Meet Courtney of Honeycomb Studio
Tell us a Little about yourself, your family and your business.
I am the owner and creative director of Honeycomb Studio, a small batch porcelain shop based in Atlanta. I make decorative, one-of-a-kind vases and bottles entirely by hand in a studio up the road from my home. I have a one-year-old son, Leo, and am 5 months pregnant with #2!
What did you do before starting Honeycomb Studio?
I worked for 8 years as a fundraiser for various non-profits.
How did you come up with your company name and why?
I wish I had a better answer for this question. I have always liked honeybees (and in fact kept two hives until last year) and like the graphic element of the hexagon as a makers mark. I knew I didn't want an eponymous business name, so Honeycomb Studio seemed to make sense.
What inspired you to start Honeycomb Studio and how did you start it?
While I worked as a full-time ceramics apprentice right after college, I soon joined the world of the 9-5, paychecks and health insurance. I always missed pottery, but it’s a difficult craft to practice in your spare time. In 2011, I took a job that ended up being a poor fit and I decided to take a leap of faith and get back to my pottery roots. I figured I would give this creative entrepreneurship thing a whirl and see where it lead. In 2012, I single-handedly renovated a (disgusting!) detached garage in my backyard into a pottery studio, quit my job and, in October, fired my first kiln. I have never looked back!
Is there a specific tool you use that makes managing a business easier?
I am a big believer in a good old fashioned to do list. And while I wouldn't say that it makes running a business easier (possibly the opposite!), Instagram has been 100% pivotal in Honeycomb Studio's growth.
What were some of the learning curves of just starting out?
Pretty much everything. I had to learn pretty much everything from the nuts and bolts of pottery (it had been 8 years!) to efficient packing and shipping, to business fundamentals like cash flow and balance sheets. When I conceived of Honeycomb Studio, I didn't even have a studio to work in! I've always been a "jump in and figure it out" kind of gal, and my confidence in myself to make it work has only grown after years my faking-it-til-you-make-it approach paying off.
What's it like being a business owner and mom, how do you schedule both?
With LOTS of help. Honeycomb Studio was already 2 1/2 years old when Leo came along, which meant that I had a few busy seasons under my belt and some good best practices in place. Most importantly, I had already hired some amazing part time help that would come to be invaluable to me. Last year with my impending maternity leave, I brought my part-time employee on full time (that was HUGE and a terrifying financial jump) and, because of that, was able to have a reasonable maternity leave and keep the business going. Once I went back to work, I had Leo in the studio with me a good bit of the time, although I can't say I was particularly productive during those months. Now that he's older, he is in an in-home daycare down the street 4 days a week where I walk down and nurse him during the day. It's an amazing schedule.
What has been your greatest lesson in business and motherhood?
My greatest lesson is that it's always changing. You have to get back to work for your employees, so you put the baby in daycare but that doesn't feel right. So you figure something else out. You finally figure out how to work with your baby in the studio and he starts to crawl. So now that has to change too. I think that's just the new reality. I've worked really hard on the idea of having grace for myself and embracing all of the changes that have happened and are still to come. Pre-baby Courtney would have been very frustrated with her inability to figure everything out in an efficient manner, but now the name of the game is figuring out how to marry my baby's need and, to a lesser extent, my own and my other responsibilities. It's a learning curve that you will never master and that's ok!
Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurail mothers?
Just dive in and figure it out. Don't be scared! Be yourself, do the best you can and, above all, have grace for yourself.
What does a “normal” day in your home look like?
Right now, Leo has been waking up at 5am -ish to nurse and then falling back asleep until 7 or 7:30. JACKPOT! When he wakes up, my husband brings him to bed and we play for a little while until 8am, when it's time to get up and have breakfast. I leave the house around 8:45 and walk with Leo down the street to his in-home daycare, which he loves, drop him off and then continue walking up to my studio, which is at the top of our street. I work in the studio until 12pm, then walk back down to the daycare to visit with and nurse Leo, before walking home and having lunch with my husband who works from home. Sometimes we go out to lunch and it's like a little mini date! It's an amazing set up that I'm grateful for every day. After lunch, I walk back to the studio and work until a little after 5. I got pick up Leo and then it's family time. We take walks, we sit on the porch, we play on the floor, until Leo's bedtime at 7:30, and then my husband and I have dinner. I wish I could tell you that I work at night, but I rarely do. I try to work really far ahead on orders so that I can stick to this extremely normal schedule. These days I'm pretty much in bed at 10 - I blame the pregnancy - and then do it all again the next day.
Besides business and your family, do you have any hobbies you love to enjoy (when you have the time)?
My husband and I are in a constant state of renovating our 100+-year-old house, so I guess that's my masochistic hobby. We're both DIY minded, so we do far too much of it on our own. The renovation has taken on a fever pitch with the impending arrival of this new baby, so hopefully, we'll be done by the end of the year.
I can't start my day without coffee. What's that one thing you need every day to kickstart your day?
I'm not a serious coffee drinker (although I do love a one shot latte), but when I'm not pregnant I drink about a pot of earl grey tea in the morning.
Who has been your greatest inspiration to you in your life and why?
I am inspired by anyone who loves what they do and works hard to do it.
If you could travel anywhere or do anything in the world what would that be?
Right now, Santorini, Greece is at the top of my travel fantasy list. Maybe one day...
If your children learn one thing from you what would you wish that to be?
I want them to learn 1) curiosity, 2) to be people of action, and 3) to be people with compassion and grace for others. I think those are pretty solid components for good and interesting human beings.