It Still Might Be Bourbon

When starting your own business, no matter how prepared you are, I feel like you always end up learning quite a bit. I have surrounded myself in self-help guides, and how-to books to help guide me through the minefield of opening a small business. They all have their strong suggestions and some advice that isn’t exactly helpful when it comes to opening a pottery store. The main overarching theme with any small business guide is the same: to be productive enough to make money. Isn’t that the goal of any job?

So I sat down and planned. I calculated how much time I spend making my signature mugs, how much I sell them for, how much it costs to make them, and how much DSP needs to make from them to earn their keep. It all worked out okay…. Until I realized something crucial to the expansion of our production. All this time I haven’t really been taking a cut from our sales to pay myself. I understood going into this that the business needed to be the number one priority, and that upfront costs would eat up most of the profits. So I paid myself just enough to pay my bills, and whatever was left I put back into the business bank account.

This works for me because my life is my business. But a key factor in expanding in the next year is hiring a part-time potter to help produce these types of mugs. Given the time that it takes to make them, and what we sell them for; we have a problem. There is no chance of finding a potter as dedicated as I am, who would work for the pocket change that I do. And I wouldn’t ask that of anyone. I plan on doing right by any artist we have involved in our business.

The solution? I had two choices: either raise the cost of the mugs to compensate for the worker’s commission, or change the design to make production more effective. I chose the latter.

Without further ado, I am happy to unveil the new design for our This Might Be Bourbon mugs.

Still very similar to the original, but quicker to make and glaze. By losing the front plate, not only am I skipping 3 steps in the making of the mug (rolling the slab, cutting out the shape, and adhering it to the mug), but I am also making a better quality mug. The addition of the extra clay on one side of the mug made the cylinder warp many times due to inconsistent drying. By doing away with it, I can worry less about the number of mugs that I will have to toss out due to extreme warping.

With the alteration of stamping the saying directly into the mug came a design & glazing challenge. How am I going to wipe away the glaze from the stamped saying without having the defined edges of the front plate? A simple solution was inspired from Carvel’s bourbon cups. I decided to glaze my mugs in the same fashion: coat the inside, coat the handle, dip the rim, spray and wipe back from the saying. Everything else is left in raw clay. This will not affect the durability of the mug at all; the same cleaning instructions apply. The clay that we use now is very smooth and has been sanded to ensure no rough spots.

For those of you who have purchased the original designs from me in the past and wish to complete a set, I will have a small amount left for sale at the same price in the coming month or so (remember, I am only working pottery 2 weeks at a time). Please message me if you are looking to complete a set and I will do what I can to get them to you. Remember, this is just for past clients looking to purchase 1 or 2 in order to complete a set. I’m asking any new customer to please purchase the new design, since I will have a very short supply of the old versions. If I find that many people prefer the original design over my new one, I will create more for our store opening in the Spring/Summer – but at a higher price to cover the cost of labor.

Change is evitable, but humans have an amazing ability to adapt. I do not change things unless I feel that it is not only smart to do so, but that it will better the business and my ability to serve our client base. Easier to make means quicker to make, which means more mugs to purchase!

PS. At the time of the posting of this blog, we have our “this might be bourbon” mugs for sale in our shop. Go check it out and see if you are quick enough to snatch one up before I make an announcement on social media!

Ashley Norman

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