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IMG_3773What’s your personal baggage? Chances are the first thought popping into your head isn’t something pleasant. Nikki Doran, an animal advocate in Columbus, has chosen to flip the negative connotation of the term into something positive, and in the process is turning it into an opportunity to support animal welfare.


Doran is the owner of Personal Baggage, a graphic tee company that promotes a wide variety of animal rights issues, from adoption to anti-fur campaigns, and donates a portion of the revenue to local animal organizations.


“If I was going to create graphic designs for t-shirts I wanted it to be things I obviously cared about,” says Doran. “I wanted to spin the name and say these t-shirts are my personal baggage; this is what I care about and what I’m supporting.”


Graphic tees have always been a common means of self-expression, but those looking to endorse a more serious message then the typical TV show graphic or popular catchphrase may have a harder time locating something they’re passionate about.


And the process of finding the perfect graphic tee is what inspired Doran to start Personal Baggage. Beginning when news broke of Michael Vick’s involvement in pitbull fighting, she looked for a t-shirt that stated how she felt about the situation.


Unfortunately, she was unable to find a tee with both a stylish fit and a clever saying. As luck would have it at that time she was a fashion student at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, and through a school project was then able to design graphic tees that endorsed her stance on animals. The idea progressed from there and in 2009 Personal Baggage began selling on Etsy with the help of family and friends.


“The way we design is very basic and I think that’s good,” says Doran. “We don’t do flashy.”


All the tees feature a clever saying or image, one that ultimately ties back into animal rights. The shirts are either crew or v-neck cut, and made of a tri-blend material to ensure softness. On the shirts, customers can expect images such as “Go Faux” or a cat’s head in the shape of the state of Ohio.


IMG_3765Doran runs the company with the help of her sister, who works at the printing company where the tees are printed in Toledo. Doran’s happy to keep both production and business in the Buckeye state, and the shirts are sold not only on Etsy but also in Devoted, Simply Vague, and Three Dog Bakery in Columbus. Priced at approximately $20 each, she made an effort to keep the sale price reasonable.


“I’m the ultimate bargain shopper, and I thought I had to put them at a price point that I, as a customer, would buy,” says Doran. “And the other thing is I definitely would never do this if I weren’t giving a percent back.”


Since starting in 2009, Personal Baggage has increased the amount of their donations given to animal organizations in the area every year. Doran looks specifically for groups that are smaller, the ones that are dealing directly with animals in their day-to-day activities.


She extensively researches the organizations she’s considering donating to in order to fully understand where the money will be going and who will benefit. Some of the organizations that Personal Baggage has donated to in the past are Muttley Crew, Planned Pethood and Canine Justice Network.


In addition to running Personal Baggage, Doran is a designer at Lane Bryant and volunteers regularly for Powell Animal Welfare Society and PetPromise. Doran, who describes herself as someone who is ‘always on full throttle’ is not overwhelmed by her many responsibilities and instead enjoys playing such an active role in everything.


“I’m so passionate about my hobbies and running a small business at the same time,” she says. “I really enjoy giving back to my community and to organizations that I think do great things.”


PetPromise will hold a golf outing fundraiser on July 26th at Shamrock Golf Club in Powell, which Doran is organizing, featuring a silent auction, raffle and the chance to mingle with foster dogs.


In the future Doran would like to continue hitting storefronts and local craft shows, and possibly add a forum to the website where visitors can recommend animal groups for donations. Her main priority, however, remains the animals and organizations she’s helping.


“I’m letting Personal Baggage dictate where it goes, I could never have imagined where it would be today from five years ago,” she says. “That’s been the best part of this whole thing, to see how much we’re actually giving back, and I want us to continue to promote other rescues, and just support them in their efforts.”


You can find out more about Personal Baggage on their website or shop their tees at their Etsy store.



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