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Small Business, Big Deals: Local artists SCORE big

READ MORE: Small Business, Big Deals: Local artists SCORE big

It's a business plan experts say might work for creative industries or commission based sales models.

With the help of some more experienced business professionals, the plan has become a work of art for one local small business. Tucked away inside the Cotton Exchange is a small art gallery. Seven female potters founded the small business based on one big idea.

“We were looking for a place to show our work and we just didn't have a venue here in wilmington, so we got together and thought about opening a shop of our own,” said Pat Holleman of Port City Pottery and Fine Crafts.

The Mad Potters, as they're affectionately known, knew all about their craft, but they needed advice about business. That's why they turned to SCORE, an agency of more than 14,000 volunteers dedicated to helping small businesses.

“They just wanted somebody to talk to, to make sure their idea was realistic, their plan worked, and also to coach them on areas where they didn't have expertise,” said Sara Raleigh of SCORE’s Wilmington Chapter.

SCORE's Wilmington branch helped the artists of port city pottery and fine crafts implement policies and procedures, provided sales training, and led seminars at the gallery. A unique business plan centered on cooperation has helped mold the gallery into a success even through the recession.

“We have no employees, we have no salaries, we have 19 artists, we all pay a small rent at our location here in the Cotton Exchange,” Holleman explained.

Local artists who display their work at the gallery learn about each other's work to become effective sales people. They volunteer at the gallery three or four days each month, and when one of their creations sells, they keep 80 to 85 percent.

“So that they don't have pay roll, which any small business person will tell you, payroll is the biggest drag on profits for any business,” Raleigh added.

Another one of the keys to the businesses success is the store’s layout. The gallery is set up more like an interactive exhibit that helps put the customers at ease.

“Well it feels like a museum to me. It feels like a very relaxing place. People come in and they're very relaxed when they come in and they love to see the work. They also just love to sit and relax and experience it and that to me is what art is,” said artist Melanie Walter.

Many days customers can get a first hand look at the artists at work, since they often use their volunteer time to work on new projects. Always having their work on display helps artists even when they're out of town.

“It means that I can continue having sales when I’m not at a show,” said artist Sara Westermark.

Employing local artists at Port City Pottery and Fine Crafts also helps the local economy. SCORE counselors say local employees are more likely to spend their money at other businesses right here in Wilmington.

For more information on SCORE, you can visit their web site at or call them at 452-5395.

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