Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bits & Pieces -- Inching Slowly Forward

Moving forward on the business plan -- Last Friday we met with the Small Business Development Center here in Hickory. The meeting covered what we are doing. We talked about the many places we've checked on for location. They were impressed at our progress and research. (Guess we must be doing something right.) And the one place on 127 (next to Ace Hardware) remains a question mark. The price is right, size is right, location is great. But we've got concerns about limited parking in front. Will this be an issue? We believe that we can work around it since our heavy traffic in and out will be in the morning before the other stores next to ours open their doors. One of the guys at SBDC said he drove by that and another location we'd looked at nearly every day along the same routeand he'd scope it out as well and give us feedback.

The pros at SBDC took our copy of the business plan we've managed to come up with thus far, are going to look it over, and then meet again once they are ready.

Location, location, location -- In the mean time we continue to look at locations. There are quite a few. But there was another one that stood out to us yesterday. It is a charming refinished home in the downtown area on 4th Ave currently used as a real estate office. Beautifully refinished with hardwood floors, fireplaces large front rooms . Possible side area that can be converted to drive through. If we do this, then the traffic will have to come in the back way. Upstairs, partial attic, with some work might be reworked to be a usable room, but the stairs are very narrow. Stairs could be reworked, but could be expensive.

Here's where Teena and Jeff disagree. There is ample parking in back and the property's driveway adjoins another business driveway nextdoor, making for a wider entrance and exit along the side. It is wide enough for coming and going. However, there is absolutely no parking in front. No street parking allowed and a small spot of grass in the front that could possibly (we need to look further) be paved for a couple of spaces. But people might have to back out onto a busy road.

Jeff says no problem. Teena disagrees. The house is for sale or lease so that's a nice option. We also don't know what type of traffic there would be after business hours.

Fundraising -- When we first started our Java Journey Teena set up Escrip a fundraising program that has not worked all that well. Though they claim to be nationwide, the bulk of the stores you can shop at is on the west coast, so we've not earned much from this program. To help us pay for start up costs and operations Teena has been researching alternate fundraising options. She saw potential in the volumes of used electronic items people have laying around and has managed to set up a recycle program for collecting used ink jet cartridges, cell phones, ipods, palm pilots, and more. We've just signed up with Kopec. This program is nationwide and people can collect anywhere. If you would like to help us out by collecting yourself or getting other groups and businesses involved, please email Teena at smartwords@embarqmail.com. It's as easy as putting a box out with flyers. She is also checking into recycling cars and computers. So keep us in mind for those. We'll update our website regarding this soon.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Are We "Anxious?"

...Biblically speaking? - - yes.

Fear (Hebrew - "yare' ") has its dichotomous encouragement/discouragement rendering in the scriptures. Doing a smidge' of research, I learned that the word can either mean dread or astonishment. The word implies what we would call a "quake."

I can see how that could come out with various meanings based on context.

A moment in my memory bank recalls the time Teena took me to board an Amtrak train in Erie, PA when I was traveling to Chicago for a conference. The boarding time was in the very early hours of the morning. My young children wanted to see the train so they got up to enjoy a 3 AM adventure. The most indelible part of my recollection was when the train was approaching the station. The sound of the engine and air horn grew louder and louder as the light grew brighter and brighter. I looked down at my young son (5 or 6 years old) watching his face beam with excitement - that was until the locomotive made its large and voluminous appearance yards in front of us. I was surprised at its size and power from our track-level viewpoint, but he was astonished! His jaw dropped open and he began to tremble quite noticeably. He was quaking with intermittent awe and dread.

When we say we are "anxious" it can mean we are eager, worried - or both.

We are both quaking right now as we consider the reality of the commitment and work required to realize this vision we have. We are doing our best to fight off the dread part, but frankly it can create inhibition.

Keep praying as we are looking at a few potential spaces, networking for a loan and looking at purchasing equipment and the like. It's a bit awesome for us right now creating mingled fright and fascination.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Preparation, Property & Patience

No one told us how much patience it would take to make a vision a reality. Though we know God remains in control, to us if feels that we are progressing at turtle pace--a real test of our patience. Right now we are in a bit of a holding pattern.

We continue to labor, and we mean labor, at creating a business plan. For this we use Nolo Business Plan software. Thank goodness for a software that is smarter than we are, but even so, sometimes we respond to its prompts with a big "huh?" To two creative people the process is YUCK. Teena has threatened to chain Jeff to a chair in front of the computer to make him finish the plan.

We are at both the breaking point and break even point. The break even point is the point where, because of all our previous investigative work figuring out the cost of start up, we must determine how much product we must sell in order to just break even.

We are waiting for a call back from the Shield Foundation, so that we can set an appointment with them to talk through this plan and hopefully work with them to get funding and financial counseling. But due to Rusty Shield's busy schedule, we again find ourselves in a waiting pattern. The good news is the delay allows us to finish up the plan, and investigate potential coffee shop locations.

Teena continues to call on a variety of locations. We are looking at one building for sale today--a house formerly used as offices--on busy 127. It include a vacant lot to the side which can be developed but cost is nearly a quarter of a million dollars.

We've lined up several other lease properties to view tomorrow. We find it similar to our house shopping experiences where we see something that will do but find no real twang of the heart strings that produces excitement that verifies that the location is, absolutely, without a doubt the right place. Rather than responding like the aging single woman who ops to marry because she's been asked and doesn't want to wind up an old maid, we're waiting for the twang of the heartstrings for both of us so that we that we know that this indeed is THE ONE.

The cost remains a challenge and God will definitely need to provide another miracle in order for the size space we have in mind to become a reality. But He is a big God and he continues to surprise and amaze us with His providence.

As for the Cup of Life Sunday Evening community which began several weeks ago, it is a bit of a challenge. We've met primarily with one other couple and due to their schedule for the next month or so, it looks to be primarily us for a while. We've posted info regarding the meetings online and in the paper, so the next move is to do face-to-face invites. We may just have to put the community on hold for a while until we can get the business plan and property search completed because juggling jobs and other duties is very exhasting.

If nothing else, we can see where God is building character, and most of all, patience.

As always, we appreciate your prayers. At times we feel like Noah and his wife, what was her name? Joan of Ark out in the desert building an ark. Is there any body out there? Anybody? Let us hear from you. We could use the encouragement.