All posts by Portlands Culinary Workshop

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 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!!

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!!

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!


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!!