Art workshop pivots during pandemic to deliver pottery to your porch

Sketch Art Workshop is making home deliveries with its pottery to help business and to keep the community busy.

Just when supplies started to pour in, Sketch Art Workshop was forced to close down due to COVID-19

Danielle Chevalier is pivoting her business to include pottery pickup and delivery for her customers to complete art projects during these unprecedented times. (Submitted by: Danielle Cevalier)

An art workshop in Tecumseh is among many other businesses pivoting during these unprecedented times.

Sketch Art Workshop had big plans for April — it was going to introduce pottery painting to its customers. But just when the supplies started to pour in, and before it could fire up the kiln, it was forced to close.

"It was just a shock. It was just kind of like wow, what's going on? I have to shut down? I just got this up and going and booming," said Danielle Chevalier, owner of Sketch Art Workshop.

As the days rolled on Chevalier realized she wasn't reopening her business any time soon.

"[I] thought this was just going to be for a week or two and now it's been like a month and it could be another month... I was definitely really sad."

Danielle Chevalier has been doing weekly online art classes to connect with her customers during the pandemic. (Vince Robinet/CBC)

Chevalier had to adjust to try and make up for the money she just spent on the pottery, so she decided to make home deliveries and run weekly online art classes.

The company is doing porch drop-offs with pottery

Customers order their pottery online and then Sketch comes and drops it off on their porch. Once it is painted, the company picks it back up and fires it in the kiln. Then it is delivered back to the owner's porch. The entire process takes about two weeks.

Customers send their painted pottery back to the store to be placed in the kiln. (Danielle Chevalier)

It's an innovative service but it isn't helping her business to prosper during these times.

"It's definitely not keeping the business floating completely, but it's helping to pay that pottery off and I'm still paying the kiln off. So, I'm not really in the pluses or anything here," she said.

Chevalier said pottery deliveries will sustain her through a few more weeks, but not a few more months.

Program for small businesses

A new program is designed to help more businesses do exactly what Sketch Art Workshop is doing — using technology to open a new revenue stream.

The program is funded by FedDev Ontario and it's called the EPIC Nimble Program.

It was launched by the University of Windsor's EPICentre in partnership with WEtech Alliance and WindsorEssex Small Business Centre.

Five successful applicant will receive $4,000 to fund its initiative.

But since Sketch is less than two years old, it won't qualify. Those running the program said that's because businesses over 2 years old have an established track record.

"They already know what they are doing. They understand their business and they understand their customers," said Wen Teoh, the director of EPICentre. "From the program's perspective, if we can help them with adopting a technology into the current practice to help them address the challenge that they're facing then this will be an immediate need."

Wen Teoh is the director of EPICentre. She explained the program over video conference. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

The program and Chevalier share a similar long-term goal, to change the way Windsor does business once the pandemic ends.

"Maybe one day we can ship [pottery] all around Canada. It would be cool to have pottery show up at your door, you paint it and then you ship it back. We put it in the kiln and fire it and then a week later you get it back to your house all ready to go. So it's something we're kind of thinking about," Chevalier said.