Business & Careers

BEHIND THE BIZ // Luxury Clay Experiences

The Inspiring Story Behind The Success Of This Creative Local Business

An unexpected redundancy, a love for working with clay for the positive wellbeing benefits and a go get’em attitude has seen founder of Luxury Clay Experiences, Jo Robertson make a big splash in a short period of time.

Jo was recently announced as the 2023 IWIB Innovative Business Woman at the Illawarra Women In Business Awards, thanks to the growth of her business she only started two and a half years ago – incredible!

“We can be so caught up in our work and life….it’s so important to carve out time for our mental health and wellness. This is where our Clay Experiences and Clay Kits come in handy,” says Jo.

Turns out she was onto something! We chatted to Jo about the rapid success of Luxury Clay Experiences.

1 :: What inspired you to start your business?

Luxury Clay Experiences was created when I lost my corporate role in Covid. I had been attending ceramics classes for a year prior and loved the calm it brought me and I did this to add wellness and something just for me to my ever increasing busy life.

When I lost my corporate role in covid, I wanted to introduce clay into other people’s lives because we needed wellness practices more than ever before for our mental health. That’s when I introduced my signature product “Wellness Clay Kits”.

After lockdown, I wanted to continue helping others by opening a studio but I still didn;t have a job so financially it was a challenge.

2 :: But then you had a light bulb moment!

I came up with the idea of making clay mobile. No one was offering clay experiences mobile in Australia; most people would have to attend a studio and not everyone had studios in their area so missed out on this amazing opportunity of working with clay.

I was actually offered to go back to my corporate role but by this stage I had done a couple of workshops locally and they were very well received. I went back to my original job but a week later, Studio 10 contacted me to feature the business.

I was going to turn it down but my husband kindly implied that I was crazy if I didn’t take on this opportunity. I took an hour lunch break to set up the workshop and went back to work.

I had reached a fork in the road where I needed to decide whether the security of a mainstream position was what I wanted or if I took a chance with this little hobby and went for it. So many people never take that first step and I wasn’t going to be one of the ones that sat and procrastinated with my decision.

3 :: And we know what happened next!

Yep! The feature aired on Friday, and I resigned from my position on Monday after much deliberation.

We started off small, just friends and family and the word quickly started getting around and within months we were booked out. I quickly learned we had a great product and people were looking for more creative experiences more than ever before.

The second year it was time to scale the business by adding packages and partnerships to our brand to reach the next stage of our growth.

4 :: How did you do that?

I reached out to other small business to join forces and everyone was excited.

I came up with ways to support other small businesses plus make our product even better than before and making us stand out from our competitors [Clay & Cocktails, Clay & Harvest Tables, Clay & Floral Workshops, Clay & Wine Tasting, Clay & Candle Workshops & more].

I also wanted something that was for our high-end Guest Stays, Our VIP Clay & Private Chef Dining experience where guests would Clay, serve Entrée, Clay, serve Main, Clay and serve Dessert.

I reached out to as many holiday property owners to hold our experiences including some very high-end properties such as Dovecote which were all happy to have us once I explained how our clay experiences didn’t need water, so it was a no mess creative experience.

I contacted business venues across the Illawarra and the South Coast, We would offer Clay, Grazing and Beverage packages where I would get the venue free, I would get the clay experience cost per head and they would get the food and beverage side of the package, [eg $100 to me $80pp to the venue] so that was another win for us because that gave us venues to work out of without the overheads and this brought more people to their venues.

Venues would also book our Clay Experiences Packages for public workshops and list the tickets on their booking platforms, which also saved us with booking fees and advertising.

5 :: And the environmental side is important to you too.

Yes, I wanted to become a sustainable business, by recycling tools for each event, not firing clay to save the environment, and by using clay that was dug from the ground with no toxins and using recycled products throughout the experiences.

That led to a huge opportunity with RED BALLOON AUS + EXPERIENCE OZ who contacted us to become one of their partners. They were keen to work with us because we were a sustainable business.

It came at the time I was franchising my business which was perfect timing!

We are now partnered with the Red Balloon Group, Ex Oz, Class Bento, Girls Getaways, Corporate Getaways, Supercalla Private Properties, Southcoast Experiences, Destinations NSW, Kiama NSW to name a few.

6 :: Some big wins there!

I am so very proud of where we have come in such a short amount of time.

We have been lucky enough to be asked to feature in several magazines and newspapers which I never thought possible.

7 :: So, what’s the best thing about your business and why do you love it?

The people……our customers are our number one focus. I’ve always had a love for people and our business allows us to make some incredible connections.

Our environment allows for a positive and safe place for everyone to connect and share their stories.

Being mobile allows us to travel to amazing places.

The connections we make with other businesses when we collaborate through our Clay Experiences is always a highlight. By collaborating with other Illawarra businesses we can create amazing experiences for our customers collectively.

8 :: What's something interesting or unexpected that happened?

The most interesting part of our business was franchising our brand nationally.

Never did I expect to scale and create a national business, where we would find ourselves offering our business to like minded individuals across Australia.

We sold our first franchise in Canberra three months after announcing we had franchised and we have numerous locations in the pipeline.

There have been so many memorable moments in our business we especially have loved connecting with those in the mental health and disability sectors. We are so passionate about helping others, and we are constantly finding ways to give back to the community through our experiences. We are a provider to NDIS and currently looking into providing Clay Experiences in nursing homes.

9 :: If you could switch roles with anyone else in any other business for a day, what would you do?

It would definitely have to be something in customer service and helping others because that’s what I am most passionate about – connecting to people.

I spent eight years in the airline industry and a huge part of that was where I learnt my customer service skills, so connecting to people in my business has been so fulfilling.

10 :: What do you love about living in the Illawarra?

The Illawarra has so much to offer, everything is at your fingertips.

It has some incredible businesses, restaurants, wine bars, all of whom we can collaborate with.

Not to mention the amazing escarpments and our beautiful coastal surf beaches.

We are certainly incredibly lucky to have this at our doorstep and I never take that for granted.

11 :: And finally, what’s your favourite thing to do on the weekend?

I am a big foodie and I love visiting great restaurants and wine bars throughout the Illawarra.

I love to do experiences with these venues to find and partner with for our Luxury Clay Experiences.

Amazing! A huge congratulations to Jo for being named the 2023 IWIB Innovative Business Woman at the Illawarra Women In Business Awards. It’s easy to see why! So driven and passionate, right?

Head here to find out more about Luxury Clay Experiences and all their incredible offerings – we love it!

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