All posts by Portlands Culinary Workshop

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.
   Right?

The Weekend Attack!

Aug. 23rd, 2010

Saturday was a day of sitting down and pounding out some serious ideas. We went from having a general idea and thoughts of business to a serious start on the business plan including hammering out a mission statement, executive summary, and more financial issues than we were mentally prepared for.

     What I mean when I say that is that I don’t think either one of us knew that when we got together that day that we were going to start playing with numbers. I was ready to do the fun stuff, honing the plan, the concept, the Plot to Rule the World! But needless to say, the numbers have to be done sometime and what better time than right now?? Why put it off, if you need any indication that this may not be the path, there is nothing like trying to figure out on paper what every single one of your imaginary expenses will be, not only to open the doors, but how much loot you are going to need to have in your pocket to run your business for a year…. assuming no profit.
    Though I have never owned my own business I do know that 58%-62% of small business close within the first three years and out of those 75% close within the first year. And out of the myriad of reasons that restaurant business fail one of the big ones is undercapitalization. You really need to have enough money to run the biz for a year assuming you will make nothing. That my friends, can be a daunting sum of money.
     I know there are things we missed (the dishwasher I only thought of later that night), but that’s to be expected. I am sure that we will be tweaking and adding and maybe even deciding we can do without, but that I doubt. I’m a believer at this point that we should aim for what we really want, trim it only after we ask for money.
    Even with all that and figuring out, very roughly mind you, what we would need to outfit our dream and keep the doors open for a year, sucking wind and not making any profit (which I find unlikely but have to postulate anyway), I was surprised at how “reasonable” it was. Okay when I say “reasonable” I mean that I see it as something totally attainable by pitching our idea to investors and a loan officer or two.
Is it scary? Hell yeah! But we aren’t even dipping our toes in, we haven’t taken any risks yet, and have only put up minimal amount of money. Scary is getting the business plan completely finished with no quitting in the middle and deciding, F*** yes we still want to do this. We are going to have so many ducks in an anal little row that a drill sergeant would salute.
       The list of things we have to do is daunting, but give me a list and I live to cross things off of it. I preach to students the rules you need to follow in order to achieve your goals, I know everything I need to know to mitigate risk and make it less scary, I just need to follow my own advice. What a way to achieve credibility.
     I have to say that some of the things we came up with this week to market and sell ourselves had us dancing around the room and hugging each other, delighted with our shear genius. Seriously I had things pop out of my mouth so unexpectedly that I sincerely shocked myself into a giddy state. I can’t wait till I can tell you all some of the ideas we have!
     So this week, I’ve got to start costing things out (without getting too descriptive of what we’re doing), I need to write some of the partnership agreement, look at more places to lease, write up some of our lists that we have started on scraps of paper and keep working on the business plan.
     Part of this blogging for me has been cathartic, that I can share things with some anonymity, if I want to talk shit about work I can, if I want to talk shit about relationships with friends or family I can. I chose to not tell people I was blogging, and though I still don’t want students to be following me because I share too many personal things, I haven’t talked as much shit as I thought I might. So with many a trepidation I “came out” to my little brother, telling him I wasn’t ready to tell others about my secret blog, and less than two days later he vomited out a comment about my blog in front of family. I attempted a look that would have melted steel, and was sucked back to high school when the thing that transported me into the second circle of hell with my parents was caused by none other than an off hand comment by my little brother. You are the first one I’m hitting up for money bro, prepare yourself.
      God, blogging IS awesome.

Desk Dancing

Aug. 20th 2010

       I’m exhausted. Drag out, hard to hold my head up, giddy that it’s Friday, tired. I worked yesterday and then went home and baked for 5 hours doing recipe testing for a new edition of a baking text that’s coming out. If that wasn’t draining enough our neighbors went on vacation and their car alarm went off from 2am-after 3am every 7 min. I threw my bathrobe on over my naked body, slipped on a pair of beat up shoes and marched, as you can only march at three in the morning, over to their house and rang their doorbell repeatedly until I was convinced that they were indeed out of town and not ignoring their deafening car alarm. They are damn lucky it didn’t go off for much longer after that because I was roll playing my call to police about a neighborhood disturbance and that a car needed to be towed. 
     Coffee, sweet nectar of the gods, has been indulged in this morning as I had to ride my bike to work by 7am in order to cover a shift for a collegue on a cruise, who by the way, owes me big time.  By the time I taught his class and my class and caught up on office paperwork, I took a few stolen office minutes to shoot off an e-mail to a old purveyor friend letting her know about our new business idea and asking for input about what the damage would be for all of the start up inventory. 
    Holy freakin’ crap!!!! And that is in a good way. I was estimating…. for years… that it would probably be around $12,000 easy, and that the inventory would be the biggest chunk of change besides that building and kitchen equip. that we would need. Not so! It’s less than $3,000 and I am about to stand on my desk and dance in pure glee. This my friends, is totally do-able!  We could even expand to carry more than one brand, which I think we should. 
    Besides doing a ton of research on our competition and what we are up against and how we can compete, this is the other thing I wanted to accomplish this week and I am, to say the least thrilled. 
    We are hoping to check out a property this weekend, you know, in our spare time. And I promise to keep you updated on all of the hammering out of the details we will have done. Have a great weekend.

All I Need is Dividers

Aug. 18th, 2010

  It is not enough to say that if I’m serious about something I organize it. I organize everything. I get little quivers of pleasure by sorting things and putting them in nice neat little boxes and then placing them in the proper order. 

     It doesn’t mean that I don’t have messy places. Ok well I don’t have messy things but I have dirty things, I like things tidy, but semi-dirty is fine as long as it’s neat and orderly.  I’ve taken to leaving my clothes on the floor of my walk-in closet for a whole day, but it’s only because the door is closed and I don’t have to be neurotic about how I might be judged if someone saw it. I will use the much used excuse, I blame it on my mother. 
     In a complete shirking of this imperative to organize I don’t plan vacations. I will plan to go to a place and I might talk to people about the “must” restaurants in the area, but after that I’m all about winging it. I have been known to take off with out hotel reservations, knowing that it’ll work out even if the town is booked for an event I didn’t bother to look up. I wander around, walk the streets, follow interesting signs, talk to people, and go into shops that I think look the least like a tourist place, though I do carry a camera but I try to keep it subtle. I am totally willing to be spontaneous. I think to people who know my penchant for alphabetizing, even the magnet poetry on my fridge in my old apartment, that would be something seen to believed. 
     If I start organizing something you can better believe I’m going to see it through to the end, even if the end happens to be just that. So now that you know this, you can be sure that this business venture will be seen to the end, no matter what that happens to be, because today, I started…. the three inch three ring binder. 

This Domain is OURS!

August 17th, 2010

  I lay awake late last night, partly due to the cup of coffee I had at 5pm, the busy day, and the fact that the temperature in the apartment was easily well into the high 80s, even with all the windows open and two fans blowing, sitting on the couch became sweaty after a few minutes. We alternated between standing while we watched a movie and spraying ourselves down with a water bottle. This is me and my husband by the way. 
     While I stewed over crappy office stuff and tried to relax it popped into my head that we needed to make sure we had our website name saved before any other sneaky person/ company got it, and we needed e-mails, and we needed to start…. needless to say the brain was at a dead run and regardless of whether I wanted to sleep or not it didn’t happen. I may have gotten a few hours in, but I woke up well before 5am. I slipped out of bed and went straight to the computer to register our website. 
     I found a great site called “the site wizard” with great information about what you need to do, how to proceed and how to continue and bascially “Registering your domaine name for dummies”, exactly what I needed.  It also lists the sites and what he/she recommends and how much it costs. I went with GoDaddy and after a few short minutes I registered our domain name and a back up that we can funnel to us, along with e-mail addresses to match. Wow. All this without a business plan.

  For all your domain needs:

I Take Back What I Said About the IRS

Written Aug. 16th, 2010

Evidentally it was all me in the, “Not able to access the secure website” fiasco, because I had no problem in accessing it from my boring old PC from work. And in less than 10 min, which included starting over from the beginning and filling the sheet out again from scratch, I recieved our official Employment Identification Number. And I have to say I may have had a minor panic attack printing in out on the company printer (it’s more than 100 feet away from my desk) and hoping that no one else picked it up. 
      The IRS website was inifintly easier to navigate than the Oregon State site and obviously much faster to do. 
      So… it’s official, we are registered with the State and have our own tax ID number. I’m pretty sure I’ve never uttered these words, but I hope we have to pay taxes.

Don’t refuse to go on an occasional wild goose chase- that’s what wild geese are for.

Written Aug. 16th 2010

 Yesterday after my post I spent well over two hours on the Oregon Business website trying to register our business name. You have to have a business degree just to navigate those pages…. all 22 of them. Thank goodness it never timed me out because I kept having flip back and forth between reference sheets and untangling the dialogue. I pray I got it right.  It’s one of those things that should be double checked a couple times.
    After you receive your business registration number you can get your federal tax ID number. For when you make money I suppose. I had to wait awhile for that because on Sundays you can only register between 7pm-12am eastern standard time. WTF?? I could have waited until today but I was antsy and once you have momentum you really need to stick with it. It’s like a lucky streak, don’t fuck with it. So I left myself a post-it and sat back down at the computer at 5pm (just to be safe) and tried to log on to the IRS website. Several links later I found the page for the EIN or Employment Identification Number (If I’m learning, you’re learning), and kept getting an error message saying that it couldn’t link to the secure website.  Might be my MAC might be the wireless connection, might just be another IRS fubar, but after giving it a go again this morning I’m going to have to try again from work and hope it goes through.
     I actually sat down yesterday and hammered out ideas and questions we need answered, all the competition I could think of off hand, and an outline of what needs to be done next. So far the plan is to get a plan and that’s going to take some time since my partner and I work wonky scheduling.
   No worries though I told them we wouldn’t be paying our employees until February… that gives us 6 months.