Friday, October 29, 2004
With the decision to backburner the joint venture with the indie dinner theater, unless it's a lot more Manager-friendly, we've rechanneled our efforts into getting the Personal Chef side of the business going so we can earn our way into the Cracked Cauldron coffeehouse, bakery, and Homeless Resource Center.
We designed several small ads for the Wednesday Living Section of the local daily paper, ads targeted towards people shopping for baby shower gifts, and ads for the local alternative papers. We'll finish up the new Press Release packets this weekend, while we do the slight remodeling on the house to accommodate storing her equipment here.
The remodeling isn't much - shelves in the living room to ouse the movie collection. They really should have been in the living room all along, since that's where the TV is, but the ferrets who live in that room like chewing on the DVD and VHS cases. I've never bothered with putting the shelves in there before because there was plenty of room in the kitchen.
Now, we need the kitchen space for kitchen things, so we move the movies to the living room, and build additional shelves in the kitchen.
Unfortunately, the sewing machine and dining table will have to go out of the kitchen as well. Well, I might be able to keep the dining table...
But the sewing machine, patterns, sewing boxes and all have to go somewhere else.
Then, we'll have room for her mixing bowls, pots and pans, stand mixer, roaster, spare electric burners, blender, food processor, and storage containers.
At some point in the next week or so, we'll measure and fix transportation containers so she can condense and easily move the containers from house to car to house.
If the Personal Chef side of the business remains successful, when Manager opens the Cracked Cauldron store, she's thinking of recruiting more Personal Chefs to work under her name. That part will be easy to franchise! We already have recipes - many of the ones we were going to use in the Cracked Cauldron store convert easily to home use. Hey, they all started as home use, and we converted them to chef's formulae. Piece a cake puting them back.
There are several networks of Personal Chefs, and I see no reason why the Cracked Cauldron shouldn't have that as part of the business.
We'd never considered it before. To be honest, we'd never even heard of Personal Chefs before we visited a friend in Ohio on our bakery tour last September.
When the loan fell through this last time, we investigated it as a possibility, and here we are, starting as Personal Chef, and working our way up to having the store we planned.
For that hint, we sincerely thank our friend in Ohio!
Now, off to write the press releases!
Thursday, October 28, 2004
It was worth a lunch to Manager to find out that possibly this joint venture is not what she's looking for.
Not that information was misrepresented to us, because the person who presented it to us was hopeful it would benefit everyone.
Realistically speaking, this business is going to be set up as a business incubator, which requires different forms of investment and commitment than when we believed it would be a private venture. That's understandable, because they are different entities.
Manager would be expected to raise a portion of the needed capitol instead of being hired as a consultant. Since we were unable to raise $170,000.00 to open the Cracked Cauldron at this time (we're still working on it, never fear), I seriously doubt we'd be able to raise that plus what would be needed for a venture in which we have no ownership.
OK, here were the expectations set out at the lunch:
Manager would be able to keep the name of the Cracked Cauldron. Of course.I know this is still early stages and there's room for lots more negotiation, still, it looks like an unworkable deal for Manager.
Manager would be responsible for providing her share of the opening capitol in addition to purchasing all the equipment she would need to run the coffeebar and dessert kitchen and the furniture for her area. That's daunting, as we haven't been able to raise the funds to buy the equipment for the Cracked Cauldron, so raising additional funds is troublesome. She's worried that since the area she would be assigned would be the upstairs section where the indie film producers would pitch their films to investors, that would mean a much higher quality furniture than in our original plans.
From what she understands, Manager would not be allowed to hire or fire her own employees in her coffeebar portion of the business, but must accept whatever employees are hired by the general management, and general management could fire any of her employees at any time - including her.
She says she would be expected to hand over 30% of her income to the investment group (I'm not sure if that's gross or net income), plus pay her portion of the rent and utilities, as well as pay employees and purchase ingredients and such.
Although Manager may ask to change some of these conditions and see if she can make it workable for herself; from what she said last night, she's convinced at this time that it isn't what she can manage to do.
As this proposal was originally presented to her, it looked good. It looked like a win-win deal for everyone.
But as an incubator business, where she's expected to come up with money to invest, it's a no-go for us.
So we're back to where we were 3 days ago: pursuing the initial opening as a personal chef, then easing into catering, then acquiring the funding to open as planned.
It's frustratingly slow, but dependable and guaranteed to work.
The ads placed in the paper should be appearing soon; we've already secured 2 clients. They're one-shots for parties, but at least one of them may lead to more.
So, was the lunch worth it?
Well, yeah. This one came with more lessons in business and finance: never accept the first description as accurate, never make a commitment without getting all the facts, always make sure the deal is at least as good for you as it is for the others.
It's still early days. Who knows?
Things may not be as difficult as it looks right now.
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
Manager will have lunch with the people fielding a business venture as well as several committed investors and several undecided investors. It sounds as if it will be a productive meeting, especially since one of the investors has funded several successful local restaurants and is looking forward to supporting this one as well.
She spent part of last evening in a sort of pre-meeting.
One interesting result of last night's meeting is that she won't have to design the commercial kitchen area after all, they decided they wanted her to have a separate kitchen area there to prepare the baked goods and run the Cracked Cauldron as a separate business under the same roof. She would keep her name because they plan to have several separate businesses operating in tandem to support one another (I understand this sort of cooperation is becoming the 21st Century Thing To Do): the dinner restaurant which will feed the diners, the bakery which will supply the desserts and beverages for the restaurant as well as any outside customers and have a separate entrance, and a private area for business meetings.
Each business would be independently owned and operated, but all of them would draw off the initial start-up funds.
Participating in this will delay the bulk of the charity we plan, but it will eventually get going.
This would just be an interim step.
We'll see how the lunch goes.
It sounds good.
I know a lot of people who would like to have a place like this.
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
Manager purchased some smallwares last night. These will be useful in both her current incarnation as a Personal Chef, and later when the coffeehouse/bakery opens.
On the personal side, I purchased this really nifty crockpot. My old one (I've had it since 1971) had the legs broken off, necessitating temporary props, and the cord had to be held in place with a twist of wire and electrical tape or it wouldn't stay inside the plug area of the crockpot.
But I saw this Rival Versa-Ware Crockpot, and I had to have it. The insert can be used on the stovetop, in the oven, and, naturally, in the crockpot base. It has three temperature settings (typical of crockpots everywhere, I presume), and it came with a small grill.
OK, OK, they say the grill is a heat diffuser for cooking on an electrical stovetop.
But, the way the insert is shaped, it fits perfectly on the inside, neatly dividing the interior into 2 sections, which provides for a plethora of recipe variations. A very wet dish can be cooked in the bottom half, and another can be slowly steamed above the grill. We have bread recipes that will love that grill, breads that will complement the stew simmering below it quite nicely.
So, I bought the crockpot.
It's a paltry purchase compared to Manager's purchases of stand mixer, food processor, blender, roaster, extra burners, a variety of kitchen thermometers and cutting boards, and a better quality set of pots and pans, along with a storage box to carry these in and a dolly to haul them around with.
All of these will find places inside the Cracked Cauldron when it gets a physical location, and will be useful for now, in earning the money to get the physical location.
Monday, October 25, 2004
The weekend was spent pricing equipment.
Manager has decided to start out as a Personal Chef, and work her way up to the Cracked Cauldron coffeehouse and bakery, and already has 2 clients. One is a one shot holiday event, and the other is to prepare the meal for a murder mystery for a group of people who gather regularly for murder mystery-style events. Live action Clue, with a meal.
because hte latter event involves 20 or so people who are all busy enough and earn enough to want a personal chef, it may evolve quickly into several new clients.
She will also consult with designing the kitchen for the independent movie dinner theater, and continue to pursue angel investors and potential bank loans or other avenues of additional financing for the final form of the Cracked Cauldron - at least the final form as we currently envision it, anyway.
So, if you're in the Oklahoma City are and would like Manager or QFM to be your personal chef, for daily meals, as a gift to a new mother, or for a special event, such as holiday meals or tea parties or kaffee klatches, feel free to contact us. I'll set the contact information in the side bar there, and we'll redo the web page (which we haven't posted up yet anyway!) to reflect the earlier stages of the business.
It'll take longer to get where we're going, but never fear, we will get there!
Friday, October 22, 2004
I had my worst baking disaster ever last night. It trumps the Coconut Cake fiasco.
Because the Coconut Cake fiasco was caused by an ingredient that was on the edge of bad, but not detectably, and the baking hastened its demise, ruining the cake. Had the ingredient been labeled with a freshness date, we could have averted that disaster. It taught us to only buy containers with freshness dating on them, or to know the source of the ingredients.
Last night's disaster was all my fault. I can't blame it on faulty ingredients.
It is entirely my fault.
I was going to bake a loaf of Bacon Bread for this weekend.
Please note past tense.
I cooked the bacon nice and crispy. I mixed the ingredients and let it rise the first time. All was well up to this point.
Then I shaped the dough and placed it inside the loaf pan. The loaf pan went into the individual loaf proofer, and that was set inside the oven to rise the second time.
Then I cooked dinner (Bubble and Squeak - using left-over bacon, with chocolate frosted peanut butter bars for dessert).
Then I cleaned up and went to bed.
But wait! What about the bread rising in the oven?
It rose all night long.
This morning, as I played with and fed the dogs, I suddenly shouted, "The bread! The bread!" and dashed back into the house.
I opened the oven and - yay me! - I'd closed the proofer lid tightly enough that no dough escaped. But the entire proofer was filled with the huge glob of errant dough. I pulled the lid off, and strings of dough clung to it, then plopped back down into the oozing mass of bacon flecked dough.
Awful as it looked it still smelled good - sort of like a young sourdough. I had hopes.
So I set it to rise while I finished getting ready for work.
It rose. It didn't look very pretty, but it rose.
So I baked it.
Listen closely now: DON'T DO THIS.
It was awful. It was thick and clumpy, it baked only partially. Even the dogs wouldn't touch it - and Dogboy will eat anything I give him. He may look reproachfully at me if he doesn't like it, but he will eat it.
Not this. It sat like a misshapen brick on the patio out back and the dogs circled it warily. When I left it there, returning to the house - they howled mournfully, so I took pity on them, retrieved it and tossed it in the trash can.
To preserve your sanity, I took no pictures.
May all the Gods who ever were, are, or will be guard over the trashmen when they pick up the trash this morning.
Thursday, October 21, 2004
We may be able to evolve into a commercial kitchen/catering sooner than expected if we start within the week as personal chef.
We've been approached by a group opening an avante garde restaurant in town, wanting someone to supervise the kitchen installation. As they only plan to be open for dinner (2 seatings), in exchange for supervising the kitchen installation and hiring, they will allow us to use the kitchen for our own catering needs for the next 10 years (or as long as we want up to 10 years).
If we can't get the Cracked Cauldron fully open for business within 10 years, we are seriously doing something wrong.
Besides, setting up this kitchen will be good experience in creating the perfect kitchen for the Cracked Cauldron. QFM and I have commercial kitchen and catering experience. Manager has catering experience, now she can get commercial kitchen experience.
Mind, now, the restaurant we've been approached to help set up isn't a reality yet, but they have a location and an idea and - most importantly - several committed investors.
They are much more ambitious than we are, and expect to have close to 5 million in investments, and to start making over a million their first year. They plan it to be a fusion type retaurant - not exactly what we are looking to do, but, hey, it gives us access to a commercial kitchen just for offering some consultation work.
Working with these investors will also demonstrate that we know what we're doing, and may make them more likely to invest in the Cracked Cauldron - perhaps sooner than later.
It's a win-win situation.
Assuming the rest of the investors come through on this venture, of course.
And if it doesn't we are no worse off than we are now.
We have a plan, flexible enough to take advantage of such opportunities as this venture, yet firm enough to stand on its own.
It won't be a right now thing, and it sucks that we have to delay as we are, but the goal is in sight, and we will get there.
And when we do, we will have one splendiferous and much anticipated Grand Opening!
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
From time to time, the state health department requires food services to attend training on various aspects of the business. Like this postcard that just came, informing us of a Food Handler's Sanitation Workshop being held twice in the next 2 months, and in bold letters that this is a required class for Food Managers.
Certification will be awarded upon completing the class, and a health inspector will be along to verify that we have said certification.
Nowhere on the card does it tell us price, nor is there a webpage where we can find this out.
It's another cost of doing business, a cost we will pay even though we aren't yet open.
Why would we do this if we don't really have to?
Other than staying all legal and proper, if Manager does decide to start very small as a personal chef with her QFM, such a certification eases people's minds. It provides another layer of legitimacy, of seriousness, of professionalism.
Oh, yes, much of doing business is all about appearances. We just want a little substance to that appearance.
Seguing awkwardly along, we've been invited to a zoo benefit. We've been asked to prepare samples of the things we'll serve, the zoo will provide us with a tent at this benefit, and all the wealthy of town will be there to sample the foods and support the zoo. And, incidentally, choose new favorite restaurants and food caterers and personal chefs, and perhaps act as beneficiaries (read angel investors) to new food businesses. These people are paying $500.00 each minimum to be there. The drawback is that they want enough food samples for 5,000 people, and we haven't yet found a commercial kitchen to rent for this. My kitchen at home is large for a private home kitchen, but it is inadequate to this task.
The date for the event has not yet been set, so we have time to plan and see what we can contrive.
Finding a commercial kitchen to rent will be very useful for such events as this zoo fundraiser, for having a booth at the OK Festival of hte Arts, and at the OU Medieval Faire, assuming we haven't come into the funds to open the Cracked Cauldron shop by then.
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
We're going to spend a bit of time in the next few days accummulating customer testimonials.
I know, we aren't open, and therefore technically have no customers.
So maybe we ought to call them our Loyal Following. They want to be our customers.
We will prepare buttons for them, and a few T-shirts, and other branded items, and food, of course. And we'll take their pictures and/or statements to use in the presentation.
We have a pretty large Loyal Following. A few days work will garner us a pretty representative grouping of people to include in this testimonial documentation.
We'll provide potential investors with samples of our product (yummy baked goodies and specialty beverages to snack on while watching the presentation), and scatter these testimonials throughout the presentation at key points, then conclude with a burst of testimonials. If we provide samples of the very foods on which the investors are noshing, they'll see they aren't the only ones who like what we do. They'll see there is a huge underserved market out there willing to spend to get what we provide.
That will make investing a simpler decision.
We have everything it takes to succeed and make a tidy (though not exorbitant) profit for investors and comfy dividends for stockholders (and the two categories may overlap).
All y'all who come to this blog with the search phrase "how to open your own business", listen up: DON'T DO AS WE DO!
Because we are coming up on this business of opening the Cracked Cauldron from a financially very weak position, we've had to do things and seek alternatives those of you with strong financial positions won't even have to consider. We've had to review plans, formulate alternatives, and be much pushier in some regards, and much humbler in others. We've made concessions and compromises financially stronger people would never even think of.
We know all the cheap places and best scrounge sites locally for furniture, fixtures, and such. We know how to do many things ourselves, from painting to plumbing, and have learned that while it pays to pay a professional, until we get the money for that, we can keep things together with our own hard-won skills. We've learned the timing needed to stagger baking in a small home oven so we can bake many loaves of bread in a day, and in a pinch can bake in a dirt hearth erected quickly in the backyard. The propane gas grill, with clever use of foil, becomes a powerful oven.
There are easier ways of opening a bakery or coffeehouse, and we're not doing it that way.
The easy ways cost, and money is in short supply.
That's why we've had to have so many alternative plans in place.
We are still shooting for the high goal: a bank or SBA loan. That's the "easy" way.
But we're prepared to chip away at achieving our goal through smaller means.
We have plans within plans within plans, and if we open as a freelance personal chef, that will evolve into a catering business with a small commercial kitchen, that will evolve into a coffeehouse (where we can finally begin to offer the seeds of our Homeless Resource Center), that will evolve into our current plans for the Cracked Cauldron, and from there, it will evolve hopefully as we foresee it.
We can start just as easily from a seed as from a cutting. It just takes longer.
So, if you want to start a business of your own, ignore our bumblings and stumblings, and do it right: be rich and financially sound and stable before you open a business.
Monday, October 18, 2004
Manager should complete the Power Point Presentation, and after I get home from work, we'll run it through and rehearse it, fine tune it, that sort of thing.
She'll also get together with her Queen Flour Monkey (QFM) to discuss short term options until the Cracked Cauldron is open.
See, our QFM is holding herself back from employment to be available for the Cracked Cauldron. As a result, she is slowly running out of personal finance options. She's been taking one-of jobs, caterings, and even going back into teaching dancing short term (she is a phenomenal dancer, name the dance, and she can do it, from ballroom to folk and assorted ethnic dances).
So, we're looking into options like finding a commercial kitchen so they can cater under the name of Cracked Cauldron or perhaps working as personal chefs, or personal party chefs. The commercial kitchens thing is hard, because so far, we've found zilch for commercial kitchens for rent.
But the personal chef or personal party chef looks like a good alternative that would segue nicely into the goals of the Cracked Cauldron.
So the beginnings are humbler than we'd hoped. They would still be beginnings. Beginnings that would earn income and provide brand recognition quickly.
And if it takes 2 years of operating as personal chefs before the banks will lend the money, that's a lot better than giving up - something Manager isn't willing to do.
The best part about using this plan (yes, yes, we are down to Plan L, with the eventual Plan Z looming on the horizon) is that it requires very little initial investment for a strong quick return. It's flexible enough that while implementing Plan L, Plans M - Z can still be pursued strongly. Plan L will provide income, a portion of which will be banked towards the Grand Opening of the Cracked Cauldron, and it will provide a business history that will make investors happy.
Doing this may take an additional year or two to start realizing dividend profits, but it will get there.
The downside on Plan L is that it will take that much longer before we can open the Homeless Resource Center. That really bites for us.
We can still continue with Sandwich Saturdays - where we deliver sandwiches to the places where homeless people hang out on Saturdays. Maybe we can expand that a bit - provide hot soup to go with the sandwiches. And we can still make up and deliver the little bags of coupons and brochures and toiletries we collect for them.
It's not what we want, but it will get us in that direction.
No matter how many times I spell-check, I always find a typo.
Sunday, October 17, 2004
The cookies on the right are the cinnamon snaps, and the ones on the left the sugared chocolate chip cookies. Chai is in the middle.
What do you get when you're in the middle of making gingersnaps, and discover you have no ginger and no way to get to the store?
Why, you make cinnamon snaps instead!
Which is precisely what I did, and they came out so good, I think I'll keep the recipe for the Cracked Cauldron. Think of Snickerdoodles made with molasses, darkly mysterious cookies with a decided crunch and the heady flavor and aroma of cinnamon. It pairs almost magically with a cup of hot chai or an almond flavored coffee.
And, because I had left over cinnamon sugar, when I made chocolate chip cookies, I rolled them in the cinnamon sugar. They sparkle, and the subtle flavor of cinnamon infuses them without overwhelming them.
Of course, I used the new swirled chocolate chips, just because. The glints of white chocolate inside the brown chocolate, all coated with a glitter of sugar makes this a truly elegant cookie. I think they'd be perfect for a Red Hat Tea Party, or something else where a little extra fun and sophistication is wanted.
Friday, October 15, 2004
Ah, you didn't even know she was away because I didn't post it. Sorry about that.
She went to visit our Director of Finances to re-work the pro formas and cash flows, and find any errors that were keeping her from getting funding.
She is re-working them to open as a coffeehouse first, in case we can't get the funding to open with the whole enchilada.
Knowing Oklahoma City, I think we should strive for opening with everything - all the beverages, all the savory pies and soups, all the cakes and pies and pastries and cookies, the themed nights, the Menu Decision Team, the reading room, the Homeless Resource Center, the commission art - everything. It will enchant our fellow Okies and bring them back for more.
Now, it's true we've gone past the date when we could have opened for Halloween, but we still have several prepared Opening Dates - all contingent upon funding, of course.
If we must open as a coffeeshop first and work our way up, it can still be done. We'll have to find a different location (and a real shame that would be, because this one is so very good).
We can still offer the commission art, the themed nights, the Menu Decision Team (gotta have cookies and bars to go with the coffees and teas), and the Homeless Resource Center. Our Director of Finances thinks we should also offer the soups, which means we can offer the savory pies, because savory pies are soups in a crust.
And we'd have a range of beverages - the sodas, of course, the coffees, teas, milks, and juices. Since we'll have the flavored syrups for the coffees. We can also use them for the sodas, Italian sodas, hot and cold flavored milks, and even the flavored juices.
There's also the possibility of going in with another shop owner to share space and rent, perhaps an antique or gift style shop that would act synergistically in attracting customers for both of us.
Thursday, October 14, 2004
Occassionally, people ask if we plan to franchise. I know Paul Kerr, who mentored me just over a decade ago on entrepreneurship, was very into franchising.
Back then, I wanted to open an herb shop because, well, I was trained as an herbal apothecary. Since I couldn't carry on that career when I came to the US many many years ago, and because I couldn't afford to become US educated in that career, I refocused and did something different.
But I never lost my knowledge of herbs. Indeed, I expanded out into culinary and decorative herbs uses. That's what I wanted to do in the shop - sell herbal teas and teach classes on using herbs in the home. Mr. Kerr felt it was a franchisable idea.
But back then, I had small children and no other assets.
None. No job. No spouse. No home.
I was using a borrowed car and had to rebuild my household from scratch. Most of the things I own were roadside rejects. Other people threw them away, and I picked them up to keep using.
So now, I have a steady job and I bought the house we're living in. For 5 years, I've paid just above the mortgage payment so I could build equity faster. I put Manager through college, and am putting her younger brother through.
Except that Manager really wants to do the Cracked Cauldron (and I know she'll be good at it), I would be in a position in a few years to finally do the herb shop I wanted to do 15 years ago.
And that brings us back to franchising the Cracked Cauldron.
Can we franchise it?
Oh, probably. It seems like practiclly anything can be franchised.
Should we franchise the Cracked Cauldron?
I think it's really too soon to tell. First we have to get our doors open, and start showing a profit - which we should be able to do in the second year easily. We have to work out the bugs of our design and create a "branding" of our name and goodies. Piece of cake! And then we have to formalize it so it can be repeatable in other parts of the country.
That could be challenging.
One of the challenges would be me letting go of these recipes we've created: the Bacon Bread, the Baklava Cheesecake, the Harvest Bars, the Chai Roses, the Manly Man Stew, the Chicken Aloute, the sourdough German landbrot, the Turkey Dinner in Stuffing, and all the other goodies we've created and tested just for the Cracked Cauldron
The other challenge would be the charity work the Cracked Cauldron is designed to benefit. How would that translate to other parts of the country? Homelessness is ubiquitous and all across the country. Without the intimate knowledge of these other communities, though, how could we go in and expect to provide the same sort of help there that we hope to provide here?
Would the charity part be as franchisable as the food part?
I saw this:
4. Without being unfair, try to limit the rights (or assign them by proxy to you or to the Board or to a lead investor) of less sophisticated financial investors who aren't and won't be close enough to your business to participate in major corporate decisions down the road. Along these lines, you should strongly consider selling both types of investors common stock, especially if it's early on in the company's life
over on Only Once and thought - that's exactly what we're doing with Cracked Cauldron.
Bumbling and stumbling around as we are on doing this, it's always nice to get some sort of confirmation that ideas we came up with on our own are ideas that made sense to other people, too, or are "industry standard", as it were.
So, yeah, we are re-inventing the wheel, but by golly, our wheel is round! It works. And maybe we could have gotten here sooner if we knew what questions to ask - because, you know, we have smart people advising us. Problem is, they don't know just how uninformed we are.
We have no clue what to ask, and they assume we already know it, so it gets glossed over. We discover something needs to be done, and we make us a new wheel with handtools - not realizing wheels are a common thing.
Oh well. They say the lessons you learn on your own stay with you longer.
Our little wobbly wheels will still be rolling along decades from now.
Now do you understand that crack in the Cracked Cauldron?
We missed the 2004 Tea Convention, and it seems a pity, because those people, judging by the seminars they presented, know what they are talking about much better than the bread people did.
The seminars were much more focused towards the start-up with such workshops as Opening a Tea Shop, Seeking Financing, What to Expect from Wholesalers, Health and Nutrition of Tea, Effective Marketing, Branding, Cross Merchandising, How to Blend Teas, Making your Own Flavorings, Pairing Teas with Foods. Of course, there were fun workshops, too, like reading tea leaves, the history of teas, a tea tasting, making gift baskets, and creating ambiance.
Imagine of some of these workshops had been applied to baking. Can see a workshop on pairing coffees or teas with your special cookies?
One thing we noticed as we checked out various bakeries across the country was a lack of ambiance in the bakeries. They were functional. The seating (in those bakeries that had them) was plain and sparse. The floors were often plain cement or plain limoleum (except some of the older bakeries back east, which had plank flooring) and walls were also plain, decorated predominantly with in-store advertising.
There's nothing wrong with functional. No doubt a goodly portion of the Cracked Cauldron will appear functional, too. But where was the fun?
A few bakeries also shared space with gift shops, china and nick-nacks crammed onto table tops and crate-style shelves, ocassionally filling antique furniture also for sale - and that had a junk shop type charm.
Coffee shops had a theme going on, but again, it was mostly functional. I mean, think of Starbuck's. Linoleum floors, white walls maybe with some menus plastered on them, chrome and glass furniture, employees hidden behind tall counters, a green pressboard cabinet for cream and sugars and open refrigerator cases with bottled drinks. Cold, sterile, get-in-get-out.
Panera's, pretty much the same way, except the seating is vinyl and wood veneer.
Will's, a local coffeeshop, does a bit better. The furniture is slightly more "cozy", and there is an attempt to have some decor that isn't functional. The barista is still ensconced almost invisibly behind a high counter.
That's not what we want for the Cracked Cauldron.
We want our Coffee Monkeys to be visible. We want our breads and pastries to be easy to see and reach. We've already planned to display art and photos for sale from local artists or artists who display locally at art shows like the City Arts Festival and the Medieval Faire. The look should be cozy and inviting. The longer people linger inside the Cracked Cauldron, the more they'll spend on coffees, teas, and little pastries. Those 75¢ pastries add up.
We will want "spill-proof" flooring, easy to clean, and eventually, a lovely mosaic type floor would be nice, one that defines areas, and makes an attractive but subtle pattern.
There will be a "reading" area from the beginning, although all it may contain are trade journals and homeless reports to start with. If the landlord does put in a fireplace, that's where it will go.
And a performance area for the Open Mike Night, Poetry Night, Scheduled Performers, and Punday Night.
When the Cracked Cauldron is open more than 5 days a week, we'll add in a Storytelling Night, and maybe a second Open Mike Night for just music.
See, the Cracked Cauldron will truly be abaking up the memories for people with yummies, pretties, and Things To Do.
It has to be more than functional, it has to be inviting.
And that's what we didn't find in all the bakeries we toured.
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
It's a good thing Manager knows all about PowerPoint because she just may need it.
If the loan doesn't come through, I've been checking out angel investors and such. She'll need to make a 20 minute WOW presentation.
We have all the ingredients: pro forma, projected cash flow sheets, photographs, testimonials, The Cookbook, and some artwork for the Cracked Cauldron. Not only that, but we can also prepare a snack basket of yummies for the potential investors to munch on while viewing the presentation.
Our Queen Flour Monkey wants to be there helping with the presentation, and since she's keeping herself available (read "she's turned down job offers so she can be ready when we are") until we open (and hurting financialy because of it), that means we can justify paying her "consultation fees" to help her stay afloat until we open. She won't let us pay her because she says "I'm not doing anything to be paid for."
Working at making presentations to potential investors will certainly be work - and she'll accept pay for that.
We have such wonderful people supporting us. Dedicated. They believe in what we want to do, and what we'll be able to offer. They like that we'll have a great product, and they like even better that we'll use it to help better our local community.
So, we need to add more minty goodness to the Dinner Mint Sandwich Cookies. Or they're too minty. The chocolate cookie part needs to be thinner. They need more chocolate frosting.
The dough from the Raspberry Spirals ought to be made into Lady Fingers. They'd be great with blueberry filling. Oughta make them with cherries.
The Harvest Bars are too dry. Or too moist.
We'll take these suggestions under advisement. But where we get conflicting suggestions, I think we'll keep them as is. We can't please everyone, and if we add more sage for one person, we'll run away another. But, if they like it and will buy and eat it, just wishing it had a bit more or a bit less of whatever, well, then, we've achieved success!
More mint with the Dinner Mint Sandwich Cookies? Here, have a Minty Mocha Latte with it, or Mint Paradise Hot Cocoa, or a Frosty Minted Milk. There's lots of way to enhance the minty goodness of them.
Too minty? Well, try this lovely Bergamocha Brew, or a Triple Cocoa.
Hehe - half the fun of having a bakery is suggesting complemetary goodies to enhance or oppose the primary choice.
That's something we won't overlook in our Coffee Monkey Training - Complemetary Pairings.
Buy a baklava cheesecake, and the Coffee Monkey should recommend pairing it with a nice, equally smooth Full City Roast Ethiopian Moka Harrar for coffee drinkers, or a subtle South Indian Chai for tea drinkers, or a sweet Rose Milk. Any of those would go outstandingly well with the baklava cheesecake.
We'll have other recommendations, too, for everything we offer.
Heh. We just may spoil Okies to pieces. They'll expect the same level of informative Coffee Monkey at all the coffee shops and bakeries in town.
Our customers will be encouraged to explore, and if they choose the same thing over and over, we'll remember.
I see the Cracked Cauldron as being a synthistic blend of what we wanted Starbucks and Panera to be with a really cool art gallery and a Callahan's  type environment. It will, of course, evolve into its own unique character, but those will be its roots.
 From Spider Robinson's Callahan's Crosstime Salon novels and stories. If you haven't read them, do so.
Tuesday, October 12, 2004
It must be cake.
Thick and moist and rich in spices, soft as a cake, it has to be cake, except when it's a bar cookie.
Pictures at 7:00.
No, honestly. When I get back to the computer that has the photo program and the floppy disk with the photos on it, I'll upload pictures of these cakey bar cookies.
Also pictures of our response to the Girl Scout Thin Mints cookies.
Ours, however, are lush and thick, almost a cross between an Oreo and a Thin Mint. You'll see.
Don't you wish we were open now?
Not half as much as we do.
Monday, October 11, 2004
As we wait for word on financing (and Manager seeks new stockholders and other avenues of financing), we settle into the Soup Season.
One of the nice things about soup is the ability to make the "pre-soup" things ahead of time. The same "pre-soup" recipes can be used for multiple soups. A mirepoix, for example, is just a sauteed blend of several standard vegetables: onions, carrots, celery, garlic.
In India, many of the soups have a "pre-soup" of sauteed herbs and spices - black mustard seed, coriander, cardamom, peppers, cinnamon.
We've created a Daily Soup that starts off with the same base, but depending on what we add to that base, we can change the nationality of the soup. So far, we have variants for Irish, Italian, German, French, Russian, Greek, and Egyptian.
This Daily Soup is vegetarian in creation, but it wouldn't take much to make it a meat soup, just a small addition of mutton, pork, chicken, or beef.
Being in a landlocked state, we haven't explored the options of seafood soups, mainly because we really can't get truly fresh seafood, only frozen stuff. Our clam chowder, for example, suffers severely with canned clams. Most of the time, we simply leave the clams out and have just a potato chowder.
And yes, yes, the Manly Man Stew will make an appearance on our Soup Menu. It won third place in the Manly Stew Competition, up against professional chefs.
It's easy to cook for most men. If you put meat, potatoes, lima beans, and tomatoes in it, most men will love it. Toss in a bit of bird and some corn, and they'll follow you home.
Our Manly Man Stew has mesquite smoked chuck, beer butt chicken, potato balls, lima beans, extra tiny diced tomatoes, corn, caramelized onions, and olive oil in it. The flavor is soul satisfying, and the soup is filling, especially when paired with Mexicali Corn Bread.
Women want it pretty as well as tasty. Even though we facetiously named the stew the Manly Man Stew, it has a clear ruddy broth that showcases the yellow corn, green limas, and white potatoes, and the dark meat deepens the color, making it autumnal colored.
We chose to keep the broth clear rather than gravy-like because we wanted those colors to shine through. A gravy would have made the soup duller in appearance, although no less delicious.
A spicy Mexicali Cornbread goes well with this stew, but so does a sourdough rosemary carrot bread, or a light and fluffy feather roll.
A medium roast Peruvian coffee complements it well, or a light apricot blend iced tea.
Saturday, October 09, 2004
A pecan pie, made with minimal crust, for a woman who asked it be made this way. Normally, we arrange the pecans in neat circles and the edge is fuller, made of overlapping small leaves. I hope the larger leaves with which we decorated the pie aren't too much crust.
Friday, October 08, 2004
The baklava cheesecake - what was left of it after being voraciously attacked by our Official Guinea Pigs.
If they don't, please explain why "It just got harder -- and more expensive -- for some small businesses to get a federal loan.", according to Wall Street's Startup Journal?
We had some leftover phyllo dough - not enough to make baklava, or Chicken Aloute, but too much to not use.
We had marscapone from a local store and a creamy buttermilk cheese we'd picked up in Tennessee and cocoa powder we'd picked up in Pennsylvania, and honey from a friend's apiary.
And naturally, we have springform pans. There was enough phyllo dough to make a pie crust. A cheesecake pie crust.
So, we blended the marscapone and buttermilk cheese and honey and poured it into the phyllo lined springform. We added pecans and almonds (because we didn't have walnuts or pistachios), and made a drizzle swirl of cocoa in it.
We melded the crispy richly sweet gooeyness of baklava with the creamy smoothness of a cheesecake.
We are soooo going to have to offer this in the Cracked Cauldron.
Or maybe not.
We might be responsible for death by delicious.
Thursday, October 07, 2004
There's a new print journal we just discovered last night that relates to our business: Southern Lady's Tea Time.
Since part of our menu will involvve tea, and one of our earliest contacts to schedule a regular meeting was with a group of ladies who wanted a "tea meeting", this journal offers some nice ideas on how to set their meeting up.
As a bonus, there is a nice article about the very group for whom we're arranging meeting space: the Red Hat Society.
When we are closer to opening, we plan to be listed with their Purple Perks card, offing a special treat upon presentation of their card when Red Hat ladies shop in the Cracked Cauldron.
Had our schedule not been derailed by financial slowdowns, we would have already contacted them about our desire to become part of the network of companies who offer specials to their membership. As soon as we know when our Opening Date is, we will be contacting them quickly, you may be sure of that!
We have several other organizations in line for similar specials when they show their membership cards. Meeting space is also available.
But it all hinges upon funding and our Opening Date.
In purusing this journal, Manager wondered if a Plan AA might be renting a small commercial kitchen and catering Teas and Kaffe Klatsches might not be a way to ease into opening the actual Cracked Cauldron. Plan AA comes after Plan Z.
We may be bumbling and stumbling about doing this, but we Have Plans, by golly we do! If one thing we try doesn't work, we have a new angle or a new method or a new direction to try.
We have people depending on us to open this - people addicted to our cookies, or cakes, or breads. They'll starve without us.
OK, maybe they won't starve without us, but they will pine away.
It's kind of interesting to enter the library and have people come up to us and ask when we'll be open. I had someone honking at me the other day, and when I stopped, they leaned out of their car to ask "Where's the Cracked Cauldron?" and I had to answer "Nowhere, yet, but we'll be opening soon!"
Oklahoma City is a big city, and we are starting to be recognized by people we've never met before - and we're not even wearing Cracked Cauldron T-shirts or buttons yet.
I was at the grocery store, buying plums for a zwetschkenkuchen, and had 2 customers standing in line with me ask about the Cracked Cauldron. This was not my usual grocery store. I didn't expect anyone there to know anything about it, but one woman said she'd overheard me talking about it at Target. The other woman said she'd seen me talking about it when I was making sandwich deliveries on Sandwich Saturday to some of the homeless people - her group was delivering hot dogs and our routes crossed.
I think, when we finally do open, people are going to swat us for not getting it done faster. We're going to have to think up fresh and witty ways to respond to the repeated "'Bout time!" we'll be hearing.
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
Nordicware has some new holiday pattern bundt pans out: a heart shaped bundt, a bundt formed into a wreath of trees, and a heart tart pan.
Even if we don't have funds yet to buy them for the Cracked Cauldron, since Manager has to be very careful with what funds she does have, I will buy a set for me. Then donate them to the Cracked Cauldron when it opens, because really, I won't have time to bake at home anymore. Not when I'll be spending all my spare time down at the Cracked Caulron baking there - or brewing coffee or concocting specialty cocoas or swinging a mop.
The heart tart pan is exactly what I've been looking for to make the Queen of Tarts tarts in. This is a yummy red tart made sort of like a baklava, only with cranberries and strawberries, in a heart shape, and topped with a meringue mushroom - a la Alice in Wonderland. For Valentine's Day, I can change out the mushroom for an arrow in either meringue or chocolate (or both - why not be indulgent?).
Monday, October 04, 2004
With the start of colder weather, it's easier to test out new stew and bread recipes.
Fall produce is naturally less expensive in the fall.
One of what we hope will be a seasonal specialty is our Root Stew: potatoes (mealy and waxy), carrots, onions, rutabagas, celeriac, kohlrabi, turnips, parsnips, and jerusalem artichokes in a thick creamy base, tarted up with a squeeze of beet puree. Beets, of course, would be overwhelming in the Root Stew, but essential if we want to capture the essence of rootiness. Beet puree is astonishingly purple and looks well against the creaminess of the Root Stew, whose pale green is relieved only by the dotted orange of the carrots. A squiggle of beet puree adds flavor, color, and interest to an otherwise sweet and dichrome stew.
I think a dollop of creme fraiche with a squiggle of beet puree over it would look and taste fabulous.
But it's not just stews that absorb us - it's the nut breads.
Pumpkin bread with raisins. Pumpkin bread with pecans. Pumpkin bread with blueberries. Pecan cranberry nut bread. Orange walnut bread. Dried cranberry cherry and apple bread. Banana nut bread.
The variations are as endless as our imagination. Lemon blueberry bread.
Orange cherry pineapple with macadamias.
Chocolate hazelnut cherry.
Baked as individual loaves, as bite sized nibblers, as rings and crowns, as standard substantial tea loaves, with the coming of cold weather, nut breads come into their own.
Friday, October 01, 2004
Well, it looks like our opening date will be pushed later into the year.
Should we shoot for Thanksgiving? That gives us a whole other month to seek the funding we need.
Maybe we'll find an investor or angel who is willing to take a risk on what we feel is a sure shot.
After all, except for that one hideous cake back in January, we haven't had a failure yet - and the reason that cake failed is because one of the ingredients was on the edge of spoiled, even though we were well within the expiration date.
We are going to revamp our entire budget, see what is completely essential (oven, vent, POS system, furniture, mixers, sinks, dishwasher, refrigerator, freezer, coffee equipment, to go supplies, dishes, flatware, cleaning supplies, ingredients), what we can get used or on credit, and how we can contrive.
Contrive, we will.
One way or the other, the Cracked Cauldron will open.
Pity it couldn't be on our preferred schedule.
But, yanno, I have a full marketing schedule planned out, and it is flexible enough to be implemented at any point.
I'll continue to work on getting the web site up, and the calendar made - although both will lack some important information, like address and phone number - and when the button maker arrives, we can distribute buttons for customer awareness. We can continue the sample distribution of yummy treats. We can cater a few small things. We can generate awareness through articles sent to the paper. We can keep this blog going. We can update the web site with cool trivia. We can sponsor small events. Or co-sponsor them.
There's a lot we can do on the marketing end of things.
On the business end, Manager will continue to solicit buyers for stock, and seek potential investors.
And it's possible that we'll manage to find the funds and finagle and connive and be open really soon.
One thing we're doing is going through our mailing list of people who want to be notified when we open and asking if they'd be interested in purchasing some stock. Not much, at least 10 shares, more if they feel like it. That's only $10.00 (plus the processing fee the CPA charges), less than the price of a good meal.
There are some people on that list who are eagerly soliciting college classmates and friends to invest in us.
I've asked Manager to contact her enthusiastic college professors to see if any of them will invest.
And I'm hitting up my co-workers, many of whom benefit from our ovens and are also anxiously awaiting the opening.
A way will be found.
That was yummy - a little too much lemon.
Rabbit loves lavendar and rose, with just a pinch of cardamom and clove, and some white pepper. Because the rice wrapper was thin and fragile, I bolstered it with several layers of steamed mustard leaves, and that was a WOW for the pie.
Rice wrapper, mustard leaves, and a piling of rabbit in a floral lemon sauce, with peas and leeks.
I don't know if we'll offer this in the Cracked Cauldron, or if we'll offer it often, but I think it's even better than the Chicken Aloute, which we will be offering.
I just have to remember that the lemon is a seasoning, not a keynote.
And I have to rememebr that the rice wrapper wants moisture when it bakes, so a nice layer of butter helped keep it from turning brittle.