Teacher by day artist by night: Melissa Portell of Letters by Angelie

Today I have the pleasure of sharing with you the story of a woman who’s business was born from her love for animals and her adored pet. Meet Melissa Portell of Letters by Angelie!

Please, tell us a little about yourself and what you do.

My name is Melissa Portell, I’m a teacher by day and artist by night. My friends consider me “sweet”, friendly and above all very patient, a characteristic that helps me deal with my high school students. Those who know me quickly realize I’m an introverted person, then they ask themselves: did you say that you’re a high school teacher? Yes I am. It was not in my plans, but it’s funny how life turns out.

I’ve always loved the English language, that’s why I did my bachelor’s in pre-translation, but I did not find a job as a translator and decided to go to my plan b: be a teacher. Because the English language is “el cuco” in Puerto Rico, I decided to do my masters in pedagogy to teach students that learning English is easier than they think. My adventure as a teacher began in 2011 and each year brings new adventures.

The question today is: Since when do you draw? Were you taking drawing classes? As a brief summary since I was a child I drew a lot and it was more than a hobby, I was even matriculated in the school of fine arts, but finally, I told my parents to take me out because I got tired of leaving my regular school to continue studying. A decision that I regret today, but that did not stop me from resuming it in October of 2017.

When and why did you decide to start your own business?

I follow several people on Instagram, including several entrepreneurial women who have their own blogs and sell their drawings. I saw them and said: ‘what prevents me from being like them?’ Many times we admire the people around us and we forget that we have our own talents too. I returned to drawing in mid-October 2017, because on the 2nd of that month I had to put my dog daughter, Angely, to sleep, a 14-year-old Boston terrier. I started to draw her and create so-called “doodles” that are scribbles of her and indirectly, I took it as my therapy, my grieving process. Those who know me years ago also knew her, therefore, I wanted to create something where new people who come to my life also know her even if she is not with us physically.

Then, I decided to take this seriously and create a project dedicated to the memory of my dog, I did not know that it would end up being a business. Originally, it was only going to be a blog where I titled it: Letters by Angelie. Its purpose was to share my life experiences and how one learns a lesson or can pull something positive out of bad experiences. In addition, I was going to talk about how I started venturing into the so-called world of “lettering”. In the midst of darkness, due to Hurricane Maria, this project was what helped me to continue and see the famous “silver lining”. My goal is to dedicate my life to pursue what I feel most passionate about.

Since you own your own business, what is the biggest challenge you have faced?

My biggest challenge has been to stay true to the plan. Many times I see so many things that I can create or do that later things become complicated and it is important to go little by little.

What is the philosophy behind your products and what inspires you?

The philosophy behind my product is to inspire people who are pet lovers to create a relationship beyond being the owner of a pet, but see your pet as part of your family. I have had the privilege of meeting many people who, like me, know that they’re an important part of our lives, and ask me to draw pets that are no longer physically with them. It fills me with satisfaction to be able to create a memory of that doggy son that marked its owner’s life. Dogs can bring out the best of us.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own business selling handmade products?

The first thing I would say is to be sure of what you are passionate about. Do not make a business just for the money, otherwise it can end in failure. Second, there are many of us who create and draw, so you can see others and use them as inspiration, but it is very important that you look for something that identifies you, that separates you from the rest and makes you unique.

What do you see in the future for your business? Where would you like your business to go?

I would like to be part of the activities of an organization that is dedicated to rescuing animals and I sell my products to donate the profits. I would like to inspire and educate the public about the importance of animals. It’s not about having a dog just to have one. I might want to host workshops on how to make doodles of dogs for children or young people.

Where can people find and buy your products?

For the moment, I only use Instagram. People can find my products on my account and can contact me through private messages or my email: lettersbyangelie@gmail.com

On Instagram: @lettersbyangelie

For deliveries we can meet up in person or your order can be sent via the mail.

Is there anything else you want to share with us?

I urge you that if you have a dream, do not bury it, it’s never too late to make it come true. Not everything will be easy, the key is to work hard for what you want. In mid-January of this year, I put on my “bucket list” for Letters by Angelie to make a mural, you know what? I completed it last June, when I painted my first mural at Santurce Pop. How did I achieve it? Moving to make that dream a reality.

Thanks to Melissa for taking time out of her day to share her story with us! Do you know an artist / craftswoman from Puerto Rico that you want to see here? Contact me by clicking here.