When asked what it takes for a creative person to start a business with no prior experience, designer Sheree Burlington once said "Jump, and learn how to fly before you hit the ground." And jump she did, right out of a successful 18 year career in kitchen design and right into the colorful world of Paint Your Own Pottery (PYOP.) For the next three years, she and her business partner owned and operated a trio of PYOP studios called You're Fired. When the urge hit to try something new, Sheree jumped again. In 2005 Sheree sold her share in You're Fired and opened Museware Pottery. At every stage Sherre has utilized the valuable and free resources of SCORE- for the life of HER business!
As requests for her hand painted mugs and other gift items continued to grow, Sheree knew she needed help and contacted SCORE. With the guidance of counselor John Post, she secured a loan and line of credit from TD Bank, adding staff and equipment. In the next year, sales tripled - Sheree & her staff shipped over 8000 mugs to gift vendors nationwide.
Certain that the market for her "mugs with attitude" would only grow, Sheree was stunned when in the fall of 2008, orders dried up as American's watched the nation's most prominent banks fail. With adapt or die tenacity, Sheree & her now seasoned staff made a radical change. They discontinued mugs and other small items and poured their energy into a market that was sure to survive even the worst economic climate: Weddings & babies.
By focusing on a market that is at the core of virtually every culture in the world - weddings, new baby & family celebrations, Museware Pottery has emerged as the #1 hand painted, personalized pottery company in the nation.
Museware Pottery - Hand Painted Personalized Pottery for Weddings, New Baby & Family Celebrations finished 2010 with sales up a healthy 46%. A similar increase is projected for 2011. With a staff of five, the women of Museware Pottery continue to work with SCORE as they develop and hone their product, marketing and production plans.
In March 2011, Sheree was chosen to testify about SCORE before the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship at a roundtable. Her rise, fall then rise again story generated applause in the chambers.
"I was honored to be chosen to speak on behalf of SCORE. With their guidance, I have evolved from a pottery designer to a leading business person in my industry. I look forward to using the skills I've learned to volunteer as a SCORE counselor. I have a lot to share, and I have it because it was given to me - and it was given to me for free."
Sheree and John Post discussed various marketing strategies, identifying the most promising segments to target and how to implement the plan they developed. Their efforts were so successful that by mid 2007, Sheree faced a different problem: how to raise production to meet the increased demand. SCORE counselors John Benjamin and Don Horadan, both experienced engineers, were brought in, developing flow diagrams and finding ways to raise kiln efficiency and capacity. Together, the SCORE counselors assisted Sheree in developing cash flow and production plans.
When the 2008 financial crisis forced her business into a corner, Sheree again consulted with SCORE. Through careful market analysis, they developed a radical new plan: Eliminate low margin gifts to focus on the lucrative, high margin personalized market. Her business survived and in time, began to thrive.
Together, the SCORE counselors assisted Sheree in developing cash flow and production plans for 2008, which they continue to fine tune in light of today’s challenging economy.
“The SCORE people gave me the courage to make decisions. They are high quality, experienced individuals eager to share what they know. You couldn’t pay for that knowledge, yet the most amazing thing of all is that it’s free.”