Saturday, July 31, 2004

Our (hopeful) Location 

Below are pictures we took this afternoon standing in the parking lot of the building we hope will become the Cracked Cauldron.

We didn't take pictures of the cars driving by, because there were so many. As you can see, we have 2 completed hotels in the same block, 3 tall office towers in 2 blocks, between Penn Towers and 50 Penn Place is Penn Square Mall. Although there is a deli in Penn Towers, they don't have anything we do.

The hotel immediately to our west and Penn Tower share the same parking lot, and the new hotel going in behind and between Penn Tower and the existing hotel will also share the same parking lot.

People exiting off the highway need never access the street, as the exit ramp allows them to exit into the Penn Tower parking lot (and hence our parking lot). The nearby restaurants are, as you can see, a McDonald's, and unseen: IHop, Chili's, Pepperoni Grill, Belle Isle Brew Pub, and then it gets into fast foods.

Three blocks west is a really good public library, and the librarians want to put flyers up for the bakery and are thrilled we might be "neighbors". Next to the library are 3 more large office tower buildings, to which we are close enough for lunch and dinner traffic.

It is, for us, a prime location - highly visible, with lots of "foot" traffic (although, this being Oklahoma, I expect most of them will drive over anyway, even if they are just the other end of the parking lot.

The landlord is great, and he's eager for us to get the financing so we can move ahead with our plans.

On a bright note, we hired a very good artist to create our logo, and she did so very quickly. We are exceptionally pleased with what she did, and it is worth every penny we'll be sending her as soon as the bank processes it into the paypal account we created so we could pay her via paypal (her request).

We will be giving her wall space in the Cracked Cauldron to sell her art.

Across the street from us - another hotel, behind which is an apartment complex and a nice housing division, not to mention an auto shop whose customers might wander over to wait in our Cracked Cauldron. Posted by Hello

A slightly more western view, showing 50 Penn Place mall and office tower 2 blocks away, the Penn Tower office building and hte hotel immediately to our west. Posted by Hello

Immediately to our west, in the same parking lot, a hotel and the Penn Tower Office building. The street between the hotel and the office building leads to a new hotel under construction. Posted by Hello

A view from the east - Horn Seeds Nursery and the government office building. Posted by Hello

A streetside view of what we hope will become the Cracked Cauldron. Posted by Hello

The receiving dock area and the eastern bay window. Posted by Hello

A close up of the doors - the medallions in the middle are metal flowers. We have a cookie mold in that same shape. Posted by Hello

An interior view of the building we hope will be the Cracked Cauldron. Posted by Hello

The door to the building we are negotiating to rent for the Cracked Cauldron. The side shields are perfect for listing specials. Posted by Hello

Friday, July 30, 2004


Now that Manager's fired the old attorney who was dragging her down and costing her time and aggravation, we can move forward again.

Yesterday's visit to the Women's Business Center wasn't very helpful, and I'm beginning to wonder if it is profitable for us to continue to use them.

When Manager goes in to ask specific questions, such as when she took in her completed business plan and pro forma sheets and cash flow projection forms to see if they would pass the SBA and bank criteria, she spent most of her time instead talking about the cookies she brought.

True, the cookies sparked interest on a customer level, but it didn't move the business forward towards opening. And that's what we need now, that pat on the back that propels one forward, not the one that has the friendly handshake that holds us in place.

This weekend, we'll work some more on the meat pies we plan to sell as a "meal" component. I'm thinking Italian timballettos: a puff pastry filled with a blend of pasta, meat sauce, and mozzarella, fresh basil, and just a touch of cinnamon for an intriguing mystery flavor.

We made chicken aloutte last night, and I would have taken a picture, but they were all quickly eaten - even before I got one.

I'm almost afraid to offer these in the Cracked Cauldron because of the speed with which they disappear. Could we possibly be able to make them fast enough?

I know, they are simple - phyllo dough rolled burrito style around a filling of provolone cheese, a seasoned half a chicken breast, fresh herbs (I used curry plant, rosemary, basil, and sage last night), and sprinkles of mozzarella, cheddar, swiss, asiago, and monterey jack. The logs were brushed with butter and sprinkled with sesame seeds, then baked until perfect.

And they were all eaten before they had a chance to cool.

How do people know when we plan to test a recipe? That's what I want to know.

How do they know and show up at the house to devour the test samples when we don't even know when or what we'll make?

I'm going to have to exercise a draconian control and wrest the food from them long enough to photograph it. Then, once recorded, they can munch away.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

It's Ali-i-i-ive! 

Or more accurately, It's Arrived!

On Monday, we overnighted a few slices of bread to a friend residing in another state, to see how it shipped, among other things.

It arrived today.

Well, technically, it arrived yesterday, as I shipped it to an older address, and they graciously forwarded it.

Still, please note that yesterday was Wednesday, not Tuesday.

Unless the Post Office counts days differently, overnight is supposed to be over 1 night, not 2.

Our next venture will be with UPS, to see how long they take, and in what condition the goodies arrive. We will also try more tender goodies than our signature Bacon Bread.

Bacon Bread is pretty durable. Without refrigeration or other than normal precautions, it will stay fresh tasting for up to 8 days, although 6 is the maximum recommended. At 8 days, it just got scary, because we use no preservatives, and even commercial bread rarely lasts that long, and commercial bread is chock full of preservatives.

I won't tell you the lengths we had to go through to make sure a loaf of Bacon Bread remained uneaten long enough to measure its shelf life.

We have gullib guine p taste testers in several states whom we can depend upon to give detailed evaluations of what we ship, so we are going to take full advantage of them.

On the upbeat side, we collected 4 new customers today at the SBA with a drop off of Cauldron Cookies.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Bad Knots 

What went wrong with the Celtic Knot Rolls was a fruit based recipe wherein the fruit apparently inhibited the rising action of the yeast, resulting in a soggy, dense dough as if no yeast at all had been added. It is possible that a much lengthier rise time might have compensated - say 2 or 3 days.

I know the bacon bread is severely effected by humidity and the quality of the bacon and bacon grease added to the recipe. A too-salty bacon will inhibit the yeast if I add salt.

I've made apple bread before, and it did require a lot of extra rise time, so we're thinking that was the problem here.

And speaking of rise times, we are thinking about containers for the yeast starters we have. I have a starter I brought over from Germany 30+ years ago, and a starter given to me by a man I met at the Friends of the Library Book Sale, and 2 starters I created - one a whole wheat and one a rye based starter.

We'll need to start feeding them up in September and growing them large enough to use in the Cracked Cauldron by October, which means finding large enough containers and a good place to store them.

Shopping for starter bins - what fun!

Monday, July 26, 2004


Yesterday, we tried new recipes for soft pretzels, bacon bread, and the Celtic Knot Rolls.

Both recipes turned out yummy, but not at all as expected.

The pretzel dough was too sticky to handle and shape, and all the usual fixes made it worse, so we gave in and shaped them in lumpy dollops.

The flavor, especially when coupled with cream cheese, was very good, but they looked so like Pet Rocks. It's almost tempting to keep the recipe as is, and sell them as Edible Rocks.

We also made bacon bread with cheese (I took pictures and posted them below). This loaf is not low carbohydrate at all. I used proper hard red wheat flour with it because cheese inhibits the rising with wheat protein and wheat gluten alone. I'd have gotten frisbees instead of bread.

There is a problem with too much softness in this, though. The finished and baked loaf is soft anad sticky on the interior, which makes it difficult to slice but excellent toasted, as the flavor holds up well. I do like the change in bacon brands, but may have to mix them, as the new brand doesn't generate enough bacon grease.

The cheese topping, while very yummy, makes the top crust too firm to slice well from the top down, but flipping the bread and slicing it upside down worked well.

I really liked the flavor, but I'm not too happy with the texture. I want it a little firmer for thinner slices.

Of course, part of hte problem could be that we sliced the bread before it was completely cool.

The Celtic Knot Rolls, I have no idea what went wrong. Manager made those after I went to bed last night. I'll have to ask her when I see her tonight.

And Manager made Orange Cinnamon Rolls, because a potential investor asked for samples, and he'd heard about these rolls from someone else. So, she made them, and I took them in to him on my way to work.

Dinner last night was composed quite naturally of the various breads we baked - a carbolicious carnival of flavors.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

The bacon bread, topped with a blend of parmesan, mozzarella, asiago, sharp cheddar, monterey jack, romano, parsley, thyme, oregano, rosemary, basil, and paprika. Posted by Hello

The bacon bread, sliced open to revela the yummy interior - cut while too warm, so it sagged some. Posted by Hello

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Cheesey Bacon Bread 

I have a variety of cheeses now with which to try to make a decent tasting cheesed up bacon bread. I think the sharper flavored cheese will work best - Asiago, parmesan, extra sharp cheddar, perhaps even a bleu. I now have them all, so I'll see what combination works best and stands up to the bread.

And I've discovered a new bacon that has a truly deep and yummy flavor. And it's a local bacon that costs 1/3 of what the previously preferred bacon costs.

If I can cut prices while increasing flavor and quality, I'm all for it!

So, I'm off now to bake breads. Lots and lots of bacon breads. With different cheese combinations.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Reviewing an Offer 

I took time to read through the offer from the Startup Journal in reference to the PR Newswire, and there are lots of hidden costs, making it not worth our money or time at this point. There is little they offer that we can't get for free.

I already have a list of all the media outlets in town: emails, addresses, phone numbers, and names. It's a simple matter to send email press releases. Some of them I know through other works, such as MedFaire.

I've written press releases for a number of agencies over the years, from The Infant Center to the SCA and beyond, doing so for the Cracked Cauldron shouldn't be too hard.

Along with that, we have contact information for all of the advertising directors of these various media. Once we are closer to opening (we've paid the deposits on our location, C. is generously holding it for us - or perhaps not so genrously, we have to wait for him to complete repairs anad such on it, and this gives him time to do that, knowing he has a seriously interested tenant), we will contact these people.

We already know how to list the web page we will be creating in search engines.

We know some of the people who work in the offices and locations where we'll be setting out flyers, and they are eagerly waiting for us to open.

We have people who are already spreading the word about the Cracked Cauldron, and we have plans to deliver baskets of goodies to the drive-home DJs.

I don't think there is much they can offer us we don't already have.

Now, if we were some large franchise with national impact, we would because we wouldn't have knowledge of the media contacts in other cities, let alone other states. It woud be a valuable service then.

But we're a small bakery catering to the people in one metro area. We know the area, and we know the market, and we know the media.

Bloggin' Around 

So I went back to Wall Street's Startup Journal for a closer look.

Clicking on some of their links, I discovered that people who've been telling us our attorney is overcharging can be well substantiated.

Through a long and (for me!) tortuous journey comparison shopping on attorneys, I learned the average cost of a complete incorporation package (which includes filing fees) is $480.00.  We paid $70.00 more than that to "our" attorney, which is fair enough had he provided all that comes in the complete incorporation package.

Those things are:
prepare and file Articles of Formation
Name Search/Reservation
Customized Calender to remind you of corporate deadlines and when forms and taxes must be filed
Overnight delivery of paperwork once returnd from state
Corporate Seal
Stock ceertificates
Stock Transfer Ledger
Sample forms for by-laws and minutes
Tax ID (SS4)
S-Corp (2553)
Tax Classification (8832)
4 Books to keep in the business library:
            Legal Forms for Small Businesses
            Legal Guide for Small Businesses
            Tax Savvy for Small Business
            The Corporate Minutes Book

What "our" attorney has actually provided:
prepare and file Articles of Incorporation
Name Search/Reservation
Tax ID

I'd value this at $200.00.  And that was provided with lots of foot-dragging and with some rather questionable, potentially damaging advice.

I won't blog about it here, because it is unfortunately unactionable, since it comes down to Manager's word against the attorney's.

His foot-dragging and reluctance to initiate contact has resulted in Manager having to pay tax penalties because the attorney filed the paperwork and never notified her of their completion - even after repeated phone calls from her to him asking about it.  She didn't know the paperwork was done until she received notification of the tax penalty due from the Tax Commission.  What she'd managed to wrest from him was the tax ID number to allow her to start the loan process  - she's till pushing him for the rest of the paperwork.  That's documentable, and I can blog about that.

That's real brilliant of this attorney - making sure the business flounders before it ever gets a chance to open.  He's destroying a potential source of long term revenue through his actions.  Does he mean to lose clients like that?  Is his purpose to run himself out of business?  Or are his clients so unaware of his tactics that they accept it as normal behavior?  Is it that the attorney is just bad himself and has snowed his clients into thinking he's decent, or that he's learned to be sloppy and shoddy and uncaring from his unobservant clients?

It's such a good thing Manager has knowledgeable people advising her and is rapidly developing an aggressive demeanor.

And another interesting tidbit I picked up from the Startup Journal is something Manager has already started working towards providing:  online ordering.

According to an article on the Startup Journal, in regards to online ordering and running a website for one's business:  "The place to announce your business's Web site to the world is not on Google.com -- it's at the cash register in your store."

This makes sense, and indeed, we'd planned on including the web information on all the business cards and coupons and flyers we print and distribute, as well as on hardcopy ads and in the phone book.  Adding that 1 line in isn't going to effect the price of the advertising, but will provide at least a 7% return.  Possibly more, located where we will be between these large office towers, call centers, and hospitals.  Those are the places we most expect to receive online ordering, as many of them have email and web access.  They can place the order before they leave work and expect it to be ready for them when they arrive.  We're still investigating the possibility of letting them pay online via credit card so all they have to do is grab and go - virtually no waiting!

Plus, if they pre-pay, we're less likely to be left holding an abadoned order.

There's a company called PCWaiter which looks like a decent model.  It's not exactly what we're looking for since we and our employees are computer-savvy, but it's a starting place.

We have friends who write code and programs, maybe we can convince one to create the program we need for coffee and bread.

Then, I found something exciting on the Startup Journal, as if the above weren't enough!  For their readers, they are offering a 1 year subscription to the PRNews wire service for submitting press releases and feature articles.  A trial membership for a year will certainly let us know if it will be worth the $125.00 annual subscription fee.

Did I already say how much I liked the Startup Journal?

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Manager's Morning 

Manager had another visit with the attorney, trying to get everything finished up that he's been dragging out far too long.

Two months.  It's been two months, and $550.00, for a simple task.  Manager thought if he could handle this simple task well, he'd be a decent attorney to consult for other business needs - rental contracts, expansion and construction contracts, assorted other things.

But he hasn't been able to do what she paid him to do.

Strike that - he was able to do it, just, apparently, unwilling.  And he's been doing it in as unfriendly a manner as possible.

We finally got him to complete and file the basic incorporation papers, and thought we were done with him.

However, he sent Manager an email yesterday telling her he needed her signature on some contracts he'd drawn up for her.  She didn't ask him to do this, so she went in this morning to find out what contracts he meant.  Turns out he meant the by laws, which was acceptable.  However, he said she had to pay the filing fees. What, that wasn't part of the $550.00 we'd already paid him?

She took out the paper in which she'd written what she'd hired him to do:  File incorporation papers, fees to cover filing costs.

They are still debating who owes that fee.  I say it was covered in the fee we already paid, as this is apparently part of filing the incorporation papers.

Then, in addition to that, good old Manager, she confronted him about the fact that he hadn't notified her in a timely enough fashion to properly file her tax paperwork and she had a late penalty because of his tardiness.

They are still negotiating whether he has to pay her for that penalty.

I say he does, since it was his fault it was imposed on her due to his tardiness in notifying her that her papers were filed and she was officially in business.

She still hasn't managed to drag out of him exactly all he thinks she paid for, because it is certainly at variance with what we know we hired him to do.

When did attorneys become adversaries of their clients?  I always thought when you paid an attorney, they were there to take care of the legal need for which you hired them - your advocate not your adversary.

I have a few things I want to say about the attorney-client relationship.

If you are an attorney working with a start-up business owner, this is how you should handle things:

Tell me, up front, everything my money will cover.  Be honest.  I am bootstrapping this business, mortgaging my house, cleaning out my savings and the savings accounts of relatives and friends, and anyone one else willing to support me.  Money is really tight right now, so I need to know exactly what my dollars will do for me.

Don't nickle and dime me to death.  I'd rather be quoted a slightly higher price that includes "billable hours" than to get a charge for 1/12 of an hour.  How cheap and desperate that makes you look.  You should already know how long it will take you and/or your staff to file straightforward paperwork and you should have a flat rate for that.  If you encounter unusual circumstances or difficulties, call me to discuss it - on your nickel.  If I feel it's justified, I'll offer to pay the extra - and you can then include the cost of the phone call in that.  But it should always be my choice, not yours, to pursue this avenue or that, and to accept the charges.  I can't afford to give you a blank check.

And that goes for photocopies and faxes, too.  I work in an office, I know how much photocopies and faxes really cost.  If you must, include the costs  in the fee, don't inflate your fees by charging for each and every page.  If the documents are really long, call me.  I might surprise you and agree that it is worth an extra charge.

Make sure I have all the correct documents up front.

I know my own business inside and out, baker's formulas, inventory control, wastage, inspections, and so on.  I expect you to know yours as competently as I know mine.  I hired you to help me with a legal issue.  That means I expect you to inform me of everything that pertains to that issue up front, all the related documents and forms I will need to fill out and file.  That's your job, that's what I'm paying you for.

And while we're here, help me develop a long term legal plan.  Think of the benefit to you:  you inform me up front about legal issues I may encounter in the future and the projected costs in dealing with them, then I can make plans to set aside the money to pay you.  because you informed me ahead of time, I will retain good feelings about you and when those needs arise, who will I pay to deal with them? 

You, of course.

 Let me do a lot of the gruntwork myself.

  Put templates of documents in a client-only area of your website (you know you use templates, don't deny it.  I've written enough to recognize a form when I see one) so I can make my own drafts on my own time, which could be at midnight!  It will save you time so you can concentrate on more interesting aspects of your business, it will increase my familiarity with that part of my business, and it will incline me to trust you when big expensive issues come up.

And while we're discussing fees and expenses, why not help me be more successful?  If you have other clients, vendors or people in related businesses, who can assist me or whom I can assist, take the tiny step to introduce us. We'll both remember how helpful you were, and that can only be good for you.  We'll reciprocate by referring people to you.

The most important thing you attorneys have to remember is this:  Customer service.  You are in a service industry, and if you haven't figured that out yet, I bet you have a lot of unhappy clients.  If your clients are not happy, they aren't giving you all the business they could be passing along to you and they may just be waiting for an opportune moment to abandon you for somebody better.  Somebody who will listen to them and do for them what they pay you to do.  Treating your customer well, you know - the person who is paying you - is the most important part of your business.  If you don't treat me well, I will take my money and give it to someone else.

If you can't do these simple things for me, you won't last as my attorney.  And I won't be sending any business your way.

But if you can minimally meet these expectations, I will be pleased, and will refer others to you.  Exceed them, and I will actively promote you among my business associates and acquaintances.

Advocate for advocate, agreed?

More Blogging Around 

I've read the Wall Street Journal off and on for decades, but until today, I never knew they had a startup blog for entrepreneurs.

I've been browsing through it, and I like it.

It has articles and quizzes and resources.

And the quizzes aren't the same standard ones I've found at plenty of other websites.

I usually answer quizzes 2 ways - my way and the way I think they want us to answers.

Thanks to public schooling, I'm rather adept at thinking as testmakers would have me think.  Thanks to my friends, family, and innate stubborness, I still think for myself as well.  That just means I get 2 scores on quizzes - the "right" one, and mine.

But here, the right answers and my answers converged.  I only had to take the little quizz once!

It was so - validating?  Yes, validating.

Take the "Assess your aptitude" test, for example.  I'll pull out 2 questions that most quizzes tell me I get wrong. (Ignore the gender bias - I think Wall Street thinks all businesspeople are men, but I won't hold that against them.)

The first one is:  An entreprenuer's primary motivation for starting his own business is - to make money, because he can't work for anyone else, to be famous, or as an outlet for excess energy.

The "correct" answer on most quizzes that have similar questions has usually been the first or last answer, but I've always really chosen the "doesn't play well with supervision" answer.

I mean, here's a person who has a innovative way of generating new business or of streamlining this process or that and they're told they can't implement it because it "isn't done that way".  The older and larger a business is, the more likely an entrepreneurial person will find themselves at odds with the corporate culture.  They may have a history of being fired because they just can't get stand to see what they percieve as  the waste if a good idea, inefficiency, or even just control issues.

Management, at least in my experience, wants employees to do things exactly the way they were trained to do it, that way and no other.  They may give lip service to change, but suppress it.  Why?  Because after a while, in large corporations, innovation is a threat to the status quo.  That's why I now work for a smaller company.

And you know what?  This quiz agreed with me!

The second question was:  Entrepreneurs and venture capitalists are - cordial friends, best friends, in secret conflict.

The first two answers are the ones I was sure were the ones the test writer wanted me to pick, but the last answer is the one that felt right to me.

It's obvious, isn't it?

One has the money, and the other spends it.

In my mind, I see Frankenstein's Monster playing out, with Frankenstein as the venture capitalist and the monster is naturally the entrepreneur.

Like Frankenstein, the venture capitalist infuses the entrepreneur with life.  Frankenstein used electricity, the venture capitalist uses money.

When the monster comes to life, what Frankenstein and hte venture capitalist forget is that they no longer have control

It's up to the monster to live and succeed, to woo the villagers and create a place to live and grow.

There are only three things that Frankenstein or the venture capitalist can do:  step out of the way and let the monster do what he does best,  offer support and further infusions of "life" until the monster is grown up and self-sufficient, or kill the monster.

Honest, it's much more exciting in my mind.  Full color.  Sensaround.  Bad puns.  Fire.  Dancing.

And, surprise!  This quiz agreed with me!

I like Wall Street Journal's Startup Journal.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Answering Michele 

How will you deal with HIPAA and confidentiality in this setting?

HIPAA doesn't apply to us because we are not providing health care services, only resources where people can go for health care, not too much different from a directory.  HIPAA is "Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act", and we are not a health insurance company, not a health clinic or hospital, nursing home, or medical savings account agaency for the homeless.  There are other services better suited to that, and we only provide names and addresses of such agencies.  We aren't going to have access to what health problems the homeless for whom we provide information and assistance have, nor will we be in a position to treat them.  We will not have health information on individuals, nor information which could be used to identify an individual (Subtitle F, Sec 1711, Paragraph 6).

That could change in the future, but that's the way it is now.

How heavily will you be advertising that your bakery will be there to help provide assistance to the homeless, and how will you deal with the "stigma" and stereotyping of homelessness and homeless people?

We will deal with the "stigma" and stereotyping of the homeless through stories and for those who allow it, their personal history of how they became homeless, and with follow up stories of how they found homes again.   The best way to combat the stigma is to remove it from rumor and innuendo and offer facts - surveys, studies on the homeless, newspaper clippings, and so on that are publicly available information will be put in an easy to access format.  Where possible and with permission, we will put faces to the homeless.  Our website will have links to the blogs and websites of homeless people, and to resources.  We'll maintain a scrapbook of stories about the homeless, their fall and their rise.   Making the information personal and accessible will go a way in dispelling many of these negative stereotypes.

Much of the advertising will be done among the homeless themselves through the use of the coupon books redeemable for a meal and through the care bags we distribute to the homeless.  Much of the rest of the advertising for it will be in the store itself and on the website we haven't yet put up. Very little will be paid for advertising.  How many homeless do you know who own a TV and have the leisure to watch what they want?  Or a radio of their own?  Paid for advertising isn't going to reach the people we want to help.

The advertising we will pay for will draw customers to the Cracked Cauldron where they can choose to see and read what we are doing to help our community.  Personal interaction leaves a more lasting impression.  If they thumb through the scrapbooks, read the bulletin boards, take away a few brochures, visit the website, it will mean more to them.  If they choose to help,  they will feel more involved and responsible - and we think that's a good thing.

The in-store advertising will consist of the information area set up with brochures offering various resources to the homeless, the history book about the homeless people (containing newspaper stories, surveys, studies on the homeless, and individual stories of those who allow us to offer them), a brochure giving information on how individuals can combat homelessness, and how to avoid it themselves, brochures on how to live well on very little, and we'll keep a list of landlords and locations where homeless can get low-rent housing.  We'll also have a notice at the register that customers can sponsor a meal or a coupon book of meals for the homeless.  And we'll have brochures for groups to start and run their own "Sandwich Saturdays" type programs.   Personal involvement and personal responsibility.

As the resources get used more, we have space to add in classes on money management, debt resolution, legal assistance, and uptraining for those who are unemployed.  Most of the homeless we are targeting for help (at least initially) are the ones who aren't necessarily serviced by local agencies, as they concentrate on long-term homeless, the generational poor and homeless, the rebound homeless, and so on.

Also, what services are you competing with in OK?

"Competing" is the wrong word to use here.  There are far more people in need of assistance than all the combined agencies can provide.  In this area, it's not a "you're taking away our customers" so much as "great - the more help the better!"  There is no single area relating to homelessness that isn't currently overwhelmed with need, and that need is increasing, not decreasing.

Is there anyone providing similar assistance you might be a)competing with and/or b)or that can give you advise/help, etc since they are already doing this type of program?

We've searched (casually) for 14 years for services to assist the type of employed homeless we are targeting, and more rigorously for the last 3 years, and we've seen the employed homeless rise sharply - far faster than available services can assist:  from less than 10% to over 38%.  Local services are increasing to help the long-term homeless at the expense of the recently and still employed homeless.  57% of the teens who are homeless are employed, and this is also a severely under-addressed issue locally.  Approximately 40% of the people who seek shelter have been turned away at least once because there isn't room, over 40% of the homeless receive no government assistance (either by choice, they don't know they qualify, or because they don't qualify),  more than 30% are on wait lists for government housing.

We've been in correspondence with various homeless people (and been there ourselves briefly), and studied local surveys regarding homeless people and have compiled a prioritized list of the top 10 needs:
  job training or re-training - 71.9%,
deposit waivers and affordable housing - 61.3%,
service aquisition assistance - 60.8%,
public shelters - 59.8%, 
financial management planning and advice - 59.1 %,
time management skills - 48.8%,
health care - 48.7%,
drug, alcohol abuse, or mental health counseling - 48.7%,
daycare services - 39.0%,
government/Section 8 housing - 16.1%. 

We will be addressing 5 of the top 6 needs.

Since we will be listing various agencies which provide other and more services, we can hardly ignore them.  They've provided a lot of the incentive to do what we are doing.

Finally (I know, it is nosy and intrusive, but I am really interested in how you are handling all this, as these are problems we face here) Will you be serving ex-prison populations, and are you looking for grants for the opening from the homeless side of funding?

No grants.  This is mostly because grants will bog us down in paperwork and special requirements that we aren't equipped to handle, in addition to the paperwork we already know we'll have to keep for tax purposes. The Cracked Cauldron will start with just 3 full time employees and 4 part time, and their focus will be to make the bakery successful so it can afford to support the charity.  The charity must be able to operate seamlessly with the business initially without hiring help specifically to run the charity side.  Five years from now, we will be in a different position, and we have plans to re-evaluate the progress and needs of both the business side and the charity side of the Cracked Cauldron.

As for ex-prisoners, I don't see where this would make a tremendous difference - if they are employed and homeless, they will still need help finding services and getting housed - and maybe eating during that time.  At this time and point in what we offer, there is no need to draw attention to a person's past so much as their future.  We can't change what they did, we can only help them into the future.

If it's employment they are seeking, they will have to adhere to the same standards as any other employee as well as to any restrictions on their parole or after-prison living.

Of course, ex-prisoners may already know far more about what services are available to them and what restrictions are imposed upon them, and not need anything we offer, rendering this a moot question.

We've already stated we aren't equipped to provide beds, drug/alcohol/mental counseling, health care, or day care services, although we will provide lists of those agencies which do provide such services.

Our goal, right now, is to help with the group of homeless often termed "non-recurring, acute", and we refer to as the employed homeless.  We also want to reach people before they become homeless so they never experience it.  Far too many people are living one or two or three paychecks away from being homeless.  They've succumbed to the  lure of ready credit cards, and the trap of those "payday" loan agencies, living far beyond their means because they think they have to.  That's why we will also provide lists of places they can have fun for little or no money, and eat very inexpensively.

People need to be able to indulge, but they also need to live, and we hope to provide a way for them to do both.

Blogger Browsing 

I've been following the Garden Party hosted at various business blogs (and organized by Todd at A Penny For), following links, checking to see if I can find a snippet of information that will help us in our efforts to formulate our marketing strategies.

Manager's busy with the finance end of things - that's her job.

Me, I'm delving into marketing, calling upon my experiences decades ago as a wannabee ad writer.  I worked for a small but very prestigious ad agency in Dallas back in the early 70's, and I worked briefly with an outdoor advertising agency, and retained much of what I learned there. 

Hey, I blogged on paper long before there were blogs, and I have all the paper journals and notes I wrote.  I have tests and essays from when I was seven and eight years old all the way to the present.  Packratitis does occassionally serve a purpose.   In reading back through the notes I took and the comments and observations and questions I had back then, I've found that while I haven't changed that much in what I felt was good marketing, the market itself has changed to be aligned more with what I once (and still) thought was right.

Evocative ads attract more attention.  Fewer words, more image sells best on billboards.  Who has time to read at 65 miles an hour?  A flash of image with a distinctive logo will last much longer than a full paragraph in ten foot letters.

I still rememebr clearly the absolute best billboard ad I ever saw:  Coca Cola's.  It was a huge bed of square ice cubes, slightly melted with a partially opened bottle of Coke resting on it, sweat beading the sides of the glass bottle.  That's it.  No words other than the label on the soda bottle, but very suggestive.  Everytime I saw that, even if I wasn't thirsty, I thought about getting a Coke.  And here it is, more than 30 years later, and I still remember that ad clearly.  The top of the bottle leaned to the left, and you just wanted to reach out and pluck that bottle off the sign, or take the next exit to buy one.

So, I've been browsing the links from re:invention, and Small Business Trends, and finding such gems as Ageless Marketing.

Mr. Wolfe eloquently speaks the thoughts I want to articulate.  And he taps into resources I hadn't found.  His blog will certainly be one I will read often.

Thanks to his link, I can read the Hartbeat by the Hartman Group, which addresses an issue near and dear to our own hearts right now - trends effecting the Cracked Cauldron.  His July 20th post contains this quote which I think speaks directly to the heart and soul of the Cracked Cauldron:  "The Hartman Group says the carb infatuation has already peaked and set to begin eroding down to a few hard core types because it lacks “cultural legitimacy.” This is symbolized by the words of one consumer who said, "I'm done with low-carb...Try watching your carbs, let alone eliminating your carbs, and you realize you're involved in this no-win game where you can't really enjoy eating. It's just wrong."

There will always be people who adhere to one diet or another, and at the Cracked Cauldron, we've made efforts to provide for their needs:  wheat-free, sugarless, gluten-free, lower carb, vegan, nut-free.  We'll always have a few yummies these people can enjoy with less guilt.  We've worked hard over the past nine months to create recipes that are flavorful, pretty, and within special dietary restrictions just for them.

The Atkins diet matures, it isn't all zero-carb induction phase.  As people stay on it longer, they get to add carbs back into their diet.  This may account for some of the decline in people participating in it.

But whether it's a recoiling from such a restrictive diet, as quoted from Ageless Marketing, or dieters entering a new phase of the diet, more people will be eating breads and grain-based foods.

Heh - the pastry and cookie market never suffered during the height of the Atkins diet craze.

That was an interesting bit of information from Ageless Marketing, but not the most important.

The important bits come from the information Mr. Wolfe presents about the demographics of society, how there are more old people living, and how that will change spending habits.

All I need to do is find the right words to tell the right people about the Cracked Cauldron.

If you're old enough to remember the days when children were sent scampering down to the corner bakery to buy the day's bread before dashing off to school, you'll remember the crusty rolls with the dense soft interiors, the sweet oversized madeleines dipped in rich chocolate, the airy cream puffs, and the spicy little cookies the baker always slipped you to add to your lunch.  You'll remember the weekly trip to buy that loaf of brown bread that was sliced all week long for sandwiches, and sneaking a slice after school to dampen it and sprinkle on sugar for a furtive treat yummy treat.

And you'll remember the day you were allowed to join the adults at the coffee or tea table, to have a cup of rich fragrant coffee poured for you and a choice of elegant coffee cakes or tea breads spread out before you.

We want to bring some of these adult delights back into our part of the world, and alongside the memories, we offer tempting indulgences that will build new memories for the next generation - exotic cookies, decadent brownies and bars and cheesecakes, and all the beverages to accompany them.

We just have to find the words to share with our community what we offer them.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Busy Day Today 

Manager will be a busy young woman today.

She plugged good numbers  into her pro forma sheets and other such mathish and financial paperwork to print out for review by J. and the WBC in preparation for visiting her loan officer.

She will contact our Chief Flour Monkey for a formal resume.  She will contact C. for the pre-lease agreement, and she needs to fill out her OK Tax forms and mail them in today.

A friend who runs a gift shop lent her some "after opening" books on marketing and store set-up.  With those books and the course materials for the MBA J. lent her, she'll be a busy camper.

I'm hoping she sees the loan officer by Wednesday, but I'll settle for Friday.

We went over the price of the equipment with catalogs in hand to be sure we were getting high and low prices, and managed to shave off $50,000.00 of what we thought we needed.  The remaining $200,000.00 will give her a 6 month operating edge before she needs to start making money, and it also allows for the possibility of only needing my house as collateral in the loan.  This is a Good Thing.

We found 2 other guinea pigs sources for taste testing our baked goods.

Manager also said J. wanted to try the bacon bread with cheese in it, so I've been sampling cheeses to find the one that will hold up best in the bread.  I cannot make it low carb with the cheese in it though - cheese inhibits the rise of the bread, and using wheat protein and wheat gluten in place of flour already causes some rise problems.  Adding cheese results in a loaf that is dense,  gummy, and prone to quick mold.  It also tastes kind of off, like pork gone bad.  However, using real flour bolstered with extra gluten (which does lower the carb total by a whopping 1 gram) lets it rise nicely.

Once I perfect the cheese formula for the bacon bread, we decided to overnight a small loaf of the bread to J. so he can sample it himself.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Sunset at the St. Louis cathedral. Posted by Hello

The hotel Manager stayed in while in New Orleans - St. Peter House. Posted by Hello

Koi! Manager found a fountain with pretty koi fish and photographed them for me. Posted by Hello

Manager's Back! 

Manager has returned from her trip to New Orleans, where she learned a lot.

For starters, she doesn't think Cracked Cauldron would succeed in New Orleans.  Not because it's a bad idea, or her pastries and baked goods are of a lesser quality, but because hte concept, which is imminently suitable for Oklahoma City Culture, wouldn't fit the lifestyle of the French Quarter.  She can't say for all of New Orleans, as she pretty much stayed in the French Quarter.

She did sample the atmosphere and fare at Cafe du Monde - an iced latte and beignets.  The powdered sugar on the beignets helped sweeten the coffee - Manager likes a little coffee in her sugar.  She said the beignets were yummy and the coffee bitter with the chickory.  That bitterness may appeal to a few people, but she hasn't decided if she'll keep some on hand all the time, or only offer it during the Carnival and Mardi Gras season, along with the King Cakes.

One thing that struck her during this was how plain the bakeries and eateries were.  They were functional with minimal decor, or at best, a plain European style.  The emphasis was not on the ambiance or even the food (she said some of the places she sampled had rather plain fare, not bad, but certainly nothing to remember), but rather on who was there to see and be seen. 

The Croissant D'Or, she said, had outstanding meat and cheese croissants, and she really liked the raspberry tart, but the little almond goodie she got - she waited too long to eat it, it had spoiled a bit in the heat as she walked around.

J. took her to a variety of places for lunches and dinners, so many, she wore her shoes completely out and had to buy a new pair while she was there.

They also went over her figures and made sure they were as accurate as possible.  He lent her his MBA textbooks for added work (she hasn't started post-graduate school yet, so the advanced text material will be useful to her). 

Thanks to his efforts (and to the people at the Women's Business Center, as well as others), she should be ready to finish the loan process on Monday.

And none too soon if she hopes to open in October.

She took lots of photos, too, so when I get to my photo tool tonight (assuming the cable service isn't down yet again - dial-up might have been slow, but in all the years I had it, I never had trouble connecting), I'll post a few.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

The Startup Garden 

I haven't read The Startup Garden yet, but I read an interview for it at re:invention, inc.

As I read these blogs on businesses and entreprenuership, duct tape marketing and so forth, I feel increasingly confident that what Manager is doing will be successful, that what she's done so far in preparation will make a favorable impression on those whom she'll be asking to invest in her business.

And invest is the right word to use.

KCC of  re:invention, inc. said there are levels of gift-giving and investment. Banks, after all, are profit centers. They don't want to lose the money they lend. So, according to re:invention, inc (paraphrasing Carol Nichols, co-founder of TWVF and more), these are the levels:

Gift: giving money to someone without a plan and an unproven business concept.

Placing a Bet: giving money to someone with a plan and a good idea, but no customers.

Making an Investment: giving money to someone who has a plan, a good idea, and a few initial customers. That's Manager.

A smart loan: Giving a 4% interest loan to someone with a 2 year old busniess with 20 customers and aggressively scaling to grow.

The first two are tough, not a lot of hope. But Manager's in the last 2 categories, where people are willing to invest. She's got some customers just begging her to open, she's got a great idea, and a solid way to implement it. All she needs is an adequate infusion of cash to jump-start it. Once it's going, it will show a profit, will be successful, will repay the investors, and will become an important part of the culture in Oklahoma City.

The idea is solid: a bakery and coffeehouse that provides a delicious little break in the day, one that lingers happily in the memory and the tastebuds, and can be carried home for extended indulgence. The ambiance is planned to induce the customers to linger to listen to the performers (or to be a performer), to enjoy pretty artwork (and a famous sports photographer has asked if we'll offer him hang space in the bakery - his sports photographs of the OU Sooners football team are breathtaking and amazing - and I don't like sports...), to sip special gourmet coffees or even just a plain cuppa joe and accompany it with a yummy handpie or a delicious pastry. People will want to return to repeat the experience. They'll share it with friends. They'll speed order from the internet and dash in for a special party pick-up or to fill a need for an unexpected guest at dinner, or just because they want to surprise their family with a special treat. Or maybe because they worked late and feel they and/or their family deserve the quality dinner with a handpie or soup, bread, and pastries the Cracked Cauldron offers.

The location is solid: just off a major highway, on a major thoroughfare, between some large office buildings, near several major crossroads, easy access, and highly visible. Not to mention several large hotels are nearby and 2, yes that was two large shopping malls and a major shopping strip mall are within easy walking distance (for anyone but Oklahomans, that is!). There's a well established comfortably incomed housing development just a bit south, making the Cracked Cauldron a clear choice for a place to relax, a place to party, or a place to grab a quick take-home treat or meal. And since we plan to put a map on the back of our business cards and advertising brochures and coupons, we will make it even easier for our customers to find us.

As a side note here: what is it with businesses who don't give their address on their ads? How do they expect customers to find them? Osmosis? I don't know how many times I've gotten a mail flyer with a coupon to someplace that sounded really interesting, only to be frustrated because they don't put on a phone number, or an address, and I can't find them anywhere. They don't have a web presence, they don't have a listing in the phone book because they've just opened, and I, the customer, will not spend my money calling the phone company to get their number, then spend even more time waiting for them to answer their phone just to shop there. If I've never been there before, these barriers will likely prevent me from going. Oh, sure, I might someday stumble across them, but unless they get wildly popular, chances are all I'll fidn then is a vacant building.

That happened with one of my favorite restaurants once. We accidentally stumbled on them driving down the street, ate there, loved it, and were never able to find it again because they didn't have a phone listing (this was pre-internet days) and no one we knew had ever heard of them. When we next accidentally drove in the same neighborhood, we came across it again - and all that was left was the sign. The building was long vacant. That was such a pity, because I think it would have been sucessful, if only we could have found it again.

Back on track: She has a loyal, if small, following of customers. The bacon bread we bake is in a higher demand than we can supply with a home kitchen. We get requests for orders of the Celtic Knot rolls that exceed what my home kitchen can prepare. The Mediterannean Olive Sandwich rolls disappear faster than we can bake them in my kitchen. Her cinnamon orange rolls are in demand for volunteer appreciation teas. Her former Latin classmates desperately want her to open up so they can enjoy the treats they taste-tested last year. There are a few small groups who want her to open so they can schedule their meetings there. And there are a few small businesses that want to order their company break snacks from her. And her brownie bottomed pies (especially the lemon meringue one) is a hit with a lot of people.

And it's not just that she already has customers counting the days until she opens, she has already planned for what is now coming out in the trade journals as the coming trend: individual portions. Her recipes and equipment are designed to cater to single sized portions of cakes, pies, tartlettes, breads, handpies, and tortes. According the Baking Business's latest magazine, portion control is playing an increasingly important part of the bakery business. People no longer want mega-sized cookies and family sized pies. They want bite sized cookies, and individual cakes so they don't over-eat. Since Manager also plans to list the nutritional content of her offerings, people will be able to make intelligent choices - or splurge on a little indulgence. She's already planning to fill a burgeoning need.

And our quest for a good coffee roaster makes a difference. As she's not tied to specific franching needs, she can order from specialty coffee roasters in small lots, customizing coffees to her customers' tastes. We can brew coffees to match the season and the specials she'll have.

Stepping into the Cracked Cauldron will be a sensuous sensory experience, a combination of sights, sounds, and smells that will be fulfilled in the tastes and textures we offer, and smoothed by outstanding customer service.

She has the basic management skills needed to run it, a good starting staff with experience, and she has some outstanding people (like J.) willing to fill in the gaps she has and to help educate her. More importantly, she doesn't hesitate to seek help early on, before things get out of hand.

She's young and healthy - a definite plus.

And then, the community service she wants to use is directly realted to her business, and one that will appeal to customers. She'll make it easy for them to participate in supporting their community through her and her Cracked Cauldron. In reading about women and small businesses (and many of her customers will be women), women customers are more likely to frequent places which make them feel good about being there. Knowing their vanilla latte and sweet fairy cake will contribute back to their community in a visble way mitigates the guilt of that indulgence.

All she lacks is time - she doesn't have the 2 years of operating the Cracked Cauldron already behind her.

Homeless Resources 

I know Manager wants to eventually be in a position to provide beds for homeless people, and last year would not have been soon enough.

Living as she has been in a college town, she knows that housing can be had for $400.00 a month. Not great housing, not even good housing, but tolerable.

With minimal outside assistance, she lived her college years on less than $600.00 a month - rent, utilities, food, transporation, and holiday and birthday gifts for her friends.

Some of the places she lived were made unpleasant by neighbors, but the dwellings themselves were acceptable, wind and rain-proofed, heated, cooled, with hot and cold running water, functioning toilet and shower, good lighting and working electric outlets, unbroken windows, working refrigerator and stove with oven, working smoke alarms, and doors that were sturdy and locked.

They were small. They were shabby. They were most definitely on the "wrong side of the tracks". The walls were thin, the neighbors were often drunken or drugged, or quick to be violently angry. But they were solid shelter.

A surprising number of such little places exist, but they are hard to find.

For many of the newly homeless, they are probably appalling.

These homeless people usually come from formerly middle class homes in good neighborhoods. Having their tree TP'd is the worst random violence they've probably ever seen before outside the news.

They don't know what services are available for them, how to live really cheaply, how to recycle effectively, and most of all, they don't know how they can get back to where they were just a month or two or three ago.

They often still have jobs, and are still in that mindset that tomorrow, they'll find a place, tomorrow something will happen to rescue them from their dire situation. They may even have already taken time to visit the state welfare office, only to discover that even though they are homeless, because they still have a job (often a well-paying one), they don't qualify for any kind of assistance.

They may simply need help in debt restructuring, help in finding that cheaper place to live, a little financial help in getting the deposits paid on that cheaper place, and maybe some short-term help to get past whatever it was that reduced them to homelessness.

These are the people we're initially targeting with help for several reasons. The primary one is that they are the least likely to qualify for most welfare and homeless services as they are often still well employed. Welfare kicks in only after a person has nothing left with which to rebuild their lives. We want to help before things get that desperate, while the help they need is actually quite minimal but will make a tremendous difference. They are the least knowledgeable about resources available to them because they haven't lived in poverty before. They haven't been homeless for long, so it will be easier to get them housed again. Many landlords look at previous housing history, and the longer they've been homeless, the less likely a landlord will be to approve their rental. They still have jobs so they are more likely to remain housed once they are off the streets, and the efforts we will have to expend on their behalf are, quite frankly, more in our affordability range at first.

To that end, we have been gathering information on low-cost rental properties, debt consolidation information and debt restructuring, tips on how to live bountifully on less money, compiling lists of agencies and companies that can give them short term specialized help[1], packets of coupons that can make their transition easier, and lists of places where they can indulge for very little money [2].

As an adjunct to this, we want to provide information about the homeless to those who aren't. Too many people believe all homeless people are con artists, drug addicts, mentally (and therefore violently) unstable, or are homeless by choice. We admit that this is true of some of the homeless people. But it isn't true of the majority of them. We want to provide information on how people become homeless, how to avoid becoming homeless oneself, and on ways to help those who are homeless and willing to do what it takes to get away from that.

One of the ways we plan to do this is with stories. We'll have a place where we gather the stories of how people became homeless (with photos, if they allow it), and hopefully with stories of how they beat it and rebuilt their lives. I'm thinking we'll do this as a scrapbook people can read as they enjoy our pastries and coffee. Putting faces to the homeless will make it more personal, and I know that for me, I like knowing who it is I'm helping. I have problems donating to organizations where I can't clearly identify the recipients, or where I feel too much of the money is going to administrative costs and too little of it trickles down to the recipients.

Our customers will have the opportunity to participate in the quest to reduce homelessness through a variety of means: they can sponsor a meal for a homeless person, or can purchase coupon booklets of meals to give to homeless people, they can add to the list of landlords willing to rent low-cost housing to homeless people, they can donate personal hygiene items to put in carebags for the homeless, or they can pick up information on how to make their own carebags, or to operate a Sandwich Saturday type program, or where to donate clothes for the homeless (City Rescue Mission is by far the best place for that), and other things we haven't clearly articulated yet.

By putting faces and stories to the homeless people, we hope to move them out of the faceless mass and make it personal to our customers. Homeless people aren't another species. They aren't aliens. They are people who could be our siblings, our parents, our children. They could be our neighbors. All the gods forbid - they could be us someday, just one or two paychecks from now.

Those who've been homeless longer require more active assistance, especially depending on how long they've been homeless and why.

I fully admit that helping those people who are homeless through criminal activities, drugs, or mental instability is currently beyond us, other than to list those agencies which are structured to provide help to them.

As we grow in profits at the Cracked Cauldron, we hope to expand our efforts to help the homeless, and yes, we do have expansion plans, starting with providing a mail drop so the homeless have an address for mail, and providing lockers where they can store their personal belongings while they are at work or looking for work, and offering computer access (we hope to have the Cracked Cauldron set up for wi-fi for our customers, so providing this for the homeless will only mean acquiring computers for them to use).

From the beginning, we hope to offer employment to the homeless, probably as a second income so they can get their lives back in order.

We're always open to suggestions, too.

[1] Debt management and budgeting information and counseling, how to avoid the traps of credit cards and "payday loan" places, health care management, legal aid, and assitance in any of the number of reason why they became homeless.

[2] little workshops on living luxuriously on practically nothing, where to eat out for a family of 4 on less than $10.00 (it can be done, I still do it regularly) how to pinch a penny so it gives change, that sort of thing.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004


We were contacted by the real owner of Brown's Bakery, and discovered that things we'd thought were so really aren't.

We'd like to take this opportunity to make an apology to Mr. Brown of Brown's Bakery - and the wonderful and loyal customers that alerted him to our misinformation.

What happened is we got hold of a little paper that described some of the changes that were happening in the area where Brown's Bakery is - street renovations, the hospital expansions, potential parking problems for Kaiser's, that sort of thing. It sounded very legit, and some of that information was repeated in a regular newspaper - the Journal Record. So, we took the little paper as being accurate. We called the number listed for Brown's Bakery in it instead of doing the sensible thing and looking them up in the phone book, and spoke to a well-spoken man who seemed knowledgeable, and told us the things we'd said in an earlier post - which we edited for accuracy along with an apology there. We don't want to be a source of inaccuracy so we removed the wrong things.

We like Brown's Bakery, and were dismayed at what we'd read. They've got the best Devil Dogs we've ever eaten! And the people behind the counter (most often a very sweet woman) have always been friendly and helpful each time we've gone in there. Even after we open the Cracked Cauldron we intend to still be customers there occassionally, and to refer people to them because they offer goodies we don't plan to have. Not to mention the fact that they are open different hours.

We thought we had accurate information, and I'm glad that we don't have a very high readership. I shudder to think how much worse it could have been.

This highlights more than ever the need to verify facts even from sources that look and sound legit.

We've been using this blog to chronicle our experiences as bumbling entreprenuers - and you've just seen one of our biggest bumbles so far.

We are truly grateful there are people out there watching over us to make sure we don't make major mistakes. Bless you all.

Once again, we deeply apologize to Mr. Brown, Brown's Bakery, and all their loyal customers.

Monday, July 12, 2004


Manager spoke with the Women's Business Center again, and this time, the counselor was more open to what she's wanting to do.

Part of it is that they spent more time talking about the goals and operations of the Cracked CAuldron, and part of it is that the counselor has realized a bakery isn't a restaurant, and different statistics apply.

And part of it is the reason Manager wants to open the Cracked Cauldron: offering resource information to homeless people, helping feed them, and offering those who need it employment.

The charitable goals of the Cracked Cauldron are what's motivating the counselor to help Manager get pre-approved for the SBA loan. I think Manager is going for the 7A loan, as it seems to best suit her needs.

If the equity of my house is enough, then she's good to go. If not, she'll need to sell stock to make up the difference.

I've had the house for 7 years, and made substantial plumbing improvements on it. I bought it well below market value, and have paid above the basic mortgage payment for years. There should be just enough to squeeze by. We might be S10-15,000 short, though.

It shouldn't be too hard to sell stock, should it?

Not when the bakery business is booming as it is, with people wanting homestyle breads. Else why would some of the biggest commercial bakeries be offering "hearth-style" breads?

The low-carb diets haven't effected the retail baker much at all, although it seems to have sharply hurt the wholsesale bakers. Blue collar workers, according to the latest Bake Trends report from Milling and Baking news, are buying more fresh breads and fresh cakes from small bakeries than ever. And single serving cakes, muffins, pies, and breads are becoming increasingly popular.

One of the main selling points of the Cracked Cauldron has been that single serving breads and cakes would be a staple.

So, we're opening the Cracked Cauldron at the right time, and I feel we're doing it in the right place.

With the success of the Cracked Cauldron we'll be giving back to the community in significant ways.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Tres Leches cake. It looks very homely, but the flavor has been approved by a friend whose step family is Hispanic, both American and Mexican. She says it tastes exactly like the "gooey" cakes her family serves at birthdays. Posted by Hello

Herb roll up close. I thought I'd snap another picture before they were all gone. Posted by Hello

A bowl of herb rolls - all that are left of the batch, anyway. They are excellent with cream cheese. Posted by Hello

Thursday, July 08, 2004


Tomorrow, a co-worker retires, and I will bring a cake, all full of luscious carbs and caffeine. I'm thinking maybe a rich pound cake with a chocolate glaze and garnished with fresh fruit?

And, as if that weren't enough - we're having a Tea Party tomorrow night to taste test several cookie recipes, so we'll be baking cookies today and tomorrow for this event.

Only about a dozen people will be there, which is good since the house is small until we finish packing away Manager's things. My kitchen is chest high in rows of boxes full of Manager's kitchen equipment, which, of course, we must keep, and must find a storage place for so long as she lives here.

All the rest of her things have comfortably fit into the rest of the house, but we both are cooks who like having the right equipment.

The weekend should be "restful" in that we have no baking plans, and no bakery work to be done, just lawn mowing and the other work of life.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004


Manager has a meeting with the Women's Business Center again today.

They'd scheduled it for yesterday, which I thought odd, as most government agencies were closed to celebrate the 4th.

It turns out they were indeed closed, but the counselor had gone in anyway because she'd scheduled Manager's meeting that day. Manager emailed her to find out if the Center was actually open, and received an immediate return email explaining what had happened. Manager suggested they postpone the meeting, to which her counselor heartily agreed.

They'll be discussing other funding sources today. A bank loan is great, but if she can also secure grants or alternative funding, that will help a lot.

Manager has selected an artist to design the logo for the business card and signage, and we're waiting to hear back from her.

C., who owns the property on NW Expressway, will be getting Manager a copy of the pre-lease agreement today or tomorrow (whenever his lawyer makes the copy).

Everything is ready, all we need now is the financing...

Once the money is approved, things will certainly pop.

I'm working on the marketing package and annual sales schedule so we can work out the bake schedule and basic supplies.

Friday, July 02, 2004

A Mixed Bag 

First, the sad news. Our sick ferret died early this morning. We'd already decided he couldn't be healed and were planning to euthanize him today so he wouldn't continue to suffer. He did eagerly take chicken broth and ferretone before he died, giving us some hope that he would recover. We will bury him with all the other critters who've died over the years this evening.

On the business side, Manager will talk to C. about getting a copy of the pre-lease agreement so we can go over it, and discuss it with an attorney and show it to the bank loan officer.

C. said he was hoping his attorney could get the lease agreement to less than 100 pages. That seems rather daunting, to have to read and review that many pages. It must be a very detailed agreement. I mean very detailed. My mortgage papers were only 20 pages long, and I thought that was excessively wordy.

We'll see. She should have that in a few days. With the holiday weekend, I suppose it won't be until next week sometime.

Manager is flying to New Orleans week after to next to speak to J. and gain a greater understanding of stock use and financing. She wants J. to be a member of the Board of Directors because he sees more clearly the future of the Cracked Cauldron. Someone with a long sight, like J., is useful because he sees the Big Picture while she concentrates on the minutae and daily operations. We are very, very glad to know J. He's been a friend for more than a decade, and he's a very trusted and trustworthy person. Not to mention he doesn't mind that we impose shamelessly on him for help in this. In fact, he's kind of, sort of the inspiration for even opening the Cracked Cauldron.

That Manager is excited about seeing New Orleans, even in an off-season, is a bonus. She hopes to visit the Cafe du Monde, famous for their cafe au lait and beignets, and to discover exactly what a pressed sandwich is.

We won't be offering beignets, but we will offer cafe au lait. Cafe du Monde's is made with chicory coffee. Sampling it will let Manager know if it should be a part of the regular menu. Even if it's not something Okies will like on a regular basis, we hope to offer it during Carnival and Mardi Gras.

As for the pressed sandwiches, J. recommended them. Manager really doesn't want to follow the stereotype of bakery/deli that is so common around here, but pressed sandwiches sound as if they would fit in with her desire to offer "hand pies". Hand pies are meat or veggie pies, like pierogi, Cornish Pasties, empanadas, calzone, spanakopita, and the like - dinner pies that can be held and eaten out of hand. Our Thanksgiving Dinner Pies are like that. J. thinks these pressed sandwiches will fit in, and Manager will try them to see.

In addition to all of the business end of things, she will get to spend some time with J., who besides being extremely knowledgeable is also a very fun companion. And - no matter how dreary the talk of stock dividends and pro forma spread sheets and BoD management can be, J. has a way of making them understandable and interesting. Manager has the advantage of me in that she already mostly understands much of this.

She will return from the trip filled with knowledge and inspiration.

And, she'll want to ensure the Cracked Cauldron is a success so she can return to New Orleans for a real visit. I think, even if she didn't spend any time discussing business there, the trip would be an incentive to work hard to make the Cracked Cauldron a success.

I know she sometimes gets a little discouraged because people don't always taker her seriously, either because she's opening a bakery or because she's young.

I can't even count the number of times people who should know better (consultants at the SBA and Women's Business Center, and other professionals with whom she's had to deal) have told her she will fail because of her age or because of her business choice.

"Oh, restaurants have such a high failure rate. You'll be out of business in a year"

"At your age, you should be working for someone else, not chasing dreams."

Of course, they all want her to open the bakery near them. So, if they're so convinced she'll fail, why do they want her to locate near them?

I think she'll be very successful. There aren't enough full line bakeries in town that make all their breads completely on the premises.

St. Anthony's just bought some of the land around the hospital to expand into. Kaiser's Ice Cream Parlor was exempted for the acquisition because it is a registered historical landmark. My understanding is that they plan to re-design the streets through there (desperately needed - there are several 5 street intersections) and renovating the area.


I was contacted by the real owner of Brown's Bakery and learned that what we'd read and the person to whom I spoke were not entirely on the up-and-up. I called the number in the paper we'd read. I should have used the phone book instead of relying on that paper.

It was a premier issue of a little 2 page paper called Community Business Trends that was left on our door. There was enough truth in it to make it believable - because the city does have plans to renovate the streets in the area, and St. Anthony's is expanding around there, and there is a question of lack of parking remaining for Kaiser's, so it seemed as if the rest was also true. I should have researched it further than I did, and I do apologize for making this mistake.

This post has been edited to remove the inaccurate information.

We apologize to Mr. Brown and to all his loyal customers who pointed out the false information we had.

I love the internet! When something wrong is posted, there are wonderful people out there who don't hesitate to correct us, and I for one, appreciate this.

I'm hoping this was just a prank (a very bad and wrong prank) by someone who knows us, and now I'm very glad this blog has such a low readership.

Brown's has long been a local favorite. I personally think they have the best Devil Dogs ever, and the people in there have always been friendly. I selfishly hope they remain strongly in business for decades to come because they're just down the street from where I work, and I'd miss being able to pop in occassionally to buy a bagel or a Devil Dog. I, too, am a loyal, if not a very regular or big spending customer, of Brown's Bakery.

I thank whoever brought this inaccuracy to our attention, and once again apologize for posting it.

Thursday, July 01, 2004


I made 2 loaves of Bacon Bread last night, experimenting with moisture levels.

One had an ounce more water than the other (and yes, I adjusted for the humidity levels). That one rose with a smooth, rounded shape. The one with less water rose lumpy and uneven. Neither fell in the baking. They both got a nice oven bloom, but the lumpy one remained lumpy looking.

Slicing them revealed very similar interiors. I was expecting the lumpy one to me gummy on the inside, but it wasn't. They were both moist, sliced well and thin.

So, for future reference, slightly more water makes a prettier, but not necessarily better, loaf of bacon bread.

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