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.