Color Me Mine in Summit Continues to Prosper In Spite of the Economy
By Michael M. Shapiro
SUMMIT, NJ – To say that Color Me Mine in Summit is a successful business is an understatement. The franchise owned by Short Hills resident Ann Mills is in the top three Color Me Mine franchises in the country in sales, vying for that position with more than 149 Color Me Mine franchises. But it’s not the sales records that Color Me Mine in Summit continues to break that make the business such a success. Color Me Mine is successful because of its highly-rated plentiful offerings and because of the astute leadership of owner Ann Mills.
Ann Mills is not the typical owner of a ceramics store. She has two Masters in Finance and Econometrics and was an international equity trader on Wall Street for thirteen years. She worked overseas in London for ten years. She worked for four years for Morgan Stanley and was the head trader for Merrill Lynch on their international desk for five years. She was then the global head of equity cash trading for ABN Amro for four years.
So how did this highly sought-after financial wiz become the owner of Color Me Mine in Summit?
After her second daughter was born (she has two daughters, one in 8th grade and one in 4th), she decided she no longer wanted to commute and had recently moved to Short Hills. She decided to take four years off to raise her daughters. When her daughter was about to enter kindergarten, Mills visited Color Me Mine in Summit and noticed a sign that the business was for sale.
Ceramics had always been a hobby for Mills and she thought it would make for a great business. The Color Me Mine in Summit has been in town for over fourteen years and was one of the original franchise locations. Mills decided to purchase it and she has owned it since 2004.
Not content to rest on the laurels of the Summit location, Mills added an after school component, scout program, and expanded its summer camp. In addition, she increased Color Me Mine’s offerings to include multimedia art projects.
For the after school component, Mills created after school enrichment in more than twenty schools. She created a one-hour class after school that takes place in the schools. The sessions last for 8-11 weeks and are run through the PTOs, which contract with Mills to provide the service. The PTOs charge the students. “Our after school program grows our business in many different ways including increasing the visibility of the business,” Mills said. The after school program includes schools in Millburn, Westfield, Chatham, Long Hill, Short Hills, Livingston and Summit.
Under Ann Mills’ leadership, Color Me Mine is also very active in performing community service and charity work. “One of the areas of which I am most proud is the work we do with various charities. I try to choose one each year and do a fundraiser with them. This year, we ran a weekend event for Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Last year we ran an event for the NJ Food Bank,” Mills said. She added, “It is important to me to partner with the community that supports us and try to give something back.”
Mills said her business background has come in handy. For example, she realized that through economies of scale, if Color Me Mine in Summit was well-stocked with many different ceramics from which to choose and inventory was changed frequently, the offerings would attract more customers and customers would come from longer distances to participate.
Color Me Mine offers two main products. Customers can select already shaped bisque to paint. Color Me Mine then dips the ceramics in an outer glaze to seal them and then fires them in kilns at 1800 degrees for thirteen hours. They take eight hours to cool. Through this extensive process, which takes a week from start to finish, the end product is food safe and can be used just like household dishes.
Mills noted that all Color Me Mine products are non-toxic, lead free, and food safe.
The second offering from Color Me Mine is mosaics. Here, customers are provided with a wooden plaque and they can glue on mosaics. Color Me Mine in Summit offers 35-40 different colors and shapes. When the customer leaves, Color Me Mine grouts the plaque and it is ready a week later.
In addition to after school programs, Color Me Mine offers a summer camp, walk-in time, scout programs, and birthday parties. Color Me Mine is open Monday and Wednesday from 10-6, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 10-8 and Sunday 12-6, except on holidays.
“It’s such a great business and a great town,” Mills told The Alternative Press. “This business has not missed a beat in spite of the economy.” She noted that 2008 was a record year for the Summit location and in 2009, the franchise matched its 2008 record. “We’ve had a great couple of years,” Mills said. She noted that the camp business is “very strong” and that day trips from camps to Color Me Mine are steadily increasing.
The only thing Color Me Mine is lacking? “Space,” said Mills, who noted that while the Color Me Mine in Summit has a large location, she could easily utilize twice as much space and still not have enough because of the demand.
In an economy that is just beginning to climb out of a recession, Color Me Mine’s lack of space due to increased demand is a “problem” that any business owner would love to have.
Visit Color Me Mine at 438 Springfield Avenue in Summit or on the web at summit.colormemine.com
Photo above: Ann Mills, owner of Color Me Mine in Summit
Photo by Michael Shapiro