Books with personalised illustrations

Scaling the business to export globally.

We did it!

On 28th Mar 2018 we successfully raised £2,030 with 31 supporters in 14 days


My name is Taaya and I am an illustrator who founded Swanky Portraits to specialise in a unique range of personalised books. There is currently no known personalised book that illustrates to an accurate resemblance and to date we have sold over 500 personalised books on a very limited budget.

Our customers appreciate that Swanky Portraits offers the closest, illustrated-resemblance available in the personalised books sector and promises to deliver within 7 days. Crowdfunding will enable me to invest in the processes required to scale the business and export the books globally


I was born in Uganda in 1983 and have lived in the UK since the age of 7.  Creative subjects are generally less pursued in Uganda  so the opportunity to follow my dreams is a real motivation for me.

I graduated from Kingston University in 2006 and have since worked for a number of designers, with my hand drawn illustrations as my strength and with the ambition to  use my skill to create something new.

I was always encouraged to be someone that values giving back and have been in partnership with a charity called PostPals since 2016. I find it rewarding to hear that a personalised book has cheered up a child who is finding life particularly challenging.

Swanky Portraits | USP & Goal

The personalised books by Swanky Portraits have been received positively for the unique way in which they capture the star of the book.  A customer submits a close-up photo of their face, which is used to create an illustration to an amazing resemblance. 

Until recently, this was only achievable through illustration by hand and as demand has increased, I as the illustrator have been unable to fulfil larger order numbers.

I am currently in discussions with a technology department who are close to completing a method that allows the same personalised illustration to be achieved through an automated process. This advanced process is capable of producing in excess of 100'000 books per year and is being tailored to achieve an illustration style that very closely resembles my hand drawings.

Swanky Portraits 

The journey

I started Swanky Portraits initially around a full-time job. I created illustrations, drawn from customer photos and applied these to greeting cards and framed portraits. The concept of the books was a later development in this journey.

Much of the early part of 2016 was spent selling and promoting portraits and greetings cards at various market stalls; the most famous of which was Spitalfields Market. I spent many long nights preparing portraits, (so please forgive the exhausted appearance on my face below).  I certainly entered this journey with a goal in mind, though at the time I was still figuring out what this would eventually look like and who the target audience would be. I applied to online retailers to sell the illustrations but was not initially successful since there were so many other illustrators offering similar services.

Turning Point

My breakthrough came nearly 6 months after I started Swanky Portraits. Whilst reading a bedtime story to my three-year-old daughter, Naomi, I noticed just how much she engaged with the illustrations and it gave me the idea to illustrate a book with personalised illustrations that would allow her to see herself at the heart of the story.  I created Naomi’s Safari Adventure which was met with pure excitement by Naomi. She was clearly taken-in at being able to recognise that the illustration looked just like her. Naomi's photo appeared in an article by the Guardian last year which featured Swanky Portraits in celebration of World Book Day.

Article written by Emma Sheppard | The Guardian.  (Read original source link here). 

First major retailer

  I created 2 more stories to offer variety and applied to ‘Not on the High’, whom I knew would be an excellent channel to retail the books.  I was invited to pitch at one of their events in search for makers with unique and exciting ideas. Following a successful pitch, I sold my first personalised book through ‘Not On The High Street' in August of 2016.

Link to Swanky Portraits store on NOTHS

Christmas sales

I quickly realised that I had under-estimated the number of orders that would follow that Christmas, as I found myself creating up to 15 books a day around a full-time job. This lead me to the decision that I had found something worth focussing on.  The following year, I proceeded develop the brand, grow the range and began to share the personalised books through social media.

The feedback from customers was extremely inspiring and I have since received photos and testimonials from happy customers sharing what each book has meant to them. Word of mouth has been an extremely effective method for gaining new customers who enquire after having been shown the book by previous customers.

Testimonials are on the Swanky Portraits website |


The range has since grown to include personalised books for adults which cover a range of occasions throughout the year, as shown in the images below. The best selling of these books, with limited money spent on promotion, is currently the ‘Just Married’ personalised book. I plan to increase promotion across the range with focus on highlighting up-coming celebrations, including Mother’s Day, Father’s day graduations and more. The range continues to grow so that the variety in itself makes this an attractive brand for personalised gifts.

The destination for Swanky Portraits, is to achieve worldwide sales. Positive signs are already showing as I receive an increasing number of international enquiries. International sales have already been made through ‘Not On The High Street’ with customers ordering from around the globe. Securing the technology to scale-up and allow Swanky Portraits to grow is now the immediate and next big goal and a successful crowd-funding campaign will turn this into a reality.

I really appreciate the time you have taken to view this page and thank you for being part of this exciting journey.

Taaya Griffith (Founder)

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