Tag: business

An Unlikely Story

I did it! I took the plunge and wrote up a Kickstarter campaign!

img_20161112_111207Coffee, books, and a few bikes thrown in for good measure.

But I need help!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/anunlikelystory/an-unlikely-story-books-coffee-and-bikes-too/

Please support if you can, and share as widely as possible! Thank you!!!

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Lost

inspiration

Feeling a bit hopeless right now. I haven’t posted about all the recent politics because I can’t think how to articulate my incredulity in any way that hasn’t been written a thousand times already. Brexit was bad enough… Trump is just unbelievable. Carl and I sat up watching the US election (alternating between BBC, CBC and Twitter, for ‘balance’) until it was clear that Hillary was not going to win; it was about 1am when we finally gave up and went to bed despairing of the world.  At the time I was angry and raging sarcastically online, but the next day I seemed to get a sort of political hangover. I didn’t want to do anything, couldn’t face going online in case there were still Trumpanzees on my Twitter feed, but couldn’t summon the motivation to go out and do anything else. I met up with friends and took the kids to the park and it seemed like we all felt the same, just numbed by the whole thing.

I can’t blame this entire malaise on Trump though. I am in a low spot for lots of reasons right now – maybe it’s the weather? (For the record, no snow yet..). It’s all about Uncertainty and not being in control of various aspects of my life at the moment, and I am never very good at handling that.

My ‘maternity leave’ (not that I actually took any) officially finished 6 months ago, and since then, I have had some actual leave in that I haven’t been doing any work that warrants a salary. Strangely enough, this isn’t sustainable for very much longer, as we are living paycheque-to-paycheque and struggling.  Theia will be 18 months old at the end of January, which means she can go to daycare then, IF we can afford it, and IF I have a job that requires childcare. That is extremely difficult to engineer though, because I not only have to find a job, I have to find a job at a time that coincides with when the daycare has space for her, AND that job has to pay me enough to make it worth me paying the daycare fees for. This isn’t as hopeless as it was in the UK when I found myself in the same position with Miranda – even a full-time minimum wage job here would net enough to cover daycare costs and spare me about $500 a month – which would certainly help right now. (As opposed to the UK where full time daycare would have cost me more than my entire month’s salary after tax)  But, I like to believe I am an adult now, I shouldn’t really be looking at minimum wage positions, and I don’t want to go to work just to have half to two-thirds of my earnings go towards paying someone else to raise my child.

To this end, I have applied for ten other “grown up” jobs, most of which I think I would actually enjoy doing too, and all of which, on paper at least, I had the qualifications for. I haven’t heard back from a single one of them. I can blame the economy or the time of year, but I think a large part of it is my resume. It  must be fairly obvious that I don’t know what I want to do with myself, and I honestly don’t right now, but that is not the same thing as saying ‘I DON’T want to work’, I just don’t know what work I want to do! Also, I am back to the overqualified problem. Turns out, the only thing worse than putting “obscure Arts PhD” on your resume, is putting “nearly a decade of self-employment” (NB: I am paraphrasing here). Once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur… but one who still has to pay the bills.

Through the cafe in its various forms, and Wheelie Good Coffee on the market, I have basically put myself through an MBA only without the certificate at the end. At risk of immodesty, building a business from scratch with no money in a country you’ve only lived in for 2 years really takes some doing: it’s all problem-solving, multi-tasking, design, research, fundraising, communications, networking, social media, marketing, leadership skills, HR, business development, even financial wizardry (YOU GUYS I DID A BUSINESS TAX RETURN ALL BY MYSELF!!!) I guess the trick is to make it look like I can apply all these skills to things other than coffee. I know I’m capable, but there’s a fair chance prospective employers will just give preference to someone with more direct experience.

In the absence of any employment offers, my other hopes are that I/we can continue with the cafe in some form – that is, I work out a way I can return to work on/in it and pay myself enough to live off. Owning and running a coffee shop has always been my dream – and I achieved it. What I didn’t manage/haven’t managed yet is living my dream and making a living from my dream. ‘Ay, there’s the rub.’

In an ideal world I’d pick it up and move the whole endeavor to a better and cheaper location. And I would love to try and incorporate a bookshop. But I need the funds to do that, and I don’t have them. Even if I can raise some investment somehow, I lack the confidence now to know if I should even be considering this as an option. Is it too much of a financial risk, and should I concentrate on finding an actual employer instead? Somehow, all of this is so stressful that I haven’t got the mental energy to make that decision, let alone get on with doing something about it. I am exhausted.

Also, I wrote a book. An actual, 70,000 word, non-silly, zombie-free memoir sort of thing about coffee and about the whole entrepreneurial experience. For once, I’ve taken my writing seriously enough to have planned out a structure and storyline, and I don’t hate what I wrote! I have spent this year’s Nanowrimo trying to edit it properly. I even approached a couple of publishers and wrote a proper book proposal. Unfortunately, the publishers’ websites say things like “Please allow six months for a response”. So I don’t know whether its worth prioritising the editing over fruitless job-hunting when I get fed up, in the event that it gets rejected over and over and over after months of waiting.

So. The end of the year is looming, and the future is highly uncertain. I am lost, and in need of inspiration, something to boost me in the right direction again.

Something will turn up. It always does.

The significance of yellow boots

It seemed like a good idea at the time…

I don’t often give my dreams much thought, other than when helpful friends point out the screamingly obvious – teeth falling out dreams meaning insecurity and so on. (Thanks Andie!) However, I think recurring patterns and one very vivid recent dream have some poignancy. The other night I dreamt about riding a motorbike. I did used to ride, but never got my full license. In the dream, I knew it had been a long time but that I could ride if I tried hard. Except for some reason, I was chasing something down a hill on a huge yellow motorcycle, whilst wearing my yellow Doc Marten boots but I was sat on the bike the wrong way. My feet could just reach the pedal, but I couldn’t really see where I was going. Yet, I was swerving around successfully and just about navigating, but I did not feel at all safe. Someone else passed me on a bike also wearing yellow boots and I knew I could catch them up if only I could turn round and see the road, but I couldn’t. And I still didn’t know what it was I was supposed to be chasing.

An odd metaphor for my present situation, I believe. I know I can make this business work, I have done so before, but I am out of practice, and there are various factors outside of my control. I have to go on despite not being able to see where it is all headed, and I am also consciously aware of competition – the folks who are sat on the bike the right way round! A quick google reveals that yellow is the colour of intellectual design and of awareness and identity. Make of this what you will, dear reader.

dr-seuss-life-picture-quote

 

 

Launch day! Again!

Yesterday, 19th May 2014, saw the launch of my 3rd coffee business, Wheelie Good Coffee. You’d think with all this experience, starting up would be a breeze by now. Fat chance!! For nostalgia purposes, I read back over my post from September 2009 on here, when we launched Doctor Coffee’s Cafe Ape Van. Five long years ago, I was equally exhausted and apparently nearly fainted at my friends’ wedding and developed a mysteriously swollen ankle. In hindsight, it is easy to see these were signs of early pregnancy! This time, I am aching all over and knackered, but no other Big News to report I’m afraid.

Wheelie Good Coffee has already taken on a life of its own online. I’m at http://www.wheeliegoodcoffee.biz, and most significantly, @wheeliegdcoffee on Twitter. Twitter has been invaluable, both for inspiration and for the support to actually get this idea off the ground. I’ve received so many positive comments already that I feel more confident about this venture than ever before. Part of me attributes this to living in Regina, and particularly in Cathedral village, which is the first neighbourhood where I’ve encountered genuine community spirit. So to all my local Tweeps, THANK YOU, and I love you all!

The business is relatively simple and small scale. My wonderful, talented and handy husband built me a coffee cart – essentially a huge wooden box on wheels, housing an enormous kettle. This cart is pulled by my tricycle, Twyla, and I can pedal my way to events and trade outside downtown during the summer, at festivals, on markets, and so on. What’s that you say? How do I trade when it’s -40C outside? Well, that’s easy. I have a website where I sell my home-roasted coffee beans online, (teaching myself to roast requires a blog post in it’s own right!), along with mugs, tee shirts, my books and various accessories. The weird looking, very conspicuous coffee cart attracts people, and those who say “I like your coffee, how do I make it at home?” get directed to the online shop. At least, that is the plan.

Here’s the cart:

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All the coffees are Pour Over:

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and here it is all set up for the Cathedral Village Arts Festival:

ImageSadly, I didn’t get a photo of me in action. I didn’t have enough hands! I got utterly swamped, unable to make coffee fast enough! I was sponsoring an Arts Festival event, a mass singalong of Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi outside Connaught school (read between the lines here!). If you turned up and sang, you got free coffee. In return, I got priceless exposure and publicity from it, a lot of tips (!) and a great opportunity to test out the coffee process with an appreciative and sympathetic audience. It worked – I got home to find online orders for coffee beans and despite exhaustion, I sat up til gone 11pm roasting coffee fresh for my new customers!

The weather could have been better, but it was not as bad as I’d feared. Horrendous rain was forecast, and 70kmph winds! It was windy, but we managed to miss the rain, fortunately. However, circumstances were far from ideal, because my coffee cups kept blowing away! I couldn’t serve the coffees fast enough because I didn’t have enough hands to simultaneously grind coffee, pour boiling hot water, dose up my coffee fllters, AND hold the cups down and out of the wind at the same time! Doh. But, the coffee filters do work, and people loved it – I quote “you can’t get fresher than that!”

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This all happened on Monday, Victoria day and the first day of the Arts Festival. The weekend prior to that was just mentally busy for both of us. Eternal gratitude to Carl for building the thing, but getting it out of our basement proved nearly impossible. As Carl maintained, the cart did fit neatly through the door to the basement. However, what he’d neglected to account for, was getting it off the stairs, and round the side of the kitchen cupboards. ALMIGHTY amounts of swearing ensued, and all his neat edging got pinged off to spare half a centimetre. BUT, we got there. And it didn’t fall apart, nor explode, nor collapse under its own weight. We had to hire a generator because there was nowhere to plug in outside on the street, and that required a lot of inquiry. The Roca Jacks coffee beans were eventually hand delivered late Sunday morning, after I had got myself into a state of low-level panic over their absense. Cycling it was a whole new experience. In a terrible bit of bad luck, one pedal just sheared off my trike last week, leaving me with an annoyingly long walk home one night, and now, no engine for the cart. So I had to make do with Yoshi, the two wheeler. Suddenly, balance became an issue again. I didn’t have any time to practice, but fortunately the whole thing relied on momentum. Starting was agonising, and stopping required about ten feet and excellent brakes (not something Yoshi is renowned for!). But once I was going, it wasn’t too heavy at all, even with 50litres of water on board. However, I now have sore muscles in places I didn’t even know I had muscles. Toning your glutes really is a pain in the arse.

BUT. I can pedal it. It does work. I make a GREAT fresh coffee. Bill’s Roca Jacks beans are just as good as they always were. Cathedral people are awesome, friendly and supportive, and the Cathedral Arts Festival got off to a great start despite the weather. I am achey, exhausted, happy and excited about Wheelie Good things to come!!