An Honest Conversation About Small Business: Meet Lauren From Ochre Ceramics

“You often get told to not attach yourself to the highs and the lows, and instead to try and let them pass through you. This is much easier said than done. As a business owner, you want to feel the highs, but the lows tend to be the most memorable, for the most part. It’s one big life lesson.”

— Lauren, Owner Ochre Ceramics

We passed the reigns over to Patrice from Mondays Bookkeeping who recently sat down with Lauren from Ochre Ceramics to chat about all things business, highs and lows and reflecting on the last five years. An honest conversation between business owners.

P: How did Ochre Ceramics start? Can you give us some context into how and where it all began?

L: Ochre honestly started by accident. I was feeling lost after travelling, and in a season of questioning what I was doing with my life. My partner found a love for surfing and I think I was jealous - I wanted to love something that much. I had done pottery at uni and for some reason I felt the urge to pick it back up. I wasn’t particularly gifted at it, but watching my partner put in time and effort into surfing as an adult taught me patience and to stick at something I was falling in love with.

It started to become a bit more than a side hustle. I had sold pieces at my first market and was blown away by people I didn’t know wanting to purchase my creations. Once I started, there was no denying it.

P: We all know business has its highs and lows, what’s the biggest thing that you’ve learnt, or perhaps struggled with as a business owner?

L: You often get told to not attach yourself to the highs and the lows, and instead to try and let them pass through you. This is much easier said than done. As a business owner, you want to feel the highs, but the lows tend to be the most memorable, for the most part. It’s one big life lesson.

As a solo business owner, I’ve learnt that you have to build a community around you. And I’m so grateful for my partner, who has been the most supportive person from the moment Ochre started. He champions me during the highs, and lets me endlessly talk out the lows until I’ve processed them. I also have a safety net of women around me, and if it wasn’t for them, I know I wouldn’t still be here five years on.

P: There’s many moving parts to running a business. Can you give us a glimpse behind the scenes?

L: There’s absolutely so many moving parts, especially when the products I sell are self-made. There’s a lot of admin elements, combined with design, testing and modifications of pieces. Then I go into production mode, upload everything onto the website, pack orders and send them out. There’s so much to it, but I thrive on it. I would get bored if I had to do the same thing every day.

You quickly figure out if things aren’t your skill set, or don’t bring your joy. For me it’s the accounting and bookkeeping side of things, I actually find it a creative block to be money focused. Outsourcing this gives me another set of eyes to keep me in check and accountable, which I appreciate.

I use Square Reader at all my markets. I also find reports helpful to highlight which was the most popular product sold after a three day whirlwind market.

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P: The last few years have been pretty volatile. Have you had to adapt your business and diversify your offerings to keep customers engaged?

L: Five years of Ochre is a huge achievement to me, considering two years were spent in covid lockdowns and having my newly renovated studio so badly affected by the floods in the Byron Shire. What I’ve learnt the most about these experiences is you can’t avoid life, it’s just going to happen. Whether it’s a worldwide pandemic, a natural disaster or a family health scare, there’s always going to be something. It’s okay to react and deal with each situation differently.

Before covid hit, I was gaining traction with Ochre, my workshops were booked out months in advance. My products were stocked in incredible shops across Melbourne, and all of a sudden it stopped. Really quickly I just got on with it, I enrolled in a marketing course and completely leveled up.

But after the floods in Northern NSW I didn’t have that same snap back mentality, I really mourned what had happened. Only a month before the floods I was standing in my newly renovated studio thinking how incredible this space is that I’ve created, I had a brand new kiln, had just done a photoshoot in the studio, a real pinch me moment and all I ever wanted. Within a month, it was all flooded. There’s always going to be something, now we’re going through a cost of living crisis. So of course, I’m constantly thinking of new offerings to keep my customers interested in a way that’s true to Ochre.

P: What’s your proudest moment so far?

L: If I take a step back and look at Ochre five years on, I’m really proud of the work and my growth through pottery in particular. I’m proud of the space I’ve created and run workshops in. It’s never lost on me when the studio is full for a Saturday evening Clay Wine and Cheese workshop, wine is flowing, music is playing and everyone is busy making their pieces, it brings me so much joy.

More specifically two things come to mind. First, one of the most humbling feelings is when a bride sends through photos of their wedding day wearing Ochre jewellery. It’s so special to me that they have consciously chosen to wear Ochre on their wedding day.

Second, when I was young, every Friday my mum would go off to this studio with a bunch of women and would just create. My mum became so close to these women they would go away on retreats together. Mum would always talk about this group of women coming from all walks of life, who set aside time every week to show up for one another and just create together. I always thought it was amazing. When I started my workshops I hoped I’d create something like that, for women like my mum. I now have a group of women who I have the pleasure of hosting once a week. Creating a space for them to set aside time to create, experiment, grow and connect with other women from different stages of life, it’s one of the things I’m most proud of.

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P: What are your goals for Ochre in the next five years?

L: I don’t know, and I’m okay with that. It’s more of a feeling instead of a list and ticking goals off. I want to still be proud of what I’m doing and I hope it’s still growing. I hope I can use Ochre to live a somewhat balanced life. I hope it continues to help me grow to be the best version of me I can be. Both Ochre and I have grown a lot in the last five years, so I think mainly being proud of who I am and what Ochre is, because they’re very much intertwined.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute professional advice. For specific advice applicable to your business, please contact a professional.