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Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Leap to Wholesale

In just a few days, most of our business efforts of the past two years will be culminating in our attendance of The Buyer's Market of American Craft (BMAC). If you look at our previous blog post, you will see that we raised a huge amount of money via Kickstarter to make this a reality. I can't believe it's happening, and it's happening over next weekend.

This should change everything for us. Of course there is always a possibility we will not be well received and it will be a mediocre event, but I doubt it. We've worked really hard to make it all come together.

Here's an overview of the changes we have made to the pottery business over the last two years to make this happen.

First, we felt that our business was naturally moving in the direction of wholesale. Several local cafes approached us about making mugs for them to serve out of. Then we approached a local brewpub which has become a 4 time a year buyer and finally we approached a regional brewpub which ended up placing the biggest order we have ever filled, 420 pieces. All those pieces were done over the period from Thanksgiving to New Years, a time when we are normally scrambling to keep up with the holiday sales rush. This year was different, this year we had stock made well in advance.

It's a pretty nice feeling knowing that everything you make is already sold. It adds a layer of security to your life. It's amazing knowing that when the pieces are done, all you have to do is pack a box and have the Post Office pick it up. No worries about show attendance, the weather, the time away from the studio. No driving 6 hours, then setting up, doing 2 days worth of sitting behind a booth, packing it all back up and going home. Wholesale, has advantages!

Hang Tag Back 

So this is the basics of what we did to prepare.

 We started to hone our line to something that was manageable. We found our most popular items and reduced our glaze combinations from over 20, to the most popular 7 and made a catalog of our standard pieces and colors. Over the past year we have endeavored to stick to our catalog for production. It's been really hard to do, people always want something just a little bit different, but mostly we've stuck to our decision and this has made it a lot easier to keep and build stock. In theory, once we are totally devoted to catalog production, we should be able to keep a base stock in everything, and simply pluck it from the shelves when orders come in. Specific production will be done for personalized orders, like the logo pieces we produce for the Cafes and Brewpubs.

We also did an analysis of how much it actually costs to make various pieces and made sure we would still be making money at wholesale prices.

We figured out how many pieces we can actually make in a year, so we can schedule production and project completion dates for orders. More importantly we figured out how many weeks a year we need to produce so we can also take a couple weeks off in a year. For years we have neglected to schedule in or take any time off without a lot of guilt. When you are self employed, you can always do more. Fact is, people need down time.

So we're loading one of the last glaze kilns before the show, there might be one more after this, I'm not sure. We're nervous, as usual, there have been technical problems with some of the glazes. There always are just before a major event, or in the middle of a carefully timed production. This time is is pockmarks, pinholes and popouts from the clay..all problems we have dealt with before, and never want to deal with again. But even with the problem pieces it looks like we'll have a pretty nice display of sample pieces for the buyers.

So we have new display shelves, curtains, carpet for the floor, tables, chairs, new business cards, hang tags for all the pieces and a tri-fold brochure of our catalog. We have our lighting worked out, a van reserved, a hotel reserved. We have help for the sales floor. We're ready!

When we get back home we have some new equipment to help us meet our production goals. Most notably a shiny new slab roller destined to make a lot of slabs for the Oak and Acorn line and perhaps most importantly a clay trap for our sink.

1 comment:

  1. CONGRATS, you two wonderful potters! I'm so happy for you both and hope you have a fantastic show. TAKE TONS OF ORDERS!