I wanted to be a comedian, but my friends said ‘Your jokes aren’t funny, stick with the art’
Daniel Pavlovic lives with cerebral palsy. He wears splints on his legs to help him walk, and on his hands to keep his fingers straight.
But it hasn’t stopped the 29-year-old Darlington man from building a successful business off the back of a natural flair for art.
The accomplished artist, T-shirt entrepreneur and role model has seen an impressive line-up of international stars rocking his quirky and unique T-shirt designs.
The A-listers donning Daniel’s designs include superstar singer-songwriter Neil Finn, comedians Danny Bhoy and Adam Hills, and West Coast footballer Nic Naitanui.
But despite his success and 49,000-strong Facebook following, the young Perth man said art wasn’t his first choice when it came to plotting a career path.
“I wanted to be a comedian,” he says.
“But my friends said ‘Your jokes aren’t funny, stick with the art’.
“I did art at school and thought that I could make a career out of it. So, I studied at TAFE.”
With his father Ivan by his side, Daniel started his T-shirt business daniel(ink.) nine years ago.
He set up his first market at a local Darlington Arts Festival starting with just 30 shirts and two designs and was an instant success.
Daniel sold out of T-shirts that day and never looked back.
Today, Daniel is supported by the National Disability Insurance Scheme, giving him the capability to run his business and live his best life despite his disability.
Cerebral palsy is a degenerative movement disorder that affects more than 34,000 Australians — making it the most common physical disability in childhood.
Cerebral palsy is a lifelong disorder. There is no cure, but treatments can help improve function.
An NDIS support worker helps Daniel with the physical demands of running his business, like setting up pop-up shops at markets and shopping centres around Perth most weekends.
“I appreciate the support I get through the NDIS to help me with the physical part of the business. It has changed my life,” Daniel says.
As the loss of muscle mass in his hands deteriorated recently, Daniel’s supports have become more crucial for supporting him to achieve his goals.
His wheelchair was recently upgraded to a motorised model, greatly boosting his independence. Daniel also drives his own modified car.
“All of that support is about Daniel’s independence, and unlocking his potential. It’s helped him a great deal,” Ivan says of the NDIS-funded assistance his son has received.
Daniel is a community-minded businessman. He is reaping the rewards of years of hard work and using his own success to help others.
He donates 10 per cent of his profits to disability service provider Ability WA — formerly The Centre for Cerebral Palsy — out of gratitude for the support he received when he was younger.
In May, in collaboration with Ability WA, daniel(ink.) put on a gala event at the Art Gallery of Western Australia, raising $30,000.
“They helped me so much over the years, I wanted to give something back,” Daniel says.
Like any business, daniel(ink.) also contributes to the local economy by supporting suppliers, one for screen printing and embroidery, and another for retail labelling.
Each distinctive T-shirt design has a story.
“I doodle a lot. Some of it doesn’t make much sense at the time, but every now and again something special comes out and we run with it,” Daniel says.
One design — inspired by a visit to a Picasso exhibition — has been chosen for the launch of a pancreatic cancer research foundation.
Through his growing profile, Daniel is having a positive impact on others.
“We get a lot of mail from parents who have just found out that their child has cerebral palsy, saying that Daniel is giving them inspiration in finding their way forward,” Ivan says.
“Parents have brought their children to the markets to meet Daniel, kids with all sorts of challenges to face in their lives. Daniel has inspired a lot of these kids.”
Daniel’s success in business has given him the confidence to know he can achieve his goal of living independently.
“Starting the business was never about money. It was about learning that I can do things on my own,” Daniel says.
“My goal is to live by myself and travel independently, for the business, and also to visit my sister in Melbourne.”