A little research unearthed a surprising connection between her beloved ceramics and Port Alberni. They were fashioned from the very Catalonian soil that Pedro d’Alberni walked upon before he sailed into Nootka Sound over 200 years ago. The morning’s reverie seemed flush with destiny.
Shortly thereafter Helma delivered a business plan to Pat Deakin, the City of Port Alberni’s director of economic development. With his whoop of approval the idea was off and running. Helma’s friend, Val Startup, was soon caught up in the promise of the plan. It took eighteen months of research, meetings and dialog with government officials at all levels, communications with and a visit to the factories in Spain, and the assistance of a Nova Scotian lawyer who specialized in social entrepreneurialism and who had ties to Port Alberni for the first-of-its-kind-in-Canada “profit for non-profit” business to become a reality. Pot Luck Ceramics was born.
To be granted a community service co-operative status, three members were needed. Helma’s partner, Rick Schievink, became the third founding share-holder/member and in the ensuing months they have been joined by ten other co-op members. A Board of Directors now runs the company. The collective business acumen, specific skill sets and creative energy of the Board which includes the founding members, Deb Pearson, Jim Swift, Darlene Coulson and Nancy Wilmot, has developed a synergy that promises a bright future. While the vision of the company has broadened to eventually include all non-profit organizations in Port Alberni, the goal to stay focused on supporting operating costs has never wavered. “Getting grants for operating costs are the hardest to get,” Helma explains. “Ty Watson House will always be our first priority but many other worthy local non-profit organizations that could use our help, too. Growth of the company is vital.”
Ideas for new products created right here in Port Alberni are percolating. An encouraging ever-expanding market has already reached around the Island and as far as Alberta – with many repeat customers. The recent launching of its website, thanks to the countless hours and expertise donated by Jim Swift, heralds great promise for future markets.
Being a “profit for non-profit” company, the share-holder/members never receive any personal financial benefits for themselves. Seventy-five percent of the profits earned by the company is non-taxable and will be donated to Ty Watson House. The remaining twenty-five, while taxed, will be used to grow the company.
So what do the shareholders and the volunteers who are coming onside get out of it? “It is simply an opportunity to feel good about belonging to a unique social entrepreneurial enterprise that is one hundred percent committed to our community,” Helma says. “It’s community spirit at its best.”
For more information about Pot Luck Ceramics and its catalogue of brilliant products, check out their website at www.potluckceramics.ca. The Pot Luck Barn, located at 4011 Cowley Road is open year-round every Wednesday from 11:00 a.m.– 5:00 p.m. Watch for their Christmas markets.