Posted by: Kiersten | December 4, 2009

Chills

The past few days have been absolutely gorgeous.  It continues to be about 10˚C during the day, and the sunshine blazes on.  At night, without the insulating clouds in the sky, the humid ocean air condenses on every surface.  By morning, everything is covered in feathery ice crystals:

 

I’ve never seen frost take this form before.  I wonder if the salt in the ocean air has anything to do with the formation of fuzzy ice fur on everything. 

 

The roof of our landlord’s house was covered in frost, and as the rising sun filtered through the neighbour’s trees, the heat of the sunlight traced the silhouettes of the branches in sharp relief onto the white frost. 

At 9:00 am the phone rang – it was the alternate funder we’d sent our application into last week.  Well that conversation did not go well… it was kind of like getting kicked in the teeth.

The reviewer told us that our sales goals were too ambitious for a region that had only 2,000 permanent residents and one coffee house.  I attempted to explain that the business would not be catering to the permanent residents alone, but to the businesses that cater to tourists, both in the immediate region and on the mainland.  Then she asked me a question struck me dumb: 

“Well how do you expect to get the coffee to customers in Fernie?”

Uh, do you think we hadn’t thought of that?  Had she read even a bit of the business plan? 

“We’d ship it.  It’s common practice for coffee roasteries.  Usually 80% of all orders are shipped.” 

At this point in the conversation it became clear that she was not interested in discussing her concerns, she was simply informing she wasn’t interested in funding us.  It was very difficult to get a word in to address her questions (which seemed rhetorical) – this was not a dialogue, it was a rejection. 

Well, so be it.

We called Cheryl at WEC back and updated her on the conversation.  The cold reality was unless we could come up with an additional $25,000 in cash, we could not qualify for a loan of the amount we were seeking through WEC.

Kat & I went back to the drawing board.  If we didn’t qualify for the whole amount, what could we do with the amount we *do* qualify for?

So here’s the new plan:  We will implement a phase 1 and phase 2.  Phase 1 will be a scaled back, bare bones micro-roastery.  Instead of creating 2.5 jobs, it’ll create 1.5 jobs – a full time one for Kat, a part time, unpaid job for me.  We’ll outsource the book-keeping to a local management company (which is surprisingly affordable) and this will free up time for me to focus entirely on marketing… and contributing a part time income in another way.

We’ll start with a roaster with 1/3 the capacity of the one we want.  It’s 1/3 the price but it means Kat will have to work 3 times as hard to produce the same amount of product.  It means that we will outgrow the roaster just as the business starts to get  significantly profitable, and upgrading the roaster will mean we need pay for renovations, duct work and labour all over again.

The up side is that we can start the roastery for $40,000 less, which is a lot more palatable for our lenders, and frankly it’s a lot better for me.  I never did take out a student loan, a car loan or a mortgage.  This business will be the first big debt load I’ve ever taken on, and smaller is better. 

Phase 1 – or “Operation Little Bean” as we call it, will give us a chance to build up our relationships with our lenders, our customers and our suppliers without the burden of hefty monthly loan payments.  Our sales goals have not changed, but reaching them within the estimated timeframe is not as crucial.  It’s a more comfortable situation to start out with.

The clincher though is that we need to come up with a way to bring in about $500 a month in another way.  I’d already started on that since I didn’t want the delay in our funding to eat away at our savings.  Unfortunately, it’s too late for me to take the required courses so that I can get into the lucrative tax preparation service for this year, but I will definitely take those courses next September.  Meanwhile, I have other skills that I’m figuring out how to market here.    

A second conversation with Cheryl confirmed that we’re on the right track, so I’m doing yet another revision to the financials this weekend.  We’ll keep our fingers crossed.  Wish us luck!

The sunshine has been a blessing; I can’t believe it’s December.  We’re still riding our bikes around town, and yesterday I took off my boots and socks and dipped my feet into the Pacific.  After about 30 seconds I took them back out again, but it’s the principle of the thing – I walked barefoot along the beach in December.  Two loons popped up in the bay and started calling to each other.  They preened, beat their wings against the water and looked like they were enjoying the day just as much as I. 

That’s exactly why we’re here.

 

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Responses

  1. “Operation Little Bean” – love it! Would make a great business name.

    Thinking of you!

    -R

    • ha – yeah or “the little bean that could”


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