I Thought I Knew!

Inside the Oven (ITO), is the name of the blog that you are reading right now.  It is a perspective of our business from the inside, what we do, why we do it, how we do it, and anything else that people ask us about.  We figure if one person is asking, others might have the same questions, so we’ll share our thoughts with you for an ‘Inside the Oven’ viewpoint!

I am classically trained as a glassblower.  I’ve been blowing glass for over 30 years now, and while I don’t blow glass daily anymore, I do the majority of designing and art direction for the Glass Academy.  Two days a week I’m in the studio doing prototypes for new products we might sell in the gallery one day, and/or commissions for my own personal work.

This summer, I was chosen to receive a Goldman Sachs, 10,000 Small Businesses course.  This course is valued at 50K because of the professionals they bring in, the spreadsheets they create for our use and the coaching they do along the way, both during the course and 3 years after the course.  It was SUPER VALUABLE to our company and opened my eyes to ways of doing things that needed to change within our business if we were to grow and prosper vs. merely survive.

I began to realize how many things I took for granted vs. really knowing the true reality of running a business.  Here’s a simple example, selling a $100 pumpkin means I can take that $100 and head off to the grocery store right?  Well kind of, wait….no not really!

We need to account for the materials used to make the pumpkin, the labor, the raw materials, the gas, the color, the marketing costs, the rent, etc. You get the picture!  So this Goldman course, it really helped us to hone in on those business skills we didn’t have 100% down.  Because remember, Chris and I both attended ART college, not BUSINESS college.

So how do we pull together something like the pumpkin show when we had no business training?  We’re often asked these questions because the shows seem so seamless and smooth- well, let’s just say that’s taken years of experience to get to that point, like the pumpkin show you all just attended.

It starts with designing the pumpkins.  First, we do dozens of prototypes with various color patterns, shapes and styles.  Then, we pick out our favorites and the features for the year, usually these are ones that will match the past years, enticing customers to buy a new one to match their collections. 

The super bad, ugly and weird ones?  I take joy in crushing them in the dumpster.  Sad but true, I break them all with a hammer, and relieve stress in the process.  Super fun!

And then, marketing comes next.  eNews contests with our customers, conversations on Facebook, and highlighting our favorites on Instagram to get people engaged.  Next is ads in newspapers, magazines, and more.

Production- that’s what we call making the pumpkins. Same as manufacturing but ours are all handmade, not machines. Making each pumpkin, one by one, in our Dearborn studio.  It takes us about 8 weeks of solid pumpkin making to stock the gallery for the show. By the time October comes around, we are ready!!

The gallery looks spectacular, the staff is hired and excited to sell, the permits are pulled, and the demonstrations are ready to happen.  Let the games begin!

Everything this year went well.  We had some major register problems, a few staff issues but nothing we couldn’t handle. And then, in my reflection of the show, I realized how many people I wanted to talk with but couldn’t get to.

I do have to apologize in advance, when everyone comes together in one place at one time, I get a bit disoriented.  I forget names, I mix up how I know people, and sometimes I forget to say hello.  I’m sorry.

Please note, it’s not that I don’t care, or that I’m being aloof. More likely, it’s that I’m embarrassed that I can’t remember your name, or I know you but can’t remember from where, (School? Sports? Chamber? Event?) and it’s only after the show, when I reflect on everyone that came to the shows, I remember who you are and our connection.

So please note, we love each and everyone one of you, but sometimes our head is in the event full on, and we only connect the dots of all of our connections after the show.  To those of you who I missed reaching out to, know that in these quiet days after the shows, I thank and appreciate each and everyone of YOU! 

You are the reason we exist and thrive.  Thank you! :)

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