Despite never planning to run her own ceramics business, Teresa Chang has essentially created several, each with a different business model: wholesale, retail, outsourced, and in-house. The product -- high-end, hand-thrown porcelain dinnerware -- hasn't changed, but the mechanics and the metrics of the business have changed to best suit Chang's needs.
In the beginning Chang secured several major wholesale accounts and garnered a following, which allowed her to support a full-time staff and studio. Still, people encouraged her to grow bigger, suggesting that she outsource production. She tried to set up outsourcing arrangements twice, with "disastrous" results. Yes, quality control was a problem, but worse was that Chang's role shifted from creative to management. She says she felt as if all the good energy was sucked right out of the business. Chang quickly realized that her satisfaction was dependent on being engaged with her craft. So she went back to producing every piece with her own hands.
She says she was happier but still working more than she wanted to. Chang decided that a switch from wholesale to retail would lessen her workload and reduce her overhead dramatically, giving her more freedom and flexibility. The transition took the better part of year but soon she was making just as much money as she had been before, despite working less than half the amount of time. And best of all, she was doing work that she loved most. For Chang, it has been the smallest version of her business that has been the most rewarding.
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