could create and design visual artwork," Joe said.
"My goal was to lead and grow a small company where it is fun to work. I wanted a business culture that offers a free-spirited entrepreneurial environment," he said.
The site, www.laughingdogartworks.com, currently offers nine art prints for $24.99 featuring different scenes with dogs. He jokingly added photos online of his dogs Russie, listed as CEO, and Ari, the manager, and said he wants to portray the business as something that has humor and is thought-provoking.
Russell designs the images and owns the copyrights. The designs are sent to contracted artists in Chicago as well as in California and Michigan, who then paint the image and send it back to him. The painting is then sent to a printer to be produced in various sizes, he said.
Russell, who was born in Chicago and raised in south suburban Oak Lawn, earned a bachelor's degree in marketing at University of Illinois in Chicago and an MBA from DePaul University. He worked at various marketing positions in the energy, communications, manufacturing and retail industries during his career. He also served as a staff sergeant in the Air Force doing combat support intelligence. After 44 months on active duty, he was honorably discharged in 1972.
"I have fond memories of the good times spent with my canine friends," he said. "We had cocker spaniels and now own two Shetland sheepdogs who are retired, award-winning show dogs. I love the companionship, loyalty and opportunity to care for these animals. They ask so little and give so much in return to you."
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