UST Student Entrepreneur Strikes Mud
aka Mud Pies Grow Up
Entrepreneur and UST student Tina Stinson-Mills’ business pitch begins, “Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? Do you want to feel like a kid again?”
Admit it; you’re hooked and want to know more, right? So did the judges who awarded Stinson-Mills the second-place prize at the most recent HCC-University of St. Thomas-Houston PitchFest competition.
“All I had was my passion and my backstory,” she said. “And they loved it, and I wound up in the No. 2 spot with a $500 check.”
Her idea, which is already taking its first steps, is a business she calls Mud Pies Clay Art Camps. Getting to where she is now has been a journey.
The former travel agent “mostly grew up in Alvin, Texas.” She left that career to serve for years as a full-time caregiver to various aging family members, including her grandfather, aunt, and father, who developed dementia and has passed away. But it was caring for her grandmother—the retired long-time art teacher at Alvin High School—that left the granddaughter fired up with inspiration.
Stinson-Mills recalled, “Before Grandmother passed in 2018, she painted every day. She dreamed of setting up a community art center in Alvin, but she couldn’t make it happen. So with her encouragement, I decided to get my degree and the right education to start this non-profit community art center in her name.”
The brave entrepreneur entered Alvin Community College in 2019. She transferred to UST two years later to work toward a 2024 degree in Studio Arts. At St. Thomas, she told her advisor, Professor Claire McDonald, she wanted to start a business. Without hesitation, McDonald recommended UST’s Conscious Capitalism class taught by Dr. Patrick Woock, director of the McNair Center for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship.
I’m Not Ready. Yes, You Are.
In Conscious Capitalism, Stinson-Mills had to figure out her business plan and pitch it.
“I kept telling Dr. Woock, ‘I’m not ready.’ And he kept insisting, ‘Yes, you are.’”
So she based the business on her love of ceramics and built from that. She would make “Mud Pies” and do clay parties. But the need and cost of a studio was a stubborn stumbling block until she brainstormed through it.
“We’ll make it Clay Art Camp, and we’ll go to the participants at Senior Centers, Church daycares, Parks and Recreation summer camps, even businesses for team building,” she beamed. “I’ll go to them instead of people coming to me…sort of a clay-studio-to-go.”
Once on a roll, she kept troubleshooting as she worked on her business plan. To get the materials and equipment she needed—kilns, clay, glazes—she arranged partnerships with others who already had those items.
Already Scheduling Camps
She is planning camps for Spring Break and is working with the city of Alvin to get on their summer program schedule.
Stinson-Mills said, “This is the first step toward my ultimate goal, which is to have a community art center where artists can create, exhibit and sell their pieces. I want to bring more art into the Alvin community.”