Friday, June 6, 2014

Uncanny's Absence

Hello friends.

These past few weeks Uncanny has been unable to make it to the Keller Farmer's Market not because we're fighting crime in underprivileged lands, nor because we're using our mind-powers to fend off a ginormous tidal wave from infecting an unlevied town with certain watery doom.

The reality of the matter is that we threw everything we had into starting this little ramshackle neighborhood coffee brewin' business, and ended up coming just a few beans short.  I had to quit one of my two day jobs in order to focus on Uncanny at the market, but complications refuted me from gaining the extra hours I needed to fuel both my personal finances and the business as it is, in it's infancy.

Such is the nature of entrepreneurship.  It's a hiccup, it was anticipated, but it will be overcome.  Uncanny will return as soon as the sole proprietor is stable again.

I wanted to give a somewhat official state-of-the-union, and also to log a formal thank you to all of the supporters, well-wishers, coffee aficionados with whom we've had the pleasure of conversating, "Big Bucks" converters, fans and high-fivers, and all of those that have taken the chance to support local, whether or not you enjoyed the product.  Your feedback is legendary, and your support helps me hold this business on my shoulders.  Thank you.  Truly.  It means the world.

We'll keep you updated, and can't wait to return to the market soon.  

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Favorite Returns to KFM, Saturday 5/24

Bolivia, roasted by Third Coast Coffee in Austin, TX, was a favorite at Uncanny's debut.  A mellow and creamy cup, with just a hint of cardamom to give it a familiar kick without that pesky bitterness; a coffee that traveled the most dangerous road in the world to get to your cup, will once again return, this Saturday at the market.

Finding New Life

In search of fertile soil, the peoples of the Mejillones cooperative migrated from the drought-stricken Altiplano region of Bolivia carrying with them small coffee plants from the town of Coroico.  In the lush, rainy forests of the Yungas region, they established a thriving livelihood.  The Mejillones farmers are now able to focus on their land and the well-being of their people, sponsoring reforestation projects, public health, education and gender equity.      

The Most Dangerous Road in the World

Growing coffee in some of the world’s most fertile soils has its price.  The Yungas Road, also known as Death Road, is one of the only routes that connects the farms to the capital for export.  The coffee must wind and climb through these treacherous mountain passes wide enough for only one car, with sheer 2,000ft cliffs and no guard rail to protect from death the over 300 souls that lose their lives here every year.

There are many things that we take for granted in our seemingly humdrum lives. Commerce is so easy; satisfaction and pleasure never unattainable. The only price we pay for these amenities is our doldrum day job labors...and we never stop to acknowledge all of those that endure so much more, just for our happiness, or in some cases, even less.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Birth of the Business

On January 24th, amidst a handful of newly wed couples applying for their marriage licenses,
Uncanny Coffee & Company was born.

It feels wonderful to have an official business name.  It solidifies the efforts, motivates, and most of all brings recognition from others and myself that says, "Yes, this is a thing.  This is really happening."  It advertises Uncanny is a real business now, not just an idea.  It's exciting.  But naming the business is just the tip of the iceberg.  There's still a lot left to be done.

Starting small was a choice of mine for several reasons.  Most of all, it was due to money constraints and the desire to not be indebted to others in case my (possibly faulty) business sense caused my coffee shop to implode in on itself.  I've already got a less than desirable credit history (TMI, maybe?), and without a decent college education I knew I couldn't just jump headlong into a fully feathered coffee shop and expect to fly off to Success Land.  I wanted deep experience in all things business and coffee.  I wanted to try new things and take chances without having to take a big financial hit.  I wanted to prove to one-day investors that my ideas were time tested and seasonably executed, and the only way I saw to do this was to start as I was:  Poor, naive, thirsty to learn and ambitious as all hell.  Then I was hit with a Stroopwafel right between the eyes, and the foundation laid itself out like a caramelized wonderland.  (They fly like fancy Frisbees, by the way.  Catch 'em in your mouth for a triple score.)

This week I'll be receiving my commercial equipment.  Now that's really exciting.  For months I've been baking on a Bed, Bath & Beyond Waffle Cone Maker.  In a few days I'll be baking like an official Dutchman with equipment that will allow me to sell commercially, and even bake at catering events, festivals and fairs.  Awesome.

The Farmer's Market opening is on May the Third.  Applications will go live any day now.  I thought initial investments would be relatively low, but I'm steadily finding out exactly how many permits and licenses one needs to have in order to sell food to the public.  Let me break it down for you, in case you were interested in starting your own business one day:
  1. "Doing Business As" sole-proprietorship naming fee:  $21 (totally optional, but definitely awesome)
  2. Commercial Stroopwafel Iron & Utensils:  $800 (that's a bargain, trust me)
  3. Food Manager's License (required to work in a commercial kitchen):  $100
  4. Food Manufacturer's License (required to make and sell product):  $156
  5. Commercial Kitchen fees (can't cook at home!): $150 initial + ~$20/hr
  6. Home town Farmer's Market Application fee and Sampling Permit (varies by city): $175 + $25/day
    • This is just ONE market, mind you!  Each market may require additional fees!
  7. Yearly Insurance Fee (required for Market and Kitchen): $399
  8. Shelf-life FDA product testing:  $75
  9. Food packaging, labels, Tables, Gazebo tent, Portable hand-washing and three basin washing sinks, etc. etc. etc. makes me dizzy thinking about it all.  My eyes are all swirly.  These are just the start up (and some recurring) costs for me to sell packages of a dozen stroopwafels for four hours on Saturdays at my home town Farmer's Market.  I remember telling my friends, "Oh, wow!  I'm going to be able to get started for only $1000!  That's a little more than I planned for, but I can totally do it!"  High-5s happened.Sarcastic Laugh.  Out.  Loud.  These fees alone are more than twice that.  And y'know, that's still substantially lower than the start up costs of any other related business I can conjure up off the top of my head.  I've cashed in a bit of my 401k, invested all of my tax return, and thrown as much spare money from my two jobs as I have at this business.  There's going to be a lot more work, and a lot more money spent before I'll ever turn a profit.  That "ambitious as all hell" aspect better stay strong.

I know it will, though.  With the overwhelming support from my family and friends, I've got all the motivation I need.  And some to spare, too.  (By the way guys, thanks.  You'll be getting your free coffee and wafels soon, I promise.)

If anyone in Internet Land is interested in following along with the business aspect of my endeavors, and wants to learn how I've learned to find resources and grow on my own, please let me know.  I've been doing research since last June, and am still turning stones every day.  If I had a blog to guide me, I know I would be leaps and bounds further ahead than I am now.    

Alright!  Big wheels keep on turnin'.  I'll post again once the cooking begins.  

Once again, thank you all for your continuing support!  I look forward to serving all of you.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Oh, the things you learn along the way.

This week I've been in the process of obtaining all of my licenses and permits necessary to begin business in the spring.  My biggest hope was to be approved by the local Farmer's Markets to kick off my sales, but I'm finding that's going to be a bit more difficult that I had originally realized.

Starting a business is seeming to be a lot like writing a novel.  You start with a goal in mind, but the whole dang thing evolves in ways you never imagine it to.

I found out yesterday that one of my Farmer's Markets does not allow the sale of coffee whatsoever.  That was a shock.  And today I discovered that my main Market, the one in my home town, has an extensive waiting list for vendors.  Not to mention the fact that my Stroopwafels have to be made with 100% home-grown USA ingredients, and they prefer they all come from Texas too.  So months of perfecting the Dutch Dark recipe thwarted.  I'll have to put that one on the back burner until I can get my shop.

It's back to the drawing board.

In a way, though, it's okay.  I was going to have to experiment again once I receive my commercial Stroopwafel Iron, which won't happen until February I'm sure.  I have the experience, know how long to let the dough rise, know when the sauce is starting to caramelize just right.  It's a nice challenge, I think.  But it does worry me a bit.  I was hoping to generate enough sales this year to buy my Espresso Machine by the middle of Fall and continue into the next stage of my business, but if I'm not approved this year at the markets I'm going to have to wait until the next season.  It hurts, but I understand.  I'm growing a business from a seed.  As much as I want to climb my old oak tree, I'm just going to have to be patient.

The Some-Day Cafe will have to wait.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Starting with Stroop

Greetings Citizen or Family Member!

You’re a brave soul!  I wanted to thank you for taking a supreme personal risk by chomping into one of my kitchen-crafted and totally experimental Stroopwafels. What a champ! You’re helping me to accomplish my dream of opening my own coffee shop.  And yes, feel free to imagine yourself holding my hand, skipping merrily down the sidewalk. 

But…  Stroop...Waffles, did I mean?  What is a “stroop”, and why the funny “wafel” business?
Well, let me tell ya:  A stroopwafel is a Dutch cookie, invented over 200 years ago way over yonder in Gouda, a town known more famously for its cheese.  “Stroop” means syrup, the caramelly filling in between the “Wafel”, which does, you’re right, mean waffle.  I like to think of them as caramel-filled waffle cone cookie circles.  I started experimenting with them when I decided to pursue my dream of starting a coffee business in mid 2013, but I had no idea what they were until I got my dream juices flowing.  It’s strange the places you’ll go when you want to accomplish a goal.  And though I don’t remember how, I suddenly found out these Stroopwafels were shaped just so to be placed on top of a cup of hot coffee or tea, so the caramel melts just right in the middle.  Leave it to those clever Dutch.  I had to try it out.

Coffee is a habit forming concoction, especially when it is shared with good friends in a comfortable place.  My love of coffee, and the inspiration for my dream, started at a local diner, where a one night occasion turned into an every night affair, all because the coffee was plentiful, drinkable, and the atmosphere was just right.  My friends and I would spend hours and days drinking coffee, playing cards, chatting about the world and often making new friends with other frequent patrons and even the members of the staff, who knighted us with the honorary title of “Regulars” and eventually--yes, this is a thing--VIP status that earned us a 10% discount every time we came in.  And boy, did we keep coming.

I heard Kevin Clash (the puppeteering soul of Elmo) once say--and I’m paraphrasing from memory, mind you--that when you decide to start pursuing a dream, you never end up where you thought you’d be.  And the journey to get there?  Totally unexpected, and surprising, and stressful. The kind of unexpected and surprising and stressful you might encounter driving a trailer full of mountain goats on a snowy, edge-grinding pass.  Or in a book you’re writing on a deadline where the characters come alive and take the reins to steer the story in ways your publisher never asked. Or in trying to raise a stubborn child who one day looks at you and says something so profound and soulful and out of the blue that you just can’t do anything but sit down and breath and smile and feel proud...  I just wanted to *poof* an awesome coffee shop into existence.  Somehow the journey has lead me to you putting this crazy homemade dutch cookie thing in your mouth. You've become a stepping stone, in this moment.  An integral one.  And for that, I’ll always be thankful.

So, yes I’m wordy, but I wanted to say Enjoy!  And be honest about the cookies.  Without negative feedback, I’ll never get to where I want to go.  

If you would like to follow along in my coffee shop quest, sign up for my no-spam, awesome-news-only Newsletter at the top right of this page where I’ll sporadically keep you updated on the status of my growing business, AND where you’ll be able to place future Stroopwafel orders if you’re so inclined (and I hope you are)!  Also, and I’m just sayin’, don’t be surprised if I make YOU a future VIP for giving me moral support while I crawl through the infancy of my endeavors...and hopefully emerge serving you uncommonly amazing, locally roasted, Fair Trade, delicately hand crafted and plentiful brews in a warm and welcoming environment.  

Cheers to you!  And as always, enjoy.