Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in pottery but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Paul & Laurel Eshelman, owners of Eshelman Pottery, located in Elizabeth, IL, USA.

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

The trajectory that our life and work have taken surprises us. There were false starts and dead ends, but since 1988, producing contemporary handmade pottery in a rural community of 700 has been our work and livelihood. With its luxurious square footage, the 1928 Ford dealership building in Elizabeth, Illinois, is home to our present studio workshop.

Our work is sold primarily to individuals who value using handmade objects. Our work can be found at national craft fairs, in our studio, and on our website. Galleries across the United States carry our pieces. Teaism restaurant in Washington, DC, and the Alinea restaurant group in Chicago have the ware in their service. The workshop has become a sturdy business.

Tell us about yourself

After graduating with an MFA in ceramics, we moved to a small town in rural Illinois, fairly close to family, where home and studio space was affordable, and we started the business. Our life work is all about making pottery through careful craftsmanship using our own designs that will serve the daily needs of people.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

We have developed a distinctive and identifiable range of functional pottery that emphasizes geometry, simplicity, and materiality and have been able to make and market our own personal designs.

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

As craftsmen, we are solely reliant on our work. There is no corporation providing financial stability.

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

  1. Be prepared to work hard.
  2. Keep set-up and ongoing costs as low as possible.
  3. Do your research and keep your marketing venues flexible.

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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