Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Adnan Saleem, Founder of Destination Creation Studios, located in Toronto, ON, Canada.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

My personal website,, featured my original, award-winning artwork and received a lot of feedback and attention for my horror artwork in particular. I started receiving many requests from visitors to turn their photos into zombies. I soon realized there might be a market for such a service. After starting my custom zombie portrait service at in 2007, I rode the wave of the zombie resurgence in popularity. I launched a new site,, in 2012 to showcase other trending zombie and horror-related products with the option for other creators to submit their own books, products, and creations. The site's Facebook fan page has amassed more than 1 million fans and continues to grow as a community to share and discover all things horror. If you're a zombie or horror fan or a creator of the macabre, will connect you with trending products and a dedicated audience to sell to. My latest related venture has been launching with a sister site on Etsy in mid-2020, featuring a line of original and exclusive lifestyle products with a dark, gothic theme, offering clothing and accessories to haunted house decor. Sales took off immediately, pulling in more than a quarter million in revenue in the first 18 months. I attribute this success to the exclusivity and quality of designs on my merchandise, as well as the increase in online shopping trends brought on by the pandemic.

Tell us about yourself

While working full-time as a CTO in a corporate environment, I needed an outlet to express my creativity. So, much of my spare time after hours was spent creating. I launched as a portfolio site to showcase my creations, which range from digital imagery and video to traditional painting and sculpture. As I grew my fanbase, it was apparent that my darker, horror-related artwork resonated more with the community I was building. I continued to launch new and unique online experiences through dedicated websites. I nurtured the ones that succeeded and have abandoned many that didn't work out. The feedback from the community is what drives me to continue creating.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Aside from monetary gain, the size of my audience and reach has been one of my greatest accomplishments. My studio has amassed more than 40 million video views on YouTube as a partner, and my own websites have served up billions of more visits, with many of my creations garnering hundreds or thousands of comments per post. This reach helped me gain valuable unsolicited support from artists and companies that I admired growing up. For example, James Gunn, writer/director of Dawn of the Dead and Guardians of the Galaxy, was one of my first customers on and has since promoted my project on his own website. FOX approached me to license my Reality Simpson's study for an anniversary special. Receiving support and responses like these is something I never dreamt of accomplishing.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

The world moves fast, but the internet moves faster. If you're in any kind of b2c business today, you need to have a grasp of what's trending online and react accordingly. Keeping things fresh and exciting while monetizing efforts can be a creator's biggest hurdle.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. If you're starting out as a creative entrepreneur, you need to differentiate yourself from the crowded and saturated community of other talented artists. Instead of thinking outside the box, jump out of it - and run far away enough until you can hardly see the box. Set yourself apart just enough for people to recognize you as a creative individual or business, but with a truly distinct vision and voice.
  2. As a creative entrepreneur, don't settle for making art for art's sake. Don't be afraid to experiment and focus on what sells. This may mean applying your art to a different medium rather than, say, just trying to sell prints of your work. If you want to make your art into a business, you may have to think beyond the art. You may have to think more like a designer and a marketer and even evolve your art into something that is more practical, usable, or tangible than just a painting or sculpture.
  3. Learn the basics of creating and maintaining a basic website and make it your home. Social platforms can be a great way to reach people, but they can always disappear without notice. Having your own website protects you by allowing you to own all of your own content and user experience without worrying about platforms you don't have control over. There are many free or inexpensive options available, so get out there and start making your creative dreams a reality!

Where can people find you and your business?



If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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