For this month's small business spotlight, we paid a visit to the one and only Hotlanta Glassblowing Studio! In addition to providing classes to students of all skill levels, master glassblower Corey Hubbell has many unique pieces of his own to show off. We sat down with Corey to talk about his studio, his story, and how he came to call Doraville home.
Q: What made you decide to start your own business?
A: I first started my own business back when I lived in Seattle. It was for a number of reasons. Number one is glassblowing, it’s expensive to have a hot shop and with how many orders I had coming in, it was getting costly to rent a place by the hour. It’s cheaper to own it compared to renting a bunch of hours because those costs quickly get out of hand.
When I decided to take the next step, I moved to the east side near Redmond, which was where Microsoft was, and also had a school where I was doing my own thing and selling art around the country, and that went very well until the housing market collapsed and then we got hit pretty hard. But also, I kind of outgrew what I was doing at the time.
Q: And then how did the pandemic affect your business?
A: We got shut down for about four months. After that, business just started to trickle back in, but it had a pretty big effect. We haven't totally recovered. We are probably close to 50% of the business that we were getting before. I stopped working to sell and now we have a bigger stockpile than usual.
Q: What would your advice be for someone that wants to start their own business?
A: My main advice is that you should prepare way ahead of time. All the technical details - get a banking account, set up your tax ID, that sort of stuff. When I set a date to open my business, I had already been laying the groundwork for a year. You have to be ready.
Q: How did you discover your passion for glassblowing?
A: Well, I got a job out of high school at a glass factory. Not to blow glass, but they just really liked how I worked, so they wanted me to train. I trained as a glassblower and it was really amazing to watch all the work there. I ended up becoming one of the head glassblowers in just six months. You could say I was pretty good at it. It's usually five or six years or something like that for most people. I was still going to school at the same time and was considering a career in chiropractic therapy.
Unfortunately, while I was in school, I broke my neck in a car accident. I just never really made it back to school after that because I was out for over a year. I was good at glassblowing and I liked it, so I just went with it.
Q: That leads well into one of our other questions. What do you enjoy most about working?
A: Well, the most fun you have glassblowing is when you go and create something new. It's fun to play around, experiment, and create variations on classic or known designs. That kind of work doesn’t necessarily pay the bills, but it’s a great creative outlet. I get a lot of requests for items from movies and TV shows and don’t get me wrong, I enjoy those too, but having access to the tools to create something new is the best part.
Q: Why did you decide to choose Doraville for your business?
A: It’s not easy to open a hot shop in just any place. Doraville was accommodating with how I wanted to use this place. It was actually a little hard to get approved because we had to go through a number of steps and get approved directly by the City Council. That took about eight months of paperwork, deadlines, and meetings. It was a lot of work.
Q: How has the business ownership and management process changed since you started?
A: It’s about managing the bumps in the roads and all of the highs and the lows. We had a couple of good years in the Seattle area before the market crashed there. We were doing great and making a lot of sales.
We had a great first year in Doraville as well when we moved here too before the pandemic hit. We were really taking off. And then the pandemic happened, and it just hasn't come back yet. In a lot of ways, we’re a business more oriented around word-of-mouth, which is hard to generate when people aren’t going out as much.
It’s hard to break through the noise on social media too. Even when we advertise, we get very little response. Ultimately, we’re in a survival mode right now, which I’ve never experienced before. The good news is that our space is well-ventilated and very hot so we feel like, compared to a lot of other places, we’re a little more pandemic-ready.
Q: How has the City helped you and how can we do better?
A: More promotion and support for the arts would be great. Councilwoman Koontz comes in sometimes, she’s taken classes and posts about us, which we always appreciate. This location doesn’t have as much foot traffic as some other places I’ve worked so it’s really important that people know where we are and what we have to offer. Anything the City can do to help make that happen could be game-changing. I’ve been told by people at the City how much they appreciate us being here and our contribution to the city so I think there’s a lot that we can do.