Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pins and Needles

We were hoping to have the lease signed by last week. That was enthusiasm and excitement talking and not reality. In order for us to make sure that we are doing everything the right way you have to sit back, take a breath, and call the contractors and the inspectors, the insurance people and the lawyer, and that my friends cannot be rushed.

I can’t believe we have a lawyer; it’s a little surreal. But honestly having someone who knows what they are doing take a look at your lease and make sure that you can either get out if there are major issues or have your tail covered if you want to stay on for another 6 years without a giant rent increase is worth every penny. And yes they are a lot of pennies, most lawyers charge about $250 an hour! Just so you know.

We called three contractors and electricians and had them meet us Thursday and Friday to tell us what the damage would be to put in a hood system. And per what we expected it is about $10,000 and another $3000 for fire suppression, and that doesn’t include the electrical. Luckily we were prepared for that, granted we need to order the parts by TOMORROW at the latest. The company shuts down for 2 weeks and if we want the work finished by the end of January we need to sign the lease and a big fat check for half of the hood up front. Needless to say we are sitting on pins and needles waiting to see in the lessor is going to accept the changes that the lessee’s lawyer made.

We did receive the OLCC application in the mail and HOLY CRAP that thing is a tome! I knew it was going to be intense but geez! Seriously I didn’t have to fill out this much stuff to buy my house. Plus a seventy-question test on Oregon liquor law. That was fun.

We are in limbo waiting for things to be approved and then we can bolt ahead again. Once we have the official lease signed we can finish the OLCC paperwork, finish our other business papers, get addresses transferred and start buying equipment! But first thing is first; we are popping the champagne cork and having a toast!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Our To-Do List is Having Babies

Every day seems busier than the last and the list of things to do just gets bigger and bigger. I did mention that over the weekend we sat down and wrote out a honey-do list and divided it up, presumably to conquer though it seems like it takes 15 phone calls and or e-mails just to finish one item. And I don’t know about you, but I LOVE crossing things off a list, but now it seems like it’s a different kind of system, for example:

check = has been completed, well mostly, as far as I can take it, or to my satisfaction (this is not as good as a line drawn through the item)

x= Addressed but not completed

o = address later you are too busy right now

Then of course after re-typing the list so it was legible, I’ve still made little notes all over it.

Let us share with you our experiences over the last couple of days.

We have a phone number, yes I know it’s exciting, it’s a Google voice number so that people can call us and it’s forwarded to whatever phone and you can see the actual list of your phone calls online just like you would access e-mail. Problem being when someone calls the PCW number and it’s forwarded to my phone, I don’t know if they are calling me or the business so either I have to answer all strange numbers, “Portland’s Culinary Workshop how can I help you?!” or I say “yo whazzup” and get busted for un-professionalism (I don’t really answer the phone like that but you know what I mean).

After spending four some odd hours trying to put together a decent looking marketing postcard I wisely gave up and sent it to my graphic designer telling him to make it look “less messed up (well it wasn’t as nice as that). Hopefully he’ll fix that because I hate looking messed up, it doesn’t help with the professional image.

We have contacted the city planners to find out about occupancy issues. For some reason we keep getting the statement that our occupancy doesn’t have to do with the space we are in, but what kind of business we are running. Does anyone know about this? Because they should take a look at the Roseland Theater I thought I was going to have a Final Destination moment there while everyone in the balcony was jumping up and down. Anyway we are looking into it.

I called three different commercial building inspectors (the websites for guys are general awful) trying to find out what we needed as far as an inspection. Because we are getting a (modified) gross lease, building inspectors would be expensive and redundant since the lessor is responsible for roof, walls, exterior, etc. but since what we are concerned about is the heating unit, electrical and plumping they ALL said get those guys in individually, it’ll be cheaper. We have an electrician coming Friday. I wasn’t going to torture my wonderful amazing electrician friend from Corvallis to drive all the way up here for that, but I do reserve the right to call him (and pay him) later for other genius electrical services.

We called the landlord about 3 times and e-mailed him a couple more times, either he’s an angel or he’s totally pissed, we can’t tell yet.

We had already opened up a bank account with Umqua a long while ago since they have a very good reputation of supporting local businesses, but since they aren’t national and don’t provide small business credit cards we opened an additional account with Wells Fargo just in case we expand nationally and to make sure we have a place to go for credit if we need it. If. Big IF. It took about 45 minutes out of my morning but I did get a pony, so it’s all good.

My partner contacted multiple hood contractors to see if we could get them into the space before the end of the week. Really if we can’t get a hood in there for a reasonable price, it’ll be a deal breaker. Right now for an 8 foot hood with side venting we are looking at $10,000 smackers. Why am I telling you this? It’s common knowledge, anyone in the restaurant biz will tell you the hood is the most expensive thing, and for 10 Gs we are probably getting off easy, though it takes a chunk of our investment. So we are willing to go for it, but damn it’s scary and we wish we had our third backer in the bag before January.

So the hood people are coming on Thursday and Friday morning to give us estimates, along with the electrician on Friday.

I sent off the request for the application to the OLCC. How messed up is it that you have to request an application?? Anyway you can’t apply for a permit until you have signed a lease or purchased a place so we hope to have it all filled out and ready to drop in the mail the second that happens. Generally it take 60-90 days for the application to be processed and if you don’t cross every t and dot every I it comes back to you and you have to start over. That would be why the bright neon colored signs on business doors that are in the midst of applying. Thankfully Oregon is cheap but we make up for it in paperwork.

I contacted my rep at FSA to get the list of equipment that we would like to sell retail. I have still to go through that catalog, it’s an online tome.

We were told we were under the jurisdiction of the USDA since we didn’t fall under the Health Department, so I called the USDA and told them what we were up to and what license did we need to apply for. Guess what? We are exempt from the Health Dept. and the USDA. Huh great for us, I know we are going to have the up most standards of sanitation, sketchy though for all those other places. Hmmmm..Choose us we’re clean!

We also contacted our Webmaster extraordinaire to see if we can set up some kind of pay method as we are being inundated with requests for gift certificates, we will totally honor all gift certificates no matter what, and if people want to give us money before we are open based on faith, I’ll take it because I know we will honor it. But only if we get the space, if it falls through for some reason I don’t know how soon it would be till we find another. I’ll let you know as soon as that happens.

Oh did you know that you can go to Portland Maps and pick a location and find For FREE all the permits that have been granted by the city for any work on any property? Handy info!

Ok I could tell you about all the back and forth we’ve been having with people looking at the lease, but we sent it to a lawyer and I’ll leave it at that. Whew I hope you all are learning something from this!!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Lease Papers

Our intention for the weekend was to tackle a bunch of projects, namely the website, and to write the owner of the space we were interested in, a letter of intent. After calling the fire marshal, e-mailing the health department and consulting with a number of people, I suggest "F*** the letter of intent, let's call him and tell him we want it!" My gorgeous partner agreed without hesitation and I called and, of course, had to leave a message. He called me back within a couple minutes and I nearly had a heart attack telling him that we indeed wanted the space, don't give it to anyone else!
Not only has this space been a find but the landlord/owner seems like he's too good to be true. He said he would write up the lease and e-mail it to me and that we could look it over (with our lawyer) and send it back to him signed and take possession of the property on Jan 1st.
We both had heart palpitations in taking the plunge.
We can't believe it! We also scored on some amazing tables and deposited our first investment check, and the second one will be on Monday. We ordered checks this weekend, wrote our welcome newsletter, worked on the website (if you haven't checked it out you should!), and wrote a to-do list that is a full sheet of paper with teeny writing and notes in the margin. I need to re-do that actually. Even though we were trying to work Goddess into our job title we decided on "Teacher & Knife Wielder" and we love it.
Things are snowballing and it's only going to get busier and faster! So stay tuned and we will let you know what it's like to work with the city planning commission, how to buy a hood that won't break you, and how hard it is to fill out an OLCC application.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

OMG OMG OMG I Think We Found Our SPACE!!

Well what I thought would be a long and tedious process may have possibly come to an end this evening. We went to go meet with the owner and look at a space this evening and well... we couldn't be more in love or excited about it. Basically we were doing inappropriate cartwheels in the street after the meeting. The price? Right! The space? Perfect! The location? Pretty damn good!! We honestly didn't think we would find a place that we felt this completely good about. Not a fixer upper. It has plumbing and gas and some kitchen equipment, tall ceilings, big room, outside access for herbs, plants, and outside seating in the summer. MAN O MAN!
*jumping around, jumping around, clapping hands, clapping, jumping, clapping, doin' a little dance*
So we are going to get an inspector in there to find out what we need for hood requirements, find out about voltage and well we might be in there by February which was our crazy optimistic goal.
The absolutely bizarre turn of events was that the previous occupant of the space was someone who worked at the school we went to and then taught at, so we are hoping to swing a little "support us you loaded turkey" weight. Probably the owner will read this :-) Hi!
So wish us luck that the inspections tell us all good news, that the hood won't cost us a fortune and that the three compartment sink will be left in place!

HOLY COW this is really happening!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Learning to Lease

               It’s been a roller coaster of a week! We went and viewed a property on Sunday, took a tour and looked at the layout and talked a little about the lease and what they were looking for. After that we went and drove by a few more places that were for lease and only one was something that we really wanted to take a look inside. That tour is tomorrow.
               We decided on Sunday to schedule another meeting for Tuesday to ask more specifics about the property, and we also decided it really wasn’t the property for us, but that we would keep the meeting because we needed the practice. Deciding to come up with a list of questions we needed to/should ask we tasked each other with homework. 
               Besides the basics of terms, square footage and restaurant equipment questions I felt like I was missing a chunk of information about what to consider when looking at commercial spaces. Thank goodness we have freakishly intelligent friends who actually teach this stuff.  I called on my friend Max who inundated me with articles and information and rules to follow when negotiating and considering a lease. After sitting down, powering through the stack with a highlighter, I felt like I was going to be a negotiating wiz! She was that helpful.
               So today armed with a three page typed out list of questions we need to ask we are going to our pseudo-lease meeting. I’m really excited even if it is for practice. And we will be better able to ask questions at the property viewing tomorrow, which is one that we both really like.
               In other news, our Web Master has been given all of our class descriptions, bios, and we are almost ready to launch our website. We do have our official email though, you can write me at Melinda@portlandsculinaryworkshop.com and my not so silent partner will be there soon. For some reason having a website up feels like we are just a little more legit.
               We also have business cards being worked on, letterheads, and other graphics for all sorts of business documents, we officially hired a graphic designer…. And that’s freakin’ exciting too!  Stay up with us on our Facebook page, and you will be the first to know when our website is up and running. We are going to be adding more pictures and are maintaining a constant dialogue with our customer base, so join in the fun.
               We really haven’t taken enough time to tell everyone thank you for being such a great support network. It has really kept us charged and enthusiastic throughout this process! We owe it all to our fans and we haven’t even taught you anything yet, wait till we get you in the kitchen!!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Website coming soon!

 Well we were having some technical difficulties in accessing our own blog. It is boggling my mind trying to keep track of all the log-in names and passwords. Note to self. Write them down somewhere and lock it up.
  We've been working on all the material for our website, finding a format and supplying our web designer with bios, class descriptions and of course blog material.
   Tomorrow we have an appointment to look at a restaurant space, it's probably too big, but it's a nice and I'm looking forward to just be in a space that has more than potential. We will also be spending tomorrow looking at more spaces and areas of town. This part is depressingly slow. Our retail agent has only a few leads and is tough to get a hold of, people with lease signs on their buildings don't return phone calls. What the hell is up with that??
   We had a fancy for the BBQ Daddy spot on Hawthorne but we found out today it's being torn down. What a bummer, I thought that space was great.  If you see a space that would be perfect for us make sure you let us know.
   The plan is ready for action!!

Friday, November 19, 2010

We Need a Building!

     It's Friday and I just received an e-mail with the mock ups of our website! I can't wait until it's finished and up. We will at that point move our blog over to our web page, but until it's finished we needed a forum to let all of you know about what we are up to and our progress.
   Out of the blue this week we had an investor approach us (that's right approach us!) and tell us that he has money for us in January. It's the last bit we need, as long as the stars align for him, they have aligned for us as well. Though this person is supreme about follow through, I'll be excited when all the paperwork is signed. I know better than to count the roasters before they are in the oven.
   We have been doing shameless self promotion on Facebook and will be tweeting away soon with all of our updates as well. Part of these last couple weeks have been creating databases; businesses, clients, and recipes. The more we aren't trying to wing at the last minute the smoother this opening is going to be. Teaching? Cake! We have that down. It's logistics and business behind the scenes that needs to be mise en placed to the T (mise en place means, everything in it's place, in cooking we use it to refer to having the recipe read, twice, ingredients out, measured, chopped, oven on, step list, and mentally thinking about what you are going to do and how you are going to do it. That's just one little nugget you would get out of taking a class from us).
      Business plan is done, finally, website is being worked on, logo stuff has been tasked out and we have contacted a realtor to help us find a building!
    We need a kitchen! It's too expensive to put in a hood system and plumbing for gas so the more we have already available in the building the better off we are going to be to open as soon as possible. So keep an eye out for us! Ideally we'd like to be in center SE Portland, but we are happy to take your findings wherever they may be.
     We can't wait to have our own space and to start teaching!

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Nov. 8th, 2010

I know I know it's been forever since I last wrote. I'm still working doubles, which leaves me zero time to go look at properties and that's really the stage we are out right now. Besides the doubles my partner and I work opposite schedules and that looks like the way that it's going to be that way until after the holidays. 
Since our last investment meeting, we obtained a second investor, which is awesome. We are still going to need a third, which we have approached and are hoping to hear about this week. 
We cleaned up out business plan, added some addtional financials, though I still think that imaginary numbers are well....imaginary, I can tell you with certainty what our worst case and best case and most realistic expectations are based on my experience, but other than that it's a projection based on estimated increase. Basically it's guessing and pessimistic verses optimistic results.... or best case, worst case. We definatly needed more work on the business plan before the 2nd investment meeting, we thought we would get more understanding and someone who had read the business plan a head of time, but we should have been prepared to spiel it like we spiel it to anyone. I wish that I had, had a Powerpoint presentation and five whole minutes. I got cocky with our initial investor and a spiel that was smooth with good delivery. They are all going to be different and have different dynamics. Hopefully we can nail the third one. 
I think... maybe, kind of.... we ,might be finished with the business plan write up....maybe. Of course things might be added to and changed but we wailed through quite a lot of it this weekend. We have pretty graphs now. Marketing, SWOT analysis, projections, sales and marketing strategies are done. 
I made a database for one of our target markets and all of the contacts so that we have a fast jumping off point to do our marketing. We have one more database that I'd like to have finished and that's one more big part target market. Then I can't imagine why we wouldn't be busting at the seams when we open. So very many people in our pockets right now. Sweet, I love people in my pocket. 
We need to finish logo work, memos, packets, letterheads. We need our own database of resources we can use all the time. I can work on that this week. We need to get out website going and we need to find a damn place. Those are our next steps, but we are still plugging.. well no, plowing away and we are seeing our business getting more and more exciting everyday. 
I just wanted to let you all know, that it is still in the works. It hasn't dropped off, when we score the space we will do a little dance and invite you all to join us!   

We Have Investors!

Oct 13th, 2010

I know I haven’t written. It’s not because my enthusiasm for this project has waned, it’s solely because I’ve been working doubles and I’m utterly exhausted most of the time when I finally get home to do anything. That does also mean, progress on the business has been a little slower than I’d like… until last week.
                My awesome partner informed me that we had two prospective investors that would like to meet with us on Sunday and could I put together sales projections. I suddenly found all new time to hammer out projected sales for every scenario under the sun. Tossing around numbers like that and really realizing how much business you are going to have to do, is a little scary, it’s not that we won’t be able to make it work, keeping it self-perpetuating is no problem by the numbers, it’s cutting myself the paycheck that I would like to see that puts us really in deep.
               Do I think we can do what I project? Yes I actually think we can do much better, but I looked at worst case, best case and most likely at the beginning. The “most likely” is definitely far above worst case scenario, and if we actually accomplish the best case scenario, we’d have to hire more people because we would both be working insane hours. That wouldn’t be a bad thing but I also look at best possible case as “not likely”.
               So how did the meeting go? I had nothing prepared and besides getting mildly off track with wise classroom antidotes I think we had a pretty smooth and awesome presentation. And needless to say even though I didn’t have any prepared speech notes, I did have a big fat notebook backing me up. I felt that they felt secure about investing with us, and that it would be an excellent return for them. And that is a concern of mine. I wouldn’t want an investor who felt sketchy about handing us a wad of cash.  A wad of cash indeed, my partner and I did internal and professional cartwheels as they threw out a number.   
               We are on our way, I believe it will be easier to get a couple more investors on board if we have people behind us already, it certainly makes me feel even more legitimate. So off to find a building and another pocketbook! YES!

10 Steps Forward...Of Course There Is a Step Back

Sept. 22nd, 2010

We had a minor setback this week. We were rocking and rolling and patting ourselves on the back and had two cents thrown at us that we should change our name. Even though I had seen the website with the same name as ours, I discounted it since it wasn’t a business and didn’t provide any services for sale and was solely on the web. If I had dug around more (and you had to dig)I would have seen that the guy who facilitates it is from Portland.
               Crap. I was mad at myself more than anything. It is really important to own your brand and I know that, I teach that.  And I’m irritated that the first money that we are throwing into the toilet is because of a rookie mistake. But it’s not a ton of money, I’d rather fix it early than have trouble with it later, and it’s just a name.
               It’s amazing how invested and attached we get to a name. But I teach that as well, how powerful a name is. How calling someone by name, or writing to a person and addressing it to them, will get someone’s attention more than To Whom It May Concern. I tell a story in my workshop during resume and cover letter writing about a memory of going to Knott’s Berry Farm when we were young. I think I was in fourth grade and my brother, we’ll call him Michael for the sake of the story, had to be in third. We walked up to the stiles and the funny thing is I don’t remember any line at all, just walked right through and one of the guys called as we passed, “I hope you have a great time Michael!” My brother was blown away, a big O of a mouth and amazed looks at our parents who were standing grinning beside us. That guy knew his name, wished him a personalized good time!
               My brother was wearing a baseball cap with his name embroidered on it.
               A name is a powerful thing, but this time, it’s just a name. It’s not our business, it’s not our idea, our passion, our excitement, our contacts, our experience, it’s only on paper, and it’s not even that much paper. It is still a rose, and it still smells as sweet.
               I did have to keep reminding myself that yesterday as I hit an emotional funk, whether it was feeling a momentary lack of support, the thought of re-doing a lot of work, the 11 hour days I’ve had to put in, not seeing my husband, work in general or maybe just the combination of all those factors made me want to curl up in the corner and whimper. It’s been a rough couple of weeks and being told that I was going to have to work doubles for the next six months, really didn’t help either.
               This is a learning procedure, and this is not a rough lesson. I’ve completed the database from all of the business who requested teambuilding classes from my current employer. Those will probably be our bread and butter and with all of the double e-mails filtered out I have almost 90 contacts.  Ninety! I could spout monetary projection of what that means if we only get a 9th of them to sign up, but I have loftier goals.
               Today we are going to look at that property, and we are searching for a new name, and then we have to fix our logo, registry, etc. etc.  Wish us luck on the hunt for a new name that we will love as much as the old one, and one that we can make our own.

One Flew Over

Sept. 27th, 2010

 Five hours of brainstorming, googling, using the thesaurus to cram more words onto sheets of paper trying to find something that we liked, explained who we are, what we do, and that no one else has taken. The world of the internet means that you have to be above and beyond clever to come up with something that has not yet been snatched as a domain name, a company, a blog, site, or idea.  It is beyond exhausting, bordering on hysterical, and not the funny kind.
               We came up with and dismissed ideas galore and finally via text messaging after supposedly abandoning the brainstorming all together, and sulking home dejected, came up with one we both liked. I haven’t checked, hopefully we still like it in the morning light and it hasn’t changed from a 10 to a 2.
               After confirmation and thoughtful agreement that this indeed will be our new statement we’ll purchase domains, start creating the website, logos and pick up where we left off. We need to obtain momentum again.
               No sleep, eleven hour a day week ahead, short blog.

It's Like Asking Him to Move In.

Sept. 20th, 2010

 The last few weeks have been a little rough as far as work goes. I had a class going out who pissed me off to no end by handing me their projects that they obviously pooped out on the last day. It was beneath them, and I haven’t been that mad at a class in awhile and since they had already left I had no one to verbally berate. 
               We changed one of the programs, so that I had to re-write several contracts, contact chefs, write letters and send out all in the course of a day.  I have a new group of students that I need to ready; there is a load of paperwork for that, and a new class coming in as well that I teach that I needed to get ready for.   I was told…. At the last minute that I would be working doubles not for just the next term, but for the next six months. To which I said, “I’ll do it if I have to, but don’t expect me to put on a happy face about it.”  We’ll see what happens.
               My class which was going away, isn’t, so all the paperwork and handouts and assignments I let run out I’m going to need to spend a day hogging the copy machine, that’s not going to make me popular. 
               During this little information meeting, my boss told me that he wanted me to think on the question of, “What do you want to be doing here, a year from now.”  He told me things were moving around and there would be opportunities and I should think about it and be ready for a meeting.
               I choked a little. Crap, I don’t have a plan to be here a year from now.  I can’t lie to him and create a career path that I have no intention of fulfilling but we weren’t going to talk to our employers until we were sure we had the funding.
               I immediately called my partner and told her that I was going to tell them,   and if that completely freaked her out than she should call me and let me know. There are some differences  between what it means for me to tell my boss and her telling her boss, I believed that I would be supportive, I have no idea how her employer would react, but if the situation was reversed I’d be more than a little nervous for her.
               Well the President (my other boss, which I call by his first name, calling him Mr. President or even Mr. anything would be odd for this family like workplace) was on vacation last week, so I figured I had a few days to relax until that meeting happened.  The meeting ended up being a sit down morning chat at my desk about additions to all the above hoo-ha.
               I was multitasking while he was talking to me and when he said, “So?” and put the question to me, I stopped typing put my hands in my lap, turned to him and before I could freak out said, “I’m going to have my own business.”
               I have to say that I’m probably one of the luckiest people in the world, and one of the reasons we are so primed right now to start this thing was exemplified in his reaction. He was like a little kid, “Really???! That’s awesome! What are you going to do?” I told him, he thought it was perfect, I explained we wouldn’t be in any direct competition, and he waived his hand as if to say, of course not. Then he told me how to be successful, which is fantastic, and he told me things we had already figured out, which validates what we had figured out, and he offered me resources and knowledge and even after he went back to his desk he kept coming over when he thought of new things.
               I was ecstatic and relieved and excited all over again to have someone with far more knowledge and experience doing this kind of thing, tell me it was a great idea and that I would be awesome for it.   Don’t get me wrong it was scary as all get out to tell the people you are employed with that you are going to be leaving, and you don’t know when, and you don’t know how they are going to react, it’s like asking a boy to move in with you.  It’s a big step, and it makes it all the more real.
               Tagged along with his blessings and advice was an okay for 135 emails with business contacts for one of the projects that is going to be our bread and butter.  There are companies that work years to have a list like that.  So, one of my projects this week is to complete a database from the gift of contacts so we can blitzkrieg Portland when we open our doors.  WOOHOO! We are going to be everywhere.
               We need that section of time between, when we get our location, to when we can open for business to be as short as possible.  We are doing everything in our power to make sure that we are full to capacity as soon as we have capacity.
               Sunday we finally got together, and spent the day making sure we were on the same page as far as our goals were concerned and hashing out a logo. We have a logo!!! Simple, recognizable, groovy and now we can get started on the webpage, personalize our twitter and Facebook accounts and order business cards! Hooray!  
               The crazy thing is, I went on the Facebook account and updated our profile picture and added some information, within an hour we had six fans and one of them, is a good friend of mine who had no idea it was my business. Ironic, there must be some kind of draw.
               Wednesday we are looking at our first property. It’s huge, it’s too expensive, but it has equipment and a fantastic location, so it’ll be fun to just look at.

Anyone Have Land I Can Buy For a Buck?

Sept. 13th, 2010

 This Saturday I went to the Small Business Fair at the Oregon Convention Center. After a hearty breakfast of basted eggs over English muffins with melted fontina and bacon and loads and loads of coffee I was prepared to tackle four hours of lecture and a room of booths.
               I had been really busting my ass to get a bunch of work done, costing, marketing and have whatever we had done in our business plan printed out including a non-disclosure agreement. What that meant was that I had to carry around a heavy satchel, my purse, a cloth job fair bag with stacks of brochures in it. In other words I could have left the binder at home.
               The booths consisted of tax advisors, banks or credit unions, community colleges, worker hiring and protection, or consultants. That’s about it. I can pretty much say that the most useful booths were the Fire Department (humina humina) who reminded us to give them a call and they’d check out a building for us before we bought a fire trap, and the silk screening guy who can do any and all forms of paraphernalia with yet to be determined logo.
               Maybe my perceived usefulness of the fair came from the hope that there would be someone I could sit down with for ten minutes and show our plan, talk to them and ask about the next steps. Everyone was too busy handing out brochures or trying to get your address so they could put you on their mailing list. It was more sales oriented then a Sysco food show. I’m sure there is some good info in all the little pamphlets I accumulated. I’ll probably spend a year trying to get my name off of junk mail lists.
               The first lecture was at 10:15 am and out of everything I wanted to see that day, this was at the top, How to Get Money for Your Business. It was also the most depressing. Here are the high points.
               1. You don’t need a business plan.

               Let me stop here for a minute and say WTF???? What the hell have I been busting my ass for; everyone says I need a business plan, I TEACH that you need a business plan. Well people evidentially things have changed just a bit. Banks, who really are the people you make your business plan for, unless it’s just for yourself and your companies path, could care less if you have a good idea. They want to know if you have collateral. That’s it. No collateral, no loan. And of course since you don’t ever want to put up personal collateral you have to have something under the business name. He suggested buying a $200 piece of foreclosed property in Clackamas.
               If you think this guy is a wacko, this story was repeated over and over by lectures, except the joker who did the Keynote address, but I’ll talk about him later. You don’t need a business plan. Do you have expertise? Do you have passion? Do you have collateral? Bingo you can be in business for less than $15,000. 
               I had a hard time swallowing that number considering all the equipment we are going to need is going to be about that. I asked him about undercapitalization and having enough money banked to make your business run without profit for a year. His answer was in relation to how much your family could live on and stock that….. that wasn’t what I meant, but I probably didn’t ask it right.

               2. Don’t get money from friends, family, grants, loans or credit cards, (this is a small sample of the list of 10 or so places you shouldn’t get money from either).

               Ummm…… Crap. That pretty much shoots down every idea I had to get money to start a business. Besides that I guess my option is to win the lottery. Friends and family will hate you if you take their money and the business fails (I was banking on success), grants don’t exist for start-ups maybe if you are non-profit but even then, not likely, don’t go into debt over your business.
               Ummmm….Crap, so the adage that you need money to make money is true. His philosophy was to sell a service and generate cash flow immediately and work off that cash flow. My question is how I do that if I don’t have a location or equipment to generate my cash flow. I could work out of competitions locations but that’s not going to be very nice when I open up shop and take all the business I’ve been developing at their location. Needless to say I was a little discouraged by this and trying to brainstorm brilliant ways to get money other than the ones he listed.

               3. Get on everyone’s list
               If you are listed with the state, county, federal, credit companies, web pages, national bank accounts, better business bureau, and other companies that list businesses, you are more likely to look legitimate and more likely to get a loan if you absolutely have to have one.

               I guess that’s our next step. Get on everyone’s list. That is a good idea, which we really have started so it’s not a ton that we have to do. We probably need to open another bank account even if it’s just savings at a national bank just so we have them on our list.  I also plan on buying a lottery ticket today.
               The second speaker was a teacher for Clackamas Community College that also consults for $200 an hour (at least), and has successfully helped over 1500 small business get started with only 2 failures. I think it was 1500, it was a big number. He started with shooting down the statistic that we all thought that about 62% of all small businesses fail. But noted that if I business moved from a sole proprietorship to an LLC then technically that sole proprietorship failed. He said more than 85% of small business succeed, he said this last year he had two business close and that’s a first for him in 15 years.
               He gave 10 things you needed to know before you go into business, he was defiantly a good speaker, obviously had been doing it for awhile. And he had some good points, but said again same as the first guy, you don’t need a business plan.   
               Third speaker, The Key Note Speaker, who was a Zell brother, of Zell Brothers Jewelry and had been, according to him, giving speeches about sells for 25 years. He was not good. He wasn’t organized he was all over the place, his points were obtuse, and he lost all credibility when he said you don’t need a webpage.
               Seriously dude? Seventy percent of people look up a retail stores, including restaurants, on the web before going.  I don’t think you can even survive today without having some kind of web presence. I still get irritated when I try to find out something about a location and they don’t have their own web page and I’m certainly less likely to go their if I can’t see anything about their business.
               I can’t believe he was the key note, he must have been sponsoring the event or something, because the two other speakers that I saw, and there were four lectures going on at each time slot, were better than this guy. He was painful and we were sitting too far away from the door to escape.
               The last one we went to was about marketing. Good figure, he suggested a web page. He had some excellent points and was entertaining, but also all over the place and not very organized on the points he wanted to talk about.  I did get some good ideas from him though.
               We had to fill out several evaluations of both the speaker and the fair itself and I noted that it would be nice to have people you could actually talk to about your business that you want to open and some consulting even on a minimal level.  I wish I had taken off after the first two lectures, and received notes on the last. I took a page of my own brainstorming about my own business (during the crappy key note) and that was useful.
               I think there was a love tap upside the head and we might have to approach some funding differently, but I’d rather know ahead of time then find out by messing up.  This week, stop messing around with most of the business plan and get some solid marketing ideas. Get our name on every list imaginable, and buy land in Clackamas.

Oh Snap! Here Comes the Three Hole Punch!

Sept. 10th, 2010

 I haven't stopped writing because the project is off, or even that I haven't had time. I'm just in the middle of tedium and it's hard to think that anyone is going to be interested in blogging about cramming together costing sheets and printing off demographics studies of potential places to put our business. And that's what it's been.
     You know how you get really excited about an idea or a project and you start on it and then your interests fades a little and you are having a hard time getting motivated when it comes down to the nuts and bolts of the thing? Yea I know that, but I'm not there. I was wanning a bit when it came down to the costing out of several of the things we want to be able to provide to our customers (I know I know this vagueness as got to be annoying as all hell, I promise soon we'll just come out with it, but currently I still feel vulerable to potential takers of my dream and a little tender), costing is a pain in the ass as my students will happily tell you, probably using a great many explatives, so yea I was putting it off.  But I told Erin to encourage me and she said "COST MONKEY COST!!!" It was all I needed. I bolted through it in a couple of days and it was revealed to me that once again the hardest part is just getting started. 
    Anyway the point is that every Monday when I go to work, I have a renewed sense of HELL YEAH! And I am jazzed all over again to keep this business on a roll. Erin's mom let her know that there is going to be a Small Business Fair at the Oregon Convention Center this weekend and I got goosebumps all over. There are lectures we can take and people we can talk to and I'll about ready to wet myself with excitement that this is happening at one of the best times. I want to make sure we have as much of our business plan done as I can manage in one more day so that we (I mean me Erin can't be there in person, but I'll take good notes) can start talking to people at the SBA about our business. 
     That is why I sat down last night for a few minutes with the three hole punch and organized The Binder, making room for all of the really important stuff that I'm going to be adding today. My beautiful husband even started doodling some logos for us. Thanks sweetie. 
   So tomorrow I'll be spending the majority of the day sitting in rapt attention while a speaker tells me how to get money for our business. Wish us luck!!

Deflation of the Documentation Dictator, or I Love Alliteration

Sept. 3rd, 2010

Yesterday we went to the bank. I'm sure if I had shown up in jeans and a t-shirt I would have been fine, but I tarted it up a little, sported a dress and heels and came well armed with my giant folder, notebook, pen and all the necessary forms... so I thought. 
   There is nothing so embarrassing to someone who is compulsively organized than to find they are missing a key piece of documentation. Stephen skipped out to meet up, greeting us like old friends and making sure we had coffee before we met in his office. He was impressed that we had filled out all our forms, had our Articles of Organization, and our Business License all signed and ready to go. Erin (I have so named my partner I'm tired of saying partner, so this is what she gets) and I gossiped, probably inappropriately, while Stephen pecked away at his computer transferring information. We supplied random secret questions, to be answered by us for identification purposes, and photo IDs, credit cards and other bits of data used to separate us from the terrorists laundering money. 
    "Umm the Employer Identification Number, should be nine digits, you only have eight here, do you have a different number?" I opened my giant 3" 3 ring binder with confidence and flipped to the Oregon Department of Revenue letter. Nope wrong number we need the Federal EIN. Crap! I know I have it, I remember doing it, I blogged about for craps sake I have to have it somewhere.  I actually became flushed with embarrassment that I couldn't find the number. Grabbing the phone I called my husband, who was out walking the dog, and begged him to call me when he got home and read me the little numbers on the two Post-it notes on my desk. He called back and neither of the numbers was at all useful. Double crap crap. 
     Thankfully I knew that our new bank provided free internet computers in the lobby (see blog about tour). I went and accessed ALL of my accounts, knowing that certainly I had a copy of the email from the IRS in a file. I am a documentation dictator after all and save everything. 
     Nothing, absolutely nothing.  Feeling like even more of an ass, I got on the IRS website to see if I could "log-in" and retrieve my information. No chance, you have to call them. So I sucked it up and called the IRS. Gee what a fun time this is. 
     "Your wait time is 10-13 minutes", repeated every few minutes with the same four bar phrase of piano musak that must be used to sedate the listener so they receive less angry patrons calling. I kept Erin and Stephen waiting for the full 13 minutes while I retrieved the number I purposefully got in order to open a bank account.  When I was finally put through to a person who read me off her identification number for satisfaction reporting purposes, I was put on hold again while she evidentially looked my my business in an antiquated card catalog system. It took so long I was embarrassed all over again that I may not have gotten an EIN from the federal government and she was going to tell me she had nothing on record.
   They did have it and she was very pleasant with handing me over the information I had desperately been waiting for. Everything else went off without a hitch. Stephen re-filled out the paperwork since his session had timed out, thanks to me, and we signed our papers and got another neat folder from the bank. We handed over our first deposit, a whole one hundred dollars, and got our first deposit slip that I am considering framing. 
    Nearly two hours later we left the bank. All we need to do now, is order checks to write with the money that will hopefully materialize in our account. Meanwhile we have started the marketing section of our business plan, every step you start has ten sub-steps to follow, so the end of the tunnel literally gets further away the further you proceed. I'm hoping to knuckle down and do some work this weekend, at the very least go backward a step and start some of the costing projects we need to have. 
    We have an opportunity to buy equipment that we need from a company that's downsizing, things that would be more than perfect and at a bargin rate. Somehow we need to find some capital faster than we had intended. I'll keep you up to date on that process.

Fake Is 'Til You Know It

Sept. 1st, 2010

 One of the women I work with was dressed in her finest yesterday and I told her so. She is a snazzy dresser (don't you just love snazzy?) anyway and always looks hot in my opinion, and yesterday was just one of those days when she was working it. She told me that she was dressing her best because she didn't feel her best. 
     I totally get that. I constantly tell my students that one of my mottos is "Fake it till you know it" and it has served me well. I have dressed to the nines when I have just been dumped, I have packed our house convinced that if I pack it we will sell it, passed an interview to take a job that I have no idea if I can do, and taught students subjects I just learned days or hours before. If you can set your jaw and walk into a room like you know where you are and what you are doing, people are going to think you know what you are doing. And pretty soon, if you are lucky, you will know, and then you aren't faking it anymore. 
     During this business plan set up there is a lot of faking it as we go along. I look at paperwork we need to fill out in one window and in another window look up the terms I don't understand or have never heard of (damn you acronyms). Yesterday I finally got through to one of the purveyors we are looking at who said that she would happily give me all the information we require as soon as I show her a Resale Certificated and our Tax Exempt Form. I fumbled through it saying we didn't have it yet but could get her the information soon and then got off the phone thinking, crap! why didn't I know about this Resale Certificate?? 
     I googled it, of course, and got a whole lot of nothing, that actually made me feel a little better, and then asked my business genius friend if she knew. Thankfully she didn't, which made me feel even better, and told me she might be referring to our business license. That I have! 
      I sent the purveyor an e-mail trying my best to make it sound like she was the one that didn't know what she was talking about, I know that sounds mean, I took some face points, I explained that I was attaching my business license and I wasn't sure what she was looking for as far as a Resale certificate and if she needed something else than to let me know. I also told her that since we were in Oregon (she actually asked me nothing about any details of our business including where we were going to be located), that we didn't have a Tax Exempt Form. 
      That was "acceptable" and she forwarded on the requested information. And after a week of playing phone tag and her insisting that I call her instead of exchanging e-mail, I feel as though I won a small battle. Or maybe I lost. If this is indicative (seems to be my new favorite word I've been using it a lot) of their business practices do I really want to get in bed with them? And they don't provide any of the shelving or display pieces that the other purveyor is going to give us. A "you want us, we don't need you," big company stance. We'll see how our negotiating techniques fair when I get her on the phone again. 
       One of the other things I tell my students about cooking is that sometimes you learn more from doing it wrong than from doing it right. This little adage I would rather skip this time around. 

My Sexy Partner

Aug. 28th, 2010

"I had a dream!" I bellowed in Grand Central at my partner as we ate breakfast. Considering how loud I was and the fact that the caffeine from my coffee seemed to have been mainstreamed into my blood, I was surprised no one turned around. That's an early morning Portland crowd bent on having breakfast and coffee, nothing really surprises them. 
     "I dreamt we sold tickets to people to fund our business!" I said gesturing madly, it was still the coffee. Completely nonplussed my partner in crime replied, "Why not?" with a shrug. 
     I'm still in the honeymoon stage with this project and I'm extremely glad and how to keep it going as long as humanly possible. I think when we get to the nitty gritty of the finding the money, that will be the part where I start the bipolar roller coaster of risk scariness. I know it's there in the park I'm just putting it in it's place and that's a step in the process down the road, we are on step, I dunno 7 and that's step 9 and step 8 is going to take forever, so I'm not going to prematurely freak out. I'm going to enjoy this part. 
     What got me jazzed today was even though we only had a short period of time that we could work together today, our plan was to open a bank account. We were going to "shop" for a bank. The reason that is in quotes, is that we went to one bank and were seduced so completely we fell in love. 
     First I had a moment of lust for my partner, who on approaching the counter told the man, "We have a small business and we are shopping around for a bank." I nearly lost my composure in front of the bank people and started humping her leg. We have a small business, we HAVE a small business, we HAVE a small business! Not, "we are thinking about," or "we are planning", or "working on". We have. She was so goddamn sexy right there. I took a loud inhale and she thought I wanted to explain what we were up to, but I just needed oxygen so that I could prevent myself from doing something that might get us kicked out of said bank. 
      The guy had more personality then anyone I've ever talked to in a bank. He thought our idea was great. He explained all the options and what we would probably need for our size, he asked us about financing (Why? You want to give us money?) and gave us an SBA loan packet and told us they had a whole crew of people that did nothing but answer questions about getting a small business together and could help us whenever. 
     He told us all we needed to have was our Articles of Organization and our Operating Agreement and a hundred dollars. We didn't have those with us. Money and EIN but that's it. So we got the paperwork and headed out the door, but he flagged us down. "Do you have time? Would you like to take a tour?"  
     She said "Sure!" I thought, a tour? WTF? Isn't this it? 
    Ahhh not so. Umpqua Bank (that's where we were) has a computer station where anyone can come in and use the computer and print stuff off. They sometimes get overflow from the library across the street. Their center island is used to feature a local business that banks with them. The bank sells their items and showcases them for no charge to the business. They also have a community board and a TV that displays a slide show of local business and their information or events. They also have cookies on Friday and coffee always. 
     Can you see why we fell in love? I don't think we could get better rates elsewhere and I doubt we'd get that kind of treatment elsewhere. I could be wrong but that bank felt right. 
     We walked back to my places, stopping a couple times so I could hump her leg. We are really doing this! 
      We finished our Operating Agreement, terribly exciting paperwork that is, though I might have another wet pantie moment when we sign the papers, and emailed the whole thing to ourselves. Out of time, we parted company with another date set up for Thursday to sign papers and meet with the bank and open the account. 
     Now all we need is something to put in it! 

It's All About the Details

Aug. 24th, 2010

      Today I started the spreadsheet. I think Excel is one of those things that either can be used as an excellent tool to help organize your stuff (good), I love it for grading purposes, but it's kind of like Facebook, it can be a great sucker of time (evil). You can spend vast quantities of it centering some cells, right justifying others, bolding, tilting the text in the cells, wrapping, formating, bordering, and linking. It gets a little silly sometimes. And sometimes just creating a new worksheet makes you feel like a productive person and that you actually accomplished something for the day. It's an OCD person's happy place, and probably why I love it.
But I went for simple and tidy today, I just need to get it all in a place where I can see it and know if something is missing. I'll format it later, that's like the icing on the cake and only pure fun for me. Twisted I know. 
     Armed now with a spreadsheet and a newly started list of "to-do" things for the biz, there are more and more things I am thinking about and knowing that we are going to have to do. Even though we might only want to pour a glass of wine for our customers once in awhile, if we charge them for anything, the OLCC is going to see the alcohol as part of the sale and we are going to need to carry a license. Ok I got that, the paperwork is a bitch, it take 90-120 days for the application to be processed and you can't process the application until we have a location that is paid for in some way. 
    Well at least we can be prepared with the barrage of personal questions that the application is going to insist we answer. Hopefully my application for the application will go through smoothly and we can leave the location space empty for now. I also need to renew my own OLCC permit. It's been too long lapsed anyway and I really should have one considering the business that I'm in and how much I'm in the restaurant, if I pour one glass of wine for a paying customer I'm breaking the law. Thankfully it's not something I make a habit of. And since I am the anti-procrastinator, almost compulsively, I am taking the OLCC alcohol serving class and test tomorrow.  
   That by the way tacks on $500 starting cost, $250 a year to renew and $2.50 per server. More money coming up. I told my partner not to worry that it was better to know all the costs up front than to be surprised by them later. Not that $500 is a ton of money, but I am very aware of how things add up and I know there are a ton of things we have yet to consider or to find out about. 
   We are opening up our bank account this weekend. With what money? I have no idea. I think I have an IOU from a Life game, it should at least make for some entertainment. 
    I'm hammering details right now, the overall picture is easy, but I'm going to have to draw up plans and cost out each and everyone of them and it's going to take a chunk of time. But it has to be done, I don't want to wing it, I want to have my eyes wide open and be able to answer any question about our business plan put to me with no hesitation. To me being able to do that, to know it in and out and prove that it will work not only because it's a freakin' spectacular idea with spectacular ideas backing up every bit of it, but that's it's financially sound, that is going to bring the money in.