Personality Prints

Personality Prints: Giftbug

Today's Personality Prints interviewee is Shannon Miller, founder of Giftbug, a company that makes gift giving easier. I met Shannon last year when we both participated in a mastermind for local women entrepreneurs. In this feature you will get to meet Shannon and her husband Andy, as well as their dogs Bug and Bella. Bug crossed the rainbow bridge at the beginning of this year, and is deeply missed. 

Tell me where you can be found.

Tell me a little bit about your business.

Have you ever had that moment where you are so excited for a friend to open their gift that you have to keep yourself from helping them unwrap it faster? A gifting win like this isn’t just exciting, it usually follows learning something new and amazing about someone you care about and adding to the friendship. I have a passion for giving great gifts and creating powerful connections, and this started me on the path to giftbug and a mission to reclaim the art of gifting.                       

I want to break the cycle of gifting feeling like an obligation or a transaction between two people. I believe we can inspire conversations and connections by moving beyond a list of items and finding out what our friends are passionate about. The website started as a universal gift registry - a free online site where users can store all of their wishes for any occasion. And by adding the flexibility to share the stories about what makes you smile, giftbug is elevating gifting beyond a boring list of things . From your favorite local shops and artisans, to hobbies and experiential gifts, and even supporting the charities that are important to you, giftbug makes it possible to share all of the ways, big and small, to celebrate you and make you smile.

Tell me about your pets. How did they come into your life?

Bug (left) and Bella (right) are both rescue dogs, something that we are very passionate about. Bug came into our life first, she was actually a gift from my then boyfriend, and now husband Andy. We got her from a hound rescue organization in Houston, TX (where we were living). She was so timid and shy and didn’t make a sound the day we visited her at her foster home - and she hasn’t stopped barking, whining, moaning and generally commenting since getting her home. She has this funny habit of dramatically sighing like an exasperated teenager, especially if we won’t give her what she wants (like the food on our plates.) Bug loved to be outside, nose to the ground investigating, or more likely digging a new hole in our backyard. At 13 she still had great bursts of energy where she wanted to play or run outside, but she was also a total couch potato who would've told you that it was indeed her couch.

I found Bella as a puppy wandering on the street around my apartment in Houston. I was planning to take her to a shelter since I already had Bug, but she stole my heart before I ever made it there. There were definitely challenges with combining these two alphas who had both likely seen abuse as puppies. There was a lot of hard work and a few trips to the emergency vet clinic, but they eventually worked it out and they are now best buds (well, most days.) Where Bug is a little aloof and happy to do her own thing, Bella is a people dog and always wants to be where we are. She loves to cuddle and get attention - until she doesn’t. When she needs cave time she will let you know, loudly, and find the nearest table to hide underneath. She still looks just like a puppy even though she’s also 12 or 13. She’s slowing down a lot but does like the occasional backyard scavenger hunt with her buddy Bug.

Do you and your dogs (pets) share personality traits that has helped you in life/business?

Bug was very curious, an important characteristic of any entrepreneur. Bella is so affectionate and in-tune with the needs of her pack. She’s a great gift giver because she always knows when I need the gift of some Bella cuddles. And we all definitely share a love of peanut butter!

How does your pets support you and or inspire you and your business?

The name giftbug is inspired by our Bug. When we were developing the website we had giant sheets of paper on the wall of our office that were covered with ideas for website names. Many of them included ‘bug’ and ‘bella’ and in the end giftbug was the winner.

One of my favorite things about giftbug is the ability to support charities that are important to us. My giftbug registry includes donations to a local animal shelter and support for military service dogs.

Do you have a favorite quote that you live by?

“Fear is excitement without breath” - Fritz Perls

I love this quote so much because it reminds me to breathe when I’m overwhelmed. It’s a natural reaction to fear, to hold our breath, and you can’t move past the fear until you start breathing again. It also has always reminded me that fear and excitement can physically feel so similar and not to shortchange myself on excitement by always labeling what I’m feeling as fear. Especially as an entrepreneur, so much of what I do is outside of my comfort zone and so I am always challenging myself to focus on the excitement and not the fear.


Personality Prints: Ashley Frohnert

Today's Personality Prints interviewee is Ashley Frohnert. When we met for her portrait session, with her dog Howard at Phipps Conservatory, she had recently been named Sexiest Vegan, and was on her way to move to California to work for PETA as their social media strategist. I was really impressed by her involvement in the vegan community in Pittsburgh (volunteering for Voice of Animals, a Meatless Mondays project, a vegan book club etc.), and loved getting to know her a little bit better. I think you will too. 

Tell me where you can be found: 

Twitter: @ashfroh, Instagram: @ashfroh

Tell me about your pets. How did they come into your life? 

I had wanted a dog my entire life, but my parents didn't think I could handle the responsibility until I was 11 years old, they finally allowed me to have one. It was the best day of my life! We looked at a pet store, and then headed to a few shelters. We ended up adopting Chipper, a Beagle/Shepherd mix from Animal Friends. After adopting her and learning more about animal shelters and the pet overpopulation crisis I knew I had to continue adopting my animals and also let others know about the benefits of adoption. Chipper is now 15 and still living with my parents!

In 2012, I graduated from college and moved out on my own and decided to adopt my own dog. I adopted Jackson as a puppy from the Western PA Humane Society on the Northside. I learned that puppies take a lot of training and patience, I probably will not adopt another dog under a year old (haha). 

In September of 2013 my boyfriend, Tony, and I decided Jackson might like a friend to run around with and we began looking for a second dog. We found the most beautiful, gentle and friendly Shepherd mix, who we named Fitz. Unfortunately after being with us for five months he passed away from bone cancer. We loved him very much and were so happy we were able to spend five amazing months with him. I wrote a story about him here: Life with Dogs.

About a month after Fitz passed away we decided to adopt again. I want to save as many dogs as I can during my lifetime, and Jackson loves other dogs. After a few unsuccessful meet-and-greets between Jackson and other dogs we found Howard, named Torch at the time. We took he and Jackson out in the snow and they bonded pretty quickly. We learned a little about Howard's past including the sad fact that he was abandoned. Howard was fairly skinny, and he had been in the back of the shelter for a few weeks gaining weight. He has gained about 25 lbs since we've adopted him. The shelter staff noticed a little food aggression during his behavior test so we initially did a foster-to-adopt with him so we could be sure he would fit in with Jackson and us. He has came SUCH a long way! He now lets me grab food from his mouth, goes for walks while staying calm almost 100% of the time and gets extremely excited and licks us to death when we get home. He is still not a fan of motorcycles or vacuum cleaners, but I'm so proud that he feels at home and has learned how to become a fun-loving dog. 

With 6-8 million animals entering shelters every year and 3-4 million of those animals being put to sleep there is no excuse to buy animals. Shelter animals have stories to tell us, and lessons to teach us. I'm ecstatic to be working for PETA, enabling me to spread the word about how amazing animals are! 

How do your pets support you and or inspire you and your business?

My dogs have helped me become vegan. I've been an animal lover my whole life, but in 2008 after learning about the cruelty that goes on in the agricultural industry I decided to stop eating meat, and later became vegan in 2013. I look at photos of cows, chickens, pigs and fish and I see the eyes of my dogs. All animals can suffer and feel pain and if I choose to share my bed with my dogs, why wouldn't I extend the same compassion to animals of another species?  

Do you and your dogs (pets) share personality traits that have helped you in life/business?

My dogs are awesome! I adopted them both from area shelters, one from the Animal Rescue League and the other from the Western PA Humane Society. Howard from the ARL came into my life when our previous dog passed away at a young age from bone cancer. My dogs have taught me to be selfless, caring, patient, and calm, and I can't thank them enough. I love my dogs so much and really want other dogs to feel the love that they do, and also help other humans love animals.

Do you have a favorite quote that you live by?

I'm not sure its a quote, but I really believe I'm doing what you love, not just what can pay the bills.

Personality Prints: Val Head

I am so excited to share today's installment of Personality Prints, an interview series about artists/entrepreneurs/creatives and their pets. Val Head is one of the coolest people I know. She hired me last fall to create a headshot, and when I found out that she has a dog, I asked if she would participate in Personality Prints. I knew that she is a designer who teaches CSS animations and rocks web animations, but had trouble wrapping my head around what that all entailed. When she then shared a year in review post on her blog it blew me away. I still get goosebumps when I see the laser light show that she created as a collaboration for a conference in Oxford. I hope that you will enjoy getting to know Val and her dog Tucker as much as I have. ValHead8_square

Tell me where you can be found (web, Fb etc). Web: / Twitter: @vlh@webdesignday Facebook:

Tell me a little bit about your business. I run Northmaple Studio, a web design studio, with my husband Jason. We team up with other web pros around the country to work on projects ranging from work for big brands to sites for mid-sized local companies.

We also run a well known conference called Web Design Day. Our next one is coming up in June and this is our 6th year running the conference here in Pittsburgh.

On top of all that, I also teach workshops on interface animation for the web and travel around speaking at conferences around the world on the same topic.

Tell me about your pets. How did they come into your life? We found Tucker on Petfinder when she was a puppy. Her and her two brothers were born at the Fayette Friends of Animals shelter. We picked her up one Saturday morning in April after our application was approved and she slept in my lap the whole ride home. It's hard to believe that was almost 7 years ago!

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Tucker is an experienced office dog who has "worked" in a three different Pittsburgh agencies in her 7 years. She even modeled Frosty Paws dog ice cream during her time at Smith Brothers agency. I like to joke that the dog is better connected around Pittsburgh than I am. But sometimes I think it's really true!

We also have a cat named Cyril, although he's usually always hiding. Cyril was rescued or cat-napped from a barn he was living in by a friend of ours. (We're not really sure which.) Our friend couldn't keep him so she convinced Jason he needed a cat. Cyril is 14 now and still going strong. We're pretty sure he's immortal.

Do you and your dogs (pets) share personality traits that has helped you in life/business? Both of us are more night owls than morning people. Tucker loves sleeping in and doesn't mind at all if breakfast or her morning walk are a little late if it means she gets some extra sleep. 11pm is prime playtime for her. A game of tug and a sprint or two around the apartment are her favorite late night activities.rescue dog portrait dogs and their toys dog friendly living dog portrait pittsburgh

How do your pets support you and or inspire you and your business? I work from home and Tucker comes to the office with me every day. She sleeps on the office futon while we're working and keeps an eye on Butler St. out the window. I've been working from home for the last two years and I can't imagine doing it without the pets around.

I call Tucker my office manager because she keeps me on a schedule. I never have to worry about accidentally working through lunch because she'll always remind me when it's time for a walk. If I take too long, she starts pacing and sighing dramatically behind my desk chair. She's very good at reminding me to take breaks and not work too much :) ValHead&Tucker24ValHead&Tucker21 ValHead&Tucker22 ValHead&Tucker25 ValHead&Tucker26ValHead&Tucker10


Personality Prints: Sam Laffey

In this week's edition of Personality Prints, a series about entrepreneurs/creatives/artists and their pets, we get to know Sam Laffey. I first met Sam at a happy hour for women entrepreneurs in Pittsburgh. Later we both joined a mastermind hosted by Propelle, and since then Sam has become a great friend of mine. I am so excited for you to learn more about Sam and her adorable pups Porter and Jeanie.Porter&JeanieColor009 Tell me where you can be found.

Tell me a little bit about your business. I wear so many different hats that my first instinct was to ask "to which business are you referring?" I'm the Design & New Media Manager at Pittsburgh Glass Center, the co-owner of Porter Loves Photography, and my new solo venture is Copywriting for Creatives.

I love to write and edit. I am enthusiastic about helping artists and creative business owners find success. I've found that writing artist statements, bios, grant proposals, and more can be unreasonably challenging to those that put all their energy into creative work- we can't all be great at everything, right? It was in this discovery that I identified a way to marry my enthusiasm for supporting artists and my love of writing. My goal is to help artists and creatives succeed through clear, concise and compelling copywriting and copyediting.

Tell me about your pets. How did they come into your life? Porter is a 4 year old Boston Terrier/Pug mix that we've had since he was 7 weeks old. We actually first found his sister through an organization called Friends of Homeless Animals and tried to apply for her. When we were called for our adoption interview, we were told that his sister was already spoken for and asked if we were interested in any others from this abandoned litter. When I showed my partner Nathan the picture of Porter, he literally teared up and I knew we had found our first pup.

Jeanie is a 2 year old Boston Terrier that we've had since she was about 11 weeks old. We found her through a different organization that had rescued her and her litter mates from certain death at a puppy mill. We suspect the puppy mill tossed them aside because of their non-traditional markings, which we of course love. Jeanie's nickname is Teenie Weenie Jeanie Beanie because the #1 question we get when people meet her or see her picture is "so, is she going to get any bigger?" She was struck with a case of Giardia when she was a baby that took several courses of medication to do away with. She turned out perfectly healthy and happy but was robbed off important nutrients during a crucial part of her growth and development. So the result is that she's happy and healthy and teeny.Porter&JeanieColor002

Do you and your dog (pets) share personality traits that have helped you in life/business? These two are a loving brother and sister but are in some ways so totally different. We often joke that they exhibit highly stereotypical gender roles. I think they both have some traits that I identify with. Porter is totally fearless, wants everyone to be his friend, attacks life with all his energy and is often the brutish bull in a china shop despite his small frame. Jeanie is a bit of a delicate flower, letting out cries at the slightest discomfort, crossing her legs like a lady and being most content when she's cuddled under a blanket. Like Porter, I sometimes toss away external concerns and tackle whatever is in front of me with all I have. But like Jeanie, I also know that some days all you can do is find a blanket to block out the world for a while.


How do your pets support you and or inspire you and your business? My pets are an enthusiastic welcoming committee when I come home each day, willing cuddlers and kissers when I need some four-legged comfort, and the most entertaining companions I can imagine on walks. I've learned that laughter is a crucial part of my happiness and my life and these two pups inspire joyful laughter several times a day.


Do you have a favorite quote that you live by? "To really enjoy the better things in life, one must first have experienced the things they are better than." --Oscar Homoka Porter&JeanieColor016

I love this portrait of the whole Porter Loves family.

Personality Prints: Helen Volkov Behn, Founder of Spand-Ice

It is time for a new installment of Personality Prints. An interview series focusing on the bond between creatives/artists/entrepreneurs and their pets. Helen Volkov Behn is the founder of Spand-Ice, a Pittsburgh startup that is reinventing pain management. I first met Helen at a retreat for women entrepreneurs in Pittsburgh that was hosted by Propelle. I was so impressed by Helen's focus on her dream, and her drive to make it a reality. Three weeks ago she launched a Kickstarter campaign for her invention: The Revive Tank. This campaign will help Spand-Ice meet the funding needs in order to do their first manufacturing run. With the active lifestyle that I live, and all kinds of positions I put my body through during a portrait session, I am so excited for this solution to treat back pain on-the-go. Please visit the campaign page to learn more about the Revive Tank. Now, let's scroll down to get to know Helen and her pups Ziggy and Buddy. Helen Volkov Behn Spand-Ice

Tell me where you can be found. Website: Twitter: FB: Instagram: Pinterest: LinkedIn: GOogle+:

Tell me a little bit about your business.  Spand-Ice is a brand new form of stylish activewear + hot & cold therapy. Our product allows you to relieve muscle pain while remaining mobile and active.

Our first product, the “Revive Tank Top” focuses on helping people manage low to mid back pain that they can treat anywhere at anytime.

Our products are not only timesaving, but effective, adjustable in therapy locations and compression, easy to use (even if you’re injured), safe and attractive.

We’re reinventing pain management!


Image from Spand-Ice Kickstarter Campaign page. 

Tell me about your pets. Buddy is 14-year-old American Field Lab. He's been around for a long time and is a ball-buster. Although he's old in age, he's young in spirit and looks at each new day with gusto!

Ziggy is a 5-year-old English Labrador Retriever. He is the calmest, most chill dog I've ever met. He even eats really slowly (for a dog). He loves to play and is a snuggle-bug. He is also a pet therapy dog at the Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh. You can always find him in 9C on Thursday mornings.


Do you and your dogs share personality traits that have helped you in life/business? Yes - Buddy's all or nothing approach may symbolize how I tackle life: with great exuberance and positive attitude. Ziggy reminds me every day to try and stop and smell the flowers, even if just for a few minutes, and it's not worth sweating the small stuff.

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How does your pets support you and or inspire you and your business? Ziggy is a big part of my business and is often featured in a lot of 'behind the scenes' shots. They remind me to keep working hard so I can afford the good dog food. They inspire me by their constant sleeping, so that one day, I may be able to do that too!Helen Volkov Behn Spand-Ice

Do you have a favorite quote that you live by? Life is a garden - dig it...Joe Dirt.


At the end of the interview, Helen's husband Bernhard joined us for a few family photos. Love these guys!

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