Business Profiles

by The Pottery Studio

last updated 20/06/2024

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Couple's Art and Enterprise Alchemy

by The Pottery Studio

last updated 20/06/2024

The Pottery Studio - a perfectly potty new opportunity brings fire and fun to franchising 

The Pottery Studio

Married for 40 years, Ray Aucott and Penny Henderson are a couple who exude fun, and they are fizzing with an infectious enthusiasm for their unique, innovative new franchise.

The Pottery Studio is lighting up lives across the Bay of Plenty and Waikato. It is now poised with potential to fire up across New Zealand after the pair decided to open their proposition up to franchisees.

Following the pandemic, this humorous, heart-warming couple have struck business gold. Their creative ‘in real life’ experience is proving popular with corporate businesses to creative kids, cancer survivors to celebration organisers galore. Pottery has hit a purple patch. And Ray and Penny are perfectly placed to play their part in extending its power and potential.

A potted history

Former art teacher Penny first learnt pottery-making in 1970. She met Ray, 42 years ago, in Sydney Airport. Originally from the UK, Ray worked in travel wholesale for over 40 years. When Covid hit, it rocked his industry. Pivoting to pottery is never anything he could have imagined.

‘Because I’d been in the travel industry for such a long time, after 18 months of Covid, running pottery classes was just a nice little thing that came about. It’s absolutely blown up, however, and made us realise it’s something people really want to get out and do.’

They began putting on pottery classes in the Bay of Plenty and haven’t looked back. The Pottery Studio was born, with Ray securing the company name as a Christmas gift to Penny. Being consistently oversubscribed brought them to the idea of franchising their business.

‘We realised this idea had legs,’ says Ray. ‘We noticed that people wanted to get out there and have real life, offline experiences together. Making pottery just took off! It seemed to tick a lot of the right boxes at the right time.’

Firing up the fun

Experienced ceramicist Penny is in her element. ‘We enjoy introducing people to pottery in a fun, exciting way. The laughter at our workshops is infectious; people seem to love the experience!’

With the popularity of the pottery classes exploding, and word spreading across their region, the pair began offering mobile workshops. In a fully kitted-out van, the couple visit different towns with all the equipment needed to deliver fun-filled, multi-sensory sessions, hosting up to 60 people at a time.

‘We discovered a mobile pottery studio was a huge hit! People began asking if we could come to Whakatane, then Hamilton, and various places. Our latest workshop in Ōpōtiki will have 80 people coming over two nights – it sold out within an hour!’

The mobile van has bespoke shelving for equipment, aprons hung along a rack, boxes of clay and tools. In fact, so successful has the business become that The Pottery Studio is currently New Zealand’s largest purchaser of pottery clay, apparently.

Corporates and communities

Creating communities is key to the couple’s success. Business has expanded into corporates and organisations across sizes and sectors planning pottery workshops as team building opportunities, rewards, celebrations and more. Zespri, Fonterra and several banks are among repeat customers.

A recent Mother’s Day workshop was a hit in Hamilton, baby mark-making sessions are popular, as are hens and birthday parties, and retirement village visits. A regular session for breast cancer survivors offers support and friendship.

Tauranga has become the hub of The Pottery Studio. It’s where the couple live and have gained a solid reputation. Knowing the time is ripe for expansion, the pair chose the franchising model as the ideal vehicle through which to evolve.

‘The Pottery Studio appeals right across the board,’ says Penny. ‘Initially, we were just thinking about opening The Pottery Studios in new venues, but we’ve decided we’re getting too old for that, and we’re already absolutely flat out as it is!’

Fresh franchise potential

Ray says, being from a business background, he could see how franchising made sense. ‘Creating a franchise will allow us to spread The Pottery Studio. I see it as being a bit like when you’re a kid and you get your first bike; you can suddenly go so much farther!’

The franchise fee is $165,000 +gst, with some vendor finance potentially available. Franchisees will be responsible for workshop lease (ideally 200-300m2) to fit 60-plus people.

‘We will supply two firing kilns, a pug mill, furniture (such as tables and chairs), all start up tools and the first tonne of clay, glazes and colours required, as well as a week’s comprehensive training in Tauranga,’ says Ray.

Training week will cover all aspects of the business and running pottery workshops, he says.

‘With The Pottery Studio, you will have all the support, training and guidance you need. This is a massive start, with far less risk than starting your own new business.’

No pottery experience is necessary, just business acumen, an engaging personality and a drive to succeed, Ray says. Hamilton seems a natural next progression, as a franchise location, but Ray and Penny have their sights set across the country.

‘Once we have got the ball rolling, we’re only going to be limited by our imagination!’

Curious about The Pottery Studio’s potential as a franchisee? Contact Ray today.  

See this advertorial on page 13 of Franchise New Zealand magazine Year 33 Issue 2

Contact details for The Pottery Studio

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