Reviving Local Communities With Online Pottery Business
In 2019, Cindy Chiupka-Jozin opened her Green Cabin Pottery studio in Wawa, Ontario to share her love for pottery with local artisan markets. But when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down shopping spaces, Cindy started to look for another way to establish her business, and an online store became the obvious choice. With the ShopHERE Powered by Google Program, Cindy received the support and guidance to build her e-commerce website and Green Cabin Pottery became more than a local workshop!
Before opening her independent studio, Cindy worked with her mentor, a local renowned potter James Sanders of Flood Mud Pottery, for a year and a half. To master her skill in functional pottery further, she took several pottery summer courses in Quebec and Haliburton. Cindy decided to take her favourite hobby more seriously and work on her pottery before she transitions into the role of a full-time business owner when she retires from teaching next year.
The entrepreneur draws inspiration mostly from the North shore of Lake Superior where she lives. Cindy is also lucky to have her 77-year-old father assisting her when he can. The team takes custom orders and clients can browse ready-made collections of mugs, wine accessories, bowls and dishes as well as planters and bud vases.
“I create handmade functional pottery and enjoy the creative process of working with clay and building my business,” explains Cindy.
When Cindy joined the ShopHERE Program, she already started setting up her online store but she lacked knowledge of certain features to help with customer communication. That’s when her Coordinator stepped in and helped explain the additional tools. Adding a newsletter and running ad campaigns were a few ideas Green Cabin Pottery could apply to grow the business. “Kabir was awesome. He helped me choose what I needed and showed me how to figure out the site details to take my home business to the next level! The meetings were always jam-packed with great ideas and my questions were always answered,” says Cindy. The guidance helped Cindy understand what website areas and features to focus on:
“Now my customers are impressed with the user-friendly interface and easy check out process!”
Cindy highlights her Coordinator’s help in achieving her desired look for the website. “My coordinator was so patient and knowledgeable! He allowed me to learn at my own pace – with me doing the work while guiding me through the steps.” Cindy also now creates blog posts with the latest news to keep her customers up to date on everything Green Cabin.
The entrepreneur believes that the ShopHERE Program has been indispensable in understanding the online possibilities of promoting her business: “I was ready to commit to working on my online presence and the provided assistance proved essential to my online growth. I’m so appreciative of this opportunity.” Although Cindy required some help, she found the process of getting an online store set up pretty simple and easy to understand.
“The Shopify support was great and they were quick in responding to questions while my Coordinator really helped me understand the business aspect of presenting myself and analyzing the marketing data,” explains Cindy.
Since launching, Cindy feels more comfortable with her website and having an online presence. Green Cabin Pottery has also experienced larger exposure, and more customers have been contacting her through the website and other social media channels: “I enjoy interacting with customers and the online store allows them to see my products without having to leave their home!” As more customers order online, Cindy has since been busy with custom orders and local deliveries, and her online store makes the restocking process easier. “I have enjoyed the process of setting up my online store and continue to take in as much as I can to refine my website,” says Cindy. The entrepreneur strongly advises other small business to sign up for ShopHERE:
“This program really helps small businesses or hobby artisans understand what an online business can look like and how easy it can be. Our small town has so much to offer locals as well as guests to our region. Small businesses are essential to our local economy. Our community must continue to promote Northern Ontario during this time since we are not seeing as many tourists as we have previously.”
As for words of wisdom for other entrepreneurs, Cindy believes in active marketing for the survival of small businesses: “We should also stay visible in the COVID-19 situation and are fortunate to have ShopHERE to aid with navigating the online world of business.”
If you’re a small business owner or know someone who could benefit from an online store, learn more about the ShopHERE Program here. To browse Green Cabin Pottery offers, check out their website here. Cindy has also shared her story at the Small Business Stories webinar, learn more about our events.
Digital Main Street was created by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) with direct support from the City of Toronto. DMS is also supported by a group of strategic business partners, including Google, Mastercard, Shopify, Microsoft, Facebook, Intuit QuickBooks, Square, and Yellow Pages.
A $42.5-million investment from FedDev Ontario and an additional $7.45 million from the Government of Ontario brought together the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, Communitech, Invest Ottawa and the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association to expand the Digital Main Street Platform in order to support more businesses going digital as a response to the impacts of COVID-19.