“I’m so grateful Northern Initiatives was willing to take a chance by helping me secure a loan to purchase all of the assets and equipment.” – Melissa Sprouse, Owner of HOTplate Pottery
Melissa Sprouse formerly worked at Northern Michigan University’s Career Services, encouraging students to apply for jobs that matched their interests and passions. Six years after earning a degree in ceramics, and with a newly minted MPA on her resume, she took her own advice to heart. Sprouse decided to pursue her artistic passion by purchasing an established downtown Marquette business. With help from Northern Initiatives, she is putting her own mark on HOTplate Pottery & Art Studio.
“I had been looking at opening an artists’ studio when I learned HOTplate was up for sale, so I shifted my focus to that,” she said. “It had been profitable, so it was nice to approach it with lower risk and a strong business plan. But I still felt traditional lenders wouldn’t support me if I didn’t have enough collateral or money down. I’m so grateful Northern Initiatives was willing to take a chance by helping me secure a loan to purchase all of the assets and equipment.”
HOTplate was known primarily as a “paint your own pottery” business, with workshops in canvas and fused glass. Sprouse continues those elements, but has incorporated clay—her background—by introducing Wheel Wednesdays twice each month. Northern Initiatives helped her develop a new logo and website that “kept the feel” of the former HOTplate, yet allowed Sprouse to put her personalized stamp on it.
“They even gave me an outline of ideas for marketing, broken down into an easy-to-read table with ideas like claiming your local listings on Trip Advisor, Yelp and other services,” she said. “It was also nice to have a trainer come in for several sessions and walk me through QuickBooks online. All of these things are important, but it’s great to receive help getting started when you’re transitioning in as a first-time business owner.”
Sprouse has two employees who work about 30 hours per week. She plans to hire one to two seasonal part-time employees for the holidays.
When she started the process of purchasing HOTplate in February 2018, Sprouse was pregnant. Now she brings her son to work with her and says he and the business are like twins—both growing together.