What started out as a quick conversation in the car with her then-8-year-old son has turned into a full-fledged business venture for Heritage Harbour resident Jill Cushing.
Cushing — with the help of her husband, Edward, and sons, Ethan and Eamon — runs Ruff Life, a company that produces whimsical T-shirts depicting dogs doing favorite human activities.
“We were driving in the car, and I said, ‘Hey Mom, you know the saying, ‘Life is good?’” Ethan says. “She said, ‘Yeah.’ And I said, ‘You know the saying, ‘Life is rough?’” She said, ‘Yeah.’
“I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to do something called Ruff Life or something like that?” he says.
And thus, the company was born.
Cushing, who had spent 18 years as a graphic designer, had been yearning for a way to devote her artistic talents to her own life.
“I had been praying and praying for months,” she says. “And then, boom: Ruff Life came in February, and I’ve been going full force with it.”
Eamon’s sketch of a dog playing golf became the basis on which Cushing designed her main canine character. So far, she has created seven more designs, including dogs relaxing at a spa, playing soccer, shopping, fishing and more.
The T-shirts currently are available on Cushing’s website, rufflifegear.com. She also has forged a partnership with Braden River Animal Hospital and has networked with a variety of pet-specific organizations. Cushing also is planning to host a booth at the July Music on Main in Lakewood Ranch.
Eventually, Cushing says she hopes to branch out to include more products, including children’s clothes, mugs, hats, towels and more. She also says she has countless ideas for new designs — mostly at the suggestion of friends and family members.
Phone: (941) 201-8397
Line of business: Canine-inspired T-shirts
Employees: One (two sons and a husband provide creative inspiration)
Year established: 2010
What makes the business unique: T-shirts feature custom artwork and design by Jill Cushing.