Wednesday, June 30, 2004
It stumped the vet, too.
Many tests later, it turned out to be a very rare (for ferrets) urinary problem.
Now, we just have to convince him to eat the prescription diet.
In the meantime, Manager is working and waiting on the loan application information.
We're in that nebulous hurry-and-wait time.
A co-worker has taken a new position elsewhere, so I'm planning some goodies for her last day. Ones that everyone will love to hate because they're yummy yet not on their respective diets. They'll sneak into the break room for "just a nibble" and guiltily slink out, carrying photocopies they don't need as an excuse for being in there.
All I will have left are dirty dishes.
I'm thinking something light and summery and chock full of carbohydrates.
Monday, June 28, 2004
We'll bake another batch, and I'll snap photos before they're cool enough to eat. Maybe that way I can post something.
Manager is working with the loan officer today, and has another appointment with the SBA.
Because she's fearful the loans won't be approved because of her age, I've been looking into alternate sources of funding. She's also considered changing the focus somewhat, with stronger expansion plans, just in case, as a fall-back.
She'll still have it as a bakery/coffee shop, just a smaller line of goods, focusing more on what's popular, and what we can popularize sufficiently.
After looking things over, she had a lot of menu items that wouldn't sell in sufficient quantities early on to justify the man-hours and power needed to make them - or the special equipment. They'd be great to add in as we expand, though.
She'll present, of course, the ideal she wants, and we'll use this reduced model as the fall-back position.
With either scenario, she can afford the location at the old Classen Circle. Personally, I think with just good coffee, pastries, and bread, she'll be showing a slight profit within the first 3 months, and as she expands her line of yummies, that profit will only grow. I wouldn't be so positive about any other location we've looked at. They've been too run down, or were located on one way streets with low traffic, or were hard to find, even if they were cheap. Investing in a good location will pay off far more than almost anything else she could do.
Of course, once she has that location, she needs to provide not just great coffee and bread and pastries, but a happy epxerience.
I think our marketing strategy will revolve around "small indulgence" - "you've been good today, you deserve a little reward" or "you've had a rough day, stop by for a small pick-me-up."
Did you know 97% of American households buy bread every week? That's a pretty hefty sized market to tap into, on just a loacl basis.
Did you know that day old bakeries are now selling their white bread at 89¢ a loaf - and we can make and sell a sandwich loaf of wheat or white for 75¢ and still make a (small) profit? Once they come into the bakery for the 75¢ loaf, they'll want a coffee to go, and maybe a pastry to go with that coffee. We'll build up a core of regulars whom we'll woo with excellent service and lagniappe, we'll appeal to women through our charity project, we'll appeal to college and high school students with the music and pastries, we'll appeal to the arts crowd with outstanding coffees, commission art, and pastries, we'll appeal to the harried after-work people looking for a comforting break between office and home (and who will buy a loaf of bread to go with their dinner), we'll appeal to small special interest groups because we'll have a nice meeting space.
What's not to like about it?
Some restaurants have small bakeries in them, mostly for desserts and rolls. There are a couple of small tearooms that offer baked on the premises pastries with their tea and antiques. There's Brown's (a classic), and Ingrid's. Other than franchises and chains, that's it. This city is large enough to be able to support more bakeries than that.
I spoke over the weekend with some local dairy farms and chicken farms about supplies for the bakery. They were enthusiastic about supporting a business that bought local. Apparently the other bakeries have to buy from their distributors and can't buy locally produced milk, eggs, cheese, cream, and the like. We can, and that could be a strong marketing point.
Saturday, June 26, 2004
Manager and I tried out a new recipe for the cookies one uses to make ice cream sandwiches. Not that we'll be making ice cream sandwiches, mind, just that we wanted to try out the recipe and see if we could modify it to make a soft, chewy chocolate cooke.
The cookies were edible when warm. When cold, they were soft, and chewy, just as we wanted. Downside - they were terribly dry.
I think using brown sugar in them would keep them soft and add much needed moisture.
On the plus side, dry as they were, they were excellent to eat with coffee.
OK, they were practically perfect coffee cookies. They were firm enough to hold up to being ice cream sandwich cookies, so they had that firmness to hold their shape for the coffee. They were a rich chocolate flavor that was not overwhelmed by a strong coffee, but instead complemented it with a pleasant chocolate flavor.
The dryness encouraged one to sip more coffee for a moistening effect.
I think we may keep them as is, possibly offering them as a lagniappe with a coffee, as well as selling thtem. And if we shape them as the cauldrons...we'd have a signature cookie.
I dunno about that, though, because Manager wants the house cookie to be a butter or sugar cut-out of some sort, possibly a shortbread style, but not as rich as a shortbread, because the cutters are really too large for that. Only a really dedicated person could complete eating a shortbread cookie that large.
I'll take a picture of them in a few minutes, and post them later.
Friday, June 25, 2004
We found a bank that will work with us on applying for a small business loan, and the process has now been started.
And we found a place to make the corporate seal at a reasonable price. We should have that within the week.
I wonder what it is about people that they don't listen to what they hear? The attorney was clearly and specifically told all we wanted from him was to file the incorporation papers, to get the certificate of incorporation, we already had the By-Laws and such written. We wanted the stock to sart out no vote and no par.
Did he do what we paid him to do?
OK, I wrong him. He did finally get the certificate of incorporation.
But he also tried to do - wrongly - a lot of other things we didn't ask him to do, nor hire him to do. He wrote the Articles of Incorporation, and did so as if the stock were voting stock, and the big hold up was the par value.
He had it in his notes that we wanted no par, no vote stock. He even read that back. He still insisted on setting up the stock with par value and as voting stock.
I have no patience with incompetence, especially not professional incompetence. He supposedly went to school to learn how to do this, was trained to listen to his clients, and supposedly was competent in his chosen profession.
I don't know how well he treats his other clients, but if he tries to steal from one client (as he did us), what is preventing him from doing so with other clients? Or, if he only ever tried to steal from us, targeting us for his foray into criminality certainly didn't pay off for him. We weren't the easy marks he thought we'd be.
Still, he's trying to make us do things his way, not the right way, nor the way we paid him to do it. Mind you, what we wanted was perfectly legal and acceptable, and his way is, too. It's just that his way isn't what we paid him to do.
Anyway, the lawyer episode is now completely behind us. We've got the certificate of incorporation. We've got our own by-laws suitable to our business. We now face the loan process and the rental of the property.
We are asking for considerably more than we think we'll need, and even at that, what we have said we need is based on new prices, not reconditioned. There are a lot of things we can get at discount places and bargain outlets, or reconditioned with guarantees on them. We also planned for more equipment than we initially need. And then we added extra to the total we reached so we would have a cushion from which we can repay the loan if it takes a month or two longer to start showing a high enough sales volume to repay.
Banks are all about repayment, and this we clearly understand. They want to know how soon we can start giving them their money back, and how much we can give back and how soon we plan to have them repaid. They want pro-forma analysis and cash flow analysis, and profit margins ad all sorts of things.
Banks are not altruists.
We expect to be able to start repayment of the loan at the end of the first month of business. It'll be tight, but we can do it. Each month should get progressively easier.
The good news is, we've pared our menu down to a manageable variance, and by doing so have reduced the number of employees we will initially need.
I, of course, am going to be slave labor at first because I have a paying job, and can only help out after my normal work hours. I have volunteered to fill in as needed both for the baking and for the customer service up front, but only if it doesn't conflict with my paying job.
It's that job that's going to pay for housing and utilities and other such essentials of living, so Manager can get by without a paycheck if she needs that money to cover business expenses instead.
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
Later tonight, I'll post the picture of the Bacon Bread I baked.
This bread will be one of our signature loaves, all full of bacony goodness, lots of protein and fat and calories, and virtually no carbohydrates. It slices thin, holds up well in sandwiches, tastes good alone or buttered.
If we use wheat protein and wheat gluten in place of flour, it registers as 3 net grams of carbohydrates per slice. With flour, it's still at 8 net grams of carbohydrates.
I have neither the picture nor the program that lets me upload the picture with me.
On bakery-related news, we've adjusted our monthly expenses to take into account the higher rent that our favorite place requires, and it's still well within the achieveable realm.
With marketing strategies and ideas we're taking from Duct Tape Marketing, and with our contacts within the local media community, I think we can easily exceed the minimum we need to do to meet our monthlu expenses, and to show a decent annual profit.
It's not going to make anyone rich, but it will be successful, and modestly profitable.
With the start-up loans, we'll probably not show a true profit for 2-3 years, but after that, we should start showing steady progress.
The Cracked Cauldron isn't going to be just a bakery or just a coffeeshop. We're not going to bank on the fact that our baked goods are prepared fresh from scratch on the premises, because too many people can't tell the difference between bread made from frozen bread dough and fresh made bread dough. That's only going to matter to a few people.
Nope. The Cracked Cauldron will be much more. We'll be baking memories for the people who visit us. Fun and nostalgia, with food.
All the best things in life come with food - births, and weddings, parties, and celebrations, family get-togethers, and watching sports, backyard barbecues and neighborly block parties, christenings and bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs and graduation parties and proms - what would htey be without food?
And the Cracked Cauldron, will be there, baking these events into lifelong happy memories.
Tuesday, June 22, 2004
Well, last week, clear up to Saturday, our bank of choice was working with us on the loans.
Sunday, the bank sprouted a new banner heralding a name change.
Monday, the loan officer we were working with disappeared. She'd been laid off. Her replacement said they no longer offered start-up loans.
Today, we had it confirmed that our bank has, indeed, been taken over by a different bank based in another state. That bank does not do small business loans, and they definitely don't do start-up loans, so all the work we've done with our bank is wasted effort and will have to be repeated at a different bank.
I have to say I am extremely unhappy with the way this bank change occured. I've been banking with them for 20 years, through 2 previous name changes and bank ownerships. Each of the previous times, the bank sent out announcements in the bank statements, with information on the ownership change and procedural differences so we, the customers, would know what was happening.
Employees knew in advance if they would retain their positions, and if not were given sifficient notice to find other employment.
It was all very civil and civilized.
This bank ownership change happened without most employees knowing about it, the branch manager to whom we spoke today had no idea their loan policies had changed so much. It was a matter of immense surprise to all the customers.
I've now browsed through their website (many pages are "to be announced" and "under construction"), and I'm not pleased with the reduction in services this new bank owner offers. Nor am I happy that it is an out-of-state bank. One of the things we are striving to do with the Cracked Cauldron is to use local resources as much as possible, from our suppliers on up.
On the plus side, we've spoken with the loan officer of another (locally owned) bank, and have received a positive impression of them. Manager has to take care of a hospitalized ferret this afternoon, but there should be plenty of time for her to meet with the loan officer and fill out the loan information.
Monday, June 21, 2004
Manager had a bit of a scare - the bank had a computer glitch and lost a sizeable sum of money. It was well worth the fee to get a printout of her account from the bank and find the error. It was a computer error, and they corrected it, but for a while there, she had a negative balance.
"Nother thing for folks to watch when they start a business - keep a really close eye on your bank account - don't wait for statements to come in each month. Check your account balance at least weekly, and if anything seems even remotely out-of-line, pounce on it right away. Correcting it before it reaches the stage of bouncing payments is a lot easier than cleaning up after things start bouncing.
That scare aside, S., the landlord from the old Spaghetti Factory really wants to rent property to us. He's now come up with an old theater, which seems, on the outside, to be in better shape than the old Spaghetti Factory. There are two other businesses in the same building.
However, it's located on a one-way street, hard to find, and the traffic count is very low. It is low-cost ($1.00 a square foot), in the Empowerment Zone, has a shared, but large, parking lot.
Manager and I both feel the location is too difficult to find. We had a hard time finding it, and I drive that area almost daily. Even with the address and the cross street, we still didn't find it on the first pass. With the one-way streets, it was difficult to return to it after missing it. It took 3 tries to actually locate it - not an experience we want for our customers.
Another downside for this location is that the landlord is once again renting it "as is", meaning we're responsible for all of the renovations and repairs. He's not offering any free months while we do those repairs, and it looks as if he will be a very "hands off" landlord. This might be good if we weren't facing the expenses of start-up, which, for a bakery, is very high.
C.'s place, while far more expensive ($6.00 a square foot), is in a prime location, easy to find, with a co-operative and involved landlord. He's willing to work with us in creating what we need, and he wants to act as a mentor. We feel the increased sales from the much better location will compensate for the higher rent.
And, honestly? The rent is still below current market prices. It is within our affordability range. Most business property rents for between $12 and $20 a square foot, making C.'s place, ay $6.00 a square foot quite reasonable.
Another plus for C.'s place is that it is large enough, and with wall space enough, to allow us to use the Cracked Cauldron as a commission art gallery, benefitting not only us in helping defray operating expenses, but helping artists make more sales and gain wider recognition.
We like win-win solutions.
Another decided plus for C.'s place is that it is large enough we can start sooner on our homeless resource center - we can designate a room with information about it, both to bring the problem of the changing face of homelessness to people who otherwise wouldn't know about the problem, and to provide help to those who are caught in the loop of homelessness.
Our experience of homelessness back then is more typical of homelessness now (employed, with support, but no place to actually live) than it ever was of what the average person percieves as homeless. While many people who are homeless are still mentally incapable of caring for themselves, and while many are also homeless because of criminal activity, and a few are homeless because they choose to be, an increasing number of homeless are so for other reasons.
There are the families that lose their home because of a critical illness in the family. Many people live from paycheck to paycheck, and are one, at most two, paychecks from being homeless. A combination of factors keep them on the edge. Credit card debt, impulse buying rather than serious shopping, poor resource management, and living just above what they can easily afford keeps them on that brink.
These are the people who live comfortable-seeming middle class lives,a nd hte ones who flounder the worst when faced with sudden homelessness. They are also the very people for whom social services is lacking. They have an education, and very often have decent paying jobs. They were simply overwhelmed To receive any kind of social services help, they will have to give up their jobs. If they are married, often social services won't help, because they focus on single parents, not couples.
Most of the time, these people have only modest needs, among which is a re-education into resource management.
With our homeless resource center, we will hopefully not only help people who find themselves homeless, but even prevent people from getting there.
Manager is speaking today to the bank about finally getting the loan process started, as the attorney finally provided us with our incorporation papers. I'm sorry we had to resort to filing a formal complaint over his behavior, but I'm not sorry that we did it. Perhaps he will think twice before trying to rip off his next client.
Friday, June 18, 2004
I had lunch with a friend in the Attorney General's office and we discussed the attorney giving us problems over the incorporation papers.
Manager asked if I'd call and see if they would speak to me.
So I did.
I was polite.
No, really, I was.
I simply told them that he'd cashed the check, and owed us for timely service. He was now a week and a half behind the date he'd promised completion. I strongly suggested that he complete the paperwork for Manager to pick up today. When he hemmed and hawed a bit, I then said I didn't appreciate that his secretaries felt comfortable hanging up on a client - a client who had paid for the service in full, and whose money he had probably already spent. This alone was sufficient grounds for a complaint to the Okalhoma Bar Association, and I was seriously considering it based on a recommendation by a friend in the Attorney General's office.
When he tried to tell me that we should be honored that he took our business, and we should wait patiently until he had time to spare to finish the work we over-paid him to do (he'd charged us for full incorporation, not a subchapter S - a substanital fee difference, and I let him know I was aware of it and expected him to refund the difference), I told him he had until 3:00 this afternoon to show good faith in finishing what we asked for, or I would take appropriate steps.
Apparently, right after I called him, my friend in the Attorney General's office called him and leaned a bit.
Upshot? He delivered the paperwork - late, but he delivered. And he refunded the amount he'd overcharged - grumblingly.
Because of his attitude, Manager has decided she will complete filing the complaint against him. Then change attorneys.
It's not like he's the only one in town.
Those of you following this blog for your own business advice - don't let people push you around. It's not just you being dismissed and treated poorly - it's your business, the people depending on that business, your money, and your dreams. Don't tolerate incompetence, and don't hesitate to report such incompetency and theft (the attorney had planned on keeping the money he'd overcharged, he wasn't going to tell us).
Don't be a sucker, like this attorney thought we were.
We hired an attorney to file the incorporation papers - a simple process, as Oklahoma allows a single person to be director, and it's easy enough to amend it later. If we'd done it ourselves, it would have cost about $100.00 and 5 business days.
We chose to use an attorney to make sure it was done correctly, even if it did cost more.
What we didn't count on were the delays he would put us through.
When Manager spoke to him, and paid him for the service, she gave him all the information he needed, and he promised her it would be completed on 6/8.
She called on the 9th to ask about its status, and got an answering machine. She called again late on the 10th as she had gotten no return call, and again got an answering machine. On the 11th, she got a secretary, who told her they needed some information. That information turned out to be exactly what she'd already given them. The secretary said it would be completed on Monday - a week after the original completion date.
Manager waited until Wednesday to call, and was told it would be completed on Thursday.
She called on Thursday, and was told they were working on it, but no completion date was given.
She called this morning, and the first secretary hung up on her. When she called back, a different secretary answered, and told her it was waiting on the attorney's approval, and then hung up on her without telling her when it would be done, or taking a message.
Since I know people in the Attorney General's office, I asked what recourse we had, as she'd already been delayed more than a week over this, and he advised us to file a complaint with the Oklahoma Bar Association.
So we did.
All we want is a timely completion of the work she paid for (the attorney cashed her check the same day she paid for the service, 18 days ago).
The bank loan officer has been very understanding over the delays, but we really need the attorney to finish up so we can file the real loans, not ask for smaller increments.
Thursday, June 17, 2004
Manager called S., the landlord of the Spaghetti Factory, to tell him we wouldn't be renting his building after all. He wasn't available, and doesn't seem to have an answering machine or service, so she'll try again today.
She will also talk to the bank loan officer about a small pre-start-up loan to tide things over until she gets the full loan. We're not out of money yet, but we're not sure how long the loan approval will take, or how much she'll need to start spending pretty quickly here.
There's a Baker's Convention and tradeshow in Nevada in August that we think she should attend. The timing couldn't be better, really. She'll be able to meet all kinds of other bakers and people who supply bakers. There are workshops addressing some of the issues she'll be facing, and she'll meet people who can give her real help in her exact field.
The loan she'll be asking for will cover that convention expense, and the deposit on the property, plus other incidentals that will come up such as utility deposits and holding payments for major equipment, and soon, we'll have to start offering a salary to our flour monkey manager so she can help with the set up and all. We'll need to start paying contractors for our part of the remodeling that we can't do ourselves, and pay for the inspections by the Fire Marshal and Health Department, although we probably won't need to do those until September, and pay for help in designing the placement of the equipment.
She has ideas, of course, and the landlord gave her floorplans, but professional advice in workflow design now could avert an expensive crisis later.
Manager has grown up living with little cash, and has learned how to get the most value for her coins. Coach class will get her to the convention as quickly and in the comfort to which she's accustomed as more expensive ways, and cheap hotels still have beds. She can do the baker's convention, even with travel, hotel, and meals, for less than a thousand. And she can live day-to-day really cheap, since I'm picking up the tab for her lodging, food, computer, phone, gasoline in the car and such. Frugality is a virtue when one plans to open one's own business.
Trivia: we now have hired two coffee monkeys. They don't go on the payroll until October, and they know it.
I've been gabbing with other marketers, and on this decision, I will override Manager. She doesn't want the Cracked Cauldron to have uniforms. I understand her reasoning, but I think some sort of standardized wear is important. For starters, it clues the customer in quickly on who they can approach for help. I don't know about you, but when I accidentally ask another customer for help, I feel bad about the mistake, no matter how helpful they then prove to be. I feel especially bad for the store if the customers are more helpful and pleasant than the employees.
We've sort of compromised at a dark bibbed apron with the Cracked Cauldron logo on it - something that won't show coffee and tea spills. Manager wants black, but if the logo is black, that won't work. I'm pushing for polo shirts with the logo on it, too, as being slightly classier than T-shirts. And name tags. People like to know to whom they are talking. Maybe we can have black aprons if we have logo name tags. Not as classy, but workable.
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
Manager spoke to a counselor at the Women's Business Center, and instead of getting the help she wantd, was told that as a food-service
business, she would surely fail.
Those are the words a first time entrepreneur really needs to hear.
The counselor ignored all the research she's done, all the field-testing and surveys, all the financial statements from similar markets, glossing over it by telling her that numbers weren't really her "thing".
Since Manager specifically requested help in cash flow analysis and profit projections as well as to proof her business loan proposal, and thought she was being sent to a counselor who could help her with these areas, you can imagine how disappointed she was. We are really feeling the lack of access to Excell, and right now buying the program is just beyond us.
We don't need help with marketing, or location, or any of a myriad of other things.
We're to the grit now, and need help in our weakest areas - chart creations and projections, the more esoteric of the financial information.
And insurance. We haven't found a good insurance agent that does business insurance. I know they exist, after all, this isn't exactly a business wasteland.
Manager is going to ask the owner of Horn Seed who his insurance provider is. Being neighbors and all, his insurance agent will probably be familiar with the proerty she'll rent. She's asking him today.
Now that the corporation papers are done and we have a location, the only other major hurdles are the loans and start-up funds. The equipment, furnishings, hirings, and marketing will be easy in comparison, and the day-to-day operating will be delightful.
As an aside, Manager came home from the WBC last night, and decided to stop at the first place that offered liquids to get a drink. That happened to be a Taco Bueno. As she went in, she heard a lot of shouting. Apparently some man had some car troubles, and he was throwing a man-sized tantrum inside the store, yelling at employees and customers. When he started using what I call Saxon words (you know - the ones that get beeped on radio), one of the customers asked him to please consider the fact that children were present. The man went even more ballistic and verbally abusive, threatening the customers, so that customer called the police.
After he was taken away, the manager at Taco Bueno gave everyone there a coupon for a free meal, and didn't charge those who hadn't ordered yet for their orders.
While this was nice - and it certainly left a favorable impression with Manager, we discussed what could have been done better. For starters, it shouldn't have been a customer who called the police.
So Manager is considering what happened there, and what she and her employees would do in a similar situation.
Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Manager cased the location at 1433 NW Expressway. The man who showed her the property was the owner of, and his father had built it. It was his first shop when he went into business at her age (he sold furniture), so he bonded immediately with what she's doing.
He's offered to do the bulk of the remodeling at his expense (taking out hte carpet and replacing it with the tile that's better suited for a coffeehouse/bakery, replacing the hail damage on the roof, upgrading the bathrooms to be handicapped accessible, installing a class-c vent, repairing the dock drain, repainting, moving interior walls, etc), he's offered her 2 months free rent, he already spoke to the Zoning Commission and gotten the zoning correct for the bakery, and will split the building insurance costs.
Yes, it is more expensive than the old Spaghetti Factory, but it's still far less expensive than many other places we've seen. It's still inside our affordability range.
The average business rents for $12-$17 a square foot. Spaghetti Factory was $1.50 a square foot, but with no landlord support - it was "as is", and that "as is" was in frighteningly bad condition. This place is $6.00 a square foot with enthusiastic landlord support.
Other pluses for the NW Expressway location: it's inside our target location, it's close to 2 major office towers, and 2 strips of small office buildings, there are 2 multi-level malls less than 2 blocks away as well as 2 strip malls. It's easy access off a major highway from both directions. It has lots of parking and high visibility. It's very attractive from the street. It's right next door to a well-established nursery with whom we already have a solid working relationship (and from whom we will get our plants and our honey). On the other side, sharing the same entry but a different parking lot, is an office tower with occupants that a;ready are anxious for us to open, and when we tell them how close we'll be, they'll swoon with ecstasy. Both malls contain a Starbuck's, a plus because most business advice is to locate near competitors. We're close, but not dreadfully so. Signage is not a problem.
Downside: it's farther from some of what we would consider our core customers (still in range, just a drive instead of a walk): the employees of the 2 major hospitals, and some of the downtown hotels. We are still in a reasonable range for them, just farther away. For people unfamiliar with the area, the entries into the parking lot may be confusing (we have one entry that has a traffic light, and one that feeds oddly off of Classen Circle).
What we've decided to do to alleviate some of this problem is to print a simple map on the back of our business cards, and to include maps on the flyers we leave at the hospitals and hotels.
After the 18 other locations we've scouted out, this one is quantum leaps above the rest. We had a grading system for site criteria that had a maximum of 200 points. The NW Expressway building scored 191 points. The next best place scored 107, but it was rented out to a woman who is opening it as a thrift store. All of the rest scored in the 50's (except Spaghetti Factory, which scored an impressive 43 - and that high only because of the location and price).
Manager will call the Spaghetti Factory owner and suggest that he consider offering to let Fine Arts Major college students rent it for filming horror shorts and to live action gamers. He'd have minimal remodeling to do, adding in even more secret passageways, and placing a small "tavern" at the second floor exit (it's a dock ramp that leads down to the ground floor). He'd make a lot of money if he did it right. The tavern wouldn't be a real tavern, just a collection of picnic tables - the groups would supply their own food and drink, but would need a place to start and end the game, and that would be a perfect spot - they'd enter climbing the dock ramp, be led down to the scary (and currently flooded) basement, have to find their way to the first floor through dead end secret passageways and door that would hide "monsters" and "treasures", make their way through the first floor (which is larger and scarier), find the stairway that takes up to the second floor, and wend their torturous way to the "tavern" through a variety of obstacles, and then out through the dock ramp - game over.
I'll check with some bright folks I know and see if they are willing to take this sort of enterprise on.
Manager, however, has decided all the pros outweight the cons of the NW Expressway location.
He's working on getting a lease drawn up.
Another interesting thing about the landlord is that he holds the franchise for Jamba Juice locally. When Manager told him the Cracked Cauldron was not a franchise, he got this wistful look on his face and he told her a few horror stories about dealing with franchise advertising.
Manager will be seeing the business advisors at the Women's Business Center today about cash flow projections and proof her business loan proposal, her attorney and CPA tomorrow, and with luck, the bank loan officer on Thursday.
The $3,000.00 I set aside from my tax return, an additional $1,000.00 her father gave her (that was unexpected - he so hates to spend money), and the paltry dollars I can spare from my paycheck have taken us this far, now it's time to get more.
Manager will decide how she wants the stock to work, write a prospectus, and start selling some stock (her CPA has a few people in mind who might buy stock), but I'm sure the bulk of our start-up will come from the loans.
The bulk of the available stock will be used as employee incentives - Manager will keep control of more than half of it for herself, of course.
And that's where we are today.
Friday, June 11, 2004
I know it's a bad shot, but it was getting dark. The 2 windows are bay windows above holly bushes, the covered entry is a double door, the powerlines in back parallel Route 66. Pricey, but not quite out of our range.
Well, we spoke to the landlord for the old Spaghetti Factory place, and looked it over top to bottom. It's 3 floors, 22,000 square feet, and all the interior walls can be removed if desired. The floors are "food grade" concrete. There are employee showers on the third floor, and the restrooms are on the 1st floor.
The building had no utilities operating. We entered through a plate glass door into a hot, still cavern, dim sunlight filtering through the holes in the walls, allowing us to see the bits of broken counters and chairs and oddments scattered about. In the distance, water dripped in a cistern of some sort.
As we walked around a bent and reaching coatrack, a lone battery operated flashlight swung from a rope tied to some odd, twisted frame, augmenting the light from our flashlights.
As we carefully stepped over nail-laden boards, it was obvious the place was huge. You just can't comprehend how large 8,000 square feet are until you are standing in a dark, musty, cave of it.
Yes, I said it was 22,000 square feet, but the first floor is only 8,000 square feet.
We wandered slowly and carefully back to the kitchen area. The plumbing and wiring was set in comfortable locations, and it was wel lit by large windows, so we snapped off the flashlights to preserve the batteries for forays into the second floor and the dreaded, dripping basement.
We wandered through the labyrinthine back areas where food preparation and storage took place, peered anxiously into a free-standing walk-in freezer. S., the landlord, wasn't sure if it worked. There was an abandoned double stacked pizza oven that he offered us. If it worked, great, if not, we would be responsible for hauling it away. The oven and freezer had been idle for more than a decade - that's how long this building has been empty.
There were several smaller rooms along one wall, suitable for small meetings or parties, and there was a raised stage area, with wiring for a sound system that wasn't there.
After exploring the first floor, we ventured upstairs. Rickety was a kind word for those wooden stairs that sagged and groaned as we stepped on them. The small landing was wet from the recent rains - the window above it was missing - and it gave deeply and with a sucking sound as we gingerly stepped across it. Fortunately, the railings were firmly attached to the concrete walls.
The second floor was more open than the first, and the gaps in the roof allowed sunlight to brighten the entire place, so the flashlights weren't needed. The dripping sounded more ominous up here, as it echoed through the concrete room. S., the landlord, said he would put a new roof on if we rented it.
That was great, since the skylights weren't intentional.
This was the storage area for the old Spaghetti Factory, the loading dock was up here - a cement ramp allowed delivery trucks to drive right in. There were employee showers, a washer and dryer hook-up, and changing rooms up here, as well as rooms filled with shelves for food storage. I could see where this was once state-of-the art, but was now sadly out-dated.
We took our lives back into our hands to wander back downstairs, where we learned the stairs leading to the basement were filled with debris - enough that we weren't willing to risk them with only flashlights to guide our way down them.
After a brief discussion with S., we told him we'd contact him early next week on our decision to rent it.
The landlord was really very sweet. He really wanted us to buy it, but at the moment, our situation isn't such that we could do that - a $30,000.00 down payment was beyond us when we're facing over $100,000.00 in big equipment needs, and the remodeling costs. Renting it, upgrading as we go along, with a purchase option, is the best we could offer him, and at that, we have several other places to look at.
As spooky as the Spaghetti Factory was, it wasn't the worst place we'd seen.
Me, I'd like a chance to film a bete noir movie there before the clean-up and decorating. And maybe run a D&D live action game through it - talk about a dungeon guaranteed to scare those little tweenies!
The Plaza Court was in worse shape, broken windows, gas leaks, exposed wiring, walls that fluttered when you breathed on them - the Spaghetti Factory at least was solid (except the one staircase).
The price is fair enough at Spaghetti Warehouse, and if we get the remodeling grants from HUD, it will be well within our reach.
On the other hand, at twice the rent, there's this gorgeous 12,000 square foot building with bay windows and a nice patio area that needs virtually no remodeling to move-in. We probably have to get it re-zoned, but that doesn't look so hard. It's pretty, it's got a good dock, it has enough room to sub-lease to at least 2 other people, and if we take consignment art (something several artists we know through our Renaissance Faire connections have asked), that can alleviate the fact that they want $6,000.00 in rent. There's lots of good parking, it's traffic count exceeds all of the other places combined - it's easy to find, easy to get to, highly visible, and handsome, with it's stone face and bay windows and copper awnings and wood and glass and copper doors.
I have to say, seeing the bay window place immediately after the Spaghetti Factory, the contrast in ambience was striking.
So, now we crunch numbers, talk to HUD, see what help we can get over it, and what place will do us the best.
I'll take the camera out tomorrow and photograph them, as I didn't take my camera to work this morning.
Wednesday, June 09, 2004
There's mention of knitting clubs, and blends of coffeehouses with yarn shops.
Manager knits. She's been knitting for a few years now. It would be easy for her to open up the Cracked Cauldron to such knitting clubs - a Knitter's Night Out for coffee and clacking.
The report about knitters reminded me of another market for the Cracked Cauldron - the migrants returning to Oklahoma from California.
Yesterday, I had a visitor who was in Oklahoma on a job interview - he was a Ph.D. in math, and we fell to talking. I had samples of one of products - a brownie based lemon meringue tart, and offered him one while we talked.
His eyes lit up when he ate it, and he demanded to know where he could get more. I gave him Manager's card and told him she hadn't opened yet, but it would be a bakery with Poetry Night and Open Mike Night, and live entertainment and such.
You should have seen him swoon with pleasure. When I mentioned the thought of having coffee cuppings for singles, he became very excited. He has to return to California, but after being assured we had an orchestra and a ballet, and a short overview of property values, he promised to spread the word to his colleagues also considering a return to Oklahoma. He asked for, and I gave him, more of the Cracked Cauldron's business cards. He hopes that by the time he's moved and settled, she'll be open for business.
So, we have knitters and migrants to target for business. Now, more than ever, seems like the right time to open the Cracked Cauldron.
On a more practical note, Manager will be attending a marketing workshop tomorrow, and meeting with the Women's Business Center to have them review her business loan proposal before she gives it to the loan officer.
Friday, we meet with the owner of the old Spaghetti Factory to see what we can do with it. We'll also talk with HUD about the economic development grants available. And then we'll talk with the owners of the old Plaza Court building.
Soon, we'll have money and a place. With those two, the rest will be a piece of cake. Lemon spice, I think.
Ok - we now have all the feedback from the turkey rolls.
They do taste equally good cold or nuked. One person said they were too sweet, but we resolved that in the second batch when we added celery and savory spices to the cornbread dough.
We also used less potato and more turkey - this time a turkey breast that had been smoked with pecan wood.
So, we have a lovely hand pie for people who don't really want all the mess and hassle of a turkey dinner, whether they want it around Thanksgiving or on their July 4th picnic.
Monday, June 07, 2004
We've found 2 people who are interested in sub-leasing if Manager decdes on the old Spaghetti Factory building - which would make the rent less than $1,000.00 a month each, and more than 7,000 square feet each. Since it consists of a basement, ground floor and upper level, each with separate entires, this would work well for all of us.
One is a fresh herbs, herb plants, and herb products shop (not mine - I haven't the land to grow enough herbs to have a shop), and the other would be a "tweenies" gift shop.
All three shops would be owned by women, and each would attract customers for the other. The tweenies would want cookies and custom flavored milks and sodas, the herb folk would want artisan breads and organic teas and coffees, and the Cracked Cauldron would send parents and relatives to the tweenie shop for gifts for their tweenies, and the herb shop for those things. Besides, we can have Crimson grow herbs we want and need for our teas, soups, breads, and pastries.
The three shop owners would benefit. It would certainly give value added for the customers.
I'll have to drive by and take pictures of the location.
The tweenie shop owner has already done her legal business set-up, and is now looking for a location.
I don't know about Crimson, yet, because I don't think I know her. But Manager does.
It's an option, not one to which we are committed, but it is an appealing one.
We have to make a decision by August 1st so we have time to clean up and decorate.
If you remember, the old Spaghetti Factory is located in the heart of the Paseo Arts District. And it happens to be in an Empowermenet Zone, giving special tax breaks and grant opportunities to us.
Saturday, June 05, 2004
Of course, this is a possibility, too - the last remaining dome building in the city. It was declared historical, so the exterior cannot be changed, only maintained. I think the Cracked Cauldron would do well here - if the realtor would ever call back.
And another one. This one is in a great location - lots of parking, not much remodeling, easy access, close to everywhere we wanted - if only the realtor would call us back.
Thursday, June 03, 2004
Jasmine Brothers is a native born Oklahoman. A portion
of her childhood was spent homeless, which led to her choice of college programs. She attened the University of Oklahoma, where she studied Criminology, Sociology,
and Anthropology. During the course of her studies, she decided that the best way for her to help the working homeless would be to open a bakery. Her decision defined her final year of college. She collected information on what people wanted from a bakery, tested recipes, and catered parties and class events for her fellow students to see if her idea would work and be profitable. After college, she continued to pursue her goal of opening the Cracked Cauldron by doing test marketing and marketing research, by attending a baker's convention, and by learning how other bakers and bakeries ran their businesses. She joined several professional organizations, including Specialty Coffee Association of American, The Bread Baker's Guild of America, and the Personal Chef Network, and used them to improve her skills as a baker and as a business woman. She also asked John DeLaughter, who had recently received an MBA, to be her Financial Director. At this time,she is still seeking financing for opening the bakery.
If the flavors holds well when chilled, I think we may have created one of our July 4th specials. Adding sides of freshly grilled corn on the cob (grilled by the customer on their picnic site - it would make the meal theirs, and grilling corn is so simple) and a tossed salad, and it would be as American as you can get. We would also supply the pies and cakes and cookies, of course.
During the drive, we discovered the operating hours of Brown's Bakery is 6:00 am to 1:00 PM. Since Manager wants her bakery to be an evening bakery, that puts the shops across the street from Brown's back into the running as a potential location. She's contacting the realtors today.
The economic development specialist at the SBA thinks she may qualify for grant monies in opening her bakery and she'll be attending a workshop/seminar on this on the 10th.
And the women at the local Women's Business Center have been extremely helpful. I don't have a link to them, I haven't found them on line, and none of their literature contains references to websites or anything, or I'd add them to the link list.
Right now, we're experimenting with making cranberry turkey rolls. We'll test them hot out of hte oven, let them cool, and see how they are cold, and reheated.
I'll post a picture as soon as I take one.
Wednesday, June 02, 2004
Well, OK, not literally.
But she impressed him by handing him a copy of her business plan. He'll file all the paperwork and secure the licenses for the Cracked Cauldron and review her rental agreement before she signs any papers for renting any place.
Unfortunately, the place she most wanted has now been rented.
The building in which the Celtic Cup was once is too small - and we found out, improperly zoned even for a coffee shop.
There's another building in front of it, actually on NW 23rd, but if my calculations are correct, he wants $63,000.00 a month for it. 4200 square feet at $15.00 a square foot is $63,000.00. Where does this realtor get off thinking anyone will pay that much for that space?
That makes the old Spaghetti Warehouse look delightful at only $3,000.00 a month. Even the rental spaces downtown are less expensive than that! There's a space right across the hall from the bank that is slightly small, but they want only $6,000.00 a month for it - right on the corner of Park and Broadway, directly across the street from the Skirvin Plaza Hotel that will finally be rennovated and supposedly open for business in 2005. Construction workers, building employees, visitors to the courthouse down the street, visitors to the offices inside the building, close to all the politicians' off-capitol offices, walking distance from 3 other major downtown hotels, and across the street from Bricktown (where the Spaghetti Factory moved when they outgrew the Paseo). It's not an unreasonable rent, and it is a good location. Parking is a problem, though.
So, now that incorporation is out of the way, we are figuring out, with the CPA, what investment stock, if any, we'll offer. As a Subchapter S, we're limited to a maximum of 75 shareholders, so we have to be rather careful of how we handle this.
Manager is ramping up her search for the Ideal Location.
And, after her talk with the CPA to proof her figures for the buiness loan proposal, we'll start talking Money.
To stay in business with zero incoming money for 6 months, she'll need $250,000.00. Oddly enough, the second half of the year is much cheaper - the whole year is only $350,000.00.
That's because the first half of the year will include a lot of one-time and rare expenses - deposits, purchase of large equipment, remodeling and decorating, and general start-up expenses.
The rest of it is rental, insurance, wages, employee benefits, and supplies.
It's kind of odd that supplies should be the least of it, the coffee beans, the flours, sugars, salts, dried fruits, nuts, eggs, milk, butter, shortening/lard, cheeses, vegetables, fruits, bacon, teas, juices, bread spreads, and all.
We have our suppliers for the coffee beans and teas and flours. We're negotiating with a local ranch for our beef, and with other local breeders and farmers for pork, chicken, and dairy products. The agriculture department has been very helpful in loating some of these suppliers, and word of mouth has been incredibly useful here as well.
As I said, things would start moving very fast once Manager left college.
Tuesday, June 01, 2004
Manager had a coupon for $15.00 off on a turkey, so naturally, we grilled turkey over the weekend.
This was one huge turkey, necessitating a run to buy a container large enough in which to marinate him.
The marinade was cranberry juice, cranberry tarragon vinegar, sea salt, and just enough apple juice to finish covering the bird.
We let him soak in the refrigerator for 20 hours, then carried him out to the grill. There, it took 2 people to lift him out of his sweet and briny bath and position him on the grill.
We basted him with a tart cranberry barbecue sauce, and let him cook over a maple smoke for 4 hours.
In the final half hour, we added dressed vidalia onions, buttered cabbage, sage and tarragon soaked carrots, and bacon wrapped potato slices.
The flesh of the turkey was infused with a mild cranberry flavor that preserved well, and intensified when it was cold.
I know this because I made a turkey sandwich for lunch today - cornbread, turkey, lettuce, tomatoes, saged up mayo, and the slight cranberry flavor came through the sharper flavors.
I think this will make an excellent turkey salad, as well, and we will have to explore that avenue as a recipe for the Cracked Cauldron.
I'm going to play around with some recipes tonight with the leftover turkey and see what I can create.
Manager, in the meantime, is currently at the attorney's office, filing for the incorporation papers and buying licenses.
The Chocolate falls cake, by the way, was tender, moist, and a marvelous end to the turkey dinner.