Posted by: Kiersten | December 29, 2010

I confess

I confess, this start-up business has us tired right out.  You want to project a level of energy and enthusiasm when you’re bringing a new business into a community, but we can’t pretend it’s not hard.  Starting a business from scratch is exciting, it’s challenging, and it takes everything we have.  Here we are, sporting our matching eye-bags on Christmas morning:

I didn’t really want to post this picture, I figure I look like crap, and Kat looks great (like she always does.)  But Kat pointed out that there are very few pictures of me in the blog at all in 2010.  Why?  Because I look tired in every picture.

We’ve come so far in a year.  We *almost* have our roastery.  It’s that “almost” that’s causing those dark under-eye circles.

We decided to go to Port Alberni on Monday.  This time of year, going to Port is a bit more challenging.  We talked to our neighbours about groceries and supplies they wanted us to pick up, and we made sure we had pet care backup in case the weather turned and we couldn’t make it back that night.

And it was a good thing we were prepared.  The driving conditions were great until we got to the top of Mt. Sutton, the infamous “pass” the locals bemoan.  Now I understand why.  We went from dry roads to this:

It happened so quickly that we were unable to find a safe place to turn around.  We reached the top of the mountain, and suddenly there was no road.  If we pulled over, we risk getting stuck in the snow banks, if we try to pull a u-turn, we risk getting hit by another vehicle who can’t see around a sharp corner.  See how dark that picture is?  It was 11:00 am when that picture was taken.

If there was no-one else on the road, Kat & I would have been fine.  We are comfortable driving in snow.  The scary part was that 80% of other drivers obviously did not know how to drive in snow, had no snow tires, chains or common sense.  The SUV in front of us had fish tailed nearly into this oncoming transport.

The transport trucks are driven by experienced, skilled drivers, but the trouble is they can NOT stop on a slippery uphill road.  They just had to keep rolling forward through the crowd of cars scattered randomly on the road like pennies on an ice rink.  The rig’s huge tires would skid, then grip, then spin, then grip.  If I wasn’t so afraid of the trailer drifting into our car I would have been in awe of the driver’s control over such a large, heavy vehicle.

During a steep downhill, the car in front of me skidded out, so I nosed our car into the snow bank to avoid running into him.  I have to say, I officially love standard vehicles now.  I had much more control over the little tercel in low gear than I would’ve had in the automatic.  My mother reminded me that automatics do have lower gears for just such situations, unfortunately, most people forget to use them because we just aren’t in the habit of thinking about gears.

We made a line of 20 cars behind us wait while we wrestled the chains on the front tires.  After that, it was slow going but very steady.  We made it to Port shortly after lunchtime.

Once we were in the Alberni valley, the road conditions improved to near-perfect again.   By the time we found a safe place to pull over to remove the chains, there was no sign of snow on the road at all.

We quickly decided there was no way we were going to attempt to drive back in the dark, so we checked into the Riverside Motel in Port for the night.  It was money we didn’t want to spend, but a small price to pay to avoid the risk of getting stranded in the snow, on the mountain, in the dark.

You’d think we’d be able to enjoy a hotel room with cable, but we found ourselves unable to sleep at all that night.  I kept waking up with worries about the business, or else dreams of the harrowing drive in the snow.  By the time morning rolled around, we realized we needed to ask for help.  Our current challenge, getting the chimney installed, is not something either of us are qualified to do.  We are not contractors, we have no background in engineering or construction, and our learning curve is slowing us down too much.

One thing I’ve learned in the past year about business:  you have to be humble enough to be open to advice, to ask for help, and strong enough to be able to weed the good advice and help out from the bad.  When you ask for help you open yourself up to criticism, and we wanted to protect ourselves and our business from that.  The last thing we want to look like is two people who don’t know what the heck they’re doing.  Thing is, you can’t possibly know everything you need to know in business – especially for a start-up, where you’re going to encounter one-time challenges like ordering equipment and installing venting.  Kat and I will be awesome at running Stellar Coffee, we’re just not the best people to manage the chimney project.

Our consultant, Dan, feels very confident that we’ll be up and running quickly.  He is bringing his much-needed experience into this project as well as his energy and enthusiasm.  Here’s a guy who’s on our side, who can speak with manufacturers, contractors, the bylaw officer, the landlord and the insurance company in their own language.  Welcome Aboard, Dan.

Facing our own mental exhaustion in the cozy little motel room in Port helped us make the decision to ask for help.  It’s so strange it took us this long to realize we needed help with the chimney project so badly, since we had no hesitation to hire a lawyer or a graphic designer for other aspects of the start-up.  Since making that decision, it seemed the road blocks before us cleared away.

The drive home was beautiful:

The snow-capped mountains, the mist, the fluffy piles of white weighing down the branches of the roadside pine.

The bright sunshine sparkling like sequins on the snow-boas draping the trees:

We made it home without any trouble on Tuesday.  Since then, we’ve been waking up with new ideas, our enthusiasm and energy returned.

Maybe one day, I’ll look less tired than I do right now.  Fortunately, I feel much better.



  1. Aww, you both look beautiful.

    Lovely mountains and rock and trees. I sure do miss those!

    Wouldn’t like that drive over the hump, though! I don’t blame you for spending the night in town!

    • Kim, a friend of ours from Ucluelet just bought a house & farmland on PEI! He said he’s officially closing in the spring. Your Island just gained a very nice citizen. I’m not sure what part of the island he’s on, I’ll have to ask.

      • Yes, do!

        It’s incredible how many BC folk we have met here. Just up the (long) country road from us, our newest neighbors are also from Nanaimo!
        She and I have already been out walking our dogs together – very surreal!

  2. Great pictures and eloquent writing as usual. Happy New Year!!!! May you have an exciting prosperous business year.

  3. Hi guys;
    This has been quite a learning curve for ex torontonians,we are happy with your enthusiastic updates and we are cheering you on from a distance. you are winners and it will all come into place
    happy New Year

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