We had the good fortune of connecting with Jonathan Sawyer and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jonathan, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I am slightly risk averse when it comes to making big decisions. I typically weigh the pros and cons and spend a significant amount of time thinking about how I will manage a worst case scenario. If I can’t bear those consequences I usually take the safer route.
I run a pottery business for a living which seems like a strange career choice for someone who is risk averse. The decision was actually less risky than it looks on the surface because of the slow and steady path I took. Pottery started as a hobby of mine while I was in college. Over the course of several years it turned into a part time job and eventually a full time job. Each step of growth was incremental and I only invested more of my time and money when I had confidence and a vision for my path forward. It certainly wasn’t the fastest way to grow a business, but it was a comfortable pace that mirrored my growth as a developing potter and business owner. By the time I committed to running the business full time, the decision was still scary, but I felt things had a reasonable chance at working out.
I don’t regret the cautious nature of my past decisions, but I know I need to take bigger chances in the future if I want to achieve my goals. In the past I tended to have vague goals with a meandering approach to achieve them. Because my goals weren’t specific it was difficult to know what decisions needed to be made to reach them. I still achieved many of my goals, but through less efficient paths. My current short term and long term goals are more specific and include deadlines. The specificity of the goals guides my decision making and the deadlines discourage me from procrastinating. I now feel more comfortable and prepared to make the necessary and sometimes risky decisions needed to continue to reach my goals.
What should our readers know about your business?
We are a team of five San Diegans working out of our Miramar studio that makes functional pottery to be used every day. Our products feature exposed red stoneware clay which gives our pieces a slightly rustic, yet modern look that fits well with a variety of kitchen styles.
Getting to this point in business was a difficult, slow process for me. I think making it through the tough times and prospering in the good times took a combination of support from others, luck, and commitment. I wouldn’t be in business without the support of my family and friends. I was lucky to start my business at a time when ecommerce was growing as well as consumer interest in supporting small businesses. And lastly, staying committed allowed me to reap the benefits of incremental improvements accumulated from one day to the next.
I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunities that led me to this point and I’m proud to be able to provide jobs while making products that bring our customers happiness every day.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I can’t fill an entire week but here’s a relaxed itinerary for a summer weekend. Saturday: Morning walk at Mission Bay. Grab Mexican food for lunch from Lolita’s. Catch a Padres night game at Petco Park. Sunday: Morning walk by the bay through Seaport Village. Midday, explore Liberty Station and get lunch at the Liberty Public Market. Take a nap. Watch the sunset at La Jolla Shores.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I owe thanks to many people, but especially to my parents. They supported my pottery business in countless ways. To highlight just one, they provided a safe rent-free location (their garage) for me to start and grow my hobby turned business. Because my financial obligations were minimal it allowed me to relax and focus on learning the basics of making pottery and operating a small business. It took several years of making pottery in their garage before I had accumulated enough experience to move the business out. Without the support and safety net my parents provided when I was starting out, I never would have had the opportunity to develop the core skills that are vital to my business’ existence today.