Alin Ciocea is a Romanian would-be entrepreneur who always loved handcrafts and worked on developing his skills in the field. After several years of working and volunteering in different places and countries he found himself working for a small Scout Centre in Transylvania (a historical region of Romania) where he got involved in a pottery workshop; it was then when he found his passion for this old wonderful craft. Here, Alin gained experience and a good understanding of how to make ceramics. When he left the centre, he planned to have his own pottery place, but with a business concept behind, something new for his community that would combine two different things: ceramic workshops and a coffee place.
He was searching on how he could develop his business, when he found out about the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs Programme from a friend. He applied to the programme with the help of Fundatia Danis, and during the spring of 2019 he made contact with a potter from Edinburgh, UK, who had a business just like he was searching for. Holly Peters has more than 20 years of experience in ceramics workshops and she managed to perfect this concept in her business called Doodles Ceramic Workshop. When she found out about the programme she immediately wanted to be part of it and host Alin for an exchange: “I was more than happy to share my business knowledge and 20 years’ experience to help him set up a successful ceramics business. As a young girl I was very fortunate to have good mentors that helped me set up my business. The free help and advice I received was priceless in helping my business succeed.”
During the two-month exchange, Alin and Holly shared their knowledge and ideas in the field of ceramics and business. Alin learnt how to run a studio like Doodles by being gradually involved in the day by day activities and events that the studio was running. He learned about the tools and materials used by Holly, such as clay, bisque fired products, glazes, etc., and about different techniques developed and employed in the studio. The two entrepreneurs met every week to discuss details of their common work, but also about the business project of Alin. The mentoring from the host entrepreneur really paid off and motivated Alin to organize his own signature event with Holly’s support and the other staff members of Doodles. In collaboration with a local café, they organized a workshop in which participants created their own handmade clay coffee drippers. The two entrepreneurs instructed the participants on how to make the coffee drippers, while the people from the café presented them different coffee brewing techniques. The event was a real success and was reproduced by the studio later on.
After the exchange, Alin was able to improve his business plan as the reality was slightly different than he imagined it on paper. Learning about the materials and tools, booking systems, organizing events and other small details that he didn’t even think about before made him change his business plan into a more realistic one.
“My experience in Edinburgh was absolutely amazing, Holly, my host entrepreneur, showed great interest and support in helping me to understand every aspect of the business and improve my business plan as the reality turned out to be different than I imagined. During this exchange I learnt loads of practical things and small details that might be crucial for my future business. One particular detail stands out. I will never forget that one day during our weekly mentoring meetings Holly asked me about the premises and said: “Alin, make sure that the place you’ll rent has a door big enough to fit the kiln in (the kiln is the special oven in which the ceramics is fired which can be quite big).” This absolutely blew my mind, I would never think about this and then I would probably find myself in a very odd funny situation.” (Alin Ciocea, new entrepreneur, Romania)
Holly started a new partnership with a very well-known local café, organizing a new type of events like the one initiated by Alin. Thus, a new niche of clients is explored for Doodles Ceramics Workshops, and hopefully the partnership will develop and the events will grow.
“Being part of the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs scheme was both an enjoyable and interesting challenge. It was lovely to see Alin’s genuine enthusiasm and talent for ceramics shine through. I was pleased to pass on what knowledge I have gained over the past 20 years and hopefully impart some useful and practical advice: “…will the kiln fit”, being a prime example, and “can you get enough stock to suit supply and demand”, “will you be able to pay the rent?!!”, etc. It was a pleasure to help Alin out as he has a clear passion for pottery and helping people and reminded me of myself in the early days of setting up my business. I even learnt something about coffee too!” (Holly Peters, host entrepreneur).