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DirtRoads

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About DirtRoads

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  • Birthday June 1

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  1. ^ LOL I don't ship pottery but I do ship jewelry. I exclusively use Priority Mail Small Box Flat Rate Costs $7.2. 99% of my orders fit in the small flat box and if under $50, I charge $7.95 for shipping. The medium box is $13.65. I get constant shipping updates. I used Priority Mail in my previous internet business that did over $500K a year with no problems. I think we had one package come up missing. One advantage of using Priority Mail are the free boxes. You get online and have cases delivered to you for free.
  2. DirtRoads

    Relay Switches on Kilns

    Nice video. Makes sense to replace the wires. A small cost for the added benefits. I'm thinking I will get an electrician to replace all of mine. I've got 1177 firings on my first L&L and 500 on the 2nd one. I've replaced wires once on first L&L and replaced a the wires to elements last week. But putting lower gauge wires and better connections would seem to solve a lot of problems. I am going to put a better relay on my Paragon bisque kiln. This is my 3rd Paragon ... when they start giving too much trouble I just buy another one. Sometimes I notice a correlation between a burnt out element and replacing a relay on that kiln.
  3. How often do these usually need replacing? My Paragon bisque kiln will go through 2 relay switches a year. L&L kilns .. maybe 1 a year. This electrical engineer that works & designs power welding machines (really expensive & high tech ones) suggested getting a 50 amp relay instead of a 30 amp one. Not rushing out to do it but ... would this help? He said this one company had some heat problems and they went from a 50 to 70 amp and it cleared up the problems.
  4. DirtRoads

    4th Quarter is here!

    78% increase in sales on Black Friday. Already past last November's sales and today has started out really strong. Don't really think I can top December 2017 sales but .. might be possible. My production is a little lower than last year but increased prices is off setting. Running a 43% increase for the year. I can't really see making this work without my holiday sales increases.
  5. Strong sales numbers for October. Up 30% plus. From all indications, retail sales will be really strong this year.
  6. DirtRoads

    First Employee

    Be extremely cautious about running an ad. My brother and I have had well over 2000 employees over different businesses and have NEVER run an ad. In some states, ads can bring up legal issues and bring in totally undesirables. I would have to say don't do it. I think just ask around is better. You will make a lower percentage of the selling price with an employee. Be sure you gauge production ratios starting day one. They have to produce a certain amount or you will not make more money or could actually lose money. I had an employee tell me that if they were producing $300 a day (in glazing), I was still making plenty of money. They figured that at paying them $10/hour for 8 hours , I was clearing $220. What a dumb @%&*. Needless to say, I got rid of them as quick as I found a "good " reason. Just say you were paying that for production as well and I figure in materials & electric costs at 25% ($75), the numbers would fall out as 80 + 80 + 75 would equal to a miserable gross margin of $65. You still have to sell it. $8.25 in cc fees. You're got store or booth costs as well. Plus I did all the loading/unloading & getting to sales area. NO. I am not doing all this work to make less than $50 and some slug making $80 just to glaze the product. Know your production numbers up front. Remember that you will be the one picking up the work or paying someone else to slide the product to the final sale. I've found this ^ to be the biggest issue in pottery production employees. I've had some that would literally put out 3 to 4X more than others. That said, I have some GREAT employees right now. They are top notch and feel they are well compensated. I never had to worry about this in my mall stores .. they just needed to look good, show up, be nice to customers and not steal. I've never had much success hiring people that "needed" a job. Hiring full time employees that were unemployed has never worked for me. Especially right now with unemployment being at a low, anyone that is capable of holding a job, has one. Part times have been one of my most successful hires. I had a school teacher that worked for me for 15 years in another business ... it was a great deal for me, and suited them well too. I would start with a part time. Someone that wants a 2nd job or someone that doesn't "have to work" but wants a little extra money and something to do. (college students, bank tellers, school teachers, retirees and people that don't have to work) Giving employees flexibility of working hours, time off, etc. goes a long way in attracting and keeping good hires. In all the employees I've had, I've only lost one that I really didn't want to see go. It was really early in my retail career and I just didn't have a benefit package to offer. I've had some turn over but I'm usually glad to see them leave (hate to say that). Hiring someone that wants to make their own "stuff" has NEVER worked for me. 100% of them have used my time and resources to do it. Always resulting in the quickest termination I can justify. I couldn't see this situation working for me " temporarily partner up with someone who is interested in pottery production. Then split up and head separate ways. " I did have someone that made mugs for me, which I purchased at a set price. This worked great but they moved 1000 miles away to go back to school. Another thing, anyone I have hired that I didn't really know or do a back ground check on, has RARELY worked out. I have one person working for me now that I have know for like literally 50 years (and I'm 61 lol). I didn't do a back ground check but of course, I knew their personal back ground and community reputation. Three years ago, I hired someone on impulse, that seemed polished and had good community relations. Didn't check them out, but IF I had, I would NOT have hired and let them go quickly. You would not believe how many back ground checks have NOT been favorable. Either you know the person really well, or check. Some states have really strict laws on hiring. Mississippi is "Hire at Will" (and "Fire at Whim" might be added to that). At one time I hired in Louisiana, Alabama and Tennessee and made sure I reviewed laws in those states. So review the laws in your state.
  7. I've seen a similar look . Pretty sure they use a syringe.
  8. Can anyone recommend a clay that is close to Laguna #60 (brown clay with grog)?
  9. I think your pottery looks good. And booth too, especially for a first display. I'm not that far from you ... in Mississippi. Used to have stores in Memphis and Nashville so I am somewhat familiar with the area. I sell mugs for $20. I really like your colors. Only 500 people ... I would say $225 is good.
  10. I've never had a problem producing an income from pottery. The first year was mostly learning. Actually, it's one of the easiest businesses I've owned. I don't explore much on the artistic side. Started a full line jewelry business to go with the pottery. I stick to free standing retail, since it's a business model I have done well with in the past. Not sure how people go about making a purely creative pottery business. I just find pieces that work and produce them over and over. Experiment with color, but stick to 5 to 6 best selling colors. This Christmas season, I will pare down to 2 to 4 colors. Half my sales are November/December. The economy is BOOMING. I'm seeing 50% plus sales increases this year. I don't expect that to extend to November & December, because my sales were close to cap last year. In most businesses I've owned, you see exponential growth for a few years from tweaking. After that, you set "plan" to about 10% growth. Only way I saw exponential growth was going back to that old product/market paradigm. New products/same customers always seemed to work well for me. This year the jewelry did expand my customer base somewhat by appealing to the more local market. Before, my business was 70% destination. Now it's around 50%. I think it may be more of a business than a profession. I have seen numerous failures over the years and fail basically falls down to a few reasons: - People can't produce enough to make a real living. - The items they make are so STUPID or dull that almost no one will buy them. They are not listening to the customer. Some potters don't really have a realistic grip on their product. If customers aren't buying, they are either at the wrong venue or the product is just wrong. I recently walked through a wholesale show that I went to last year. I had close to a 100% prediction on who would be back this year. I saw new potters this year with the same lack luster products. Probably because I come from a successful retail back ground, I KNOW what will sell and mostly what will not. You've got to listen to what the customer is buying, not to just what they are saying. - Potters can't figure out the distribution for their product - They don't have the personal finances to make it until the business cash flows. And they under estimate the upfront financial investment. I would start this part time, mostly as a hobby and hone your craft. Pottery is a decent part time hobby business, as long as you can put the money up front to get in to it. Recently someone came to me, wanting to know how to make an extra $500 a month. I'm not sure I can recommend any business that can do this in the beginning. Most people will tie up more than they profit.
  11. DirtRoads

    Websites And Sales

    I have 2 website: https://dirtroadsjewelry.com/ This one is e commerce. With Shopify. It's a decent platform. Only slight knowledge of HTML and a little bid of Liquid needed to do this site. (may have a done a small of amount of C ... did this almost 3 years ago and now I just update). I did EVERYTHING myself on this one. I guess I would recommend Shopify (certainly would not recommend against it.) I am not displeased with the sales. But not quite high enough to hire someone to fill orders. During December, sales are much higher and I could hire someone. But for one month .... so guess who has to do this. I'll be finishing up and check website and have to go out at 10pm and fill 3 or 4 orders. I need to update with a few key products right now. The other site is just an informational type site. It has served me quite well over the years. I think a site of this type compliments any type of promotion you might do. Currently I have a 60 foot outdoor bill board on a major highway never Pearl River Resort & Casino and having a feed to website is critical for success. I do a few ads every year and always see an influx of traffic to the site after an advertisement. I find an informational site very good for the two shows I do too. http://dirtroadspottery.com/ This site is basically word processing. If you can do Word, you can do a site like this. Hosted by Network Solutions. I'm okay with Network Solutions. Previously, I had a substantial internet business that required 3 full time employees. It was hosted through Monster Commerce. I did the first site but then hired someone from Monster to do more professional graphics and set up because we got a lot of sales and traffic, to the point I had my own server there. I did a lot of key word advertising for this site and eventually it got pretty expensive. Got a chance to sell this business and did. Never regretted selling it. I learned almost everything I know about websites, HTML, search engines, etc. from reading. I used to go to Barnes & Noble every Saturday night after the store closed and read about it. Of course I had a decent computer background. But this learning is one of the things that has benefited me in all of my businesses. The amount of online sales growth is going to have more impact on retail sales in the future. I think with handmade and unique, there will still be a market. But for national brands that I used to sell online like Yellow Box Shoes and others like Aromatique and Arthur Court, there is going to be less opportunity for independent retailers. The manufacturers of these nationally known brands are soaking up the sales themselves. Example, I used to sell Aspen Mulling Spice in my stores during the 4th quarter. Lots of spice boxes, even in the mall stores and a couple years during Christmas on a mall kiosk. After my last store burned, customers would ask me for Aspen. I finally got some room to add a few products and sales were lack luster. I asked one of my old customers if she had noticed I had Aspen and she said "oh yeah, after you closed I went online and got like 10 boxes to get the free freight". You make it, you sell it ... that's what I see in the future of a lot of retail. There will still be a market for the unique and handmade. Because it's going from the maker to the consumer, cutting out all middlemen. Potters don't have to do online, as many, including myself, don't do it. But I would not totally discard Etsy and other online opportunities. We've had a few on this board, that have been quite successful. I always search for success of any type and try to learn.
  12. DirtRoads

    Websites And Sales

    ^ That's why I expanded into a full scale jewelry business. Wholesale, retail and internet. And do business consulting on the side. Won't deny wishing that deal to buy my pottery business 3 years ago didn't fall through. Pottery does make a pretty good income ... just have to consider the amount of work. I know internet business is there for pottery. The most searched term on my jewelry website is "pottery". Just the packing deters me plus the fact that I'm a 100% sell through now ... with NO intention of expanding. No reason to make more to sell online. I get to my $2K self imposed weekly quota and quit. Finished it yesterday and that's it for the week. And that's for 11 months of the year max. Reaching about $90K a year and I'm done. Operation has scaled back to 4 employees and 2 of them are part time. Not replacing people.
  13. I target to keep my variable costs to 25%. (for bowls, platters, etc ... different numbers for ornaments & jewelry) 7% for clay 8% for glaze 5% for electric 5% for elements, kiln repair. Of these costs, there is more variance in glaze costs. 8% is the high end cap and only 1 glaze is close to this number (red). Actually I've raised prices a bit to accommodate labor production so this number is probably around 6% now. I have one glaze that is considerably cheaper, around 1%. The key is not to exceed this 8%. We just tested one glaze and cost was 5% of selling cost. I've backed my prices into these numbers. Note: Glaze costs include the freight cost.
  14. DirtRoads

    Employees vs Productivity

    I forgot about Wess Roberts. Ordered all the ones I haven't read. That Straight A's book is great. I also read that Star Trek one and was really excited to see you mention the one on Attila. Don't really know how I over looked it. Someone gave me the Warrior one for Christmas one year. I just don't run in academic circles now and it's been awhile someone recommended a book. Thanks!
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