Remark Glass (Rebecca Davies, UArts 2011, BFA, Book Arts Printmaking and Danielle Ruttenberg) produces hand blown recycled dinnerware and home furnishings. The glass pieces are created through a unique process that is rooted in traditional glass blowing and designed to make use of common bottle glass. Each bottle is transformed into a functional piece of glass. Much of what we discard is not useless. Reusing materials is one of the most beneficial habits we can adopt as individuals. Glass can be infinitely recycled. At Remark Studios, we transform single use glass containers into hand crafted, everyday use dinnerware and furnishings. We work to transform our local economy to avoid wasteful habits and value the environment.
Remark Glass was awarded a small business grant in the summer of 2016. At that time, we were forming an LLC by combining two contract glass businesses. We had developed a technique and prototypes of recycled glass dinnerware. We intended to develop a revenue stream from glass production in addition to project-based contracts.
There is so much to learn to be able to transition from a craftsperson with product ideas to being a team leader, a business person, and someone who understands their market. We have been immersed in the Corzo Center since we were students and have met with advisors, attended relevant lectures, and participated in business training. This educational foundation has been crucial to understanding profitability, marketability, and production.
The grant program helped my business go from a bootstrapped studio to being firmly on the path toward a thriving business and facility. The funds supported our business’ reformation, relocation, and product line development through the prototyping and market testing phases. Having some capital on hand was truly invaluable in laying a foundation for our business. As we combined our businesses, we moved into the Bok building in South Philly to be a part of a maker community. Remark Glass has been at the forefront of the community building, planning everything from Philadelphia Open Studio Tours to our now bi-monthly art exhibitions and monthly tenant happy hours.
When we first moved in, we used some of our Corzo funds to make public events possible, and saw them pay off with growth in our client base. We used funds to file for our combined LLC. Remark Glass hired a lawyer and accountant to help us iron out the details of an operating agreement and establish the layout for our accounting. We used the funds for our marketing materials. A graphic designer worked with us on branding. Photographers took studio shots of our glass pieces, on site shots of our wares in use, and in process shots of us blowing glass. With these images, we have been able to produce print marketing materials that describe our unique “hand recycling” process. Alongside what we used the Corzo funding for, Remark Glass successfully ran a Kiva loan campaign and used the additional 10k loan to purchase equipment to make glassblowing possible in our studio. This has increased our profit margins immensely in the long term and allows us to pursue additional product development with much less overhead.
Goals and Lessons
Despite the progress made this year, we have not escaped the challenges of having a new business. We are managing constantly our expectations for each revenue stream in proportion to profitability. Sometimes, an unexpected expense or deliverable from one client can put other jobs at risk. All of our workers are contract workers. We do our best to offer them reliable work. Having enough cashflow to make regular payroll has been a challenge.
We have invested a great deal in launching our product line including purchasing equipment, paying our team to make product samples, and making costly mistakes by taking on clients who did not see a project through. Despite this, we know we can adapt as we learn more about our market. We use our equipment and skills to take on custom or contract jobs. We are aware that we must manage what we have, when we have it, and do so well enough for everyone involved.
The goal is to be sure that our products are viable. Product development is the fun part. Matching it to the market is much easier said than done. We are planning on doing additional wholesale shows. The customizable line is the primary focus as it targets weddings. Marketing to the wedding niche has taught us much about perceptions of our marketing materials and first impressions of the products.
We are applying for another line of credit now that our Kiva loan and small bank credit line have been positively affecting our scores. This is our safety net and for supplies needed for contract projects. We are optimistic going into the next year of our business. We have gained some contract work, gotten a lot of exposure as a result of our studio relocation, and are circling in on matching our products with their market for retail and custom work.