1997s Hottest Businesses

Paint-Your-Own-Pottery Stores

Once again, entrepreneurs have broken the mold--this time by starting a slew of paint-your-own-pottery stores. Different from traditional ceramic studios, these contemporary studios are located in bustling retail locations and boast a hip, coffeehouse-like atmosphere. Here, the future Picassos of the world are given all the necessary materials to create their own works of art on functional, prefabricated pottery pieces such as platters or mugs.

With an estimated 200 retail outlets and counting, paint-your-own-pottery stores are painting the town from coast to coast. More than just shelves stuffed with pottery though, many stores also offer live music, cappuccino--even wine and cheese. And smart entrepreneurs bring in extra business by renting out their stores for baby and wedding showers, bachelorette parties and holiday celebrations. "When we throw parties, many referrals are generated," says Leslie Tall, co-owner of Paint 'n Plates in Irvine, California, "and in this business, word-of-mouth is absolutely imperative."

You can't just throw yourself into this business, however. Before opening their store, Tall and co-owner Terri Laine Klingner spent a year reading ceramics magazines, visiting warehouses and frequenting studios to research prices and themes. Barbara Tobias, editor of Popular Ceramics magazine, warns that thorough knowledge of safety regulations and the mechanics of ceramics are musts: "It could really turn people off if they have problems, don't like how their pieces turn out, or if you can't answer their questions properly."

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This article was originally published in the December 1996 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: 1997s Hottest Businesses.

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