Welcome to the fourth installment of our How To Make It series, in which we talk to Bushwick residents about their field of work and discuss how they’ve become successful.
Nicole Brunner did it; she’s 31 and her own boss. She successfully turned a side gig selling ceramics and other art pieces into a full-time career. Working out of a studio she set up in her basement apartment in Bushwick, Nicole spends her days creating pieces, teaching workshops, and fully managing all aspects of her business, MostRecklessly.
Turning a hobby into money
Initially, Nicole got into ceramics as a pure hobby. She and some friends signed up for classes at a pottery studio in Williamsburg. As the classes developed, Nicole’s passion intensified, and she eventually started working there. She’d spend hours perfecting her craft and filling her small apartment with pieces, daydreaming about starting her own little business.
“I’ve always wanted art to be my main focus, my career. Taking classes in the studio, I really started to see that as a possibility,” Nicole told Bushwick Daily.
While reading some poetry in Mexico City, she found the perfect name for her business and set up an Instagram account, @mostrecklessly, a platform to start sharing her growing amount of work.
“Of course my mom bought my first piece. But, I started following people and liking their work and being active on Instagram,” said Nicole. “Within six months, I started getting requests to sell my work in brick-and-mortar stores.”
The challenges of running a small biz
“Running a small business isn’t just picking a name and building an Instagram,” Nicole said. “It’s continuing your education, buying equipment, registering as an LLC, renting a studio and more. You get to deal with all the exciting things about running your own business, but that also comes with scary and new things to work on.”
As a solo business owner, Nicole handles everything. Aside from creating pieces, she’s had to learn how to manage inventory, create contracts, handle pricing, and do her own accounting. She does all her own public relations and advertising. She also runs her own workshops for people interested in learning ceramics.
“When you’re your own business, you can have a great sale one week and then be totally dead the next. I’m constantly figuring out when to be smart and save or be smart and invest. A $500 purchase for new equipment seems scary, but if it’ll help me make pieces faster it’s well worth the upfront spend,” Nicole said.
Developing a brand
Having worked in advertising for a few years, Nicole saw first hand how designers created brands for people. She let her interest in nature, flowers, and clean photography fuel her aesthetic.
“I let my life dictate the brand,” said Nicole. “If I go on a trip I pack my ceramics with me so I can photograph them in new places. I’ve reached a point where I can’t go on a vacation without bringing along my ceramics.”
6 PIECES OF ADVICE TO ASPIRING CERAMICISTS FROM NICOLE
You can’t just create, you need to run a business
“Turning art into a career is understanding all aspects of how to sell it and manage a business. For me, I wanted to learn how to do everything for my business; but now as I grow my business, I am looking for more support.”
Master your craft
“Keep talking classes; keep learning. Join a group, take an internship if it means that you’ll learn more. There are always opportunities to perfect your craft.”
Be the consumer
“Sometimes I get so caught up in creating work that I forget what it feels like to be the consumer. Take the time to pretend you are the consumer and place an order from your website. What experience are you providing? What’s the packaging like? Does the pricing make sense? Only give consumers what you would want.”
Research your competitors
“Research is a huge part of running a business. Even though it takes a lot of time to keep track of competitors, it’ll help you see where you fit and adjust.”
“Running your own business can take a lot out of you. In the beginning I had no concept of time management but at some point I needed to find that work-life balance. Figure out what you can give. Everything comes with balance, be that balance, Even if it means taking two days off, set yourself up for success.”
Learn from your mistakes
“Mistakes are part of life. I’ve made them and I imagine I will make more in the future, but without them I wouldn’t have learned what I have. All the mistakes made are moments to be better at your business.”
To Learn more about Nicole and MostRecklessly or to sign up for one of her workshops visit her website.
Is there a specific industry that interests you? Do you have any specific questions to ask? Leave us a comment and we’ll find a neighbor that works in the industry and ask them all about it.