Even though the event highlights "what's hot and new in the pet industry," Sherry said, she still wasn't sure about investing that much money with no guarantee of sales. She and her husband, Steve, decided to go for it, and the risk eventually paid off.
"But then the Oprah people just picked up a sample and quietly put it back down," she said, thinking at first that they weren't interested. "Maybe they didn't want anyone to guess what they might be choosing."
Before making the trip, the Kendalls had stuffed their SUV with boxes of Natalie's Wet Nose Greeting Cards, which encompass 85 dog breeds, as well as some paintings of cats and horses. Crates of Sherry's glass ornaments and new line of beverage glasses, which includes wineglasses as well as coffee, tea and beer mugs, were also crammed into the vehicle.
"We were trying to unload everything while annoyed cabdrivers honked at us to move," Sherry said, shaking her head.
Back at home, demand developed for the new line of digital cards and continued for Sherry's hand-painted products, and that led the pair, with help from Steve Kendall, to design a card that notifies gift recipients when there's a delay. A backlog develops when people wait until too close to the holidays to order a custom product that can't be completed in time, Sherry said, adding that drying time is also a major factor.
"Something Special is in the Works for You," reads the front of the announcement, which is decorated with one of Natalie's digital portraits. The hope is to head off any disappointment about having to wait for their gifts to arrive by offering a little preview of what's to come, Sherry said.
"I've even hired a customer-service person this year to handle calls and emails," she said. Generic products are also available for last-minute shoppers, she added.
One bonus from making it onto Winfrey's list this year was the magazine's contractual requirement that Wagging Tail Portraits contribute 30 sets of greeting cards to military spouses who were chosen by their peers as magazine winners for their contributions to society, Sherry said.
"The military has always been near and dear to my heart, and I really appreciate what the spouses of people who serve our country go through," Natalie said.
Sherry has also long worked with such local animal charities as Hero Dogs and Animal Advocates of Howard County, contributing certificates for custom products that they raffle as fundraisers.
Natalie says her greeting cards "could become a career," but adds that her main goal is to work for her father's multimedia advertising company.
"I plan to keep all my irons in the fire," she said, adding with a shy smile that she could probably handle both, with her bosses' approval.