Helma Swinkels started Pot Luck Ceramics with her friend Val Startup and a group of forward-thinking volunteers 10 years ago. She is embracing the profit-for-non-profit’s successes as she faces closing the Pot Luck cottage on Gertrude Street in Port Alberni in September 2020. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Pot Luck Ceramics closes ground-breaking social enterprise after 9-year run

Port Alberni store celebrates successes as it prepares to close in face of COVID-19 challenges

Nine years after opening its doors, Pot Luck Ceramics is closing—a victim of the coronavirus pandemic.

Rather than focus on the negative, founder Helma Swinkels chooses to celebrate the successes of Port Alberni’s unique “profit for non-profit” as she winds down sales at the picturesque cottage on Gertrude Street.

The Port Alberni Fundraising Co-op Society was formed 10 years ago, and Pot Luck Ceramics—the for-profit part of the co-op—first opened nine years ago in a barn on Swinkels’ property. She bought and renovated the cottage five years ago, and a team of founders and volunteers has kept it thriving since then.

When the pandemic forced closure of businesses around the world, Pot Luck suffered. The ceramics are imported from a small factory in Catalonia, Spain, which was hard hit by COVID-19. Swinkels has had difficulty reaching anyone at the factory in months, and the importation process has also been affected.

She worries about the effect of COVID-19 on her volunteers, too.

“COVID is the main culprit,” she said of the closing.

Pot Luck has raised almost $190,000 for several Port Alberni charities, mostly the Ty Watson House Hospice. The business has received awards and recognition for its innovative approach to fundraising: a Vancouver Island Business Excellence award in 2013 for Community Leadership; a nomination the same year for the Prime Minister’s Volunteer Award in the Social Innovator category; and special recognition from the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Swinkels hopes to keep the vision alive, even though Pot Luck Ceramics won’t be open anymore. “The vision is still alive: profit for non-profit,” she said. The Port Alberni Fundraising Co-op Society will host an AGM sometime in October and discuss where to go from here.

Pot Luck Ceramics will be open by appointment only until the end of September. Phone Swinkels at 250-720-4946 or 250-731-6463 to make an appointment. Follow their Facebook page at facebook.com/potluckceramics/ for information.



susie.quinn@albernivalleynews.com

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Helma Swinkels started Pot Luck Ceramics with her friend Val Startup and a group of forward-thinking volunteers 10 years ago. She is embracing the profit-for-non-profit’s successes as she faces closing the Pot Luck cottage on Gertrude Street in Port Alberni in September 2020. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

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