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Motawi Tileworks

170 Enterprise Drive
Ann Arbor, MI 48103

Nawal Motawi

What educational, entrepreneurial or business development programs, if any, have you taken advantage of?
I have been reading Inc. magazine cover to cover since 1992, which has formed the basis of my business education along with the school of hard knocks. I also read business books and attend conferences frequently. Some great conferences I have attended include: Inc. 500, Great Game of Business, and GrowCo. It's great to have Zingerman's right here and I've learned from them through seminars, facility tours, and local talks. Zingerman's has made Ann Arbor a destination for many business luminaries including, Small Giants author, Bo Burlingham, whose writing I follow. I am a member of the recently formed Small Giants CEO Roundtable.

Who was your first customer and where did you find them?
I found my very first customers at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market. I spent months selling ceramic Christmas tree ornaments and individual decorative tile, and hoping to sell a whole installation. In the spring of 1993 one of those farmers market contacts, Cynthia Postmus, hired me to design and create a fireplace for her. Her home was half of a new duplex being built near Kerrytown. Her next door neighbor was the second fireplace customer, and their builder, Garnet Johnson, was the third.

Where did you find your first employee?
The first employee worked part-time and was a student from a tile making class I was then teaching at the Ann Arbor Art Center. Our employees now come from standard employment postings, and a fairly involved hiring process.

Have you promoted an intern to employee status, and if so how many times have you done it?
We do not have an internship program.

Where have you turned to find capital to grow your company and which institutions have provided it?
In the last decade the Bank of Ann Arbor has been providing real estate financing, lines of credit, and just a month ago, a loan which enabled me to buy Rovin Ceramics, my clay supplier. We have also used an equipment leasing company early on. Our growth has been largely funded by operations.

At the very beginning there was the Bank of M&D (Mom and Dad). My parents bought a small house in Ann Arbor with a big detached garage for the tile business. They rented both to me on very reasonable terms until the Tileworks outgrew the garage, and then sold the house. A couple of other family members are part owners of the Tileworks current building.

What are some of the advantages to doing business here?
Ann Arbor is home to many of art and antique appreciating individuals who have the means to indulge in a bit of art for them and their homes. It's a great environment for an artistically driven company. Ann Arbor and the surrounding towns also have a lot of smart, conscientious, hard-working people. There are great employees to be found among them and there is enough going on in town to keep them stimulated outside of work.

If you could change one thing about this region, what would it be?
If only Lake Michigan was right here.

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