Author: Zoe Todisco, BSU student
In April of 2008, Jaryn Conway took the risk of buying Just Claying Around a popular Bridgewater arts studio that has since become a pillar of the local community. Having a lifelong love of art, Conway earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting/2D Studies from UMass Dartmouth. She first discovered her love of pottery while taking a ceramics class during this time. She went on to work in the art world for several famous artists and galleries while also trying to start her own business selling art online.
While working on her MBA, she took a break from the art world working several office jobs. After completing her MBA, she continued to work in managerial positions for several environmental companies while still longing to get back into the arts. When she found a listing for an art studio, it was the perfect opportunity to get back into the arts while growing an established business.
Question: Why did you choose Bridgewater as the location? Did you consider other locations?
Answer: The business was already located in Bridgewater. I have thought about moving to other towns, especially when I decided to move my business at the end of 2014, but I could never bring myself to leave. I love this town and the people in it. I have watched my customer’s children grow up. I have employees who had their birthday parties at my studio when they were 8. Some kids are now bringing in their kids, mothers are now bringing in their grandkids. I went to High School in East Bridgewater and I’ve lived from Quincy to New Bedford, so sometimes customers are people who I knew 20 years ago that are coming in with their kids to make something. 12 years is a good amount of time to build a business with a solid customer base made up of people who either are friends or become your friends.
Q: Can you tell me about starting Just Claying Around? Was it relatively quick once you decided to start or was it a long process?
A: As it was already an established business, the start-up was pretty quick. I dove into the financials, wrote a business plan, secured a loan, and made an offer on what I thought the business was worth. That offer was accepted. I opened an LLC, opened a bank account, got the loan, and wrote a check. I then started working in the business with the previous owner, before we changed ownership so I could learn as much as possible. When she gave me the keys, I put on an apron and the phone rang. The customer asked me a question I had no idea how to answer. I handed the phone to her and asked can you just answer this one last customer. She did, then told me that I would have to figure out the rest on my own and I did.
Q: What was the toughest thing you went through when opening? What inspired you to keep going as you were getting the business off the ground?
A: The toughest thing was buying a business in 2008. The economy tanked right after and I had quit my full-time job and had no idea what I was doing. I kept pushing myself to move forward. I knew if I could get through this, I could get through anything. It was and still is really hard. There were many times I wanted to quit, but I had a loan I had to pay back, a lease, and no job to go back to. I had no choice but to figure it out and make it work.
Q: You guys have a very strong online presence (a very clean and user-friendly website and a consistent social media presence), do you think that has contributed to your success and differentiated you?
A: First, thank you. We try really hard to keep up with posting in our social media accounts. My wife Cynthia who runs the business with me is 100% (maybe 95%) in charge of our posts. She takes phenomenal pictures and makes great graphic designs. I feel like we are only now starting to “get good” at these things and I do think it has driven more people into the studio.
Q: If a customer was to choose between your business and 3 others just like it why would you suggest they at least give you a try ﬁrst? What makes you stand out?
A: Our customer service. We have great employees working for us who all know the customer experience while in our studio has to be top notch. All of our employees are trained and then retrained to deliver the best customer experience we can. This includes, being friendly, knowledgeable, and knowing how to help customers make pieces they can show off.
The projects we have are also of the highest quality. We take great care in processing pieces we need to finish for our customers. We only buy from reputable companies with a long history of good craftsmanship.
Stop by and visit Just Claying Around at 552 Bedford Street, Bridgewater, or contact them via:
Website URL: https://myjca.com/
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/justclayingaroundllc/