Monday, June 20, 2005

Texas and other Locations 

We bought lottery tickets and came out even. We won what we paid for the tickets. No losses, no gains.

This is slightly better than some of our other ventures to secure funding. We've spent hundreds of dollars that returned zero for our expenditure and efforts. We've also spent tens of dollars that returned ,not cash, but other less tangible results. For example, a few bucks and some time to bake a cheesecake or bread, and we've garnered some positive feedback and at least one new potential customer. Or we spend a few minute's time talking and get some new connections or a lead on a supplier.

Our least expenditures get the greatest returns, and our big expenditures get no returns.

There's a lesson there, and it's probably not the one intended.

Other than that, while we were in Texas, we picked up some yummy local Texas produce and plants to grow.

We visited the World Market, and it was nice to have everything in one location. We can get most of what they offered here in Oklahoma, only we have to travel to several different cities and visit multiple shops in each city to get everything the World Market had under one single roof. It would be nice to be able to do that here.

Central Market carries fruits and vegetables and fresh herbs that flat out are not available here at all - even in the more exotic Asian, Thai, Mexican, and Indian markets. There was a lot of South American produce (yum!), and some African spices and foods we don't have here. I may go back again early next month to shop a bit more - and bring along a larger ice chest so we can bring back more produce.

With any luck, that construction that backed up the traffic for more than 2 hours on I-35 will be completed.

We weren't caught in it because I knew an alternate route that took us over the Red River only 25 miles out of our way. It was scenic, and virtually fee of traffic, and we didn't stress out sitting stalled in traffic for lengthy periods of time.

The next time we go down, there's an ostrich farm we want to visit to see if we can get some yummy ostrich steaks. The only ostrich meat we can get at the market is ground, and while ground is OK, I really prefer the steaks.

And I want to stop at some of the roadside produce stands we didn't have time to visit. We don't have many small farmers and backyard gardeners setting up portable booths or in the back of a pick-up selling their surplus, and I miss that, along with the food cart vendors set up in parks and the other (very few) heavily foot- trafficked areas. I'd love to be able to buy an eggroll at the lake, or a hotdog at the park, or a snow cone in the parking lot of a strip mall while out shopping.

But I'd have to move to another state to see it happening.

Manager is checking out the possibility of opening the Cracked Cauldron in another state, which is one reason for our increased trips. She's also discovered the temp agency she contacted will send her on assignments in other cities, so she can live there for a month or so and get a feel for the city, spend time looking up their regs and talking to other small business owners and see if another location would be a viable option. The attraction to staying in Oklahoma is primarily that we know the market here really well, we know the community needs, and we know the programs in place and hte cracks and nooks we can fill. With time, we can discover all of that in any other location.

So, we're looking at new locations - some of them quite distant, and we'll see where this leads us in our quest to open the Cracked Cauldron.

Friday, June 17, 2005

The next level of the flavorful and colorful Il Gianfornaio bread - a good loaf and - tada! Rolls! The rolls by the way, are delicious - you get all 4 flavors at each bite. This set is made from beets, tomatoes, spinach, and corn. I think I like this combination very well. I made the corn bread portion because I couldn't find any parsnips. Posted by Hello

Monday, June 13, 2005

Status Update 

Again, Manager is faced with questions about her age and therefore lack of experience and "credentials" in working towards opening the Cracked Cauldron.

I don't know if she'd face the same requirements and interrogations if she were working towards opening the Cracked Cauldron in some other city, county, or state.

It is very discouraging to constantly be refused loans and investments because of her youth. And that is what it boils down to. She's done an incredible amount of research, field tests, test marketing of her products, and studied various methods of operating a business like the Cracked Cauldron. She knows the risks, she's taken steps to mitigate difficulties. All she needs is a loan. Or an investor (group of investors) that will trust that she really does know what she's doing.

Or win the lottery.

We're taking a trip to Texas the 17th to confer with some bakers there and do some light shopping for things not available in Oklahoma and while we're there, we're going to go ahead and buy a few lottery tickets. You can't win if you don't play. And really, her chances of winning the lottery seem to be as good as her chances of attracting enough venture capitol or investment capitol.

She's decided to take the time to "beef up" her credentials by taking some culinary arts classes and to acquire that MBA from a local college. The books and course materials lent her by her Financial Director will help with that.

Maybe, with a few more years behind her and a few more certifications, investors will not shy away so easily.

Or maybe she'll win that lottery and can just do it all the way it needs to be done.

Her ideas and methods are cutting edge, and in the past year, we've seen many of the things she proposed to do in her Cracked Cauldron come to pass. We talked of smaller portions, and lo - bakeries started offering individual portions successfully. We talked about having a chocolate somellier, because we predicted hot chocolate would be the next coming beverage - and Starbuck's (among other coffee shops) came out months later with their Chantico Sipping Chocolate. We predicted the rise of tea consumptions, particularly white and green teas, and herbal blends, and we see an increasing number of such options at coffee shops and even in the grocery stores. We spoke of combining the bakery with an art gallery and live entertainment, and different bakeries have done similar things successfully. We spoke of wi-fi as important to a bakery like the Cracked Cauldron, and we see the rise of wi-fi in coffeeshops and bakeries throughout the country.

If we'd had the money to open the Cracked Cauldron last October, as planned, we'd be at the forefront of these trends, and of others we've talked about (buying locally, connecting the Cracked Cauldron with a specific charity, involvement in local celebrations, sponsoring local festivals, labeling all items for the top 10 allergens and not just gluten or peanut, labeling for trans-fats, customer-designed baked goods, and customer involvement in menu offerings).

It hurts, in some ways, to talk about the trends we want to spearhead, only to have others carry them forward because we lack only one small - and apparently insurmountable - thing: money.

Actually, that's not entirely true. We'd need considerably less money if we didn't have so very many expensive regulations with which to comply. Some of them make a geat deal of sense and were ones we planned on anyway. They are a logical and necessary part of doing business. Others, though are a burden on a new business.

Not to mention the proposed 5¢ per gallon sales tax on gasoline. Imagine what that will do to the cost of business - and why we planned more than a year ago to make our supplies be as local as possible.

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