Looking for an alternative to a boozy Friday night to unwind after a stressful work week Rosa-Clare Wills convinced her partner Andrew Ford that playing around with some clay and making pottery would be a fun evening at home.
But the Gold Coast couple ran into a roadblock right from the start. They couldn’t find any clay to buy. There were two to six week workshops to sign up to but that was too serious for them. A trip to the marketplace saw them buy the wrong thing — face mask clay rather than the type to make pottery.
It got Ms Wills, 27, thinking it shouldn’t be a product that was so hard to find.
“We talked to some wholesalers and we got some clay and organised a handful of friends over for Christmas drinks and to play with some clay. We thought it would be beneficial for our generation, and we found our friends playing around and getting immersed in the experience and not picking up their drinks at all,” she told news.com.au.
“From there, the night kept going and we had conversations with friends we had never really had before.”
The pair had always wanted to start a side hustle passion project and after seeing their friend’s embrace the experience, their business Crockd was born.
It offers DIY pottery kits that come with clay, carving tools, step by step instructions and “clay breakers”, which are cards designed to get people talking.
”It’s a millennial art therapy brand that is helping to craft conversations about difficult stuff that matters, particularly about mental health,” added Ms Wills.
A kit for two people costs $80, while for groups of three or four a pack can be picked up for $120. People can use Crockd’s network of studios to have a piece fired, waterproofed and sealed for roughly $10 to $25 — but there’s no pressure to do that.
Corporates have also gotten on board to use the kits as a team building exercise, which Mr Ford said gets staff talking about things like pride and identity, and costs $50 per person.
“It’s an alternative to Friday drinks. What we hear from corporates, whether it’s on Zoom or in person, is that people are sick of Friday drinks and corporates are moving away from being enablers of that type of thing and moving to an outlet of creativity and allowing people to express themselves,” explained Mr Ford.
Since launching on Valentine’s Day 2020, the couple have found enormous success for a start up, making more than $1 million in their first year.
“We are not ceramicists so that is one core reasons Crockd has been successful. It’s art for non-arty people and for people not typically exposed to it,” he said.
“Our biggest market is always in places with white collared jobs or corporate jobs and for people who don’t have the ability to express their creativity in their job. People always ask if the Gold Coast and LA are our biggest markets, but they are not.”
But Mr Ford, 30, insists that Crockd is still the “classic start up story” with the product not even ready to go when their first orders came in.
“We designed this product and built it from the ground up and it reflect who we are as people and it offers a good customer experience with sustainable packaging and locally sourced materials,” he said. “We threw it out to our social networks and we put it up on our social feeds and before we knew it we got 12 orders that night. We weren’t even prepared for that and weren’t prepared for one sale, we didn’t have one kit ready yet, so we had to pull it together and pretend we were a legitimate.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March last year and Prime Minister Scott Morrison advised people to grab some puzzles and be prepared to stay at home, the couple made a wild decision to leave their jobs and jump into Crockd full time.
“We had friends working in hospitality who lost their jobs and we rallied a group of five us and we hopped from space to space,” said Ms Wills.
This meant moving from cutting clay in their garage to using a wedding space as the country went into lockdown and eventually led into their own commercial warehouse.
Mr Ford said they are sensitive to the fact that their business took off during an unforeseeable event that caused misery for millions of businesses and people.
“We talk about COVID as accelerating the business by five years and we were lucky to be on that uptick where we are now, which might have taken a bit longer in ordinary times,” he said.
The couple, who recently got engaged, said they want to continue to grow the business based on the mission of crafting conversations. They are investigating launching new mediums for hands on crafting, expanding their product range and are planning to head over to the US to set up the logistics of the business.
They also credit their success to taking part in the Amazon Launchpad program, which they won. It gives people the chance to win a grant package worth more than $200,000 including: a $20,000 cash grant, advertising support, an exclusive Amazon boot camp experience with access to Amazon experts and a national advertising package with JCDecaux.
Just three months after winning last year, it allowed Crockd to expand globally into the US, Canada and Mexico, all while managing the business at home on the Gold Coast. They saw a 15 per cent increase in sales too.
“We wouldn’t be where we are today without the Amazon team, support and mentorship so its been a massive leg up not just in Australia, but for our global ambitions too,” said Mr Ford.
The Amazon program has kicked off again this year with entries open until May 10.