Mercedes Austin: Mercury Mosaics
Mercedes Austin knows the power of tiles - they can transform any space. She has created a ceramic empire that is filled with expertise craftsmanship and superior customer service.
Can you tell us a bit about your business and how it got started?
Mercury Mosaics started as an answer to my goal of being an artist full time. I use to focus on small-batch-made home accessories and was very client-focused. Coming from the service industry, I aim to take great care of people. Soon, clients getting small accessories wanted things for their home, installed and one thing led to another and I have morphed from a solo-artist to full-blown creative entrepreneur servicing clients all over the world. (in a nutshell) This has been a 17-year journey!
LAB is founded on three key values: connect, create and collaborate. What are your three values?
Craft. Create. Innovate.
How do you think living in the Twin Cities has shaped you?
It has helped me be in a big city, while at the same time, have a small, very inter-connected network. So many resources are right here, right at my finger tips. The gift of experiencing a lot of global influences lie right in my community of Northeast Minneapolis. Having grown up in South Minneapolis I know so many people that also know people. It’s a good feeling when your job is to solve things all day and there’s an entire community of resources right there, ready to connect. Oh, and let me tell you: I do just that!
What is one of the most pivotal decisions you have made for your business?
Deciding to delegate. Each and every area was started from the ground up and things get to a point where it’s time to let go. Drafting even the scrappiest of process is essential to help someone step into your shoes, but even with this, and even with perfected process, things change. Why, if we were making tile the way I made tile in 2009, we wouldn’t be where we are today. It has made a difference to be willing to be humbled to allow someone to come into something you’ve built and be ok with them stepping into something you used to do and allowing them to shine brighter than you. This has created a lot of freedom for other things to grow. I swear, for every aspect of the business I delegate, or that my team delegates, one more or many more things “pop up” that weren’t even known about and then we learn from it, put process in place, refine, nurture and add it into the operations. You’re never done, it’s always a work in process.
How and where do you see growth for your business?
I’d like to think we’re just listening to the world and now, thanks to Google, the world is knocking on our door… or, well, our chat feature and our inboxes. We’re tile pen pals with a lot of people. Some of them we become very connected to, some cannot stomach the prices to get our tile to their country. Where I see our growth is in solving this problem. It’s as simple as that. I’m always steering the company based on the highest requests from clients. Sometimes I’m referred to as a tile whisperer.
If you had one piece of advice for someone starting a business, what would it be?
Always be a student, remain honest, be humble & prepare yourself for a lot of persistence. I remember I was this young college student and I called my aunt, this hot shot in advertising and I thought “she’d give me a handout” and I was faced with this in-my-face wake up call and she asked me: “How do you deal with rejection? Can you work with a team? Are you familiar with managing projects with multiple deadlines?” As a 20-year old I wasn’t excited about this, but it ended up staying with me to this very-day because she asked the hard questions. I work more hours, have way more on my plate, deal with a lot of crazy-things I know nothing about that I learn as I go and because I’m in love with tile, I do it. Day-in-day-out. Pick something you’re passionate about and the work won’t be the same. It’s different when you’re building something from the heart.
What is your favorite part about your workspace?
The sounds of tile elves, randomness of now 4-5 visiting and in-house canines, massive windows, overall space, color & that 8 years ago I thought I would never get a space like this.
What’s currently on your studio playlist?
Whatever Louie the Fire Lord has tee’d up for the day.
What are some of your everyday essentials you can’t live without?
My husband, jeans, aloe, laptop, Apple Pencil, legal pad of paper and an iPad. I can conquer the world with so little.
What do you think is the best kept secret in business tools and resources?
Managing by statistics and keeping things simple. No matter how big I get, I always steer the big-ol-ship by 4-key analytics so I don’t become overwhelmed. I wrote a blog on this.
I would love to make mosaics, inspired by African textiles, for Oprah Winfrey’s Leadership academy for girls. I’m always creating evil plans to take over the world in tile by making spaces beautiful and inspiring and this is one adventure I’d be over the moon to contribute to.
Believes In: Anything is possible
Yes please: Trying new, local restaurants out
No thanks: Mean people
Favorite word: Boom