How Potter Kevin Howard Turned His Hobby into Sold Out Aloe Frost Brand

How Potter Kevin Howard Turned His Hobby into Sold Out Aloe Frost Brand

If you’re a plant person in North Carolina, you might have joined a Facebook group for plant lovers. In my local group, I often scroll through the photos and posts to admire the plants and the pots they’re in. That’s when I saw them — pots with mustaches — and knew I had to have one. It was my first introduction to Aloe Frost, the North Carolina artist and plant enthusiast.

After asking my plant friends where I could find a pot, I learned about Aloe Frost. So, after a quick Google search, I headed to the Aloe Frost Etsy store. Expecting to snag a pot in minutes, I was confused when the store’s page read, “No items listed at this time.”

So how could I get one? Why were they so hard to find? I set out on a quest to own an Aloe Frost, and along the way, I got to talk to Kevin Howard.

The History of Aloe Frost: From Farmer to Self-Taught Potter

Kevin Frost is the artist behind Aloe Frost, which is based out of Lucama.
Kevin Howard with “Junior,” one of the very first face
planters he ever made.
Image courtesy of Kevin Howard/Aloe Frost.

Aloe Frost, AKA Kevin Howard, is a potter based out of Lucama — which is an hour outside of Raleigh, NC.

Howard’s story doesn’t begin in clay, though. He grew up on his family’s farm, spending hours outside enjoying nature and learning about different cultures. Howard dreamed of an artistic career but decided to pursue American Studies at UNC at Chapel Hill.

“Back in high school, I had wanted to pursue an artistic career, but ultimately did not feel it was a practical path, and focused on other things in college,” Howard said.

After graduating, Howard headed back to his family’s farm to help his parents manage their produce and greenhouse business. Tragically, Howard’s father passed away, and he took over managing the farm. That’s when Howard’s path turned back towards his artistic passion.

“I originally started learning pottery as a creative outlet and a challenge to relieve stress from the daily running of my greenhouse/farm operation,” he said. Howard had found a pottery studio 30 minutes away from the farm and fell in love with the craft. In 2017, Howard held his first pottery show, and his face pots grew popular among attendees.

Moodies Become a Staple as Aloe Frost is Born

Aloe Frost Moodies Image
The different moods of the Moodies.
Image courtesy of Aloe Frost.

“I nervously launched Aloe Frost officially in October 2018 with the goal to create a diverse but cohesive collection of planters and functional handmade pottery,” reads the Aloe Frost website.

Howard’s work is well-known among the plant community in North Carolina. The mustache pots that I fell in love with are called “Moodies,” and everyone knows them as the brand’s staple.

“Because I was already involved in growing plants, I knew I wanted to make planters, and from the beginning, I was putting faces on my pots,” Howard said. “The basic Moodie design took some time to develop since I was playing around with various styles in the beginning before settling on the simplicity of the current look.”

Howard’s planters started from a love of plants, but they also serve as a functional part of his process.

“I am not a particularly traditional potter, and I prefer a more sculptural approach, so I think planters offer a nice middle ground between art and functional ware,” he said.

Kevin Howard has built the Aloe Frost Instagram page by interacting with customers, posting updates and being honest with his followers.

Etsy Restocks: Sold Out in Under 10 Minutes

Howard chose Etsy because of the platform’s’ simplicity. “When I started selling, Etsy seemed like the simplest option since I’d rather spend my time in the studio and not designing or maintaining a website,” he said.

As I mentioned before, my first stroll to the Aloe Frost Etsy page left me empty-handed. Now, to some that might be a disappointment, but I knew there was more to the story.

I headed back to Instagram to learn more about Etsy restocks.

The Aloe Frost explanation was simple: instead of listing items as they were made, Howard put all of them online at once. This move allowed his customers to grab what they wanted at the time of restocking and check out.

Howard’s restocks are fair to all consumers. He posts on his Instagram page informing followers about the next restock, provides a countdown on his Instagram story and includes a note at the top of his Etsy store explaining when the next update will come.

With all that in mind, I checked out a restock of my own in October. I logged on at 7:30 a.m., thinking that I’d have beat the rush and the site wouldn’t be crowded.

No items were listed. I headed over to Instagram to see if there had been a delay. Instead, there was a “Thank you” message at 7:10 a.m. All of the Aloe Frost pots had sold out in minutes!

Howard’s Advertising Model: Word of Mouth

If you take a moment to scroll through the Aloe Frost Instagram page, each post has thousands of likes. Howard came by them all honestly.

“I am very fortunate to have wonderful patrons! I have never marketed beyond a few early Instagram giveaways, so pretty much all of my marketing has been the result of organic word of mouth and random discoveries on Instagram,” Howard said.

Howard had no formal training in social media, but his audience is engaging — and he sells out every time he restocks!

Has COVID-19 affected Aloe Frost?

Howard was originally planning to do some in-person shows this year, but those events have been canceled due to COVID-19. He’s choosing to see it as a blessing rather than a curse.

“I miss the interaction with customers, but it has also relieved the stress of building up inventory for shows so I can focus on the online market,” he said. “I am looking forward to getting back out there in the future when things improve though!”

Early on in the pandemic, materials were a little harder to source, but the business has since boomed, as people have been staying home.

“I feel like online sales have increased since people have been staying home more, but I can’t say for sure that it’s a direct correlation,” Howard said. “There were some issues with sourcing clay back in the spring, and some deliveries took a little longer, but things are mostly back to normal for me, and I try to buy in bulk and keep a stockpile on hand anyway.”

Advice for NC Small Businesses: Things Happen When You’re Ready for Them

Image courtesy of Danie Watson-Goetz.

Howard has learned a lot by starting Aloe Frost. “I guess one of the biggest [lessons] would be not to be afraid to take chances and to be open to whatever may happen, even if it’s not what you planned,” he said.

“It’s important to dream big and aim high, and to remember that you can’t know the full extent of your reach and how your work may brighten someone’s day,” he added.

What’s next for Aloe Frost?

“I don’t know where Aloe Frost will lead me in the future, but I know it’s just the beginning and there are many other projects I’m hoping to explore,” Howard says.

To keep up with Aloe Frost restocks, head over to Kevin Howard’s Etsy page. For updates on what restocks will contain or what Howard is working on, check out the Aloe Frost Instagram.

As for me, I hit the restock lottery in late October. My Voodoo Moodie arrived last week and my quest is complete…until I fall in love with another Aloe Frost pot.

For updates on how COVID-19 is affecting North Carolina businesses, check out our Pivot Series. To keep up on tips for small businesses, check out our business tips.