References for the Pottery Consultant


Paint Your Own Pottery Studio
Connie Speer - The Pottery Consultant - References

          They say in life "you get what you pay for". That quote is usually used after the buyer realizes they got screwed. It is my pleasure to say that I not only "got what I paid for", I feel I got much more.
     Opening any kind of business in this current financial market is crazy to say the least. To do it with a consultant found via the Internet, could be considered insane. Theresa and I coming from previous careers where split second judgements had to be made regarding  the people we encountered everyday, we both felt you were a woman of good character and from a mindset that a handshake is more important then a contract. After speaking to previous clients of yours and only hearing good things about your operation, we decided to use you as our consultant in opening our own studio. That was the wisest decision we could have ever made. Without you and the rest of your team, I can honestly say, I don't think we could have done it!
     It is amazing how you have it all put together. From the business plan to opening of Arts A Blaze Studio, you held our hands and guided us. Besides your endless knowledge and contacts in the business, the most important part of your guidance was your availability. Whenever we had a question (and we had a million) you were there to answer them. "Call Connie....." was a common phrase in our home during the start up of our business. The endless hours on the phone or via e-mail gave us a peace of mind that made it easier to accomplish all this. The great part is that you are still there for us today and you always find an answer to our questions. Most people would not be bothered with follow up services like that, but you are ALWAYS there for us, willing to guide us. I also want to thank you for being honest with us. You held our hands when we needed it, but you did not sugar coat anything. When we needed a blunt reality check, you gave it to us.
     Coming to your training facility in Texas was great. The hands on education we got there was priceless. Having you take us to other studios that are open in the area was very eye opening. Your hospitality and generosity were first class. Allowing us to bring our 10 year old son Nicholas to your school was also very gracious. I am so glad that he was able to attend, the kid learned so much from you and the top notch group of ladies you have there. While we had 12 hour days, everyday we were training, you always kept it fun and knowledgeable. In our studio, Nick dips pottery, cuts glass and has assisted with our sold out, every week summer camps. He quotes Miss Connie all the time and can be heard frequently telling customers "Just a skosh more".  I would highly recommend to anyone using your services, that they attend training at your facility. There is no substitution to getting you "hands dirty" and having a top notch teacher over your shoulder, guiding you. While at your facility, it was very helpful to be able to pick out our bisque, paints, glass etc. that we would be using everyday in our studio. Being able to use your kilns and equipment was also helpful. There is no comparison between picking things from a catalogue or being able to touch and see them for yourself. That is why a trip to your facility is priceless.
     I also want to thank you for designing our studio layout. You put it all on paper and that made getting our build out quotes that much easier. Going over the lease agreements, rent negotiations and even calling the electrician to tell him how to wire the studio for the kilns, were all things that we could not have done on our own as smoothly as you took care of them. Sending us web sites on where to find the endless amount of "stuff" (tables, chairs, paper products etc) also saved us time and $$$ not having to find them on our own.
     We opened Arts A Blaze Studio on April 3, 2009. Like anything else in life, we had a few small bumps along the way (not listening to Connie). I am happy to report that we are doing GREAT! Sales are higher than we predicted. Camp was sold out every week this summer. We have gotten great media exposure and the community has really embraced us.
     We could not have gotten to this point of success with out you. Connie, you wear many hats... you are a consultant, you are an architect, an electrician, a marketing agent, a Mommy to us when you had to be and a true Paint Your Own Pottery guru. But above all that you are a friend. You are good people, you are not scared of hard work and your enthusiasm for our success oozes from every inch of you. The bottom line know the business and you know it well. Having you in our corner, was the smartest thing we could have ever done.
If you ever need a reference, please feel free to have anyone contact us.
     With much thanks to you and your crew,
Dan, Theresa & Nicholas Barion
Arts A Blaze Studio

     I am getting ready to celebrate our 20th year in business. Connie was a major force in the success of my business. She has always been accessible to our business, and even twenty years later I can call her for advice. Connie can help from site selection and working with landlords to electricians. Her business and marketing advice is sound, and she has years of experience in the ceramic industry. I recommend her highly!
Sandi Kirkwood
Clay Casa

     Connie Speer is awesome. When I first decided to open a paint your own pottery studio, I didn't know where to begin. Then I met Connie. She made the whole process so smooth and easy that I was able to do it in only three months! She's very knowledgeable, helpful and flexible with her schedule. And even after I opened my studio, she continued to check on me and help out with any issues or concerns. I can't imagine how I would have successfully opened a studio without her.
Robin Dober
Hands On Art Studio

     My partner and I decided to open up a Paint Your Own Pottery studio and we were basically clueless on where and when to begin.  We came across the web site and decided to check out their credentials by contacting other Contemporary Ceramic Studios already in business across the country.  We found that the positive feed back these studios had to give us about the consulting was very impressive.  We talked with them extensively and then decided to hire Connie Speer to help pave the road as we began our journey down the path of opening up "Spirit of Clay".  Connie was there for us every step of the way. We can't imagine having done it without her. We are soon to be approaching ten  years in business and Connie is a staple in our lives, always just a phone call away, whether it be for a ceramic problem, ordering of product or a friendly voice for much needed support when a studio crisis comes up. 
Update - I don't know if I told you we signed a new lease.  We are very happy and growing more and more every month.  Kathy and I just think you were the best with us in opening our studio.  You were always there day or night, work or home.  I have always told people when talking about our consultant,  I know we could have done it without you because we had such a passion to open the studio.....BUT BUT BUT you made it 120 times easier and faster. The knowledge you hold is amazing and we will be forever grateful to you.  You are the best in our eyes and here we are are close to knowing you for five years and we still have a relationship with you and you still  are just an e-mail away from helping us and guiding us through our problems.  Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. You are the best,
Kathy Hess & Kelly Strah
Spirit of Clay

     Imagine opening a studio and sitting around doing crafts all day and showing customers how to create masterpieces.  Imagine going to work and having no stress at all because you get to do art all of the time! 
     That would be ideal, however, opening a paint-your-own-pottery studio is not just about finding a spot, bringing in some bisque and paints and then customers just show up and love it as much as you do.  Opening a studio does not happen just because you love to paint pottery, do mosaics, or play with clay.  It is a business just as anything else, and there is so much involved in the process. 
     I was overwhelmed with the thought of starting a business on my own.  Where do I begin?  I did some research and found Connie, The Pottery Consultant.  I already knew I wanted to do this.  I was determined and dedicated.  I met with Connie and became even more determined.  I knew that I did not have to do this alone.  I still questioned my idea and this whole plan.  Could I do this?  Connie never sugar-coated anything and always said what I needed to hear, good and bad.  She wants you to succeed.  She, herself, is determined and dedicated to her business as I am with mine.  She was with me the whole way through the process, and still is.  And I’m confident she will be there as my business grows.  I also continue to get support from the Pottery Consultant team.   Everyone cares and is willing to offer suggestions and ideas to help the business become successful.
     I now work more hours than I have ever worked, worry more about my job, have more stress on the job than I ever have, yet, couldn’t be happier with my decision.  It is fulfilling to stand back and look at what you have created, see your studio alive with people and watching your own success unravel before your eyes.  So, I end this the same way I began:
Michele Harmon
The Bisque House

     Finding Connie Speer to assist me in opening my paint your own pottery studio has truly been a Godsend!  Connie's experience, thoroughness, and one-step-at-a-time guidance is unparalleled in the industry, and have proven to be an invaluable asset in this exciting journey.  She has answered every question, capably addressed every issue that's sprung up along the way, and has helped pave a smooth path to my new studio. Connie, thank you for helping my pottery dreams come true.
     Connie - You are a kick-ass consultant -- perfect in every way, and I always knew I could contact you with any questions or problems way after I opened, but I was so well prepared (by you!) that I really rarely needed to do that. Before I met you, I had spent 3 days in ______ consulting with ______, I took ________ 2-day course, went to a 2 day camp, and took the new-studio training at ______, but nothing, and no one, can compare to consulting with you. They explain the business, give you some materials, and send you on your way.  They'll answer questions after the fact, of course, for a short time. But the way you walked me through every facet of every step of opening the business, in live time, was unique and infinitely more valuable than the "consulting" that anyone else provided (and I actually used them all, so I am a very good source of comparison).  You broke down a very complex, intimidating process into manageable bites.  Focusing on "one step at a time", as we did, and breaking the process down into do-able segments, made it less overwhelming.  (It was still complicated and exhausting, of course, but was MUCH less stressful than it would have been otherwise.)
Thank you.
Karen Rifai
ARTrageous! Studio

     I decided to open a paint your own pottery studio nearly 23 years ago and fortunately met Connie at my first convention in Dallas. In fact, it was the most valuable resource I found. Starting a new business is difficult enough. To have someone guide you through the ordering and set up of products, colors and equipment is so significant. I believe Connie was the first to develop consulting and customized 'Start-up packages' and most importantly they come with Connie's personal service and unlimited advice and enthusiasm. I have called Connie throughout the years with questions on products and advice in regards to my business and am able to reach her promptly and I am always well received, even if it is not financially beneficial to her. Connie along with her mom Pat are always fun & familiar faces at convention and are still going strong for a reason!
Sincerely, Nancy King
That Pottery Place

     My situation was unique because I didn't start a new studio but bought an existing business.  Connie was a lifesaver in helping me with how to organize my thoughts, marketing and of course, the day to day of glazing and firing.  She was also extremely valuable when I decided to move my studio to a new location.  Her experience with leases, appropriate locales and the industry as a whole is unmatched!  Now it's 12 years later and even though I'm an established studio, I can still call Connie with any issues or even just to bounce ideas off of her.  Thanks, Connie!
Amarylis Barnett
Painted By You

     I couldn't have started my business without the expertise of Connie Speer. It was the best investment I've ever made and 23 years later I still consider Connie a good friend and confidant.  Her personal knowledge of the ceramic industry especially in the contemporary field is the best in the business as far as I'm concerned.  She thinks of all the things you wouldn't even consider.  The continued success of my business has a lot to do with the foundation I started with Connie's guidance.  I don't think I'd be where I am today without her.  She was my safety net when I needed it the most.  You can't get that kind of help by just reading a book.  She's already done the research for you.  If I had to do it over again I'd hire Connie in an instant.  She's the best!
Wendy Ives
Artful Designs

     I just wanted to take a minute to let you know how much I appreciate all of your help.  You have become an invaluable resource for my business and me.  You are always just a quick phone call or e-mail away when I have technical questions or business ideas, and your advice is always right on. You possess such a vast knowledge of the ceramics industry and the business world that I know I can always count on your expertise when I need it.  I appreciate your openness, honesty and straight-forward answers to my many questions.
The one thing that probably impresses me the most about you and your company is the way that you answer my questions on an individual basis.  You always take the time to find out exactly what my concerns are before offering your advice.  I always know that you are tailoring your advice and recommendations to what my needs are at the time.  It is so nice to know that I have you in my corner.
     Finally, I can't say enough about how impressed I am with the speed in which your company processes and ships my orders.  I would recommend you to anyone who operates a paint your own pottery  studio or a home-based ceramics business.  I can honestly say that my business has definitely changed for the better since I found your company.
Thank you again for all of your help.  I feel very lucky to have found you.
Sara Smith
Mudpuddle Designs

     When I decided I wanted to become a paint your own pottery studio owner, I did a lot of research.  I had already fallen in love with the concept as a customer, so I just needed to figure out what was involved, how other studio owners got started, and what it would take for me to get up and running.  I met with, or spoke with quite a few studio owners, visited studios, and asked a lot of questions.  I took a couple of classes held by the Small Business Administration, used their counseling services and got some help putting my plans in place.  I even got a loan and started looking for a space for my new business. 
     And then I met Connie. I had done so much of my "homework" on my own, and had a pretty good grip on how to get started, however, I soon learned that this consulting package was the clincher in my plan.  After considering cost vs. value of a consultant, I decided to go forward with it, and everything took off. 
     So many times, potential studio owners will ask me what I would do differently.  I have to say, that of course I've made mistakes, but almost every one has brought with it a lesson and a more thorough understanding that I would not trade for the world.  If I had to do it all over again, I would definitely work with Connie to get me started BEFORE DOING ANYTHING ELSE. Even though I had done my own research, there was no way for me to know all the nuances of starting and running this type of business until I found myself neck deep in it.  Connie was there to let me know a lot of those things in advance, and help me get through them and prepare for the next ones.  She has been there for me with such support and encouragement.  She brings such value to the table, having worked in the industry for so long and worked with so many studios.  It's not just about pep talks, either!  She equips her customers right up front with marketing plans, timelines, budget and forecasting, etc.  She is also prepared and willing to help with analysis of the business and offers suggestions and plans of attack to get things on track if you need it. 
      I still call Connie with questions.  I know she is always willing to help me and make sure my problem is solved or that I'm comfortable enough to move forward.  I'm not paying for that at this point, but I know my best interest continues to be important to her.  When I have a new idea to kick around, or have some weird thing come out of the kiln, I know I can call Connie and she'll be available for me.  Just knowing there's someone there for me is priceless. 
Julie Jones – Art’s Afire

     I hired Connie Speer after reading her informative articles and talking to other studios.  Connie was always given a high recommendation by everyone I talked to, and I will give her a 5 star rating!  She is an unbelievable asset to have on your team.  I couldn’t have opened my studio without her.  I am a business woman, but Connie brings the industry experience with her to the table.  She is always available (I tell her she needs a hobby) for me – and she never treats me like an inconvenience.  She promised she would be there to see this through with me, and she has kept her promise.  I would have been lost without her during this experience.  She truly cares about her clients and she is always in your corner.  If she tells you to do it – JUST DO IT (there is a reason!)  It will be the best investment you can make if you are thinking about opening a studio! 
Diana McGraw
Artrageous Studio

     When I opened my studio 16 years ago, I hired Connie as a consultant.  The information she provided me with was priceless.  Although I had business experience, I had never glazed a piece of ceramic, nor worked with a kiln.  Quite frankly, I did not even know the difference between greenware and bisque.  Connie guided me step by step on how to glaze and stilt a piece and then how to fire a kiln.  She guided me in the right direction as where to order quality bisque and supplies, and then she proceeded to show me how to market the bisque in my studio.  When I think back to my opening costs, there are two things that I refer to as my "best investments," one is my pair of Paragon Dragon Kilns and the other is Connie Speer. 
Karin Haack,
Artsy Fartsy Studio, LLC

     I couldn't imagine not having Connie Speer’s help when I opened my studio.  I had no idea about the contemporary studio industry when I met Connie.  She taught me everything from start to finish from what bisque & supplies to order, to glazing and firing the kiln.  It is wonderful to know that after all these years she is just a phone call away if I have any questions or need anything.  In April ‘12 we will be open 12 years, without her amazing customer service and knowledge of the industry there is no doubt in my mind that we wouldn't be here today.
     Connie - It always blows me away how helpful you are and how much I can still count on you after all these years.  I can't think of anyone else I'd rather have had help me open and you are always the first person I think of if I have any problems I need help with or questions I need answered.  I know you are always here for me if I need you.  That to me is the most comforting thing about our relationship...and probably what has gotten me through all these years! YOU'RE THE BEST CONNIE!!!
Tabitha Kent

     I want to thank you for all of your help with opening our paint your own pottery studio.  We are so thankful that we found you! On a professional level, your advice and input has been immeasurable.  One of the greatest ways it has been helpful was with the business plan.  The banks were very impressed with the thoroughness of our business plan and it has been an excellent tool to look back on.  Another tool that has been immeasurable are the binders that you put together.  I read them from front to back and continue to go back and pull new ideas from it all of the time! On a personal level, it has been comforting to be able to glean from your wisdom in this profession.  I do not feel pressured to do as you suggest, but am able to use your input and experience to make better educated decisions. That has been invaluable to me.  Thank you for all of your support. Truly,
Cindy Baxter
Bisque Bistro

     After hours of tireless research on the Internet on paint your own pottery studios, I was beginning to get frustrated with what was out there. My business partner, Lynda and I decided that this is what we wanted to do, but were not really sure where to start. I decided to do one last Internet search and I landed on The Pottery Consultant’s Website. I was so excited, I called Lynda right away and said…”I think I found the way to go!’’ After our first phone session with Connie Speer, we were amazed at her knowledge on, not only the paint your own pottery industry, but the business world, as well. She has advised us on all aspects of our new business, from lease negotiation down to ‘fixtures for the studio, training, marketing and that is just the tip of the iceberg.’ We started with her in late January and were able to open our doors for business the beginning of May. We would never have been able to get where we are without the help from Connie. Her support, advice and compassion to see her clients succeed truly sets her apart from the rest. It has been the best and most important decision we have made in this journey in starting our own business!
Tina Roberts & Lynda Joyce
Creative Corner

     Connie Speer helped me begin my journey of opening a paint your own pottery studio in mid 2004.  With her tremendous help and expertise, I believe she probably saved me at least 6 months worth of headache, hair-pulling and mind-boggling research.  From formulating the business plan to the detailed start-up bisque orders, paint orders and marketing plan, she was a tremendous wealth of information.  She also provided the needed support when studio and customer issues arose that I was not sure how to handle.  Her consulting services are money well spent!
Lisa DeLosh
Earth Paint and Fire

     I was visiting an awesome paint your own pottery store in Bar Harbor, Maine when I fell in love with the whole idea of painting your own.  I spent an hour painting and about two hours getting to know the owner, Nina, in hopes she would divulge enough information that I too could someday have a studio like hers. She told me to call Connie Speer, that was who had helped her open.
I was so excited I couldn't sleep.  It finally came to getting things started. I called Connie and informed her I wanted to be open by May.  Connie said we could do it and away we went.  She worked around the clock for me.  From the business plan to opening my doors, I could not have done it without her.  (I actually thought I could at first.) 
     Connie does not beat around the bush.  She is direct and knows her business.  She is energetic and great at keeping you on your toes.  She is fun to work with, but 100% professional.  It is my opinion that she does not get nearly what she is worth. Thanks for everything Connie.
Jackie Parks
Pottery Studio

     We contacted Connie Speer when we first thought about opening an arts and crafts studio. Knowing little about the contemporary ceramics industry, we found Connie to be enormously helpful in every aspect of developing our business. She provided a business plan and helped us fill in the details. She worked with us to develop a startup budget and cash flow projections. She provided tremendous amounts of information from how to market the business to what kinds of brushes to buy to how to load and fire the kilns, and everything in between. Despite the fact that we are in Austin and she is in Fort Worth, we had an extremely smooth working relationship. We established regular conference calls and communicated by e-mail. We never felt out of touch, and whenever we had a question, no matter how minor, Connie was extremely prompt in answering it. Nearly four years later, Connie still checks in with us, forwards interesting industry information, and responds to our questions promptly. We have realized a return on our consulting investment and then some. We would recommend her and her consulting services without hesitation.
Cynthia Burrow
The Work*shop

     By the end of my first conversation with Connie Speer, I knew I had made the most important business decision regarding opening a new studio. The information she provided during the next couple of months was everything I needed to help successfully open the studio on schedule.  From day one she was my guardian angel.  Helping with my business plan, giving advice on dealing with the banks, negotiating the lease, design ideas for my studio space, finding kilns, paints, brushes, bisque, and all the many other supplies I would need.  Knowing she will always be there for me whenever I have a question puts this first time business owner’s mind at ease. Thank you for all of your help and continued support. I could not have done it without you!!!
Laurie Schemenauer
Lake Breeze Pottery Studio

     Since the beginning of Art Amour in January 2002, Connie Speer, has been my consultant.  She is extremely thorough and very knowledgeable.  Every time I have something crazy happen in my studio (dealing with the technical part of pottery or the challenges of customers) Connie is the first person I contact for valuable advice.  It is comforting to know that all I have to do is send out an e-mail or pick up the phone and she is right there to assist me. Thank you Connie!
Carrie Klein Tidwell
Art Amour

     Connie is absolutely wonderful! When I decided to start a mobile paint your own pottery business, I was searching on the Internet for help. Thank goodness I found American Ceramics website, otherwise I would never have had Connie's expertise to guide me through what I needed to start my business. Connie was so helpful and patient with me, I had no idea that I would have received so much advise. If it wasn't for Connie I would have ordered way too many products that I did not need. She spent a lot of time with me and helped me stay with in my budget. Every one of my questions were answered and I know that I can call and ask for help if I need it. Thanks Connie, I can't thank you enough!"
Susan Trout
Go Van Gogh 

     Connie Speer was a lifesaver for me when I decided to open a paint your own pottery/contemporary studio in Ormond Beach, Florida. From the creation of my business plan to where to put the sink to what kind and how many brushes to buy, every bit of her guidance and advice was right on the money. Connie's marketing strategies are very effective and when I use them I can see an increase in sales. Connie was up front right from the very beginning about how much commitment and work this business requires, and she was right about that too. You will put a great deal of energy into getting your business up and running. Having the expertise and ongoing support of Connie to rely on and knowing exactly what products and materials you will need to be successful are half the battle. Being trained on the phone earns you bragging rights later when everyone asks how you learned all this stuff. Everyone will think you are incredibly smart and brave, and guess what? If you pull it off and are successful, you ARE incredibly smart and brave! Thanks Connie! You have helped make us here at Mud Monkey Pottery and Art Studio the IT place to be in Ormond Beach!
Bonnie Karet
Mud Monkey

     When my husband and I decided to expand our current ceramic business into a mobile paint your own pottery and glass fusion studio, we didn't know where to begin.  This was neither Doug nor my area of expertise.  So, Doug began a diligent Internet research campaign to find anything and everything he could about the pottery studio business.  It seemed that all roads led back to Connie Speer.  It became clear that we needed to meet this Connie Speer.  From our first phone consultation we knew...we absolutely needed Connie.  Her knowledge, expertise and experience cannot be quantified or measured.  Connie has left no stone unturned and has perfected everything you need to develop a successful studio business model.  She has it all outlined and ready for you to execute.  Connie Speer is, in fact, "the Pottery Consultant Extraordinaire." 
Connie, we want you to know we truly believe that this would not be possible without you.  We look forward to all that is yet to come!
Donna and Doug Montgomery,
Creative Clay Keepsakes


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