For several years, Lucky Break hosted a “Meet the Maker” series featuring inspiring makers and product designers we though you should know. We were honored to host dozens of artisans, from Kristen Pumphrey of PF Candle Co to Meg Sutton of Belle & Union. Each one graciously offered inside peeks of their entrepreneurial journeys, while sharing some of their favorite resources, and dishing advice for what they wish they’d known when launching their own brands. After an extended hiatus, we’re excited to reignite the “Meet the Maker” series, and we hope it helps you stay engaged, empowered, and inspired.
We’re kicking things off with Hana Brewster of Quiet Clementine. Hana creates whimsical and playful pieces from ceramics that include sculpted jewelry pieces and statement dishes. Thanks so much for joining us, Hana… we’re thrilled to share your story!
Hana Brewster of Quiet Clementine
LBC: What inspired you to take the leap as an entrepreneur?
Hana: Prior to Quiet Clementine, I had two polymer clay focused businesses, one for jewelry and one for decor. I wanted to be a part of the handmade world, making something, and being able to work from home. I started with jewelry, because I had made some ceramic necklaces for my bridesmaids and enjoyed the process. Living in a small apartment with no space to make messes or to put a kiln made the choice to work with polymer fairly obvious.
Also, when I was in 6th grade, I went through a macrame jewelry making phase where I stayed in from recess to craft and try to sell necklaces to my teachers, so jewelry just felt like a natural fit to me. A few years into those businesses, my dad (who is a retired art teacher and amazing potter) encouraged me to make some ceramic pieces. I resisted for a while because I didn’t feel I had the skill to work in ceramics, but when I finally gave in, I was hooked.
Once I saw the first finished pieces, I think I knew I was done with polymer clay. I started making more pieces and posting them to Instagram. Then I started figuring out a plan for transitioning my business and how I was going to buy my own kiln. My business officially became Quiet Clementine in the spring of 2015 and I haven’t looked back since.
MEET THE QUIET CLEMENTINE COLLECTION
LBC: How would you describe what you create?
Hana: I create playful ceramics for color enthusiasts. I make small items, such as ring dishes, earring holders, mini planters, statement earrings, and necklaces. Each piece is inspired by vibrant color palettes and playful patterns and is handcrafted to bring fun and happiness to everyday life.
LBC: Where can we find your products?
LBC: When you first got started, how did you envision your business would be defined?
Hana: Even though I had a couple of shops prior to Quiet Clementine, I still didn’t know that much about business, so I’m not sure if I really thought about how it would be defined. I just enjoyed making colorful, happy things out of a material that had so many possibilities and, as things went along, I started to understand my aesthetic more and more and what kinds of products I enjoyed making.
THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A TYPICAL WORKDAY
LBC: Walk us through a typical workday.
Hana: I don’t have a typical workday. I’m not a morning person, so I usually sleep in and then check emails and Instagram on my phone, which I know is a bad way to start the day! After that, I start the kiln if it’s a firing day and I might do some computer work or answer/send emails if I need to or do a little product work.
After lunch, I go back to whatever the task is for the day. Each day is so different, depending on what products I’m currently working on and which phase of the process they’re in, but there are 3 different phases my pieces go through to become a final product. Some days I’m in the making phase, where I work in wet clay, creating the forms of the products. After that, I move on to the glazing phase, where I hand paint 3 coats of multiple glaze colors on each piece. For some products, that would be the final step, but I also apply liquid 22k gold to most of my pieces, so some days I’m applying gold and firing the kiln for the 3rd time.
For jewelry, there is yet another phase, so some days I assemble earrings. In between each phase are firing days, where I fire the kiln and then wait for it to cool. On those days (or whenever I need to), I might photograph or list new products, do computer work, start making more products, finish up a wholesale order, or just take a day to rest. My husband is my unofficial shipping assistant, so any orders that need to be packed up will happen after he gets home. I spend time with my husband in the evening and end the day by watching TV or reading a book.
BEFORE YOU START YOUR BUSINESS
LBC: What are 3 things entrepreneurs should think through when they initially decide to start a business?
Make sure no one else is making your specific product already and if they are, figure out how you can make it unique and different from what’s already out there. Obviously, there are already a ton of people making jewelry or greeting cards, but you can determine what sets you apart from the rest. Having an idea of the feeling and aesthetic you want for your products will be helpful in understanding what makes you different.
Figure out pricing at the start and if you’d like to eventually do wholesale. You won’t want to have to dramatically increase your prices when you start wholesale. Of course, your costs and process will probably change from when you start versus a year out. You’ll find more cost-effective suppliers and your process will become more efficient, but having an understanding of pricing, in the beginning, will be beneficial.
Be aware of all the other roles that come with owning a small business. You won’t just be making the products you’re passionate about everyday. You’ll be the photographer, packager, shipper, admin, and many other things. Make sure you’ll be able to perform all of those tasks, at least in the beginning until you can, or want, to outsource those roles.
BIGGER ISN’T ALWAYS BETTER
LBC: When you’re overwhelmed, what brings you back to focus?
Hana: If I’m overwhelmed, I like to take a break and do something else to take my mind off of whatever it is I’m working on. It can be anything from reading a book, going to a movie, or traveling. I don’t get to travel too often, but when I do it changes my perspective and helps to find new inspiration. Just taking a break to distract myself helps me get back to business feeling a little more refreshed and focused.
LBC: Tell us about the best business decision you’ve made to date.
Hana: The best business decision I’ve made is just deciding to switch to ceramics in the first place. I was getting burnt out on working with polymer clay and the products I was making, and once I switched materials, I was excited and inspired to create new designs. Working in ceramics has allowed for so much more expression within my designs and brought me more opportunities.
Also, in the last year, I’ve started making statement earrings and that has been a really good decision for my business. It hits that sweet spot between designing and making something I really love and offering a product that people really respond to and want to purchase.
LBC: Please share one misstep or obstacle from your business experience. How did you bounce back or overcome it?
Hana: The one big obstacle I face is really more of an internal struggle. I want to grow my business and take on more wholesale orders, but in order to do that, I would have to move into a bigger studio outside my home and hire employees. I’m an introvert and love working from home, by myself, so I know that managing employees would not fit well with my personality.
I’ve had to learn to accept the fact that I won’t have a big business like some people do and won’t be able to have my work in as many shops as I would like. In those times of wishing, I had a big, fancy studio and employees to make everything for me, I just remember that bigger isn’t always better and doing what feels right for me is perfectly fine.
HANA’S FAVORITE BUSINESS RESOURCES
LBC: What are 3 essential resources in your business toolbox that you can’t do without?
1. My iPhone: I use a lot of apps for business on my phone, Instagram being number one. It allows me to connect with my customers, share my process, and engage with my audience in real time. I also use apps to input income and expenses, keep track of receipts, make time-lapse videos of my process, make graphics for my newsletter, and check in on my website and Etsy shop.
2. Canva: I use Canva to design and create my wholesale line sheets, create my earring and business cards, add text to photos to use on my website, and any other design things I may need to pull together.
3. My rolling pin – Everything I make starts from a slab (except for ring cones), and I don’t have a slab roller, so I have to roll everything out by hand. I wouldn’t be able to make anything without that.
LBC: Imagine that we had a time machine. If we blasted ourselves forward a few years, where would we see your company?
Hana: In a few years, I hope to just be doing more of the same. I hope to still be making colorful ceramics, selling online and to shops around the world. Hopefully, I’ll be in a different home with a bigger space for my studio. I also hope I’ll have a slab roller and bigger kiln to make creating more efficient.
CONNECTING WITH MENTORS AND BUILDING COMMUNITY IS ESSENTIAL
LBC: How has working with Lucky Break influenced your business?
Hana: I discovered Lela and Lucky Break in the old days of Periscope and started watching all of her live broadcasts. I loved the way she taught about business, pricing, and wholesale and learned so much from those. She broke things down and explained things in a way that was easy to understand.
A little while after that, Wholesale Matchmaker launched and it was exactly what I had been needing. Up until that point, I didn’t have an easy, organized way of keeping track of what stores I had emailed and when I needed to follow up, so WMM was perfect. I missed getting in the first time and I was so sad! I snagged a spot the second time around and was so excited to be a part of it.
The video series is great and I immediately tweaked and improved my line sheet and wholesale policies based on what I learned from them. WMM helps me feel much more confident in pitching to stores and knowing that I won’t forget to follow up with those pitches or stores who have already ordered from me. The wholesale side of my business is so much stronger because of Lucky Break.
LBC: What benefits have you seen from taking classes, working with a mentor, and/or building community around your business?
Hana: Taking classes, whether that be in person or online, is so beneficial to running a small business. I’ve taken a couple of e-courses, one on Etsy and one on taxes. Both were amazing and gave me so much information that helped my business. Without those courses, I was running around the internet trying to collect all this information from Google and not knowing what I could trust.
Finding a few people to learn from, whose knowledge and advice I trust, has been invaluable to my business and saves me a lot of wasted time going down internet rabbit holes. Building a community around my business has also been invaluable. My community is mostly on Instagram and having that audience that loves my work and supports it has been so helpful in growing my business. I’m able to interact with my customers, ask for their feedback and opinions, and share my process with them. I think asking for feedback on designs or what people would like to see helps them to feel like they’re a part of my process.
Having people who are excited to see my work and, hopefully, purchase it, makes me that much more excited to design new things and share it with them.
JUST FOR FUN…
LBC: What’s one thing you would eat if you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life?
Hana: Pizza…or chocolate…I can’t decide!
LBC: What are a few of the places on your travel bucket list?
Hana: I got to visit Rome and Stockholm last year, which were on my list for a while. This year I hope to go to Amsterdam. I would also love to go to Australia, Japan, and back to Italy to explore more.
LBC: If you could hire someone to do just one thing that you loathe doing, what would it be?
Hana: Does exercising count? 😉 Seriously though, probably cleaning. I like things being clean, but don’t enjoy actually doing it. From a business perspective, I would hire someone to sand for me. I only sand planters and backs of earrings, but I hate it and would be happy if I never had to do it again.
Thank you, Hana, for sharing your talent with us. We absolutely love what you’re doing with Quiet Clementine, and we look forward to all the wonderful things ahead for you and your company. We’re cheering you on!