HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH YOUR BUSINESS IDEA & HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN BUSINESS?
My business consists of a retail and wholesale business to sell my artwork and a classroom space offering programming for ages 4 and up. I had been selling my artwork since 2000 but did not make the leap to full time self-employment until July of 2013. I began working with the catalog Uncommon Goods after meeting their buyers at my first wholesale show. At the same time, I opened the classroom and both took off simultaneously. The classroom space was formed after many years working at local non-profits. Cleveland was one of the few major cities lacking a clay centric learning space. Most of the area non-profits encompass all forms of fine art rather than focusing on one specific medium. I wanted to fill that niche in Cleveland.
HOW DID AVIATRA MAKE AN IMPACT ON YOUR BUSINESS?
Aviatra connected me with mentors that helped take my business challenges and streamline them while forcing me to think bigger. It was great to have the mentors, fellow students and Aviatra staff to cheer you on during the process. I felt very supported and that network still exists long after finishing the program.
WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU FACED WHEN STARTING YOUR BUSINESS?
The biggest challenge is still one I face today, which is being able to afford an employee. I’m lucky that my business has been consistent while growing slowly. I would say the biggest challenge is that sometimes you have to learn by mistakes and each year take those missteps and turn them into building blocks for a more practical business plan.
WHAT GETS YOU EXCITED ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS TODAY?
I thrive on making my own schedule and being able to walk into my studio and be creative. I get excited to see students become hooked on ceramics. I have students who have been with me since the beginning. It’s exciting to see their work evolve and their confidence grow.
WHERE DO YOU HOPE TO BE IN 5 YEARS?
I would love to step away from retail shows and focus on retail online sales and studio sales. I hope to expand the wholesale business and garner some press in the process as I work with new companies. I would also jump at the opportunity to design ceramics for mass production. I have a lot of ideas and I cannot execute them all.
For the classroom I hope to continue to bring in visiting artists from around the country. The studio has brought in artists I admire and who are not teaching workshops anywhere else in the area.
ANY ADVICE FOR FUTURE AVIATRAS?
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes or ask for help. Every business makes mistakes. Every business owner can’t do it all alone. It’s important to create a network of support to bounce ideas and share struggles. Do take time off for yourself. In the beginning of starting a business it can feel like it owns you. Once you hit a stride make sure you take time to do the other things you love and it will make you a better business owner and employer.