Sarah Wolf | Episode 276
Sarah is a ceramic artist in Portland, Oregon. Sarah’s business, Wolf Ceramics, is just over a year old. Sarah found ceramics in high school and had a healthy clay obsession throughout college in eastern Washington while working on a degree in geochemistry. Sarah’s initial years after college were spent traveling, farming in the San Juan Islands, and climbing in the Cascade Mountains. Sarah couldn’t bring herself to get a real job in the field of geochemistry, and after seriously considering and then scraping the idea of architecture school, Sarah came back to clay.
Sarah decided to go back to school for ceramics and studied at the Oregon College of Art and Craft, where she hatched the idea for her business. A year and half ago, Sarah entered a matched savings grant program with Mercy Corps Northwest that supports new businesses. The funds from this grant came in August of 2016, kickstarted her business into a new space, and helped fund the purchase of studio equipment. Now that Sarah has a space of her own, she is taking on larger wholesale accounts with local businesses and eager to collaborate with other local businesses and crafts people!
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How important is goal setting for you as a business person?
I would say it is really important. I have also tried to be really easy on myself in terms of acknowledging that I am learning a ton every day and that I am not sure yet what my longer term goals are. Goal setting in term of what the philosophy behind the business is I think is really important. One of my role models and best friends here in Portland has another business that is a furniture and housewares business and I look to him often to see what he has done because he has been really successful really quickly. His company is named Folk (Folk’s Manifesto) and his name is Richard. From the start he put out a clear definition of the values behind his business and I feel like that is something I want to do as well.
So where do you want to be in 5 years?
I can give you my answer to that today. It might change from day-to-day. I really like working with people and being around people and being n the studio can definitely be solitary sometimes, so I would just love to have a business where there could be a team of people working together that feels really supportive and more of a community thing going on. I would also love to have built up a business that has people in it that have a lot of responsiblity and autonomy so that I could do things like eventually have kids and take time off.
What surprised you the most when you started your own business?
One of the things that continues to surprise me and makes me really happy is how supportive people have been. And how much people want to be helpful and be a part of it. I am getting better about asking for help. A lot of us like doing things on our own but recently I had a work party and I had friends come and build tables and put up shelves and all sorts of things. It is always a pleasant surprise to see how eager people are to come and be a part of something like that and to feel like you are not alone.
How do you go about collecting and growing your email list?
Right now it is only people who have signed up on my website. At the bottom of every page there is an invitation to join my mailing list. It is probably 180 people and it is people who have actually gone to join the mailing list or people who have been in the Mug Club. I definitely think I could do a better job of expanding that.
What is your favorite marketing platform?
Instagram would definitely be the answer to that and I am not a big social media person except Instagram. So probably two years ago when I was applying to schools and working out of the this community space in SE Portland called Radius, I got myself a ceramics Instagram. It has been a huge source of my connections and sales which is great.
Describe for us your absolute perfect day.
That is a great question. The first thing that comes to mind is not waking up in the city in Portland. It is probably waking up somewhere in a rural place with friends around me. Getting up in the morning, having a cup of coffee, watching the sunrise. I like getting up early. Then going on a run on a trail in the woods or something like that and then coming back and making a big brunch with lots of bacon and fresh vegetables. Then doing something working with my hands, so that may mean going to the studio making things, or taking on some sort of project. Probably ending the day eating with friends again. And then maybe dancing a little bit.