Saturday, January 01, 2005

New Year's 

We've made a lot of progress over the past year towards opening the Cracked Cauldron, even if we aren't open as we'd hoped and planned.

We've learned a lot about starting a business and how very different that is from running a business.

Running a business, from this side, looks very simple in comparison.

Sure, we'd have to be aggressive in marketing, scrupulous in crafting our products, and friendly even to the touchy customer just looking for some fight or other. We'd have lots of things to keep track of and to account for and be busy beyond belief. We'd have to watch the bottom line and stay in the black. Wastage and spoilage would be high on our list of things to worry about.

But we could do that.

The accountability and marketing and cash flow and product quality assurance and the overflow bounty for the homeless, this is all planned for, studied for, easy to implement.

Seeking the final funding to open the business end is the part we're falling down on.

But let's not dwell on that just yet. It's important, it really is, but let's review what we have accomplished this year first.

We created an entire portfolio of unique and special recipes, from Hot Drops to Chai Roses, collecting a very loyal and eager set of customers.

We discovered some pitfalls of expecting professionals to behave professionally, and now know to get even the teensiest thing in writing.

We made friends with a lot of really wonderful people, on line and off, and discovered that people are eager to help and to share their expertise.

We discovered an amazing number of people who are looking to us to be an example of what can be accomplished - and we feel a bit like we're letting those people down because we didn't meet our original tight goals.

We learned how to do a proper spreadsheet and cash flow analysis.

We learned just how much we could accomplish in a given amount of time.

We discovered that learning to make the wheel , for us, was as important as being able to use the wheel when it's done. In actual terms, this means that we discovered that shortcuts may be nice, but for in depth understanding of our business, we needed to know the littlest details. There are a lot of details in opening and running a bakery.

We discovered that we knew virtually nothing about the beverage end of the business - and have learned interesting things such as Fair Trade and Organic coffees, cupping, tea-tastings, and soda quality control. We discovered facts about the dairy industry we'd never imagined.

And we made friends with ahuge number of local suppliers - dairy and cattle farmers, hog farmers, chicken farmers, wheat farmers, flour mill owners, the Mushroom Man, and found some amazing cheeses made in our own state.

We toured wineries and discovered some great local wines we intend to use in the crafting of our stews.

Our suppliers will be more than providers of ingredients - many are well on the way to becoming friends.

We learned more than we'll probably ever need to know about commercial real estate and tax laws.

We learned that we could pinch a penny so hard it gave change back.

I doubt you can find more frugal business owners than we'll be. We are excellent at scrounging and refurbishing and adapting to changing circumstances.

We plan to continue this venture in the coming year by expanding our marketing base. Odd, isn't it, to market a store that isn't open yet? Anyway, we began that by opening a Cafe Press store - the link is in the side bar. The few things in there will be expanded in the coming days - adding aprons and T-shirts to the mugs and coasters.

The calendar wasn't ready for this year after all - some weird bugs with uploading the graphics that haven't been resolved yet. I'm not sure if the problem is on our end or the publisher's end, and neither are they, but we're working on it.

We're looking for another location, one that is affordable on a reduced budget, and are looking at opening in a smaller way than initially planned.

We're looking at having a booth at a few specific events - MedFaire, the Festival of the Arts, and a few others.

We have a book in the works that gives all the details we've not posted - the spreadsheets with errors, and the corrected ones - guess what our biggest clerical error was? And pictures that didn't make it to the blog and recipes as they evolved and the stories behind them, along with guinea pig comments.

We are looking at offering cooking classes at a local college in their continuing education department.

Much as we want it all to happen now, we realize that unless you inheret lots of money, win a big lottery, or have a rich sponsor, that isn't going to happen.

It's going to take work, lots of hard work. And time. More time than we'd first estimated.

The delay, while it chaps us, is probably good for us. We learn new things all the time, and discover fixes for problems we hadn't realized existed.

So the coming year is another chance to open our doors at last.

And y'all are all invited to the Grand OPening when it comes.

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