Leung’s urge to draw “fat, stupid things, food, and something stuck helplessly in a doughnut” led to the birth of Puglie. He describes how two gruelling months of art block and anxiety ended when he cleared his mind and started drawing with no concept or expectations. “For the first time in my life, I looked at what I drew and laughed out loud and felt absolute joy seeing him,” Leung says. “Puglie came to life for me when he made me laugh. And that’s what fuels me to this day.”
Leung describes the first steps to merchandise Puglie as scary. He decided to take the leap of leaving his stable job as a procurement manager to pursue his entrepreneurial dream of growing the Puglie brand—a choice that terrified, motivated, inspired, and excited him. “I had to assure my mom that I was going to be okay when I announced that I was quitting my job to pursue Puglie,” he laughs. At the time he had no way of knowing that his illustrated pug would attract thousands of followers on social media.
“We grow up with this notion of stability that can be acquired by working a nine-to-five job,” Leung says, “but I’ve witnessed how people can lose their jobs out of nowhere.” Growing his business allowed him creative freedom. “I was finally free [by] my own personal standard,” he says.
Leung did not have connections in the art industry so he had to make them. Early on he joined the agency and online shop For Fans by Fans. “I always envisioned Puglie to be a vinyl toy and [to] one day have a presence in certain stores, like Hot Topic,” he says. Licensing and selling with For Fans by Fans comes with advantages for self-managed artists like Leung. The company connects him to conventions, gives him opportunities to network with other companies, and helps him create and sell more merchandise. “They really care about Puglie and what my goals for [him] are,” he says. “It’s non-exclusive, so I get to keep my freedom of direction.”
Leung’s growing fame has not come without a price. Such sudden growth means Leung has a heavy workload. As the sole creator of Puglie, he cannot delegate to anyone. He describes having to learn “the basics of bookkeeping, accounting, banking, and laws on intellectual property, business, and contracts,” but says it is “not so much a challenge as it is just growing pains.” Now that his main revenue comes from attending conventions and art exhibitions, Leung spends less time on illustration. “Drawing is really about 10 per cent of my overall work week,” he says. Most of his time is spent “juggling responsibilities that actual companies would have dedicated people to work on.”
Leung says that despite all the stress he has experienced during his transition from art to business, he would not change a thing. He values art as a hobby and passion, whether or not it results in monetary gain. Despite all his hardships, Leung has never felt more fulfilled.
“I don’t see myself retiring ever,” he says. “I really love conventions, because I get to meet and thank fans. It’s a really endearing experience to witness others be just as happy about Puglie as I am. I love creating and producing and putting more things back into the world than I take, and that’s kind of my life goal.”