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Pottery West Balances Art and Business

See how the ceramics studio uses Mailchimp automations and segmentation to send the right message, and QuickBooks to help the business side run smoothly.

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Published: September 27, 2023

**Subjects were compensated for their participation in this article.

Scroll through Pottery West’s Instagram feed, and you’ll see post after post showing the process of making each handcrafted piece, and the story behind it. Though their audience spans gender, age, and location, Matt and Catherine West understand that everyone has a common interest in handmade items.

Matt and Catherine ‌both pursued creative degrees. After graduation, Matt worked as a baker, and Catherine as a marketing and communications professional. They combined their love of the culinary arts, creativity, marketing experience, and desire to work with their hands, and founded Sheffield, England’s Pottery West in 2015.

They began as part-time pottery makers, but their passion and dedication to the craft inspired them to make it a full-time endeavor. Matt says, “Once we started making pots, it became obvious that we wanted this to become our career, and so the business very quickly followed. We started going to fairs and setting up a website, and very organically the business grew from there.”

Company goals

Matt says, “One of our general goals for our business is to have a fundamental product range of tableware that people use. And also to have a more creative side of the business where we're making one-off pieces, and maybe pieces that people would want to start collecting.” He continues, “In terms of how our business is going to shift, we'd like to have people who would come back to us to purchase.”

At one point, wholesale made up most of their income, but they wanted to diversify that. Their goal was to gain and retain more customers, without having to expand production. With the addition of workshops and a focused effort on DTC sales, now they sell mostly DTC and only a small percentage to wholesalers. And in 2021 they found that less than a quarter of their customers came back and bought from them again, but by 2022 they had more than doubled that.

Talking with customers where they are with Mailchimp

Catherine says they used to use Mailchimp for only one type of email—one sent to all their contacts with a single objective, like promoting a new series of items in stock with a link to their store. Now, they’ve found success in segmenting their audiences and personalizing messages based on behavior or interest. They can communicate differently with people based on where or how they signed up for the list, whether it was at a fair (and which fair location), or the pop-up form on their website. They can even segment by new and returning customers, and whether they’re interested in products or workshops.

They employ automations to communicate with customers as well. Catherine says, “When someone subscribes, they'll get a welcome email with a discount code to tempt them to purchase from us. Then a few days later they'll get a second email with a little bit more information about Pottery West, our story, and our values. And based on whether that person has engaged or made a purchase, we’ll use the tag that is created, whether they're an engaged customer or not.” All this information helps them plan campaigns for the future.

They pay close attention to the non-customers on their list as well. Catherine says, “Something that we've learned over the last few years is that the journey from joining our mailing list to becoming a customer can be quite a long one.” She goes on, “Mailchimp really helps us to build that relationship of trust, even if it's over a few years.”

“Mailchimp really helps us to build that relationship of trust, even if it's over a few years.”

- Catherine West, Co-founder, Pottery West

Accessing real-time financial information with QuickBooks Online Plus

Pottery West uses QuickBooks to get a comprehensive view of how the business is doing. Matt says, “It’s really useful for us to have a look at the general business accounting overview, such as the profit and loss account, which is something that we might only see once a year, once our accountant is given our end of year account.” He goes on, “We use QuickBooks for filing expenses, raising invoices, and processing VAT information.”

VAT, a charge akin to sales tax in the US, is included in the total price for an item, and Catherine says, “I'm not sure how we would work out the VAT without using QuickBooks.”

Their accountant has access, so it makes it easy for her to get all the information she needs without having to come to the owners for it. Matt says, “So it makes looking at our business accounting much more straightforward.”

Using Mailchimp and QuickBooks together*

Mailchimp offers an integration with QuickBooks that syncs real-time financial data from QuickBooks Online into Mailchimp, offering the opportunity to market more effectively.

After learning the value of the integration, Matt says, “I think having both marketing and sales information together, it could be really useful to analyze how an email campaign has done, and to see the effects of how this has affected sales and what pieces we’re making that people are interested in.” 

Catherine adds, “At the moment, we gather our sales and marketing information from lots of different sources. So having all the information in both QuickBooks and Mailchimp as one integration could be really valuable and efficient for us.” 

Advice for business owners

When they started Pottery West as a creative venture, Matt said they were so wrapped up in making the pots it was easy to forget about the business side. He advises other creatives to have a plan and know where they want to go.

Catherine thinks it’s important to stay true to who you are. “That's quite a hard thing to do as a business and a maker, to do the thing that you want to do, because there's a lot of influence from other potters. So it can be quite hard to just do your own thing.”

With Mailchimp and QuickBooks Online, send e-mails fast using synced purchase history and Mailchimp’s drag-and-drop templates.

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