Saturday, August 28, 2004
We're baking cookies and a cake for a local gift shop, and also baking cookies to travel along the way as we visit the bakeries in Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, Roanoke, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Waterbury, Boston, Pittsburg, Columbus, Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Springfield. Yes, a lengthy round trip to see bakery floor plans, speak with other bakers, and seek a solid decorating theme.
Manager has a color, and she knows what she doesn't want. She has a vagueish idea of what she wants, but nothing cohesive.
We ate at Deli on the Labyrinth today - a difficult to get to Jewish-style (sort of) sandwich shop. The poor employee was the only one there, so we cut her a lot of slack. She made excellent sandwiches and took care of things amazingly well. The decor was sort of what Manager wanted, but - not so cold. The walls are white, and there's a lot of exposed metal - galvanized steel and copper counters, exposed galvanized steel air conduits, and that makes the shop seem cold and - anihilistic? maybe.
But the floor is a warm brown, the tables are delightful mosaics, and the entry is a charming walk with a circle garden enclosed inside an iron fence of cutout dancers, and several outdoor tables. The back of the shop is another garden, mostly concrete, but there is a labyrinth, and a vine-bedecked arch, and more outdoor seating. Off a bit is a private, grassy party area. The outside is extremely enticing and appealing to adventurous people, the inside promises to be the same, but hides its charms under the cold white and exposed galvanized steel.
So, this trip will help finalize decorating ideas, and work-flow plans for setting up the kitchen area.
Manager met with the loan officer, and brought in samples of baked goods - Mediterannean Olive Bread, Bacon Bread, pumpkin cookies, Hot Drops, nutmeg angelfood cake. The loan officer is going on vacation, and will try to expedite things. She's the only one at her bank who processes SBA loans.
We have a possible third baker to help out. Once we have the loan, we can start building the bakery - buying the rest of the equipment, completing the decor, hitting the PR, and contacting our ever-growing list of people who want to be notified as soon as the bakery opens.
That list includes all the librarians at the local library branch, the staff in 2 of the nearby hotels, the employees at 2 large call centers, many students and professors at 3 local colleges, and the employees of 2 local hospitals. Every day it seems we're adding more people to the list of those who can't wait for us to open.
And we haven't even started actively advertising yet, just casual conversation, and sharing samples.
Thursday, August 26, 2004
We may not be trend-setters, but apparently we've tapped into the flow of the trends when it comes to baking. According to information on Baking Business, "The two biggest trends dominating the current bread industry are the rise of premium breads and the importance of manufacturing breads that cater to specific dietary needs."
And what have we been discussing all along?
Premium breads and breads that recognize specific diets, such as Celiac Disease, diabetes, and assorted low fat, low calorie, and/or low carbohydrate diets, not to mention allergies such as soy, nut, wheat.
The big trends are:
Low carbohydrate. We've dealt with that by creating new recipes that have naturally fewer carbohydrates than the common white bread. by using wheat gluten and wheat protein, we can lower those carbohydrates further. We won't market them as low carbohydrate because the FDA hasn't yet made a ruling on what constitutes "low carbohydrate", but our nutritional labels will list the total and net carbs per serving.
Ethnic. Heh. We've got that one well handled, with our rotation of focus on the breadsd of different continents each month. There's more to Chinese bread than the fried biscuits served on the Chinese buffet!
Organics. Since we plan to ourchase as many of our ingredients locally as we can, and to use organics where feasible, we pretty much have this covered, too.
Cookies. Have we got cookies covered! We plan to bake fresh cookies in small batches so we have a constant source of hot-from-the-oven fresh cookies, both for sampling and purchasing. We have many, many cookie recipes, some collected from friends (one baker friend gave us a book with over 1,000 cookie recipes he uses in it!), some found in historical documents (the King's Cookies that are such a hit where-ever we go), and some we created ourselves (the chocolate swirl chocolate chip cookies and the Hot Drops, among others). Cookies - covered!
Individual portions. Since we started out thinking small portions, we have already purchased many individual sized bread, cake, and tart pans, our cookies will be bite-sized, and all the pastries will be individual portioned, we have "individual portions" well covered. Our savory handpies will be meal-sized individual portions.
Not mentioned, but a trend we see locally, is the desire of customers to know where their food comes from. Food origins. People want to know where we get our flour, where we buy our beef and chicken, where the cheese and milk come from, where the coffee beans are grown, and because we plan to buy as much from the original source as possible, we'll be able to tell them this. With recent scares in Mad Cow Disease and Chicken Flu, we can honestly tell our customers we know where our beef and chicken originate, we know the ranchers who breed and raise them, we know the conditions under which they were raised and what they were fed. We'll do the same with our mushrooms, cheese, cream, butter, pecans, shortenings, flours, sugars, assorted vegetables, and whatever else we can. Not only will it benefit our neighbors, it will reassure our customers.
All of this - our dedication to local foods, local artists, and our cusotmers - is symbolized by the color we chose and the logo of the cracked cauldron.
That cauldron is cracked because it overflows with the bounty we offer.
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Now, we wait.
The loan information is away.
We hope to hear about it soon, but banks move on their schedule, not ours.
On the emailing list we started last Sunday afternoon, we have added more people. That list is now over 100 strong. Most of the people on it represent at least one other person - a spouse, a significant other, a parent, a co-worker. Some represent an entire office - between 5 and 20 people. Others represent families of 3 to 6 people. One address actually equals 4 college sized classrooms, and we'll be adding other college professors as soon as we speak to them to get their preferred mailing address.
The list is an interesting blend of mailing and emailing addresses.
I can say with reasonable confidence that our emailing list represents at least 300 people who are just waiting for us to open our doors.
When we get closer to the Opening Date, we will email them and ask for RSVPs to our Guinea Pig Gala. Not only will they get treated to our baked goods and local music, we expect to print buttons, mugs, and calendars (with specials) just for them.
Monday, August 23, 2004
Many things have been accomplished today.
Manager spoke with the loan officer and sent her the information to get started on the loan process.
Our Chief Flour Monkey gave us her resume and spoke of another baker she knows looking for work. She's convinced we'll have enough work to need another baker. And she's friends with another loan officer at the bank Manager is using, and has been saying good things about us there.
Our future landlord will be getting the pre-lease information to the bank today. His attorney had a reasonable explanation for his delays, and we're OK with that.
The Marketing Outline is complete (barring a few annoying typos). A more detailed Marketing Plan is almost complete - filling in dates and names now.
The CPA will meet with Manager about stock and taxes.
A glitch arises in that it looks as if the ex-attorney incorporated the Cracked Cauldron as a "C" corporation, and not the Subchapter "S" he was hired to do. If that proves to be the case, Manager will sue the ex-attorney for all related expenses in correcting his mistakes. We can't afford to eat the expenses and damages he's cost us. Manager should know later today.
Manager is purchasing our domain name today as well, and working with the hosting company to get everything set up.
Now, if we can find a good supplier of Oklahoma Red T-shirts, we'll be set. Oklahoma Red is an browny orangeish pink color, close to rust in color, but not so orange. Some people call it brick red - but that's darker - perhaps a faded brick red might come close. That's the color we've chosen to be our primary color.
We chose this color for several reasons: Panera and Starbuck's both use green and brown as their colors, Panera's is paler; it's a quintessentially Oklahoma color (although I have it on good authority that Georgia clay is the same reddish brown color); it's a good color for baked goods, both to show them off and to remind people of them; and few other people use that color. It's a neutral enough color that we can liven it up with greens and yellows, and contrast it with the black of our logo.
Oh, yeah, since we'll be making collectible buttons, we're also purchasing (as part fo the Marketing Budget) a button maker.
Things are beginning to move swiftly now.
Manager has a cell phone so she can remain in contact while we take the Bakery Road Trip we planned months ago to finalize design ideas, and speak with bakers across the country. We've added a few new contacts in to visit from the Baker's Trade Show. And - Hooray! - we discovered we have friends living along both routes we will be taking to the East Coast and back - it looks carrot shaped, our road plans do - a long narrow loop.
We've met all of these people on line, and this will be the first time we'll me seeing them in person. Several of them are potential commission artists, all of them have known about the Cracked Cauldron from its inception and have supported us in our endeavors to open it.
As we travel, we'll be able to thank them for their support as well as develope a network of baker contacts.
Best of all, we found an inexpensive car lot to park in while we're in Boston. $35.00 a day for parking just curls our frugal souls, so I found a secure lot that's only $4.00 a day. I can take public transportation back to the hotel. And Boston is geographically so small we can walk anywhere we need to go.
I understand the Lord of the Rings exhibit will be there, and while I have no plans to visit it, perhaps I can find a gift-type shop and see if they have any nifty goodies to secure as gifts.
The only indulgences I plan are that Chocolate Buffet that's supposed to be near the hotel and eating some really fresh seafood. Manager hates eating things that live in water, but I like lobster and crab and such, and hope to find a good place to indulge. Cheap, of course, because even though it's an indulgence, I'm still frugal.
Sunday, August 22, 2004
We started compiling a mailing list this afternoon so we'll have the addresses and emails of our current customers to invite them to a special Open House as a "thank you" for their support of the Cracked Cauldron, their "guinea pigness" in testing our recipes, and their constant whining about what was taking so long.
There are already over 50 people on the list - just from the folks we saw or spoke with today - actually, just within the last 5 hours.
If you're reading this blog and aren't sure you're on this list, email us your contact info (mailing address only if you want to receive an invitation via Post Office, otherwise, email is fine).
We will only use this information for the Open House invitation.
At the Open House, you will be invited to join our emailing list, and may choose to sign up for a hard copy mailing list.
For those who want a sample of what we'll be providing, we've agreed to provide the treats at the 1 year anniversary of a gift shop, Once Upon a Silver Moon whose owner has given us much valuable support and information about local businesses.
Drop by her shop on September 1st, see what sorts of lovely gifts she has (handmade soaps, custom perfumes and incenses, candles, candle holders, semi-precious gems, gorgeous carved wooden staffs and wands, jewelry, darling handmade stuffed critters), sample cake and cookies from the Cracked Cauldron, and have a great time!
Friday, August 20, 2004
Manager spent her final day in Nevada as a gawking tourista, and had fun with it.
She also found a bakery there.
Naturally, it was in the Paris Hotel, a little French bakery.
She said their croissants were decent.
Manager's flight will arrive late tonight.
Monday, whether she's heard back from the Women's Business Center and the SBA or not, she'll go talk to her loan officer at her bank. She is tired of waiting to get the loan done, and she needs to get the money soon to satisfy the growing number of customers she has.
I had several people ask me this morning, on my errands as I went to work, how they went about buying stock. They won't be large investors, but they're showing their confidence and support by just asking to buy stock, even if all they buy are 1 or 2 shares. One is a manager at a UPS Store, another works at 7-11, and several are co-workers here.
They aren't wealthy people. That they are willing to invest what they have to spare bespeaks a great deal of confidence in the Cracked Cauldron.
Thursday, August 19, 2004
Yesterday was the last day of the Trade Show.
Manager said a great many booths had already packed up and left. The remaining booth-keepers were therefore very friendly and talkative.
She attended several roundtables, and garnered much wisdom from other bakers.
OK - a surprising lot of it she already knew and had already prepared for.
A lot of what she learned was that she definitely doesn't want the Cracked Cauldron to do specialty decorated cakes, like anniversary, wedding, or birthday. The most she plans to do in cake decorating are the specialty cupcakes, the little fairy and doll and critter cupcakes. Most everything else will be "village baker" style - the breads and savories and sweets one would buy regularly from the corner bakery.
She said many of the bakers with whom she spoke were very encouraging about what she plans, and there were a few who were contemplating opening their own bakeries rather than continue to work for someone else. These were inspired by her own story of opening the Cracked Cauldron.
Another interesting thing she learned is that 85% of the bakeries are owned and operated by older men. Even among the woman-owned bakeries, she was squarely in the minority.
We knew baking was a male-dominated field, we just weren't aware how male-dominated it was. That domination may account for some of the treatment she received at the Trade Show - the booth folk were targeting odler men for their sales spiels and demonstrations. Good thing she's learned to be bold and to approach them for information. Once they realized she owned a bakery, they talked to her. But she had to make the opening moves.
There wasn't anything outstanding to grab her interest that she hadn't already seen or gotten more information for, so this last day was spent mostly visiting with people.
This was a good thing, actually, because Manager needed to talk to other bakers about the trivial things, and to make friends in her career field. And she learned a few of them would be attending the mini Trade Show being hosted here in Oklahoma City this September.
Wednesday, August 18, 2004
Manager said things went well.
Except for the indoor silo container people, who totally blew her off and wouldn't talk to her. She's hoping to find a different company who provides indoor storage for bulk grains and flours and sugars and such. You storage people? You totally lost our business with your rudeness. Manager has your card, and she's noted your attitude on it for future reference. Anyone who ever asks her about storage containers will be directed to some other company, and if anyone asks about your company specifically, well, you get what you give.
The other downside was when she approached the Retail Baker's Association about joining them, and was not only ignored by the people manning the booth, but had some of the people roll their eyes at her when she tried to get their attention.
Not very professional or very pleasant to experience, I'm sure. We're not judging the entire organization by the people they hired to man their booth, but it does cause us to question their professionalism, and to doubt it would be a beneficial organization for us. If we hadn't had such an enthusiatic recommendation for a sub-branch of their organization, their behavior at the trade show would certainly put us off their organization.
In stark contrast, we have Baking Business, a site we've relied heavily on for much of our indutry information. Manager said the people manning their booth were extremely friendly and helpful, particularly when they learned she was starting a new bakery. They offered her all sorts of brochures and journals, reports to add to her business plan, pamphlets, advice and even references of other bakers to whom she could talk. They were exactly what she'd expected from the Retail Bakers Association, and didn't get over there.
Like the Baking Business people, you dried fruit people are great! Manager said she loved your booth, the people manning it were helpful, knowledgeable, and outgoing. She also said the fruit was well dried and preserved with a good flavor - just what we were looking for for the breads and cakes. You've gained a customer!
I don't have names, or I'd say more and put a link to the side. I'll do that when Manager returns, and I've gone through her notes and business cards.
Manager found many other very helpful people at the various booths. That only makes sense, since, after all, the vendors are at the trade show to get new business and demonstrate new products and developments, right?
The fruit people stand out for being especially interactive and charming, while the container people were the opposite.
There were several companies with ovens that were impressively large - Manager thinks one of them was larger than her first apartment, certainly larger than her hotel room. We don't need ovens that large, as we are a local bakery, not a nationwide wholesaler. But she said it was fascinating, watching them demonstrate these behemoths.
There were some minor problems changing hotels. Manager says even though both hotels have a 4 star rating, the Hilton deserves it, and Circus Circus doesn't. I let her vent about the long, slow check-in line, the lack of directions or maps to her 32nd floor room, the hidden light switches, the confusing nad misleading concourse - she got lost for over 45 minutes trying to find her way out of the hotel and couldn't find any hotel staff to direct her, or maps on the walls, or arrows painted on the floors, or even will-o-wisps to light her way through the maze. As a result, she missed far more of the trade show than she'd planned, and spent far too much for a bad pizza (they charged her a dollar extra for pizza sauce instead of plain tomato sauce!)
She was also amused by the fact that Las Vegas seems designed for couples and groups.
Manager detailed many times when people saw her alone and asked her if her boyfriend had abandoned her, or offered her sympathy for being alone. Even more amusing was the waitress who thought she was an ex-dancer.
She's been passing her cards out freely, and making some good, solid contacts.
Today is the last formal day of the show, and she plans to spend the entire day at it visiting the booths she missed, revisiting important to us booths, and attending some of the roundtable discussions.
As far as the local silk-screening and embroidery shops, Manager will have to visit them because their hours are incompatible with mine - most of them are open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. M-F only and I work from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. M-F, plus the hours I put in each day for the Cracked Cauldron.
I wonder why some businesses are not friendly to people who work day jobs? Don't they want our custom?
This is yet another reason we think the Cracked Cauldron will be popular - our hours are worker-friendly.
And, hey, the more popular we are, the more help we can offer to the homeless.
Tuesday, August 17, 2004
I just checked the site meter for this blog.
Usually, I get about 8-9 readers on it - and I'm one of them because I look at it to check comments and such.
Suddenly, there were 30 visitors today - and the bulk of them didn't come from the Trade Show, as I sort of expected, what with Manager handing our business cards with the blog address on them. Nope. Most of them came from Diane at Nobody Knows Anything.
She did a nifty little review of this poor blog, and suddenly our traffic trebled.
Her blog is a good one, well-written, entertaining, and if she'll visit Oklahoma, we'll ply her with carbs and coffee until she waddles back home.
Yes. Yes, I do bribe people with baked goodies. Because then they get addicted and crave more and then they become friends. And then they have a vested interest in our success because nobody else has our recipes. If they want to eat our goodies, they have to work at keeping our doors open; once they open, that is - and thank you, all you bribees, who are helping us to get those doors open in the first place!
The power of a cookie has no limits.
Manager called last night with a brief report of her first day at the Trade Show.
She made it through about half the exhibits, spoke with a number of people, and a few recognized her (or rather, the name of the Cracked Cauldron). She said she liked being able to put faces to the voices she'd been talking to.
She has samples that will be shipped here in the coming days. That ought to be interesting.
She saw ovens that would produce 8,000 loaves a minute. Amazing. And far, far too large for us.
She met with a lot of ingredient suppliers, but hasn't yet found a baker's shortening supplier that doesn't use soy. Since she's very allergic to soy, she's more sensitive to the allergy needs of others. Palm oil shortening would be a good, inexpensive substitute. It's flavorless, has a high burn point, blends well, and makes for a light product. Best of all, it passes the new federal regulations for the trans-fats that bakers will need to watch for, and include on future labels.
She was impressed with a dual laminator/extruder for dough - versatile enough to roll cookie dough, croissant dough, flakey pastry doughs, and extrude coils for shaped rolls. The extruder part will make the Celtic Knot Rolls a cinch to produce!
She met several companies that do nutritional analysis of foods as back-ups - we can't depend on the university's good will forever.
She said at first people sort of glossed over her as if she were invisible, but then she got bolder and started talking to them. Now, they talk to her and answer her questions, and many swiped her badge to send her more information.
After the Trade Show, she hung out in her room, watching the sun set, then went in search of dinner - probably at the Arby's she saw from her window.
Today, she'll be concentrating on looking for flour silos and storage containers, as well as bread slicers.
She'll be using at least 8 tons of hard red winter wheat a month. Sugar might be approaching that quantity as well. She'll need pest-resistent containers to store that in. The other flours and ingredients will be less in quantity, but no less in need of proper storage.
I know 8 tons doesn't sound like a lot, but when you consider that's only one of the types of flours she'll be using, since we'll also be using whole wheat, ryes, corn meals, cornstarch, wheat proteins, wheat glutens, soft spring wheat, cake flours, quinoa, and others so she can offer breads for most diets and allergies.
And then, there are the pies, pastries, cakes, and soups...those ingredients will also require storage containers.
On the non-business side, her cell phone has some genuine connectivity problems. She wonders if it's because of the storms in the area and the flooding. Las Vegas is in a valley, after all.
Monday, August 16, 2004
We found 2 places that offer silkscreening and embroidery locally. Later today (or this week, depending on how long it takes), since Manager is in another state, I will drop by and discuss needs and costs with them. The price differences between silkscreened aprons and embroidered ones may be significant at first. Then again, it may not be as wide a gap as we think.
The logo art is fairly simple, and yes, we put it on the temporary business cards Manager took with her - just wish we'd gotten the art in time to have plastered it on her luggage, prospectus, a T-shirt, a "goodies bag", and her umbrella (it's raining in Las Vegas.
Sunday, August 15, 2004
That's the term a future customer offered in place of "guinea pig".
It's not as "cutsey" as "Official Cracked Cauldron Guinea Pig", but it speaks out loud well: "I'm on the Menu Decision Team." It looks good on a button or a mug or a T-shirt.
Manager will be leaving to the Baking Expo 2004 in about an hour.
She has a new professional looking wardrobe (just a few dresses), new comfy shoes, luggage tags for her check-in luggage, her Executive Summary (in case she meets any venture capitalists), many business cards, a first aid kit, a cell phone, a "mini office" with staple, staple puller, hole punch, calculator), a packet of 3x5s for extended information on products so she doesn't have to wade through brochures trying to remember what it was that impressed her (she can staple a business card to it to remember who the person was), a laptop, a list of things to which she needs to pay particular attention, a map of the trade show, and baked goods to snack upon during her flight and in the hotel.
Actually, she'll be changing hotels partway through so she can take advantage of lower room rates, thus saving $150.00 in hotel rates.
Neither she nor I understand why one would want to waste money on an expensive hotel with all sorts of unnecessary bells and whistles when all that's needed is a bed and shower with a locking door.
Why fly 1st class when 2nd or 3rd will get you there just as quickly and safely?
Why pay $250.00 for a suit when you can get the same suit at Ross for $29.99 - same name brand, same color, same size?
Some things I can see spending more for, when the extra price ensures better, more durable quality. When there is no difference in quality, why pay the higher price?
Saturday, August 14, 2004
Hot Drops, a spicy cookie made from habaneros, roasted chipotle and the sharpest cheddar I could find. These are thin and crisp, but I also made a thicker, chewier batch - and both are excellent.
Friday, August 13, 2004
I know this will frustrate at least one person reading this blog and offering advice on it, but honestly, not everything that is good for the Cracked Cauldron can be reduced to the cold and firm logic of numbers. So, our marketing strategy will be a bit "fuzzier" than might perhaps be wanted. We think this "fuzziness" is what will actually improve customer perception of us. Advertising has assumed a bizarre place in our society, and the consumer demand for regulating it places it squarely amidst 4 other regulatory needs that kill people. That says a lot about people's perceptions of advertising.
We're considering a "softer" approach, one that builds trust and loyalty. Oh, sure, we'll go with the marketing that will bring quick results, but we are planning our longer term strategy to build repeat business and customer loyalty.
One way to do that is to give away "ownership" of the business. Before you get all upset over this, consider: if you were allowed to make an important decision about a business, would you feel a bit proprietary towards that business, and recommend it to your friends, and be more likely to frequent it yourself?
Manager and I have been discussing a (working name, but it seems "sticky" - people are already referring to it by this name) "guinea pig hour", a special day and time each month where we prepare a new item to add to the menu in multiple variations. All the customers in the store get free samples of them along with an evaluation sheet, and they can tell us "too much cinnamon", "not enough vanilla flavoring", "needs more yeast", "too hard", "too soft" or whatever. We'll fiddle with the recipe until it's just right according to the majority of customers, and place it on the menu for the following month - placing a photo of them all (those who want their picture taken, that is) with the product they chose on the menu board.
Several people we've surveyed have asked if we'll sell T-shirts that say "Official Cracked Cauldron Guinea Pig" on them during that time. An artist friend has offered to draw a cracked cauldron with a guinea pig inside it eating bakery goods. Here in Oklahoma, maybe the casualness of this would work?
We've been considering something a bit more varied - maybe even seasonal - a group of traditional halloween charcaters around a cracked cauldron with the food item under consideration elevating out of the cauldron and the words: "I conjured (food item) for the Cracked Cauldron", or a cracked cauldron Easter basket with the food item in it and the words "I found (food) for the Cracked Cauldron.", or a medieval style food taster with dozens of discarded food items around his feet and placing just one into a cracked cauldron saying "I chose the best one for the Cracked Cauldron."
We have to fiddle and experiment with new recipes anyway - why not let the customer be part of the decision making process?
We think giving the customer some obvious and identifiable control over the Cracked Cauldron will make them happier to visit the Cracked Cauldron, will encourage them to bring friends to eat the food they helped put on the menu, and make us as much a part of their lives as they are of ours.
And then, the answer to "What do you want to do tonight?" could very well be "It's Guinea Pig Night at the Cracked Cauldron, I have to make an executive decision on their new recipe."
Thursday, August 12, 2004
Sunday through Friday of next week.
This show only happens once every 3 years, and is the largest baker's
trade show in the US. There will be thousands of vendors, suppliers,
ingredient people, bakers, and such there. And trade show discounts.
Manager has a list of talks and demonstrations to attend, and a map
of the trade floor (sections A-P!) so she can plan her stops.
I expect she'll return with bags full of brochures and cards, and a
computer full of notes.
While she's gone, I'll finish up the marketing plan and finalize the
web page - which, with any luck, will go up by the 23rd. Part of the
delay on this is finalizing the opening menu, and finding the right
software for the web page for orders. Another thing for Manager to
look for at the Trade Show!
Tuesday, August 10, 2004
Seed and early stage companies accounted for 36.8% of all companies funded in the second quarter, a level not seen since the nasty technology downturn began in the first quarter of 2001, according to the PricewaterhouseCoopers/Thomson Venture Economics/National Venture Capital Association MoneyTree Survey set for release today.
Granted, we aren't in technology or medical, which seems to be where the most money is, but those people need to eat, right? They need coffee and pastries and good, healthy delicious bread while they work their computers and lab equipment.
They need what we offer.
So, why shouldn't venture capitalists invest in us, if they will invest in them? These companies are a market for us, and their success will make us successful (although they aren't our only market, we can and would succeed without them).
So I'll bug Manager to write that 1 page venture investment proposal even harder.
To the north, we have:
35.18% of residents in this area fit the following profile:
Demographic:Median age is 39.4 years.Most householders are over the age of 55.Most are couples; few have younger children, although some have adult children living at home.Socioeconomic:Median household income is almost $37,600.Almost 60 percent of households receive income from interest, dividends or rental properties.Residential:Homes are in older, established neighborhoods.Suburban, single-family, and owner-occupied homes with an average value slightly lower than the national average.
26.7% of residents in this area fit the following profile:
Demographic:Median age is 39.4 years.More than 40 percent of the householders are between the ages of 45 and 64 years.Socioeconomic:Median household income is $52,000.Two-thirds of the households receive income from dividends, interest or rental properties.Unemployment is 50 percent lower than the national average.Over 20 percent households receiving retirement or pension income.More than 90 percent of adults (25 years and older) have completed high school; more than 40 percent, a college degree.Residential:Homes are owner-occupied with an average value 40 percent above the national average.Most homes were built between 1950 and 1969.Comprised of single-family homes.
20.12% of residents in this area fit the following profile:
Demographic:Median age is 36.7 years.Socioeconomic:Median household income is slightly over $42,600.Unemployment is low.Most of the working population is employed in professional or managerial positions.More than 35 percent of adults (age 25+) have earned a college degree.Residential:Mix of single-family homes and townhouses with smaller (two to five units) rentals.Most homes are owner-occupied, including condominiums.Average home value is above the national average.
To the south, we have:
18.75% of residents in this area fit the following profile:
Demographic:Median age, 32.4 years, represents the gap between householders under 25 and over 75 years. (national average)Socioeconomic:Median household income is $21,400.About 60 percent of households earn less than $25,000.The rates of unemployment and poverty are twice the national averages.Residential:Most of the housing is older, built before 1950.Single-family units, duplexes and quads account for most of the housing.
16.99% of residents in this area fit the following profile:
Demographic:Median age is 34 years.Socioeconomic:Median household income is $30,800.Represents more than 5 percent of U.S. households.Unemployment and poverty are low.Half of the work force is employed in the manufacturing and service industries.Residential:Neighborhoods offer affordable housing: older, single-family homes and duplexes.Average home value is 40 percent below the national average.
12.39% of residents in this area fit the following profile:
Demographic:Households are single-person or shared.Median age is 31.1 years.Approximately 25 percent of are in twenties.Socioeconomic:Represents 1.5 percent of U.S. population.Median household income is $24,600. Half of the employed population is employed part-time.30 percent have a bachelor's or graduate degree; almost 30 percent have completed some college or an associate degree; 20 percent are attending college.Residential:20 percent of the housing is single-family, owner-occupied.
That 20% attending college are the students at the private college just 6 blocks south of our chosen location.
East and west of us is all office complexes, hotels, malls, and shops.
This location (with the right mix of marketing and timing) will get the Cracked Cauldron off to a roaring start.
I think it's particularly auspicious to start at Halloween, because that will tie our cauldron logo and name into people's minds as a fun place to go for festive treats and local entertainment. By the time "cauldron season" is over, we should be well-established as a place of bounty, happiness, and celebration. The spring will consolidate our position as a year-round place of great coffees, good conversation, delicous breads and pastries, and the perfect place to meet and greet others. By the time next "cauldron season" arrives, we should be the place people think of first when it comes to coffee, bread, snacks, meeting others, party foods, casual entertainment, or a place to just relax amid the hectic holiday splendor.
I'm looking forward to hearing people answer the age old question of "Where do you want to go tonight?" with "The Cracked Cauldron." Maybe followed up with "It's Punday all day." or "It's Argentina Week, I'm craving those empanadas." or something similar.
There were 59 people at the picnic. Most of them enjoyed the bread rolls.
Several complained that the Cracked Cauldron wasn't open yet, because they'd become addicted to the King's Cookies.
I brought 12 dozen of the cookies, and carried home only 5 of them - no doubt those would have been eaten, too, had I informed anyone ahead of time we were leaving right then.
It was unseasonably cool, the temperature never reached 90º - and we're talking Oklahoma! Our usual low temperature is higher than the high temperature was on Saturday. By 8:00 p.m., it had become uncomfortably cool, so we took the few left over rolls and cookies, said our good-byes to a few people and our hostess, and left.
We were served a tender pot roast, steaks, slices of barbecued brisket with barbecue sauce made from the Limousin cattle raised on the ranch, beans, coleslaw, and potato salad. Our rolls and storebought whole wheat sandwich loaves were the bread choices. Dessert consisted of freshly made pistachio or chocolate mint ice-cream, brownies, King's Cookies, and no-bake chocolate oatmeal cookies.
We met the cattle on the ranch, and checked out the facilities, were introduced to the farm dogs and chickens. Limousins are a good beef.
When we get closer to opening, meat from these cattle will be make very tasty stews and meat pies.
Now, to investigate the pig farm and the poultry farm, then check out the dairy. With that mushroom farmer in Tulsa, and the herb farms in Piedmont, Newalla, and Shawnee, that should carry us through for a while. It looks like most of the vegetables and fruits will have to be trucked in...fortunately, there are localish sources for most of this.
The Marketing Plan should be finished shortly (and "shortly" is a relative term). I know the product, I know the industry, I know local and regional competitors, I know our strengths and weaknesses, I know the market (and have narrowed it down some - OK, considerably), I'm waiting on some quotes from various media to finish up.
I have some catchy ideas that range from classy to kitschy, depending on where we're targeting the marketing and advertising.
Our heaviest marketing will be to the local hotels (comforting, entertaining, local color) and business offices (quick, convenient, and classy) in the immediate area, followed by targeted marketing to the local colleges and call centers (where we can get punny and kitschy and quirky), and then to the drive-home people (ear-catching and emphasizing quick and convenient). Delicious, they'll discover on their own, and they'll like it better for making that discovery.
Saturday, August 07, 2004
King's Cookies, cooling on the counter. These are mostly meringues, taste a bit like pecan divinity, and have become my new favorite cookie, made with egg white, brown sugar, a pinch of salt and pecans.
Friday, August 06, 2004
We are having a "company" picnic at the ranch where Manager hopes to
be buying her beeves for the pies and soups in the Cracked Cauldron.
It is not a potluck, but we've been asked to supply the bread. It's
a barbecue, so we're bringing the Mediterannean Olive Bread, made
into dinner sized rolls, and a complementary flavored herb butter.
Since this is outdoors, and August , we will freeze the butter
before driving the hour and some away to the ranch.
There will be approximately 50 people there. Several of them have
offered testimonials, and hopefully Manager will garner a few more
with this bread.
Plus, Manager will get to see the ranch and cows before purchasing
Later this month, I think, although it might not be until Spetember,
we'll be traveling to the dairy farm where we'll be getting our milk,
cream, butter, buttermilk, and fresh cheeses. Down the road a piece
is the chicken farm where we'll be getting our eggs, and a little
further out is the mill from where we'll be getting our hard red
winter wheat flour.
Going north from there is the Piedmont Herb Farm, and east from here
is the Shawnee Herb Farm. We can get a large portion of our herb
needs from them.
Near Tulsa, we found a man who raises the most marvelous mushrooms, a
large variety of really yummy-looking ones - and this from someone
who dislikes mushrooms!
It feels a bit deceptive to be courting suppliers when we don't yet
have the loan to pay them for their produce or a place - but those 2
items should be coming in the next couple of weeks. Very quickly thereafter, we'll need to start ordering all kinds of things. Granted foodstuffs won't be ordered until October, but it still helps to know who our suppliers will be, get to know them, get to know where they work. As much as possible, we want to keep our suppliers local.
 Depending on which weather service you check, we have between a 10 and 50% chance of rain tomorrow. Here. In August, supposedly the second of our three drought months. We're not supposed to get rain from the 4th of July until the State Fair opens the last week of September.
Wednesday, August 04, 2004
The attorney Manager fired last week gave us a rather volatile and insulting letter this week, containing a number of outright falsehoods and a few libelous statements. She's still deciding what to do about it, but to be honest, there are more important things to consider right now.
She's getting pre-approval from the SBA for her loan, and speaking with the bank loan officer. I'm working on the marketing plan.
She'll be attending the IBIE Baker's Trade Show in Nevada in a week and a half, which is very important.
The timing couldn't be better. While there, she'll be able to see the equipment in person, have them demonstrated, and receive Trade Show discounts. She'll meet suppliers and other bakers, attend important seminars and workshops, and establish herself as a viable business.
Once the loan and the lease are finalized, we'll be in the home stretch of setting up!
It looks very promising that we'll be done in time for our preferred scheduled Grand Opening date on October 29th.
But, if we encounter a few delays along the way, we have a back-up opening date.
Marketing plans right now revolve around the immediate holiday season and the opening, but I'm hoping to have a full year in place by the end of this weekend. And still have time to mow the lawn, wash dishes, bake bread for a dinner with a potential beef supplier, and play with ferrets.
Opening will be (on time) the weekend before Halloween, giving us all kinds of cauldron tie-ins, and we'll be giving away free cauldron cookies.
Almost immediately after that is the presidential election - I so want to make pink elephants and green donkeys, but I suppose I'd be murdered for that. Still, free cookies to people who wear "I Voted" stickers, and a few special Vote Cookies will be part of the scheme.
Then we rocket right into Thanksgiving with special savory pies, all kinds of tarts and pies, turkey shaped cookies, and yes, more cauldrons!
Barely breathing from that we enter the Christmas/Winter Holiday season, and boy do we have plans!
Our homeless resource section should be well-launched, and we can start showing how many people we and our customers have fed since we opened, and maybe, by then, how many people we have helped find homes.
That's a little more important than dealing with an attorney we've already fired, no matter how spiteful and petty he was after the fact. If we discover he's caused actual damage to the Cracked Cauldron, that can change. We've already consulted another attorney on this mess in order to clear it up, and to move forward to opening.
Opening, right now, is the important thing.
Monday, August 02, 2004
We counted up the actual, solid customers we have for the Cracked Cauldron: people who have bought from us and want to buy more, people we bake for on a regular basis, people who've sampled our goodies and want to buy them on a regular basis, and people who want to book meeting space when we open. Right now, without any real advertising or marketing, that number is over 150.
We left a bowl of cookies in a small shop we frequent (with the name of the Cracked Cauldron with it!) so they could offer them to their customers - making a pleasant extra for them, and a nice pre-advertising for us.
I suggested we get testimonials from at least some of these people, and add them to a mailing list for invitations to the Grand Opening. Virally speaking, I'm not sure how many people these will bring in with them, but I think we can at least count on it doubling.
That's not a lot of people, until you realize we haven't really advertised at all, yet.
I told Manager she should add this to her proposal.
And I'm almost done with a marketing plan - I bought a year calendar this past weekend. With a logo, I can proceed a little faster now. That logo will appear on our labels and bags, the aprons our employees will wear, and we found a place that will make coffee cups that look like cracked cauldrons - black with a white painted crack. The blog has pictures of the building we're hoping to get and some views near by.
Everything but the money is speeding up, and even that is beginning to move.
Manager will be attending the IBIE Trade show in Nevada later this month.
It will gove her an apportunity to see most of the equipment we've been looking at online "in person" as it were. That will give her a chance to see sizes and fit, and even watch them in action to see if they'll suit her needs.
Besides equipment, she'll also meet the consumable suppliers, of grains, flours, nuts, fruits, sugars, and such.
Now that we have our logo (and it will be paid for in another few days, once all the Paypal transactions have completed - it's slow, but not as slow as smail mail), we can print up brochures and contact cards for her to take along.
We've been going through the programming guide and floor plans to plot the best routes she should take and which booths to concentrate upon.
Of course, once she actually gets there, this may change, and she may find things we left out, or didn't know about.
And, since her best walking shoes broke in New Orleans, we have to get her a new pair before she leaves.
The timballettos, by the way, need a bit more work. The pastry wasn't quite sturdy enough for the filling and it leaked everywhere.
Instead of using a puff pastry, I'm wondering if I shouldn't use a flaky crust, like I use for Banbury Tarts?
Or, if I do use the puff pastry, maybe I should make them smaller? There wouldn't be much filling to them, I'd have to use a smaller pasta. Being only 2-3 bites, it would take 3 or 4 to make up a "meal sized" serving.
I found a book on monastery soups, and it's amazing how many ways they can combine carrots, leeks, potatoes, cabbage, and broth to make different soups.
The Scholastica Soup, though, I think is worth investigating to appeal to the college students who will frequent the Cracked Cauldron.
There was also a nifty bread soup that looks yummy that we'll have to try out, and there was an onion soup that was very different from the usual French Onion, and may be worth investigating. The recipe is for 4 people and starts out with 10 onions.