Mary K Spencer of The Potter's House contacted me a few months ago about wanting to share her story with all of you. I was beyond delighted to connect and we met for a meal and wonderful conversation about her ceramics business and incredible personal journey.
“I know you probably have a huge trunk of stories, examples etc about being an artist in business and making it. I have been in business for myself as a potter/artist for over 35 years with many "adventures" on making this work. One of my biggest "nemeses" was health care and successfully overcoming lung cancer and a brain tumor and the financial blow all that took. anyhow, it makes for a good story.” This was Mary’s email to me back in April and I wanted to know more!
Mary is an extremely bright, charismatic woman with a dynamite smile. It was hard to imagine just from that tiny snippet that she shared from her email that she had ever suffered along her journey. I learned about about how she and her husband Jeff moved to Maine in 1986 as she began an internship that would last four years at Georgetown Pottery. She threw pots for 40 hours a week and quadrupled her production results within that time and was ready to venture out on her own.
By 2001, Mary and Jeff went from making around $20,000 a year to close to $250,000. With one full time staffer and a few part time employees, The Potter’s House was an incredible production team that grew organically with only a sales rep, one yearly wholesale event, The New England Made Show (my personal favorite), and very little outside marketing. Can we just take a moment and say WOW! And Kudos! And YES!!
That dynamic growth was stunted with the discovery that Mary had a tumor inside her lung and was diagnosed with lung cancer. What I love about Mary, is that she did not spend a moment off our time to relive her very difficult moments. Rather she wanted to share how important it is to get health insurance, become your best advocate, negotiate, never give up and never let disease become dis-ease in your own life.
Her tenacity is transparent. Mary wanted to live and boy does she ever! Mary got knocked down again when they found a brain tumor after she had kicked the lung cancer to the curb, but she only got stronger.
She told me the experiences made her more tolerant. She lives by the mantra that her brother had shared with her (and that I found was first declared by Elbert Hubbard) “ Happiness is a HABIT”. With her daily incantation, some good beer and a few healthy swear words when needed, this irish craft star has continued to thrive.
Mary is a big advocate for knowing how to run all aspects of a business and not to shy away from the financial responsibilities or hard work. We laughed about the high school Economics class she had taken way back when that she absolutely hated at the time, but now praises as the foundation for understanding how to make a business thrive.
Incorporating herself was a huge help for her business model and it helped her carry over her immense medical bills and loss over 25 years so that she has been able to maintain a business that is always making money despite the tragedies that have occurred along the way.
She keeps her business and personal finances separate and now at 63, she is getting excited about her retirement plans, exploring the possibilities with her daughter Denae for a possible business buy out and lives on an incredible piece of property with her love.
I can’t say enough great stuff about this fabulous woman and I hope that this small insight into her journey will encourage you to share with me your journey. I am open to hearing the good, the bad and the ugly and it’s great to hear others perspectives as a way to know we are all in this together. Contact me anytime to share your story.
A huge thank you to Mary for her honesty, openness and willingness to step out and share her story. You might want to stop by the Potter’s House when you are in midcoast Maine and say hi.
I’m looking forward to visiting her soon.