Posted by: Kiersten | December 1, 2009

Transforming Butter Tarts into Halibut: A study in West Coast Alchemy

Hey Mocha, what do you smell?


 I dunno, but it tastes weird.


 It’s now been over a month since Kat, the critters and I left Toronto, and I’d say we’re all rehabilitating very well.  We don’t miss crowded movie theatres or public transit, but we have missed the epic “Turning 30 is a Real Drag” cross-dressing theme party / joint birthday party for two of our friends.  I’ve known Ali & Chris since I was 15 – and here we all are, 30 years old. 

We also missed the housewarming / wedding anniversary / birthday party of two of my other long term friends – Derek & Tessie, the very same people who helped us navigate the stressful hell that was driving to Union Train Station in Toronto and then boarding the train. 

 We’re very far away from friends and family.  We couldn’t take y’all with us, but we’re hoping to lure you out here, one or two at a time. 

 To that end, this is where Kat & I were at 4:30 last night:


We’ve been lucky with sunny days recently.  We went back to the lighthouse trail to take some pictures in broad daylight:


There are more pictures in –>  The Daily Deer 

There have been some significant developments on the financing for our roastery (yay!)  The lender we initially contacted informed us that they had evaluated the resale value of the coffee roaster at much less than what they’d need as security on the loan we’re asking for; which means we don’t qualify for the whole amount through them unless we can come up with more money to put into it ourselves. 

The wonderful thing about working with non-profit lenders though is they are very concerned with seeing a good idea take off.  Cheryl informed us that she rarely sees a business plan that is filling a niche (as we are) as opposed to competing with similar businesses that are already in existence.  She really wants to see us go into business, so she took the initiative to look into some alternate funding sources for us, and pointed us towards another non-profit lender that caters to small businesses in our specific region of Vancouver Island – how great is that?  What’s more, this second lender does not have the same strict policies about security / collateral as the first lender, they’re willing to collaborate with the first lender (each lending us part of our startup loan, contingent upon the approval of the other.) 

 Best of all, this second lender has a self-employment subsidy for people who are on Employment Insurance; Kat qualifies for this as she was laid off in Toronto.  If her income is subsidized for a year we would need a significantly smaller start up loan to begin with.  If part of the loan is funded through the second lender, then the remainder can be sourced through the first lender, since we do qualify for a smaller portion of funding.

 In the long run, we could be much better off financing the business this way.  The only down side is that the volunteer board of directors meets once a month at the end of each month, and since we missed the November meeting and the December meeting will likely be cancelled, it will probably be the end of January before we even get to present our case, so we’re looking at a two month delay in getting launched.

So for the interim, I’m researching starting up another business servicing all the other small businesses in the Ucluelet region.   In this tourist town, it seems that everyone owns at least one small business.  Whether it’s a B&B in their rec room during tourist season, a fishing charter, forestry services or handmade jewelry, it all amounts to a lot of tax receipts to organize.

Last spring when I filed my taxes, I dumped H&R Block for a fellow entrepreneur who lectured at a Women in Business conference we’d attended in Toronto.  She ended up saving me $300 after quizzing me on my expenses and as it turned out, more of them were deductible than I’d thought.  Her service paid for itself, and she offered me a job for the next tax season. 

I may be too far from Toronto to work for Sunny, but that doesn’t mean I can’t provide the same service here.  There are courses I’d need to take to get certified, but it’s not a long process.  I’m already familiar with the process since my previous job had me issuing T4s, managing 2/3 taxable car leases, mortgage interest and a plethora of deductible expenses.  What I don’t know I can learn through a course.

People *hate* doing their taxes.  They’ll renovate their own house, they’ll fix their own trucks, but they’ll pay someone else to deal with their books.  The good thing about tax preparation is that it would be winding down at about the time the coffee roastery would be winding up – it should dove-tail nicely.  I’ll need to do research and another mini-business plan, so that’s what I’ll be busy with this week.

It’s all very exciting but nerve-wracking too.  So much is up in the air – I’ll feel better when we’re finally in production.  At least it’s nerve-wracking in a productive way, not in a packed subway car stuck next to the guy who smells like pee kinda way.

For me, nothing soothes the worries better than baking.  I’ve learned to make bread and I’ve become dependant upon the cheap therapy of mashing all my anxieties into a ball of dough.  I’ve made so much bread I’ve started giving it away to friends and neighbours – friends who are teaching us to spin, and neighbours who helped us move a couch.  Thus, flour is transformed into bread, which is transformed into new skills and free manual labour.

I had a small victory with my butter tart recipe which I’ve been developing for the past few months.  My goal:  to create a butter tart so good it brings tears to the eye.  Well my last batch came out pretty darn close.  They are very, very, VERY good, if I do say so myself!  The ones with chocolate chips will make you weak in the knees.  I gave some to my neighbour (he of the couch-moving brawn.)  He took a bite, exclaimed “did you MAKE these?” and then dug a hunk of halibut from his freezer and gave it to me.  Awesome! 

I’ve noticed several subtle transformations on my person recently.  My hair is curlier – the ocean air is agreeing with it.  My skin has cleared up significantly – I always suspected that Toronto water (eau de swimming pool as Margaret Atwood would say) was to blame for my adult acne.  I’ve lost 7 lbs, despite my increased consumption of fresh baked goods.  I can pedal my bike straight up most of the steep hills in the area and still breathe when I reach the top.  I’m even finding myself using words like “stoked” and “bummer” without irony.

 Who knows what alchemy the following months will bring?


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