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Thoughts About Starting a Pottery Studio

How to direct your pottery knowledge to a business

I've seen very talented people that invested their savings but without the understanding that most effort of any successful business is marketing (not artistic knowledge). We can help with sharing Lakeside Pottery's and others success.

After taking part in a few start-up companies (technology - for more details, see my bio) - some successful and some were not, I decided to use my corporate background and applied the same business plan and implementation concepts to Lakeside Pottery and it worked. My pottery experience was a total of 8 months. After Lakeside Pottery was up and running, I shared and guided two other ceramic artists / teachers with the principals I  practiced which they have implemented successfully and are running profitably. I am excited to help other ceramic artists and started this page which will grow with time as questions are asked.

So what are the principals? The first few, and the most important:

1. A business plan is essential (see Appendix A, a flow chart of activities before money is invested)

2. Your time will be mostly spent on sales and marketing activities. The fact that you are a great ceramic artist and teacher is very important but your plan should assume it to be less than 1/3 of your total effort. Where you spend your time is crucial. For example, perhaps you should not mix your own glazes and purchase them even though the cost per gallon is more expensive.

3. The customer base needs to be as big as possible. The universe has many more people that do not have pottery experience and therefore your marketing plan and reach needs to be targeted to non-potters who would like to give it a shot. Lakeside Pottery has had over 5,000 enrollments since it opened in 2002 and over 80% of them started as beginners.

4. Being aware of competition is crucial. Although, the plan needs to take into account that "competition" is any art activity and not just another pottery studio.

There are many other choices Lakeside Pottery made and factors that are different than one's instinct and will start with the above few for this discussion (some have links to the appropriate pages). These "other" choices are, for example:

o Sales
o Marketing
o Affiliations with other organizations
o Web ** see note below
o Printing material design
o The "novelty factor"
o Press
o Customer mailing list
o Newsletters
o Space utilization
o Offerings diversity
o Teaching methodology
o Pricing
o Staff training
o Equipment
o Clay and glazes choices made
o Policies (more)
o Workshops with big names
o Lease commitment and location
o Safety
o Legal
o Accounting
o Growth

Appendix A

Business Plan Flow Chart determining if the next step should be taken

Do I Have a Good Business Idea?

1) What is the product?
a. Define it very simply
b. Include salable items and services (e.g., a class revenue + material revenue+ future services revenue)

2) Who is my customer?
--- a. End customer
--- b. Wholesale customer
--- c. Partnerships
--- d. Affiliations
--- e. How do I keep them coming

3) Who is my competition?
--- a. What do they offer
--- b. How much do they charge
--- c. How can I be competitive
--- d. How can I be distinguished

4) How do I make money?
--- a. Costs
--------i. Start-up costs
--------ii. Fixed costs (e.g., rent, electric)
--------iii. Cost-to-business (e.g., material)
--------iv. PR and brand creation
---b. Revenue
---c. Cash-flow analysis

5) Test the market response
---a. Website (number of hits)
---b. Small mailing
---c. Network…network …network
---d. Ad in local newspaper
---e. Free workshops
---f. Offer services through affiliation in their facility

6) License / Permits
---a. Do I need any?
--------i. Company name
--------ii. Tax Permits
--------iii. Company type (e.g., LLC)
--------iv. Zoning
---b. How do I obtain them?

7) Make a go / no-go decision
---a. Can I sale my product services
---b. Do I have enough money to start
---c. Do I make profit?
---d. When do I break even?
---e. Is this idea worth my effort and investment

Your input is greatly appreciated and will help in creating improved pottery tips.

Thank you, Patty and Morty

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