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Stephen

Member Since 28 Jan 2013
Offline Last Active Jan 22 2016 11:35 AM
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In Topic: Business Advice Aka How Not To Eat Cat Food For Dinner

18 January 2016 - 04:59 PM

Hey Mike,

Yeah they are fun and we like to spend an extra few days exploring, so there's that as well. Congratulations on everything, sounds like you are hitting it out of the park. I know you have worked hard and taken a lot of risks to get where you are. I'm a part timer in the business but it is a full time gig for the artist. She transitioned from a corporate position and is just not choosing that pace for her work. How she feels about it all, how I feel about what I do in the business is the whole ball game for us, seriously. We spent probably 25-30 grand we didn't need to just to have the best equipment and the right space to work in. I personally feel that anyone here can strike a balance and find forms they enjoy making, at the pace they like making it and can find customers that will buy BUT it takes patience and lots of effort and its going to call for some give and take in deciding exactly what you want out of life and just tailor the business milestones to suit those goals.

Even in our emotional approach though there is a business side to pottery and she and I understand this and the business is run properly. I actually could list off all kinds of numbers about the production and sales efforts from last year because I love that stuff.

I do get the eye roll when I start calling the work units :-)

In Topic: Business Advice Aka How Not To Eat Cat Food For Dinner

18 January 2016 - 11:28 AM

Great post from Mike. I would only add that doing shows is something that we find to be very enjoyable. Highlights a great point though, there are different ways to make and sell those 3000 or so pieces of pottery and how you decide to do it will also decide your lifestyle to a very large extent so I would think that part through pretty thoroughly. At the end of the day this is going to be your new job and you will often be doing it in 10-12 hours stretches. There are plenty of full time potters making a good living just doing shows once they find the right shows and product mix. Likewise running a retail operation with a team of potters might be ur thing as it is Mike's.

 

I do wish you the best, it's exciting taking time in life to shake things up and rearrange your life to better match what you want it to be.


In Topic: Business Advice Aka How Not To Eat Cat Food For Dinner

16 January 2016 - 02:55 PM

Hi Nancy,

 

Just read through the thread and it sounds like you have some great advice to ponder. We are getting ready for the third season and from that I can tell you that the ramp up is by far the hard part and so many projects we really didn't see as the big time sinks they are.

 

The first year was basically no revenue dollars to speak of and about 20k in expenses (not counting building additional 300 feet of studio space and the previous a 15k or so of equipment. We bought lots of additional tools and supplies and made the 4-600 or so pieces that always stay in inventory as we organized. Just like someone who has to  go buy their opening inventory, as a full time business you will need to make yours. We have about 30ish forms and have 5-30 of each depending on how they are selling and that adds up faster than you think.

 

Probably more like 6-7k HAD to be spent to get things in motion and much of the rest was discretionary spending for additional studio equipment (we added 2 new wheels when we could have made 1 work for 1 1/2 people throwing) and we always have bought new figuring we would benefit from the extra longevity. Cutting this out and being frugal and buying the additional stuff you need used or only as you actually need it might make it where you don't need to actually front that much cash the first year but you do need to sit down and do some math because I bet you are going to need to spend at least some money in the transition and then fund the initial inventory. You could obviously just make between shows we but opted while prototyping to make inventory to start with. We live in the Northwest and the shows are spring until x-mas and some are bunched together and we didn't want lack of inventory to be an ongoing consideration when we look for shows.

 

We did get in a couple of shows the first year but mostly spent about 9 months doing this prototype and make process. It was busy too because you are setting everything up and just figuring out and outfitting your booth burns days of time researching and then incorporating. Our business spread-out too. When it was a glorified hobby it took over a 500 foot garage but as a business it needed another 300 foot of studio space and has consumed an additional 300 in our house so it really is  occupying over 1100 feet of space. This is a comfortable amount of space but again its just 1 1/2 potters.

 

I don't think its the money we spent as a takeaway but rather the huge time sink the transition from serious hobbyist to professional that needs to earn a living. If I had any worthwhile advice I would encourage you to sit down and list off everything single thing that in your view would need to be accomplished to be able to feel, in your own mind, in business as a professional artist.

 

This includes:

 

1) Opening slate of forms and at least a few in opening inventory.  

2) Resulting stock of studio equipment, clay & glaze materials and misc supplies to make these forms

3) Business organized (sole proprietor ship or llc) and all your paperwork figured out and organized for continuous routine operations.

4) Slate of shows (we did 9 last year and we are considering going back to 3 of those) 

 

With this list you can start to see where money will actually start flowing through to you having a paycheck and I think that's where reality hits so many. They spend months and money they don't have getting everything in motion and then when they hit that first round of shows they may be surprised that they have a whole string of shows where they only bank a marginal amount above the cost of doing the show. For me I thought when I was planning the 2nd year the solution would be to simply do more shows but it's really not that easy as we don't know the right shows and even ones that might grow into money makers like Mark C and GEP report are just in there first year so that 1500 show might be a 3000 or even 4000 show 4-5 years from now. We come out of every show with follow-up orders and interest. We also found ourselves at festival type events where folks are there to have fun and often party instead of buying art. Add to that the ones that turned out to be full of buy sell tables off cheap imports, most of the year was not spent making any money but rather learning the ropes.

 

This year we should do a little better picking the slate of shows so we are hopeful that we actually bank a few dollars above expenses. 

 

If you on the other hand did that entire list above and did a 6 show slate for a couple of years as you continued your full time job then in 24 months, when you are 57, you would have already absorbed all of the non-earning time sinks involved in transitioning to full time pottery and can simply sign up for more shows and not miss a beat. Out of the fist 12 shows you do that first 2 years part time may give 3 or 4 good shows to do your first year and that would be a huge victory.

 

I'd also try and decide if you really get the reality of making and selling $50,000 worth of pottery a year to earn a $25-30k salary. If you average around $25-30 a piece then you will be making about 3000 pieces of pottery for a full season. Probably a 5th of it will not make it to the booth or will not sell and remain in inventory at the end of the year and you will have to pay 15% of that salary into payroll taxes.

 

Either way, good luck. Shows and traveling and seeing new places is fun and handmade pottery customers are the best. I really think they have no problem paying reasonable prices and I think most handmade buyers do have an opinion on what they think is reasonable in their area. We cater to the $22 mug, $45 mixing bowl type crowd which I think is middle of the road and seems to be the right range for the buyers that get the whole thing to start with. Not everyone can afford to hire a pro to sit down and throw a mug just for them.


In Topic: Pottery Inventory Software

14 December 2015 - 11:37 AM

I've seen that product before but I can't remember its name... "Yellow Notepad" or some something similar. It requires something called a pen or pencil and I never could seem to find a reliable source for those. I don't think they are actually making them anymore and old inventory stocks are dwindling


In Topic: How Do You Do Custom Orders?

14 December 2015 - 11:18 AM

Putting a minimum of two or three hundred per item on custom orders will make a lot of sence. Doing a couple of $25 mugs for a custom order is absurd from a finacial standpoint if u are not using the regular form but fussing around with a $500 platter might work out. Even minimum extra effort means zero or negative margins for low dollar items and if you have to redo something it gets rediculious.

 

Obviously there are other compelling reasons to do them here and there but I would caution to not don't fool yourself into feeling like you made a good sale on such an small order without one of those reasons.

 

Seems right though that you do them yourself and see how it works out with your business.

 

Try to smile though if/when it goes to crap and just chalk it up to research :-)

 

Hey Ray, why don't you knock out that old c order for your old friend and just send it to them out of the blue, free of charge, with a note that their old order just surfaced in your paperwork and you realized it was never filled. Will probably put a smile on their face and might re-kindle an old friendship.