Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in arts and crafts but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Colleen Hennessey, Co-Founder of Colleen Hennessey Clayworks, located in Fort Bragg, CA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

I make handmade ceramic tableware. Our customers are people who love food and want the experience of a beautiful handmade object as a serving vessel. We love having ongoing relationships with customers who build collections over time. It’s very fulfilling to hear from our customers that the ceramics bring pleasure and joy to their daily meals.

Tell us about yourself

I was a cook for twenty years and a gardener all my life. When I started making ceramics, it completely fulfilled the circle: grow food, make food, and serve food. I enjoy getting better at something and developing a skill over time. When you work in a high-end restaurant, you find yourself making the same dish over and over, with great attention and care, as if you are making it for the first time. I got really good at working in “the zone.” I apply this now to making ceramics. This depth of knowledge can only be developed through time and repetition. We’re fortunate that people buy the ceramics, which drives me to make more and enables me to enjoy the process of developing my skills.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

My wife and I run this business together. Adele runs the business and marketing side, makes the glazes, fires the kiln, and ships the orders while I make all the pottery. We started working together six years ago without knowing how it would unfold. It was a steep learning curve for both of us. Through lots of communication, trial, and error, and sticking with it, we have been able to support ourselves with this business.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

Finding a balance between work and life can be challenging. Sometimes you have more work than you can handle, and you have to learn to say no to things that will put your life off balance. It’s important to keep your priorities straight, create boundaries with work and relationships, and make sure you’re taking time off to relax and have fun.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Start small and slow. I saved up my first earnings to buy the equipment that I use in my studio, so I didn’t have to take out a loan. Starting helps you make sure that this is something that you want to do. I had another job for the first few years as I was getting started.
  2. Believe in your own vision. Have confidence in what you like. This will help you make your product unique and true to yourself.
  3. Don’t take on more than you can do. Growing isn’t always positive. Sometimes staying small can be more sustainable and peaceful in the long term.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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