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From Hobby to Business: A Story of Growth | A. Shelby Pottery

Flowood, Mississippi

by Carter Diggs

Eight years ago, April Shelby started her foray into the pottery business after winning an entrepreneurship grant when she was a senior at Mississippi State. She used her grant money to purchase a single kiln and start up a part-time shop.  As of 2019, with the help of the Mississippi Small Business Development Center, she’s turned her side-gig into a full-time venture.

One of the requirements of the entrepreneurship grant was that she meet with the MSU MSBDC and do a business plan. 

“In college nobody ever gives you a checklist of things you need to do to make your business legitimate,” Shelby said.  “Having that guidance took the pressure off so that I could focus on what I do know – making pottery.”

As she went through the process of forming and registering her business, the Mississippi SBDC was able to walk her through the processes.

“The whole process of getting an LLC and registering your business with the state seemed very overwhelming,” Shelby said, “but once my business counselor guided me through it, it was actually fairly simple.”

With the MS-SBDC’s assistance, she was allowed to turn her full focus to improving her craft and getting her passion out in front of others.  Before she knew it, she had outgrown the space where she started the business.

“After two months of doing this full-time I had realized I outgrew my garage and needed a space of my own,” Shelby said.  “Now I have a space outside my home about three times as big as my garage.”

Pottery made by April Shelby

Now running A. Shelby Pottery, Shelby crafts a wide variety of both commissioned and general pottery.  Well-versed in custom requests, she finds a lot of her business geared towards producing sentiment-filled handprint pottery and bible versed pottery.  

“I love to make something that is so specific and special for each person,” Shelby said.  “People will cherish anything with their children or grandchildren’s handprints in it and lots of people also ask me to use a bible verse on pottery because it spoke to them or shed a little light on them in a dark season.”

Since her business’ success, Shelby has become a proud advocate of the MS-SBDC, sharing the resource that got her off the ground with as many other people as possible.

“Whenever I hear about somebody who wants to turn their hobby into a full-time business I remember what it was like for me,” Shelby said.  “Since then I tell everyone I meet to go see an MS-SBDC counselor.  It’s just so helpful. I couldn’t have done it without my counselor’s help.”

“If you want to start a business but don’t know where to begin,” Shelby said, “I tell everyone to go talk to the MS-SBDC.”

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