The Ceramic Experience: Have fun, make money

The Ceramic Experience certainly lives up to its motto 'fun is our business' for two of its Scottish franchisees. Rachel Spaul interviews

The Ceramic Experience, paint-your-own pottery studios, is the vision of entrepreneur Anna St. Clair. In 2000 she raised enough money to open her first studio in Crieff, Perthshire. Within six years she has opened three company-owned and seven franchised studios.

The franchise concept, which incorporates a soft play area and café in addition to paint-your-own pottery, has attracted enquiries from as far a-field as Madrid, Florence and Paris, and the company is aiming to have opened 100 studios Europe-wide within 10 years. Karen Thornton, Balloch franchisee, admits to not being particularly artistic and utilises her background in accountancy to manage the business employing creative members of staff to assist her. She confirms: 'I have hired some very good people to help me run the business so I can occasionally work from home and spend quality time with my young family.'

Based on the shores of Loch Lomond, the business attracts a lot of tourists but the flexibility of the franchise model means it is also popular with local people looking for an indoor activity, is used as a venue for parties, and by businesses for corporate and team building events.

Almost seven months into the business and Karen is on target to achieve her year one business plan. 'The feedback from tourists and the community has been very positive,' she adds.

Shona Gilchrist left her career in catering to pursue an artistic path as The Ceramic Experience Dunfermline franchisee, and is hands-on in all aspects of the business. 'It's ideal for me,' she confirms. 'I enjoy meeting people, the creative side of the business and running the café - it's full of variety and good fun.'

In her first year she turned over 50 per cent more than expected and attributes her success to the high levels of recommendations. 'I've spent less than £1,000 on advertising,' Shona reveals.

'Word of mouth is a great way to publicise a business - free and generally positive.'

The Ceramic Experience is committed to supporting its franchisees but, as Shona points out, they allow franchisees to tailor their business to their locality:

'The support has been great, head office are always available by telephone and I speak to other franchisees regularly. However, we're free to do our own thing within limits.'

The Ceramic Experience welcomes enquiries from fun, energetic people keen to own their own creative business.