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Does Anyone Out There Truly Support Themselves With Their Ceramics/pottery?

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Great post Josh ... just one thing I disagree with and that is where you mention no other potters will help you.

 

You might not be aware of Potters Council. The Potters Council was formed to create a community of potters and ceramic artists from around the world. This is a community of potters dedicated to supporting each other by sharing ideas, insights, and advice.

 

http://ceramicartsda...otters-council/

 

We have just begun a mentoring program as a benefit of Membership. You request a mentor and get matched with someone who has the skills you need. These are experienced potters who will help you find you way through your obstacles.

 

There are many other benefits including health insurance, discounts on FedEx and car rentals, great credit card plan, discounts on subscriptions, online gallery ... etc

 

Check us out ... we are 3,000 potters strong and dedicated to helping potters stay in their studios.

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Great post Josh ... just one thing I disagree with and that is where you mention no other potters will help you.

 

You might not be aware of Potters Council. The Potters Council was formed to create a community of potters and ceramic artists from around the world. This is a community of potters dedicated to supporting each other by sharing ideas, insights, and advice.

 

http://ceramicartsda...otters-council/

 

We have just begun a mentoring program as a benefit of Membership. You request a mentor and get matched with someone who has the skills you need. These are experienced potters who will help you find you way through your obstacles.

 

There are many other benefits including health insurance, discounts on FedEx and car rentals, great credit card plan, discounts on subscriptions, online gallery ... etc

 

Check us out ... we are 3,000 potters strong and dedicated to helping potters stay in their studios.

 

 

 

When the time comes I will ask folks for some help but it's not what they will expect. I stay completely away from everyone. I tend to think this happens when other's get involved: paralysis of analysis

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It would be great to start a list of how potters "Make it"

 

Most of the potters I know have more than one source of income...

often it's a retail showroom/gallery with their friends work. Today with

all the gps phones and web portals to promote "events" you can have

a studio on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere... and still draw a

well-heeled crowd.

 

Statistically, wholesaling artists make 50,000 income from their studio works.

Retailing artists make less than half of that... and their expenses are much

higher. The twice yearly open studio event is still an important piece of the

income pie for most potters and ceramic artists. Add a few private events

for small groups to that, a couple of better retail fairs and a few dozen galleries

that order 3-4x a year... and you've got a path to more than a meager lifestyle.

The better your marketing efforts, the better your results. The time it takes

to sell an object is directly proportional to the price of the piece... a $20

piece sells 5x faster than a $100 piece... but the production effort may bring

better margins for the higher priced work.

 

Look at the Alumni list of the Arts Business Institute... you'll find a great

list of professional ceramic artists there. If you can't find a local mentor

that is several steps ahead of you... give me a shout!

 

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It would be great to start a list of how potters "Make it"

 

Most of the potters I know have more than one source of income...

often it's a retail showroom/gallery with their friends work. Today with

all the gps phones and web portals to promote "events" you can have

a studio on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere... and still draw a

well-heeled crowd.

 

Statistically, wholesaling artists make 50,000 income from their studio works.

Retailing artists make less than half of that... and their expenses are much

higher. The twice yearly open studio event is still an important piece of the

income pie for most potters and ceramic artists. Add a few private events

for small groups to that, a couple of better retail fairs and a few dozen galleries

that order 3-4x a year... and you've got a path to more than a meager lifestyle.

The better your marketing efforts, the better your results. The time it takes

to sell an object is directly proportional to the price of the piece... a $20

piece sells 5x faster than a $100 piece... but the production effort may bring

better margins for the higher priced work.

 

Look at the Alumni list of the Arts Business Institute... you'll find a great

list of professional ceramic artists there. If you can't find a local mentor

that is several steps ahead of you... give me a shout!

 

 

 

Great post Wendy.

 

I find that most artists have multiple streams of income even those who sometimes insist they don' t: I certainly do I don't think I'd like the lifestyle otherwise. I have recently been looking into starting a co-op gallery because due to the economic environment I have a storefront in a tourist area that is unused and it has proven that co-operative galleries are not the panacea they seem to be on the surface and are probably worse than individual studios. Aside from wholesale being good there is an other area that may be overlooked in some locales. One of the cities I own commercial property in requires that a certain percentage of the construction costs over a certain base amount go to art works and I don't see a lot of ceramic artists taking advantage of this. Civic arts pays well if you can stand the paperwork the reviews and the oversight that goes with it.

 

Best regards,

Charles

 

 

 

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Only doing this one year, I am selling enough to support myself through a small retail showroom (located on a major highway 9 miles from a casino). I have recently hired an assistant 20 - 30 hours a week. I plan on doing a large flea market two times a year(Canton, MS) and one more hand made show, along with a few festivals within 60 miles of the studio showroom.

 

I might add that I own the location, the house and buildings and 3 acres of land. No personal or business debt. So this is probably considered a form of income. While I am currently making enough to support myself, I would have additional resources to fall back on if needed.

 

My prices are right about wholesale (based on what I've seen from other potters in my area that sell to retail stores). I have no retail accounts so I can sell at wholesale. The wholesale pricing strategy is moving a lot of product. Also, I make it a point to have items priced for multiple gift buyers.

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I own my own studio, with 10 wheels in the classroom where I teach 5-10 classes a week, both kids and adults. I sell my pots out of the gallery space at the front of my shop and started doing art fairs this last summer- 10 shows. I plan to do 12-15 this summer if my wife will let me! I also sell my work at a handful of other galleries and participate in 3 or 4 juried or invitational exhibits a years. I sell kilns, clay, tools and equipment. I install and repair kilns and wheels all over Chicagoland and Milwaukee. I give workshops at the local colleges and art centers. So do I make a living off my pottery? No, I don't sell enough pots to pay the bills. But yes, the skills learned from making pots has provided me numerous other ways to bring in revenue that are still pottery related. And all the contacts I make doing all those things eventually lead to selling some pots.

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I'm a full time potter-pottery is how i make 99% of my income-over the past 35 + years its paid for my property house and other interests (diving/underwaterphotos)I now pull in about 1 % in underwater commercial diving or photo sales

I married late (at 48) now 58 so I can say spouse did not supplement my ceramics

The main thing I see is this-are you willing to work extremely hard at it and never give up-clay full time is not for the weak at heart

I know many other full time potters (none here on this board). they live around the west coast-you can meet them at juried craft shows on any given weekend-

most i know spread out fairs/wholesale/consignment streams of income but all clay.

when i married my heath insurance costs went down as she works for the state of Ca

we never co mingle $ except for food and vacation every 5 years or so.

The key is to have no debt-own it all- which one will if they work hard

Mark

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There are those that say there is a market for every pieces of pottery and every price. That you should make what you want to make and then find the market for it. I don't know if I believe in that or not. . Do you? Could you live off that?

 

 

Who ever said that should read Adam Smith.

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This is a great question, and always on my mind. I have been making functional, decorated pottery for over 35 years. I did all the right things-went to art school in Canada, apprenticed with a master potter in England, went to grad school in the states. My plan was to be a professor at an art school. Didn't happen. Went back to school and got my Bachelor of Education. Been teaching art now for 26 years. The day job, which I love, gives me the freedom to make the kind of work I want without being too commercial. I did an residency at the Archie Bray . People said I'm a pretty fast thrower. The problem is that I can't consistently keep it up. I was surprised at how many other residents there worked as waiters or waitresses. I do know people who can do it full time. Mark Hewitt in North Carolina comes to mind. I have been working out of the same pottery co-op since 1986. Moving out this week. I built a beautiful heated studio in my back yard. I'm hoping to retire from teaching and makes pots full time. I will have my pension. My wife works, but I am the major bread winner. We have three kids still in school, so we need a secure income.

I pretty much sell everything that I make, the problem is getting the time to make it.

TJR.

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Too hard to make money just from making pots.

It may help if you grow pot and sell it as well, and maybe if you smoke pot you will forget about your poverty

 

OK, I'm not serious! But it is very hard.

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Or....like the old "Earthworks" factory in Ohio, you could combine the two "hobbies" (pot and pot-tery) into a business and make bongs.

 

Laugh at the stoners all you want....but this company once employed 30 full-time workers and made over 475,000 "Old man" ceramic bongs!

 

onward, through the fog!

 

teardrop

 

 

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I think it was Henry Ford who said something to the effect that if you believe you can. Your right. If you believe you can't. Your right. I have stuggled for years now with the dream of self supporting myself with ceramics. My interest is more in the tile side than the pottery side but I love both. I was just that close to really opening a market for myself and my work. I mean right at the edge. I had some hand built sinks in the showroom of one of largest plumbing suppliers in the U.S. In Kanas City. For me that's a big deal. The door was open to bring in more. But I, not the economy, or the wife, or the income, not Mom or Dad or the neighbor down the street, I stopped the show by my own lack of faith in my ability to rise to the top. We are all responsible for our own actions no one, nor anything else is to blame . This is a very freeing belief because you can no longer be a victim. You have all the say in your life. I am not posting this as a poor me thing. I want to share what I think is a leason learned and more importantly a way to help other potters succeed in their dream. I believe that the biggest threat to an artist is not the outside stuff. Because we are by nature creative, smart people. Most of us have spent a life time adapting and cooping to maintain our personal idenity. We know how to overcome challenges. The real threat is the the inter voices of self doubt and negataism that we are raised with and what we are taught to believe. "I am not good enough' "No one will want to buy this" "This will be to hard" "I can not learn all the different skills that it takes to wear all the hats that I need to succeed. A successful ceramics business takes a lot of hats. (I'm not talking about voices that only Lithium can remove.) I am refering to self esteem voices. I have stepped back and regrouped and have spent the last year or so reading books on self motivation, book by Napolian Hill, Zig Ziglar, Wayne Dyrer, Deepok Chopra, Jay Rifenbary, Gary Zukan, Julia Cameron, Sales books and life planning books. Books that tell you to make a vision board of what you are after. Plan out your future using whatever source of faith you believe in. I know this is off the track, but I feel this is the difference in what make some people succeed while others struggle. Our fellow posters who said they are making it is because they believe they can make it. It is necessary to change our view of our world. If we want to be successful we have to take steps to get there. Your actions are the steps. Your decisions are what controls your actions. your beliefs are what drives your decisions. If you believe that it will be next to impossible to reach your goals then you are right. If you believe it is very possible to reach your goals then you will be right. If I believe in Murphs Law I can't expect to have a great day. If you believe that the universe conspires to help you: then for instance; You will have a chemisty Professer take a interest in tri-axel glaze experiments and start buying glaze books on line,to help you understand glazes and help you through the math. Just because you asked him a question about it . you will have a perfectly good Giffen grip given to you just out of the blue, You will fall into a job where they will let you use their clay, their kiln, their studio for free with a go ahead to do whatever you want. With even a possibility of doing some classes on tile on the side. Those have been some of my experiences since I have changed my thoughts. My world conspires to help me and the more I can go out of my way to help others the more the help seems to come. If you want to be successful you need to hang with successful people. I think this web site is filled with them. Also read books by people who have succeeded. Pottery has techniques, you learn them from potters, Successful living has techniques you learn them from successful people. A topic on our forum was "what are you doing?" I am in the process of rewriting my future goals and plans using a book by Murry W. Nabors. Find a book that will work for you and save yourself a lot of "not as productive as I wished" days. I will succeed in supporting myself through ceramics. I bet you can too if you believe. ain't clay fun Kabe

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Bravo. Great stuff. If you believe it will be it will be.

 

Reminds me a lot of this lyric (from Francis Dunnery's "Immaculate")

 

If only I could tell you that you are what you believe

The hurting would be over and we would both be free

If only you'd believe me when I said you're beautiful

The images would manifest and beautiful you'd be

If only I could show you what Immaculate could be

The negative would perish and the positive would be

If only you'd allow yourself to hear what I've just said

Then pretty soon you'd realise that immaculate is sitting in your head

 

onward

 

teardrop

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Believe it and it will be....

 

or at least ya HOPE it will.... LOL.

 

I have no plans to attempt to support myself with this endeavor....I just HAVEN'T PUT IN THE REQUIRED TIME TO DO SO.

 

MUCH respect to those of you who >have<.

 

What I AM going to do/have done....is that I have committed to 3 Saturdays this Summer at a (Summer long) local (Craft, Klunkery, Wannabee) "Market" and I am going to "test the water" so to speak and see if any of the things I am making have sensory appeal/draw to others. In the end there's really no way to find out but to put it out there and see where it goes....

 

I can snag other Market days if I choose/once my foot is in the door. Fortunately, as of now, I beloieve that the only other person selling ceramic items is a reseller of some French foo-foo kitchen wares that are imported/not locally made.

 

if that scenario holds...I may have a snowball's chance in hell of actually making a sale...LOL

 

In the end the wife supports me and my clay habit and this is all for FUN....so I have it pretty darn good when it all comes down to it!

 

Hopefully I won't end up next to your booth with my "klunkery", huh?laugh.gif

 

>snickers<

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Too hard to make money just from making pots.

It may help if you grow pot and sell it as well, and maybe if you smoke pot you will forget about your poverty

 

OK, I'm not serious! But it is very hard.

 

 

 

:) this is good idea...

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Believe it and it will be....

 

or at least ya HOPE it will.... LOL.

 

I have no plans to attempt to support myself with this endeavor....I just HAVEN'T PUT IN THE REQUIRED TIME TO DO SO.

 

MUCH respect to those of you who >have<.

 

What I AM going to do/have done....is that I have committed to 3 Saturdays this Summer at a (Summer long) local (Craft, Klunkery, Wannabee) "Market" and I am going to "test the water" so to speak and see if any of the things I am making have sensory appeal/draw to others. In the end there's really no way to find out but to put it out there and see where it goes....

 

I can snag other Market days if I choose/once my foot is in the door. Fortunately, as of now, I beloieve that the only other person selling ceramic items is a reseller of some French foo-foo kitchen wares that are imported/not locally made.

 

if that scenario holds...I may have a snowball's chance in hell of actually making a sale...LOL

 

In the end the wife supports me and my clay habit and this is all for FUN....so I have it pretty darn good when it all comes down to it!

 

Hopefully I won't end up next to your booth with my "klunkery", huh?laugh.gif

 

>snickers<

 

 

What we are talking about here was published in a book called "The Secret" a few years ago. It is kind of dopey, but I got a lot out of it. Basically put, it rewrites the philosophy of "The Power of Positive Thinking." Think something will be a success, and it will, because you will make it so. If you get up in the morning and think "I'm going to have a bad day," guess what--you will!! Start small and it will grow into a life changer.

 

Enough philosophy. A comment about selling at a market prompted me to contribute to this thread. I am still a newbie but enjoying the heck out of clay. I looked at my gathering collection of pieces and decided I needed to find them homes, not have them gather dust on shelves. So I got a business number, got approved to sell at our city Farmer's and Crafts Market, and I've actually been selling. Not a lot, but people "out there" seem to appreciate my work. I set out a little cobalt blue bowl last weekend, thinking it was clunky and no one would buy it because it didn't have art and grace and. . .whatever. . .but that is the bowl that sold that day! It was so interesting. I fully believe that each one of my pieces will be discovered by just the right person on just the right day--I just have to be at the Market. It's really fun and rewarding to see people admire my works, and say how pretty they are. Next week something else will be ready to be picked up by its new owner!! I just have to be patient.

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6 years ago me and my husband started our own business. Our main market is metal industry which is in a bad bad shape in this market. But we started. We borowed some money from my perents and started from zero. After 2 years we started growing up, returned money to my perents, and from debt we were in a plus. It took a lot of time, effort and guts to do it. But we managed. So I allready have that expirinece in my life.

 

I know exactly what it means to start from ground and buildng up your own business. At that time we had no other incomes, we had 2 kids, and one year later another one was comming. Looking back now I can't believe that we have survived. Regarding ceramic business, now when our comapny is more or less stabile I decided that it is time to switch my focus on ceramics and in near future start business of it.

 

I have small studio, and a supportive husband who is willing to help me.

 

At my opinion what is important when you are starting a business is:

 

- you need to be unique with you product in at least one way (by form, material, price...), you need something what will be specific for you only, and then it is easier to find your place in market

 

- define who are your primary customers

 

- define your marketing ways

 

- be patient

 

- and as someone allredy said think positive

 

 

Also, I realized that having handy husband (for women in ceramics) is extreemly helpfull. For example, mine made me a table, shelves, bats, lots of specific tools, molds... he is very good with spraygun so he is doing glazing sometimes.... Without him I would probably had to buy all those things and they would cost me twice the price.

 

In Croatia, we do not have those kind of Markets where you are selling your work, we do not have art fairs or anything like that, ceramic society here practicaly does not exist, and those people who are ceramic artists or potters, are so strange and closed that it is practicaly immposible for me to get in contact with them. They think that they are special kind of people and on much higher level then me and ordinary people. This is why I am waitting for summer 2013 when Croatia will become a member of EU, and I will have open market of complete EU without borders, customs and all birocracy that is stopping us now from doing some normal business across border. In meantime I will work more, learn more, and develop my own style and designs.

 

So, for those who are thinking in going to business....go ahead! If you do not try you will never know how much you can get form it.

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Making a living as a potter can be done. Several years ago my wife was "retired" from her job and we have depended on the pottery to live. We have kept our life style simple. Marketing is the key. We do alot of open houses at the studio. We hoste groups to visit and demonstrate the crafe in hopes people will purchase items from the showroom. Over the years we have developed a rep as great hostes. We also do several shows a year and have found we are better off not traveling very ffar. I would rather spend the money on advertising than travel. Marketing is the key that and most the most important part is producing a great produce. I wish you luck it can be done. But you have got to put on that business guy hat from time to time and do the stuff none of us like doing.:blink::D

 

Paul

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- you need to be unique with you product in at least one way (by form, material, price...), you need something what will be specific for you only, and then it is easier to find your place in market

 

 

Ivar, I don't agree. I do recognize that yes, some people have found this to be true, always being the front innovator and always having a different product than everyone else. But I have also seen artists that make what the neighbor makes next door at the craft fair, and they both make money. But perhaps i just don't like the way you phrased what you said. It seems that your thinking is backwards, trying to first find your place in the market and then make work towards that.

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I've only been doing pottery for about four years and make enough to keep it going. My brother has been doing it for 30 years and next year will quit been a school teacher and go to pottery full time. He will do three major events a year in Big Fork MT, Spearfish SD and one in Wyoming, he makes more in those three shows than he makes teaching school. He's also started selling through gift shops and galleries.

 

So it can be done, you just have to find the right product and the location to sell in.

 

Bobg

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I have not read all the responses yet ... Buty here is my answer to the OP

 

6 yeras ago I left a good paying job cold turkey and started to work part time as a RN again. At that time I was melting glass. Not even thinking of working with clay ever again.

a year later I moved to my current city, and started to do the markets, etc. I nursed part-time, and mostly lived off this money. I was quite poor.

 

A year later I met my then b/f and started to experiment with a clay a year after we met. Still worked part time as a RN. And damn poor.

 

2 and a bit years ago I opened a shop, selling my work and those of my friends. by this time I started to sell ceramics too. the first year I continued to nurse part time, was awake at times for 36+ hours. Nearly killed me, and dirt poor.

 

Beginning 2011 I stopped to nurse part time. Not because i suddenly found riches, but because I felt that my part time income was making it easier for me to not focus enough on my 'real' work. Oct last year I realised that I had to close the shop. I was out of home and lost my car. @$%&@$% poor.

 

I also realised that glass beads were not going to give me enough money to survive on. At the same time interest in my ceramics started to grow. Nov last year I moved into a studio, and worked an 8-5 at it. No more night shifts on a patio in rain :-)

 

I am slowly getting more and more orders for work. I have exported this year. And my work is in more and more shops and restaurants.

 

But I am still poor. I live in a bedsit in someone's back yard. I use public transport, as i have not been able to afford another car. But, I can pay rent. And buy food and stuff i really need. So i guess i am supporting myself right now with clay. And I hope that a client comes through and pay on time so I can buy another kiln (8ch) next week. <--- another kiln is more priority than a car :-)

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I have not read all the responses yet ... Buty here is my answer to the OP

 

6 yeras ago I left a good paying job cold turkey and started to work part time as a RN again. At that time I was melting glass. Not even thinking of working with clay ever again.

a year later I moved to my current city, and started to do the markets, etc. I nursed part-time, and mostly lived off this money. I was quite poor.

 

A year later I met my then b/f and started to experiment with a clay a year after we met. Still worked part time as a RN. And damn poor.

 

2 and a bit years ago I opened a shop, selling my work and those of my friends. by this time I started to sell ceramics too. the first year I continued to nurse part time, was awake at times for 36+ hours. Nearly killed me, and dirt poor.

 

Beginning 2011 I stopped to nurse part time. Not because i suddenly found riches, but because I felt that my part time income was making it easier for me to not focus enough on my 'real' work. Oct last year I realised that I had to close the shop. I was out of home and lost my car. @$%&@$% poor.

 

I also realised that glass beads were not going to give me enough money to survive on. At the same time interest in my ceramics started to grow. Nov last year I moved into a studio, and worked an 8-5 at it. No more night shifts on a patio in rain :-)

 

I am slowly getting more and more orders for work. I have exported this year. And my work is in more and more shops and restaurants.

 

But I am still poor. I live in a bedsit in someone's back yard. I use public transport, as i have not been able to afford another car. But, I can pay rent. And buy food and stuff i really need. So i guess i am supporting myself right now with clay. And I hope that a client comes through and pay on time so I can buy another kiln (8ch) next week. <--- another kiln is more priority than a car :-)

 

 

 

This question was one that I really examined 2 years ago. I was doing ceramics as a hobby for frieds etc and then I found that I was geting quite good at it. Trouble was that I also found that all my friends who were doing this were dirt poor and struggling. Now being the poor starving artist may sound romantic to some people but to me that was not going to cut the mustard. So when I quit my job as the director for ICT in major company it was with my eyes wide open, and I decided that if i were to do ceramics fulltime that i would need to move to a place where my cost of living was far less that in the USA. So I moved to the Caribbean and never looked back. The truth is that now I am doing very well. I am still doing the pieces I want to do but also doing the pieces people want to have. On a recent trip back home I found that my friends who are still struggling were still doing the same things with no intention of changing.

 

 

Business is business and artists or not my business is ceramics and I treat it as such. I did not open a store. Instead I partnered with interior decorators for hotels and cruse ships. I found that tourists break things...often and in great amounts when drunk. So I offered insurance to hotels. They pay me a retainer and I replace the stuff that breaks. I am now moving into customizing cuttelery for hotes, restaurants and bots, by puting personalized decals on already existing ceramics like plates etc. I purchased the equipment and learned how to opperate it myself and so fat so good. If this business stops paying my bills then I'll get out of it. Plain and simple. We have to become more business savvy and less romatic.

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