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Family Owned Small Business Gets Transition Help with SBA’s Emerging Leaders Program


Deneen Pottery was established in St. Paul, Minn., in 1972 by Peter and Mary. Initially operating out of a two-car garage, today it occupies over 50,000-square-foot facility and employs over 80 skilled craftspeople who produce about 2,800 mugs every day. Each piece is hand-thrown on a potter’s wheel, touched by over 24 pairs of hands, and customized with a Glaze-Engraved™ medallion. Niles Deneen, Peter and Mary’s son has been the company’s president since 2012, after starting in an entry-level position nearly 20-years earlier, and is responsible for all major operational, administrative, marketing and staffing decisions.

Transitioning a business from one generation to the next comes with challenges big and small.  As Peter and Mary were increasingly ready to step away from the day to day, Niles reached out to the SBA for help through the Emerging Leaders Program to increase his business management skills and confidence. 

How the SBA (or SBA partner) Helped:

SBA’s Emerging Leaders program focuses on small, poised-for-growth companies with potential for job creation.  The seven-month intensive, executive entrepreneurship education series includes approximately 100 hours of classroom time per participant and provides the opportunity for small business owners to work with experienced mentors, attend workshops and develop connections with their peers, city leaders and financial communities.

Niles graduated from the program in 2018, of which he said, “The experiences gained from the class have been profound. We have initiated date specific initiatives, our leadership team is reviewing monthly financial reports, and our sales are up 10% over last year! We have also hired on 4 new people in the four months since graduation. The help from the SBA has been just incredible!”


In addition to helping smooth some of the transition issues, Niles continues to grow the company, adding five new jobs since he was accepted into the program.  He has also been an active promoter of its effectiveness, sharing it’s results with fellow business owners and recommending they participate.

Another benefit to the company during this period has been the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. When asked its affect, Niles had this to say, “For sure we felt some relief from the current tax bill. The additional dollars that we saved in taxes in 2019, along with the strong economy and increased orders, allowed us to hire 5 more Full Time Employees.”

“Our business continues to grow, and I firmly believe that there has never been a better time in history to own and operate a small business in the USA!”

Deneen Pottery mugs can be found businesses big and small, from the U.S. Capitol to Pearl Harbor and over 400 restaurants and coffee shops, many [42 of the 61] national parks, state parks, as well as numerous monuments, and historic sites throughout all 50 states

Deneen Pottery was named Minnesota’s SBA Family Owned Small Business of the Year in 2019.

Company Name: 
Deneen Pottery
St. Paul, MN
File Attachments: 
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Deneen_Family 430Kb
NilesDeneen_DeneenPottery2019 2379Kb