Monday, January 03, 2005

Committee Meeting 2005 

Over lunch, we held a year-to-date and goals meeting.

We have enough funds left to operate for 2-3 months, so we need to step up some of the things we've been doing.

Our first priority at the meeting was to list everything we've accomplished to date.

For your edification, here is that list, sort of in chronological order. Some things happened over an extended period of time and are mentioned more than once if there was significant change in details. Others began at one point and ended weeks or months later - those are mentioned at their conclusion because the end result was a foregone conclusion.

In the beginning was the Idea. Manager hosted a party of friends and plied them with baked goodies. As they sat around, many of said, not for the first time, "You should sell these cakes/cookies/muffins/pies."

Manager had a friend who, a year earlier, had offered to invest in opening a coffeehouse, and the women who wanted to do it never committed. Manager mentioned this to her friends, who were all enthusiastic about her opening a coffeehouse.

Over the following weeks, the Idea evolved from a simple coffeehouse to blend with other goals Manager had about helping the working homeless and became, in time, a full fledged bakery with a way to provide information and food to the working homeless people of her city.

She did some research, and took a few college classes that would help her in her quest to open this unnamed bakery. Friends and family offered support, mostly of an emotional and informative nature.

As time passed, her commitment to the idea grew, and she began to hone her skills, testing recipes and tracking down family specialties from Germany.

As the Idea became more feasible, she read books about how to start your own business, and talked things over with her college professors, and professors from other departments. All encouraged her to continue, offering advice and more information while critiquing her baking skills as they ate her cakes and cookies.

Finally, she committed to buying books on the baker's trade and talking with bakers on how to do this.

The Idea had evolved to the point that it needed a name.

Manager tried out various names, some cute, some alliterative, some truly odd. But she kept coming back to the concept of feeding the homeless with part of the proceeds of her bakery and the old stories of the never-ending cauldron of soup. The cauldron assumed a central place in her quest for a name.

In her childhood, she was a part of historical re-enactment groups for the black powder days - and her family had an old cauldron large enough to fed the whole camp. It had a crack in it, but it still held enough food for everyone. That cauldron and the memories of the endless laadles of soup coming out of it became the symbol for her dream of opening hte bakery and feeding the hungry - and so the name Cracked Cauldron was born.

With a name, it was suddenly real.

In October of 2003, she decided to proceed with opening the Cracked Cauldron Bakery. The last semester in college, she offered to cater parties for friends, classmates, and college organizations, and gained a great deal of support and a slew of willing guinea pigs to sample her recipes.

As soon as her college career ended, she was ready to start.

She incorporated as a Subchapter S Corporation, opened a business checking account with a small investment from her family, and contacted the Small Business Administration.

She took a number of their seminars and classes on start-ups, was directed to the Women's Business Center for financial counseling, and hired a CPA to help her with taxes.

Her Finacial Director came on board about this time and invested in the business, as well.

She attended a Bakery COnvention and met other bakers in the industry, both small specialty bakers such as herself and large commercial bakers like the representatives from Pepperidge Farms. She also met suppliers and narrowed her choices on equipment she could inspect in person. She chose a Point of Sales system she felt would be best for her business and got to preview a lot of software related to her business. At the end, she was convinced she really could do this, she had the skills, the knowledge, and the support to move forward.

Her Financial Director lent her the coursework for an MBA and helped her set up her spreadsheets and cashflow plans. With his help, she set up plans for different levels of opening, everything from the ideal full service bakery down to the barebones coffeehouse.

Armed with this information, she applied for business loans for the high end of what she wanted to do. After two rejections, she went back and reworked the spreadsheets.

During this time, she was taking tours of bakeries in the neighboring states, to see how they functioned and what she could apply to the bakery she wanted to open. One of those tours took her to Boston and back, and netted her a lot of useful information, including ideas on how to open the bakery with far less than she'd originally visualized. The bakers in Ohio and Pennsylvania were exceedingly helpful and generous.

She returned from the last research trip filled with renewed hope and made a third application for a business loan. This was also rejected.

Instead of giving up, Manager re-evaluated what she was planning to do and how to accomplish it under other circumstances.

During all of this, she was busy building her unique collection of recipes, from a Chocolate Chai cake to a baklava cheesecake, cinnamon snap cookies, and cream scones, Bacon Bread and a line of delicious sourdoughs with starters gifted by other bakers. She also learned a lot about coffee, and began a time of taste-testing coffees from several specialty roasters.

As part of her membership in professional organizations: the Bread Baker's Guild, the Specialty Coffee Association of America, and the Personal Chef Network, she gained much valuable information.

As she found them, mostly in antique shops, she collected specialty cookie cutters and baking forms and other necessary smallwares. Friends gifted her with more cake forms, cookie cutters, professional measuring devices, and so on. A friend who is a professional knifemaker gave her a set of knives forged to her specifications. Another friend designed her logo for her and other artwork.

She learned how to talk to realtors and how to inspect properties with an eye towards her needs, and made friends with a few bankers.

She began advertising - even though she didn't get a loan on her third attempt. As part of this, she purchased software for designing web pages - which is in the works, as she hasn't yet gotten the data needed to upload to the host service which is supposed to be part of the purchase of the software.

She didn't open in October 2004, as she hoped, but that was her best estimate, if everything went perfect.

In November, she had a dinner meeting with her Board of Directors to discuss how her first year had gone, and what they could do for the second year.

She ended her first year in the black - not a bad thing at all for a new start-up that hasn't even opened its doors yet.

After that Board Meeting, she set up a PayPal account and a Cafe Press store to market her logo and begin awareness of her brand. A calendar was planned, but uploading difficulties prevented it from being ready for the beginning of the year (it's still in the works).

The book detailing the first year of opening a bakery is currently making the rounds of publishers.

Manager is looking at a new location, smaller and closer to a college, and has reworked her information to open as a coffeehouse first, with lots of room for expansion. She expects to hear back from the owners any day now.

Instead of opening as the full line bakery, with $30,000.00, she'll open as a coffeehouse that will expand into becoming a bakery quickly.

Manager will be contacting her suppliers and opening working accounts with them.

If she gets the lease for the property, she can be in business in 6-8 weeks.

Other plans in the works are having a booth at the OU Medieval Faire in the neighboring city, and possibly a booth at the Festival of the Arts downtown. These will both generate some income, but their promary purpose is to market the bakery. And both are contingent upon finding a commercial kitchen that is available to rent for the days needed for the events.

And that, Dear Readers, is where the Cracked Cauldron is today.

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