Shortly after earning an M.B.A. in 1988, Swantko’s car was hit by a truck. She spent the next three years in rehabilitation. Looking for something to keep her occupied, she began molding clay. Its malleability was therapeutic, and her sculpting skills helped open a new door for her—figuratively and literally. In 1996, she opened Annie’s Mud Pie Shop, a 78-square-foot pottery store in Cincinnati. Today, the shop’s 24,000 square feet and attracts about 200 students a week.
“I love the challenges of developing a small business,” she says. “I worked 80 hours a week for five years, but the opportunity to get your life back and define who you are gives you a strength you may not otherwise have had.”