Monday, December 31, 2007

Final day of 2007

Wow, 2007 will go down in history as one of the most eventful years in my life! Tracy and I have really been "hopping" in 2007. Here is a quick recap:

We started the year having already signed our lease, and were in full Demo mode. I had completed six or so weeks of construction late in 2006, only to find out from Regional Bldg Dept that our proposed layout would not work. In order to utilize that much square footage for the cafe, we would have had to reconstruct the entire store front, adding very expensive UL listed fire doors with crash bars, as well as install double stall bathrooms for both men and women.

We completed the framing of walls in January 2007 and began working some business organization logistics. We continued construction in February, and even received our building permit on February 17th (after that, we were able to take down the coverings on all of the front windows). February had it's own challenges, including dealing with Colorado Springs Wastewater Division of the Utilities to resolve the grease trap issue, working with Regional to resolve the issue of previous fire damage in the building's electrical distribution system that was never repaired to code, and in dealing with Ethan breaking his leg!
March brought electrical and plumbing, as well as drywall and paint. Ryan and I began some extensive custom wood work, which is one of the major contributors of the 'character' of the shop! We also began advertising for hiring, expecting an early April opening.
April 2007 was a complete construction frenzy! I personally laid all of the hardwood flooring in the studio, kids room, and the cafe. Rob and Ryan laid way, way more slate tile than we had originally planned. I think it turned out to be one of the best decisions, and I kind of wish the entire cafe were slate tile. We also dealt with incorrect electrical wiring which blew up our brewer, and incorrect wiring for our espresso machine. We also wrapped up the drop ceiling (via contractor), finished the cabinet installs and custom woodwork, etc. We had experienced several delays for our expected open date, but I promised Tracy we would get open by her birthday. I spent the night of April 25th in the wood shop and at Nemo's wrapping up last minute priorities. It was an all-nighter, and I was completely exhausted from a very crazy several months of construction. But... at approximately 9:00am, we received our final blessing from the El Paso County Health Department and we opened for business on Tracy's birthday (I spent much of the day asleep in the kids' room)!! Woo Hoo!

We watched sales build quickly, and we were able to show profits of $14,500 in our first six months of operation. We paid our selves $6500 and spent the other $8000 on additional equipment purchases and upgrades. We learned very quickly that our shop is very slow around holidays, and November and December have been below average months for us, as compared to the first six months. We are looking forward to bouncing back in early '08.

Of our original hires (Michelle, Artie, Pam, Nicole, and Dion) we still have Artie and Michelle. Our new hires have been James, Robert, and Vanessa. Vanessa just finished her last week with us, and Tracy is currently interviewing for a replacement.

Our personal finances have suffered, having gone from Dec 2006 until October 2007 with basically no income. We were prepared to go a year or more without a personal income, but Ethan's broken leg cost us $4000, and we ended up with an empty rental house that costs $1000 per month for the payment and utilities. I went back to work in October 2007 at Intel, performing their site water chemistry control scope. Although it pays well and I enjoy what I am doing for them, it is a temporary position since they will be closing this plant in early 2008. My contract with them is currently through March 2008. As a result, I began a job search, looking for something in Construction Management or Project Controls, which is my career background. I thought it would take a few months to land a solid position, but I found a job with RK Mechanical almost immediately, as a Project Engineer on the Fort Carson expansion project. Our scope is all mechanical (HVAC and Controls, all plumbing and wastewater systems, as well as radiant heated flooring, hot water boilers and distribution, etc). We have five 4 story barracks to build, as well as three TEMF's (Tactical Equipment Maintenance Facilities). This construction is to accommodate additional troops being assigned to Ft Carson by 2011. They announced last week that another full brigade will be reassigned to Ft Carson by 2013, which will result in another $170 million in construction efforts! I may be busy there for awhile...
In the meantime, I am working the Project Engineer job during the day, spending a couple of hours with Tracy and the kids, then working the Intel scope at evening/night. I did not want to back out of my commitment to Intel, as I have many friends there from the last seven years. It would be very difficult for them to bring someone in to take over my scope for just three months. It is difficult, but I am getting enough sleep, and having two full incomes will help us to rebuild our personal finances! Although this is hard, I am very thankful to have both opportunities.

Another big part of 2007 has been my photography. I shot numerous senior photos and family portraits this year, and that income really helped (it was before I went back to work). The photography income bridged the gap and looking back on it, I realize it was a necessity, not just a nice to have 'side income'. I have pretty much stopped all photography efforts since I am working two jobs, plus working 10 or so hours at Nemo's a week. I am looking forward to resuming the photography work next year when the Intel scope is completed.

Tracy and I have also continued to volunteer at our church, but we are working in the nursery instead of teaching a Sunday School class. It is much easier to show up and hold crying babies than to prepare a lesson and crafts for 20-30 kids. We enjoyed teaching, but just don't have the time resources to do it well right now. So, Babies-R-Us for now...

Josh, Jonah, and Ethan have done well this year. They rarely have to spend time at the shop, and typically enjoy their time when they are there. Since we are so busy, it has made us take a very close look at our schedules, and to insure we are spending significant time with the boys. Almost all of our non-work time is spent with them, and I think we have more quality time as a family than before we opened the shop. Having fewer time resources makes us appreciate the time we do have, and we use our time much more wisely now...

Thoughts on 2008...
We will be doing some marketing and advertising for the first time ever in early 2008. We have had success so far, but we have not even begun to reach the 18,000 daytime workers that commute into the area (one mile radius of the shop).

I will continue to work two jobs until the end of March. I'll keep you posted on things after that (Intel may extend my contract, unless they are able to sell the site).

We will be joining the YMCA early in January. We don't have time right now to have the kids in basketball, soccer, baseball, football, judo, etc... Instead, we will be taking them swimming, playing racquetball, etc at the Y, and we will be starting BMX bike racing and mountain biking when weather clears in the Spring. Those are all activities that we can do on our own without regard to schedules.

We have not had a family vacation in a couple of years, and we want to make that a priority this year. Tracy's parents have wanted to take the boys to Disneyland, and we are looking at Memorial Day as a good time to head for Florida! It will be fun to see Orlando again. I lived there for a year in 1984-1985 when I was in the Navy's Nuclear Power Program.

Well, it is 1:50am and I need to finish my lab work here at Intel. I need to wrap things up and get home by 3:45 or so. That is when Tracy gets up to go to the shop...

Everybody have a safe New Year's celebration. Have fun, but don't get all crazy!
Take care,
JD

Here are a few of my favorite photos from 2007 (I literally have thousands more that I don't have time to go through... these are just a few favorites from the few I had time to edit and post). You can click on them to see a larger version. Use your 'BACK' button in your browser to return to this page.























Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas!

I would like to say Merry Christmas and thank everyone who has been a part of Nemo's this year. This goes out to our employees, our vendors, our customers, and to family and friends who have encouraged us. I hope you have all had a wonderful Christmas!

As for us, Christmas is not quite over, since we still have to mail our Christmas cards, and I still have a couple of presents to wrap and send to family in Indiana... When you are a procrastinator, Christmas can last for as long as you like!!

As for the shop, we have hit a few milestones recently. We have served over 21,000 customers in 8 months. I had planned to post when we broke the 20,000 mark, but I missed it, so... you get 21,000.

We average just over $4 per sale, and as a result, we are over $95,000 in sales and rapidly approaching the $100,000 mark! Woo Hoo! I'll keep you posted...

We sold 102 gift certificates in 2007, with most of those (approx 75) being sold in the last two weeks. Those sales do not show up in revenues yet in our POS system. Those sales will show up as the certificates are redeemed.

Tracy is changing our hours to close at 6:00pm instead of at 8:00pm beginning in January. I'm interested in seeing how that will work out. Her plan is to not cut labor hours, but to use those extra labor hours during the day shift to boost sales during our busier times. I'll let you know how things are trending.

I've completed my first week of working as a Project Engineer at Fort Carson, and continuing the water chemistry control scope at Intel. I was able to perform both scopes, spend time with the kids, and still get enough sleep (enough for me, probably not enough for the average person). I can do anything for three months...

Everybody have a great New Years...
JD

Monday, December 17, 2007

We are still here!

Wow, have we ever been swamped. I don't have much time, but wanted to leave a quick note to let you know we are still here!

As expected, December has been slower than normal. We plan to get through it, and get aggressive in January and February to boost sales.

We had our staff dinner at Mirch Masala on Saturday night. It was very good Indian cusine, and then we went to see Bourne Ultimatum afterwards. It was a fun night.

As for the coming new year, Tracy has been evaluating our night time business. I crunched some numbers, and in the last three months we have shown $400 in profit during the 6:00pm to 8:00pm timeslot. We have had several special events (live music, group holiday parties) that account for more than $400 in sales during that time. Basically, that means the shop has been roughly breaking even during that timeslot over a three month period (if you take out the special events). Tracy's plan is to start closing at 6:00pm instead of 8:00pm starting in January. She wants to take those labor manhours and pull them into the dayshift to assist with catering to Premiere and Time Warner. She feels she can develop better sales with those labor hours during the day than we are getting at night. We are also looking at being open on both Saturday and Sunday for half days. We are currently open half days on Saturday, but Sunday would be a new endeavor. There are lots of churches in the vicinity, and we can distribute fliers to them to let people know we will be open. We should be able to develop a decent following on Sunday mornings with local church-goers... We go to church on Saturday night anyway, so it does not affect us in that manner.

I started a new job as a Project Engineer for RKMI (RK Mechanical, Inc). RK is the largest HVAC/Plumbing contractor in Colorado. It is a privately owned company and is non-union. Knowing that Intel is a temporary situation (Site Water Chemistry Control) I started looking for a job, hoping to line something up before my contract at Intel ends at the end of March 2008. I thought it might take a few months to find something decent, but I found the position with RK almost immediately. My project scope involves the expansion at Fort Carson (Army Base here in Colorado Springs). We are doing the HVAC and plumbing for 8 new buildings, including three Tactical Equipment Maintenance Facilities and five 4 story barracks buildings. I will be continuing my scope at Intel in the evenings. Although I will be very, very busy, I will still try to post the shop's progress every week or so.

Gotta run...
Take care,
JD

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

11:30pm and the power is back on!

I turned off several of the circuit breakers for large loads, shut down the computers, and waited for awhile. I had no idea how long it would take for the power to come back on, so I made a bed in the studio. I took the upholstered cusions off the Stickley mission style chair in the cafe and used them for a bed. Table cloths worked for a pillow, and one of my muslin studio backdrops worked for a blanket. I got a good half hour nap before the adjacent business owners started showing up and talking very loudly to each other. They all congregated outside our shop because we have emergency lighting on battery backups and it works for quite a few hours. They were all trying to figure out why we had power and no one else did.

I've restored power to everything, confirmed no other breakers tripped, and got the point of sale computer back up and running. I'm going home...
Later,
JD

Been Awhile...

Wow, did the last two weeks really fly by this fast???

I guess so...

Here are a few key events:

We have had several highly successfull Photoshop classes in the studio. I really enjoy teaching, and it forces me to expand my own knowledge in Photoshop. I love having the digital projector! The kids love it for watching movies 14' wide on Saturday mornings when they are at the shop with us.

The Photography Group continues to have great meetings, and great participation. We are currently showing work by the group for our gallery exhibition. If I remember, I'll bring a camera and post some photos of the shop with the artwork up.

Tracy is hosting an Arts/Craft fair on Friday December 7. It will start in the morning and last all day. She has lots of artists participating, and I honestly don't know how she is going to fit everyone in... I need to break down my studio strobes/stands, backgrounds, etc and store them before Friday.

I have organized the Photoshop and Photography groups through www.meetup.com and it has been a great mechanism for publicity and organization for the group events. Tracy is going to start a meetup group for artists and begin having biweekly drawing groups here at the shop. The arts community in Colorado Springs is very disjointed and not organized. If Tracy makes an effort to organize an event that caters to artists, I think it will take off like my groups have.

Jeff Caylor is playing live again this Friday! It will be his third live show here at Nemo's, and we are really looking forward to it. Check out www.jeffcaylor.com for the latest news on his CD release. It is quickly accumulating lots of awards and recognition as one of the best indie album releases of 2007! By the way, Jeff was born and raised in Anderson, Indiana, which is my hometown!

OK, now for the bad news... We have proven over and over again that our location absolutely dies around holidays. We don't just suffer on the given holiday, but the entire week is typically slower than ususal. Well, we are finding that November sales were off our trend by about $1800. That is not a huge drop, but it does hurt since December is our first month at our full budget. Writing a check for $2800 in rent was painful... With slower holiday sales, we are operating under the break even point, which means we are burning capital dollars. We are prepared for that, but I don't like seeing it. Nemo's has performed above expectations right from the start, and revenue growth outpaced our expense growth (with negotiated step increases in rent over time). I looked at some of the numbers, and from April 07 to Oct 07 was very good to us. During that time, we paid ourselves $6500, and we spent an additional $8000 on new equipment, both for the cafe and for the studio. To perform $14,500 above your break even point during the first six months of operation is stunning! Finding ourselves a little below break even now is tough to swallow given our track record up until the holidays hit.

OK, so what are we going to do about it?
1. We are not going to stress about it during December. We have a proven track record of slower than normal sales around any holidays. We expect December to be in the red, and we are just going to get through December without any stress or anxiety.

2. Once January hits, we are going to aggressively tackle some inexpensive marketing. We are having 120" x 36" banners hung on the front and the back of the building. Our signage is not great, and we don't want to invest in signage since the property owner intends to upgrade the building facade soon. I am working on a flier and will send it to a print press to have 10,000 copies made. To this point, we have only reached the large buildings within walking distance of us. There are another 14,500 employees within a one mile radius of us. Some of the industries close to us that we have not marketed to:

Olympic Training Center
Memorial Hospital (largest hospital in the city)
Regional Building Department
El Paso County Health Department
Printers Parkway is innundated with medical complexes, way too many to count (1000's of people)
Memorial Hospital Admin Building (800 people)
Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind (huge campus right up the street)
The Gazette (Colorado Springs only newspaper, a very large complex, lots of employees)
I could go on and on... There is an enormous unreached market out there just 5 minutes from our front door by car.

Tracy is going to aggressively pursue the catering to Premiere Global and Time Warner in the Chidlaw building directly behind us.

Tracy is flirting with the idea of closing at 6:00pm instead of 8:00pm. Over the last two months, we have paid more in labor dollars to operate those hours than we have brought in in sales revenue. The challenge I see there are the groups we have scheduled to use the studio for events at night. If Tracy goes this route, I will come to the shop at 6:00 and stay for the events. We have solid bookings for every Tuesday for the indefinite future. The photography and photoshop groups meet at times when I am here to participate anyway. I will be able to stay at the shop and take care of things by myself during those times when it is necessary. That will allow us to continue to pull in the revenues generated by the groups, but cut labor costs to exactly Zero dollars!

What is the advantage? Well, Tracy can take those labor hours and dedicate that budget money to implement the catering to Premiere and Time Warner. We were considering hiring another daytime person to facilitate the catering. Closing sooner and pulling that labor to earlier in the day will give us the opportunity to use those labor dollars in an endeavor that should have much higher revenue returns than our slow 6:00 to 8:00pm timeslot.

OK, that is enough for now... It is after 10:00pm and I'm still at the shop.

Oh great, the power just went out. I saw a bright flash of light and heard an explosion from the transformer about a block down the street.
I looked outside and there are no city lights for as far as the eye can see. No buildings, no street lights, no traffic lights, nothing...
I've got to post this and shut down the computers (they are on battery backups).

Looks like I may be sleeping here tonight. I will have to stay until the power comes on to insure all of the refrigeration and other large loads do not trip any circuit breakers when everything comes back on at once...

Good night,
JD

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Something Funny...

Ethan said something to me this morning when I was making his breakfast that made me laugh...

He said "Daddy, I don't like peanut butter because it tastes like peanuts!"

OK, maybe it isn't so funny written in a Coffee Shop blog, but it was hilarious this morning. He actually thought peanut butter was a completely different substance than peanuts! LOL, it still makes me chuckle...

Thanksgiving Week

Well, we have an appointment scheduled for today at 3:30pm to take a look at the drive through location with the Health Department. We will get their feedback on how many changes/upgrades will be required to operate there.
Tracy and I have been discussing the pros and cons of opening a second location so soon. I believe the drive through will capture a the commuter crowd on Pikes Peak Ave, but we are trying to go beyond the business model and determine how it will affect our family life, our stress levels, and the amount of spare time we have (our spare time has to be planned in advance, otherwise it gets eaten up by life's demands. It is critical that we set aside family time for our sakes and for the boys, especially).
Everything hinges on the Health Dept input. Once we determine if it is feasible, then we will have to think about it very seriously. Our shop is roughly at the break even point. If we can do some marketing and capture some of the commuters, increase our catering/delivery (especially to Premiere Global and Time Warner), increase our whole bean coffee sales via seminars and tastings, new and better signage, flyer distributions, print media advertising, etc, etc... If we can implement the above items and get our shop to the point of paying ourselves a decent salary, then we may not need the added stress and "time consumption" of a second location. I am the kind of person who just forges ahead and does things, and I will work half the night and only get a couple hours of sleep if necessary. Tracy keeps me grounded, and helps me to think about impacts to our lives beyond business... We are thinking, as well as praying, about this decision. We would appreciate your prayers as well, if you are so inclined...

We are going to be closed Thursday for Thanksgiving, and we will be open on Friday (it will probably be DEAD...) Holidays around the shop are SO VERY SLOW...

A photography website where I participate has a forum thread going called "Tell us something odd about yourself." Wow, what a wide open field that leaves for me. I could fill volumes! This is what I listed, although it doesn't even begin to tap into the odd things about me!

Weird diversity of jobs...
So far in my life (I'm 42) I have done the following:
Electronics Technician
Nuclear Reactor Operator
US Navy Diver
Instructor, certifying others to operate nuclear plants
Barista at Starbucks
Account Manager for entertainment Youth Fund Raising
Retail Sales Rep for Software Etc
Top Secret position at Space Command, Peterson Air Force Base
System Certification Tech, Semiconductor Industry
Quality Assurance, Semiconductor Industry
Quality Assurance, Bio-pharmaceutical Industry
Certified Weld Inspector (CWI)
Industrial Scheduler, using Primavera Project Planner
Project Manager (construction) for Specialized Ultra High Purity Environments (multi million $$ projects)
Project Manager, Sustaining Projects for Intel Fab 23
Landlord (own several rental properties)
I also have a full industrial wood shop and do custom furniture design and fabrication on commission.

Oh, when I was 16 I was hand picked to be involved in a first of a kind Junior Achievement Company (Madison County JA, Anderson, Indiana). 10 of us wrote a curriculum for 6 week sessions to teach computer programming to the public. We sold out of three sessions, with 20 participants in each session (cost was $99 per person, per session). It was very successful, and Wall Street Journal and other national publications did articles about us. I was selected out of the 10 of us to go to a conference in Cincinnati and give a speech to 3500 people about our company and its successes!

I currently own a high end retail coffee shop (which I designed and completed the construction myself), as well as a Photography Studio (specializing in weddings and portraits).
I am teaching Photography lessons as well as Photoshop lessons out of my studio. I also do graphic design on the side (paid jobs).

I recently came back to work at Intel and I am taking care of their site water chemistry control (lots of samples of different systems, lab analysis for water quality and chemistry control agents, followed by trend analysis and chemistry/biocide injection rate modifications to maintain system parameters).

I recently interviewed for a position as a Project Engineer for a local Mechanical contractor (they are completing a major expansion at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs - about an 18 month project). I have a meeting with them Monday afternoon to review their offer letter.

The crazy thing is that I have never been to college, but I have excelled in all of these areas. I also have never had to look for a job. Due to networking and my Project Management experience, I typically receive several job offers a week.

Pretty crazy...


Gotta run,
JD

Friday, November 16, 2007

Friends Don't Let Friends Drink Bad Coffee

LOL
I was emailing back and forth with a friend from my photography/photoshop groups. He sent me an image he doctored up with a Nemo's logo that said "Friends Don't Let Friends Drink Bad Coffee". It got me to thinking that I should create a Nemo's Christmas card with that on it to send out this year...

Sounds fun to me...

Nemo's Impact on Starbucks

Well, we have been open for just over six months, and we've finally seen our impact on Starbucks in the headlines. I found this in an Associated Press release today:

"SEATTLE (AP) -- Fewer coffee drinkers have been streaming into Starbucks Corp.'s U.S. stores -- news that overshadowed an otherwise healthy fiscal fourth quarter for the world's largest chain of coffee houses. The 1 percent drop in traffic at stores open at least 13 months marked the first time the company has seen such a decline.

The company released its earnings report after the market closed Thursday. Starbucks shares fell more than 9 percent at the open of trading Friday, or $2.25, to $21.90.

While sticking to its ambitious goal of having 40,000 stores worldwide, Starbucks plans to open 100 fewer U.S. stores in fiscal 2008 than originally forecast, one of several moves aimed at improving operations."

I am fiercely confident that Starbucks decline in domestic customer counts is directly related to the emergence of Nemo's Coffee on the scene in Colorado Springs!
Well, maybe that's a bunch of BS, but I do believe that independent retailers serving higher quality product than Starbucks has is beginning to put a dent in their sales. Starbucks is an amazing company and they will continue to do well, but as coffee consumers branch out and try the higher quality items available at Nemo's and other independents dedicated to quality of product and service, Starbucks is going to lose a small percentage of their customers that want something better...

We also reached another milestone at Nemo's yesterday... We exceeded $80,000 in total sales! Not bad for a brand new independent retailer that has done no advertising what-so-ever!

If you are in the area, stop by the shop tonight. We have a local author on site doing a book signing. She is a Christian author named Lonzie Symonette. She has published several books before, and this one is titled "Real Happiness Is Within Reach." Her previous books are "He Calls Me by the Thunder", "Everyday Soaring Since My Emancipation", "Lonzie's Fried Chicken Volumes 1 thru 7" (collections of Southern poetry and fiction), and "A New Slave Song."

Here is a quick bio from her website:
A Board Certified (APC) hospice and palliative care Chaplain, Reverend Lonzie is trained to journey with those who are facing the impact of life-threatening illness. She respects their "here and now" and offers an active presence according to their belief system. She is also an adjunct instructor at Fuller Colorado Theological Seminary. Her class lectures connect and bridge the gap between grief and loss, death and dying, the importance of sound relationships and an enduring faith especially when approaching the end of life. There are many spiritual issues that arise at the end of life, and Chaplain Lonzie has encountered many "in your face" experiences. "...Chaplain Symonette is one of the Lord's special prophetess...a woman who traffics in an area where the church needs to go. Our preacher tonight...is a trail blazer cutting new paths for the entire church..." states The Right Reverend John Richard Bryant, the l06th Consecrated and Elected Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. She is "...a sensitive and serious interpreter of life," said The Right Reverend Vinton Randolph Anderson, 92nd Consecrated and Elected Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Past President World Council of Churches. Welcome into the space of a published author, speaker, teacher, and preacher. One who combines life experiences with love for God and God's people.

"Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord..." (Revelation 14:13a NIV)

A thought-provoking, humorous, and a dynamic speaker, her personal testimony entitled Real Happiness Is Within Reach explains how God helps her to cope. With humorous stories from her childhood in Miami, Florida, she highlights the importance of embracing and enjoying real happiness based on applying God's Word to our daily lives.

"Give it up! Your book will never be published," I was told. Even when all the doors had been slammed and pad-locked in my face, I talked to God about it. God said, [I am] "...opening doors no one can lock... I've opened a door before you that no one can slam shut" (Revelation 3:7b-8a Msg).

In 1992 the camera ready lay-out for our first book, A New Slave Song was literarily cut and pasted on my dining-room table. We sold two thousand copies. We remembered the promise from God, "...Behold I have put before you an open door which no one can shut..." (Rev. 3:8 NAS). In 1994, the company's logo of a lock with a key in it was designed and registered. The world's largest publisher of Christian Bibles, Thomas Nelson (Word Press) opened their doors desiring a contract with LMS. After negotiations, the second book He Calls Me by the Thunder, a revision of A New Slave Song was published.
Many asked, "How did you get two books published in two years? In the same breath a second question followed, "will you teach me?" The answers to these questions developed into a self-publishing workshop. Another opened door of opportunity to encourage unpublished authors and to witness of God's goodness. We taught the workshop in the local community center. Soon the workshop became an Adult Continuing Education course on the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs (UCCS) campus. LMS wanted an easy to understand, step by step workbook to give to each student. Rewrites and draftings of the workshop materials birthed a third book, You Can Do It Too! LMS taught from the "school of hard knocks", experience. Because of the grueling time requirements of teaching and the available, affordable desk-top publishing programs, we no longer present the workshops.

I went by the shop yesterday after working at Intel to check on an espresso machine leak. I took the panels off and located the leak at the middle group flow meter. The flow meter is a sealed enclosure with an impeller and sensors. I keep a few simple tools at the shop and I was not able to find any of them!! I'm not in the shop that often anymore, and I have no idea where things are. I ran down to Home Depot and bought a tool box and about $175 worth of tools. I can now work on just about anything at the shop and not have to worry about looking for the right tools. Anyway, I tightened the flow meter case screws which decreased the leak rate, but did not fix it completely. Maric Beverage Systems recently serviced that flow meter, so I will have to call them and have them fix it...

Gotta run,
Take care,
JD

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Recent comments and response...

I received the following comment on my Six Month Assessment post from a couple of days ago. I thought I would post it, along with my response... Feel free to let me know if you have questions, and I will do my best to answer them.
take care,
JD


bill said...
JD,

Been following your blog for a while now and this summary made me wonder: what is the end game for Nemo? You have had good initial success, but I'm pretty sure the idea was to have a business that supported you and your family, but now you have gone back to work to support it (and your family, of course).

You've hit "break even" twice (which is good) and have growth strategies (also good) but...

I guess what I am wondering is where does Nemo need to be for you to get what you were looking for? What volumes are you looking at to allow you to quit again and do the shop full time? When does the effort of starting Nemo make sense financially?

And thank you for your service, too. I grew up not far from Toledo - never realized there was a sub named after the town...

November 12, 2007 3:16:00 PM MST


JD Anderson said...
Hello Bill,
I'm glad you have been following the blog...

What makes sense? Well, to have $20,000 a month profits after tax makes great sense to me, but I know that is not realistic. To put the six month assessment in perspective, we did not expect to hit the break even point until 12 months of operation. You mention that we hit the break even point several times, and that is correct. I set up our budget so that we would have different milestones, each requiring an increase in revenues to get to the 'new' break even point. Your comment makes it sound like it might all be somewhat frustrating. It is not at all... We are six months ahead of schedule. We still have a significant chunk of our original capital investment left, and we could begin paying ourselves a personal income instead of me working. However, we would rather save that capital for a rainy day, rather than use it up paying our day-in and day-out personal expenses. Thankfully, I have the ability to land jobs in the $30 to $40 per hour range and that allows us to cover our personal finances, take care of one of our rental homes that is currently empty and undergoing some remodeling, etc. Going back to work full time is not a setback, but just one of those things that we decided would be a smart move in the long run.

So, to answer your questions...
We are thrilled with how Nemo's is performing. We have some future plans set in place to continue to grow our revenues. Our budget is now stable without any forthcoming increases (we signed an 11 year lease, so that is stable), other than typical cost increases due to rises in utilities, vendor product costs, etc. Even after Nemo's is profitable, I may continue to work for some time and save that money. We would like to invest in additional real estate, and it takes $$ to do so. I would love to see Nemo's at the point of paying our personal finance responsibilities, and my salary going towards future investments, possibly additional Nemo's locations!

So the short answer is "It all makes sense as long as you have somewhere to live and some food to eat". The long answer is a little more convoluted, and who knows what difficulties, or blessings, could pop up along the way. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you have to jump in with both feet, make the best decisions that you can, and hang on!

EDIT 11-14-2007 It just occurred to me that you meant numbers...
Our current budget, which is worst case (no more incremental jumps over time0 requires us to have approximately $690 in sales per day. That is gross sales before product costs are taken out. And, that is based on a five day week. It may sound like a lot if you are a small independent, but we have not even started to tap into the potential market around here. We averaged a little over $690 per day last week. We had a weak Monday, followed by a $750 Tuesday so far this week. I will be watching our numbers over the next month or so to see if we are consistently hitting the break even point or not. My wife was a Starbucks manager and worked in stores that averaged $30,000 per week in sales. My end goal is to average $7500 weeks on a consistent basis.

Gotta run,
JD

Monday, November 12, 2007

Veteran's Day

I want to take a minute and thank all of our veterans, both past and current, for their sacrifices and service to our country. My brother finished his third tour in Iraq last week and is now home safe at Ft Drum in New York. His time at home is well deserved, having completed two 15 month tours in Iraq with only a couple of months between the two. He has a son that is a toddler, as well as a new baby daughter he had not met. I am very happy that he is home with his family.
Here is a photo of my brother Aubrey:

Aubrey

Our neighbor will be returning to Colorado Springs in December, following his third 15 month tour in Iraq. I wish him well during his final weeks there. He has a wife and two kids who are looking forward to his safe return. And photos of George:
George

George and Angie

I spent nearly 12 years on submarines in the US Navy as an electronics technician, reactor operater in the nuclear field, and as a US Navy Diver. Here are some photos of the two submarines I served on, the USS Memphis SSN-691 and the USS Toledo SSN-769:

Our Pride Runs Deep
Our Pride Runs Deep<br />

USS Memphis - a photo I took topside during an emergency personnel transfer off the coast of Portugal
Memphis SSN-691

Uss Memphis - a couple of my shipmates (Perez and Willis) topside in St Croix, USVI
Memphis SSN-691

USS Memphis Underway
Memphis SSN-691

USS Memphis Greece
Memphis SSN-691

USS Memphis Greece2
Memphis SSN-691

USS Memphis passing throught the straights of Gibraltar. I am one of the people topside in this image...
Memphis SSN-691

USS Memphis Floating Drydock
Memphis SSN-691

USS Memphis Torpedo Loading
Memphis SSN-691

USS Memphis Pt Everglades Florida (Ft Lauderdale)
Memphis SSN-691

USS Toledo conducting Seal Team ops
Toledo SSN-769

USS Toledo conducting Seal Team ops
Toledo SSN-769

USS Toledo conducting Seal Team ops
Toledo SSN-769

USS Toledo Underway
Toledo SSN-769

USS Toledo Underway2
Toledo SSN-769

Here is a photo of me back in the day, and one of me now:
JD at 18
JD Now

Tracy and I have three boys and I teach them to respect those who serve, no matter what. I also teach them to love their country, no matter what.

I wish more people would do the same.

JD

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Nemo's Six Month Assessment

Well, we have been open for just over six months. It has been an amazing ride...
We negotiated free rent for awhile when we signed our lease, and we were able to reach the break even point in about 2 1/2 months, which is exceptional!! That is based upon a 'no rent' scenario. We continued to build sales, and we were able to reach the break even point again, with rent included in the budget. Once again, that was great performance and ahead of schedule for any given retail endeavor.

On the personal side of things, our personal savings dwindled to the point that I went back to work full time about a month ago. We were without personal income for the most part from December 2006 until October of 2007. We have learned how to be frugal, and how to make the most of everything we have available to us. It has been a really good experience. Me going back to work has reinstated our personal income, but left a huge void in the schedule at the shop. We promoted Robert to Assistant Manager and increased his hours to full time, plus some (he is working about 45-50 hours a week). We also hired James and Vanessa. These coverage moves have significantly increased our labor costs, dropping us below the break even point yet again. I am excited to say that last weeks' sales reached 103% of our break even needs, including both rent and our increased labor costs in the budget. I'd like to see that kind of performance consistently, and I'm sure it will happen. Any way you slice it, Nemo's has performed beyond our expectations from the start. We have built our revenue base on quality products, excellent customer service, developing a sense of community at the shop, and by marketing the studio to various groups and events to get people in the shop and to drive sales. We have done all of this by word of mouth, and to this date we have not spent a single penny on advertising or marketing!

So where do we go from here...
We have done a great job of capturing the local business community as walk in customers, as well as growing our night time business with the photography and Photoshop classes, and by offering the studio space as a meeting room for other groups. We have grown comfortable with this level of sales, and meeting the needs of our current customer base is no longer a challenge. It is time for us to take Nemo's to the next level.
When you work for a company, it is typically not your job to be concerned about growth. It is normally your job to show up, clock in, do your thing, and clock out. Health of the company is not in your hands, beyond what you can control by doing the best job that you can. I've been thinking quite a bit over the last couple of weeks how to grow Nemo's from our current state. I have mentioned several ideas in the blog over time, but here is a synopsis of where we are headed. I honestly believe we can more than double, or even triple, our current sales quite easily, if we implement the following ideas:
1. Purchase the drive through location one block east of us, and capture the commuter crowd. US Bank commissioned a traffic study for Pikes Peak Ave several months ago and we have 80,000 cars driving by DAILY. Right now, we are capturing a whopping ZERO PERCENT of that commuter crowd. Our shop sits back from Pikes Peak Ave, with poor visibility and poor signage. Our shopping center is easy to get into, but difficult to leave. The traffic light at the exit of our parking lot takes forever... No one likes to sit at a light waiting and waiting and waiting to get out into traffic and get to work. The drive through location has high visibility, easy access, and an easy departure back onto Pikes Peak Ave with no traffic light delays. We are still pursuing this opportunity and will keep you posted via the blog on major developments.
2. Initiate and grow our delivery/cater service. We expected to develop quite a few regular customers from the Chidlaw Building directly behind us. The building houses 2000 employees. As it turns out, very few of the employees have the opportunity to leave the building during their shifts. We do get a contingent of their work force in our shop, but it is an extremely small percentage of the workforce that has the opportunity to come over. They have asked us, to the point of nearly begging, to bring coffee, pastries, breakfast burritos, sandwiches, etc to them. To accomplish this, we would need to purchase some type of cart to bring product to their building and sell it at their workplace. We would also have to increase our staffing to prep the product, and deliver/sell it. We were to the point of initiating this service when I went back to work full time. It fell by the wayside while the staffing dynamics evolved with me missing. The existing and new staff had to develop new routines and become proficient at running the shop without my contributions. They have done so, and now it is time to start stretching the limits again. We will be having discussions this week with Premiere Global and Time Warner to set up a delivery schedule and get this program moving. I think we could easily add $300-400 in sales per day through this program.
3. Whole Bean Coffee sales... While I was doing the construction in late 2006 and early 2007, Tracy was extremely busy selecting our product line. She researched both local and national vendors, ordered product samples, did quality/taste comparisons, and chose the best of the best as our product line. The high quality of our products has been instrumental in our success so far, but we have not marketed whole bean sales at all. We have a few consistent whole bean customers, but we do not even have a whole bean menu or price list developed or displayed. Our product is far superior to any offerings from local roasters (that might ruffle some feathers, but no offense is meant... we just like our product better than everything we tried locally. There are some great products offered by local roasters, but we believe our source is better...) In order to build our whole bean sales, I want to approach it in a way that builds a community feel to it, just like everything else we have done. In order to accomplish this, we are going to start having in house coffee seminars and tastings. We will be educating our customer base in a social environment. We will be preparing various coffees by different methods (french press, brewed, espresso, chem-ex, etc). The seminar will include information regarding the coffee growing region, process, as well as information about roasting. We will do these seminars in a sitting environment, and treat it as an interactive class, with foods that compliment the coffees. We will then offer a 10% discount on all coffees that were highlighted and sampled at the seminar. I don't think it will take long to create a strong following for our seminars, and I think we will see significant whole bean sales growth. I am also going to have my friend (Neil Dana) cut us a new menu board and get it powder coated (you can see old posts in the blog to see the development of our menu board system, including custom cutting of the boards from sheetmetal, and being powder coated). Getting the whole beans out in front of our customer base will also help to drive sales.
4. I am not ready to spend any money on advertising yet, but we are looking for some 'free' advertising. We have made some acquaintances in the radio industry, and we are going to start providing free product to them. They can drink our coffee, and they can also offer our coffee as prizes for the daily call in games they do. It will be a very small cost to us, and it will get our name on the radio. I am also going to get some signage made that I can post along Pikes Peak Ave. A couple of hundred dollars invested in sandwich board signage along Pikes Peak Ave should get a few commuters in the store. Once again, it would be an insignificant cost, but may have a positive effect. The third plan is to do some flier warfare. The demographics study from last year shows that there are 18,000 daytime workers that commute into the area within a one mile radius of our shop. It will not be expensive to have 10,000 fliers printed. We intend to visit all of the offices/businesses in our area, starting with the ones that are located closest to the shop. We will take fliers into the offices to leave in the lobbies/front desks, and we are also going to place fliers on the cars in the parking lots. It is time for us to branch out and get our name/location out to the multitudes that are just beyond walking distance. This will be especially effective if we get the drive through location in operation.

We have some other ideas that we are working on, that I'll discuss more later. The ideas are not fully developed, and I'm running out of time for this session.

to wrap things up, we are very pleased with how things have gone during our first six months. It is time, though, to step up to the next level. As we begin to implement these concepts, I'll keep you posted on how things are working, what difficulties we encounter, and how it is affecting our revenue growth. And overall, it is important to thank God for this incredible opportunity. It is our hope that all we do gives glory to God. We want to impact people in a positive manner, and i think we are doing that. The way we see it, Nemo's belongs to God, and we are just stewards. I believe that if we continue to approach our business model in a humble and grateful manner, and continue to seek God's will in our personal and business lives, that He will make great things happen.

Before I go, I want to thank Brad Ewing and Unseen for playing in the shop Friday night. They are incredible musicians, and it was wonderful to listen to them play. We look forward to having them return again early next year...

Take care,
JD

Thursday, November 8, 2007

New Single Day Record!

We finally went over $1000 in sales for a single day yesterday! We hit $1006 by having a decent day of walk in sales, along with $340 in catering for the El Paso County Health Department and $40 in catering for the kids' school...

Gotta run...
JD

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Nemo's Update for this week

Hello Everybody...

So far, I have taught three Photoshop lessons in the studio. The first was a meet and greet, and to set some goals for the group. We also looked at five different black and white conversion techniques. The next was a Basic instruction group, and we went through the entire workflow to open an image, do some basic adjustments to optimize the image, and then how to resize for web display. Last night I taught an advanced class on a very difficult tool in Photoshop. The tool menu calls it the pen tool, but it is actually a bezier curve tool, just like the ones in vector based illustration software suites. We also did some text illustration effects, using layer styles as well as manual manipulations, and we did some custom coloring of black and white comic book line art.
Our next photoshop discussion for the advanced group will be Complex Masking. I have not set a topic yet for the next Basic group, but I think it will be different sharpening methods.
If you are interested in digital editing of photos, restoration of old photos, graphic illustration, etc, feel free to check out our Photoshop group:



Our Basic Instruction Group is geared towards people who have bought a digital camera, and really don't know what to do with the images! If that is you, then this instruction group is for you!

This has absolutely nothing to do with Nemo's Coffee or Nautilus Photography, but I'm going to put these photos in here anyway, because I think they are really cool. A web acquaintance at DPChallenge has a friend who has a grand daughter that works for NASA. She provided these recent photos for everyone to see (click on the image to see it larger):





As for the shop, we had our first month of sales over $14,000 in October! We also set a new record for highest customer count for a given month. We did not have any record setting individual days, but the whole month was nice and consistent. We are hoping November will be even nicer, and "more consistenter".

We are still pursuing the drive through concept. We need to set up a walk through with the Health Department and see what their input might be. The drive through sits on an existing car wash location, and the previous owners paid a land lease to the car wash. The car wash is currently in foreclosure and ownership has reverted back to the bank. We are checking into that to see if we can solidify a land lease with the bank, as opposed to waiting for a new owner. On the other hand, Tracy's parents said they might buy the car wash so that we can operate the coffee shop rent free... How cool is that???

Don't forget!!! Brad Ewing and Unseen will be playing live on Friday November 9!! You really don't want to miss this show. They are absolutely amazing.

We started our two month long gallery exhibition of work by the Photography Meetup Group yesterday. We received some really amazing works by a number of people. If you are local, stop in and check it out. For those of you who are not local, I'll take some photos of the shop with the artwork hanging and post them here.

Nemo's Coffee is quickly gaining the reputation as the Center of the Colorado Springs Universe for Photography and Photoshop instruction, as well as related events. I can't even tell you how excited I am to be a part of this and to have a facility that can support these areas of interest. It is exciting...

Gotta run...
I hope everyone is doing well.
JD

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Quick Post, just a few details

1 - October has seemed very slow to us, to the point that we have been concerned. I just checked total numbers for the month and it is actually a record month for us! We already broke the record with 3104 customer for the month, and we still have tomorrow to add to that new record. We are currently sitting at $13,766 for the month, and we have tomorrow's sales to add to that total. Our previous records are 3052 customers and $13822 in a month. We have not had any standout, record setting days, and our total sales have seemed low in comparison to the last month or two. Apparently, our sales have been following the slow and steady method of the Tortoise, instead of the speedy jump around method of the Hare...

2 - We are still in conversations with the owners of the drive through coffee shop one block east of us. We are scheduling a walk-through with the Health Department to insure they will allow us to operate on a tank system, as opposed to installing hard plumbing.

3 - Tracy's grandfather died yesterday, just a week or so short of his 90th birthday. We will be heading up to Denver on Saturday for a wake, instead of a birthday party for him, as was planned... Please keep Tracy's family in your prayers. Harold Bowman was his name, and he has done some very wonderful things for our family, as well as for other people. In fact, $30k of our start up capital for Nemo's Coffee was from him, and he set up college trust funds for all three of our kids (as well as their cousins). He was a very caring and generous man and he will be missed.

4 - My photography group that meets here in the studio is up to 111 members! We have been collecting framed artwork from them for the last two weeks or so and we are having a gallery hanging party on Friday. We have some very talented photographers in the group, and I am thrilled to be showing their work during the months of November and December.

5 - My Photoshop group that I started several weeks ago is up to 35 members. It has been very successful so far, and I look forward to this growing and becoming a foundation for Photoshop learning in Colorado Springs. We have members from Denver, Pueblo, Canyon City, Commerce City, etc... It is rare to find a solid Photoshop program and word is getting out about mine.

6 - Tracy is hosting a craft fair on December 7. If you are local and want to be involved, please contact the shop at 719-635-2745. There is no cost to display, and we are not collecting a commission on sales. This event is to support local artists, not to be a profit thing for Nemo's.

Gotta run,
JD

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A few photos...

I haven't had any time to dedicate to photography lately. I am hosting a "Night Photography" contest at the shop on friday in conjunction with my Photography and Photoshop groups. I figured I'd better have a photo to enter. I went down to St. Mary's Cathedral after closing the shop tonight. I set up on a tripod and did a series of photos of the church, as well as some of the details. Exposures varied from 1/20 second all the way up to 30 seconds. Here are a couple of the results:





It is almost midnight, so I'd better go to bed. 5:30 doesn't seem to wait around for anyone, especially me...

JD

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Couple of Quick Items

1. Jeff Caylor will be playing live on December 7th!
2. Brad Ewing and 'Unseen' will be playing live on November 9.
3. Mark Phillips will be playing live on November 29th
4. I am teaching Photoshop lessons here on site (in the studio). Find out more at www.meetup.com (search for Photoshop in Colorado Springs)
5. We will go over $70,000 in total sales tomorrow!
6. We have sold 30, 801 items since we have been open!

Please pray for Heidi. She is a five year old girl who has been battling brain cancer since she was two. She really needs all of our prayers...

Gotta run...
Take care,
JD

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Good -
We met with the current owners of the drive through coffee location that is pre-existing one block to the east of us on Pikes Peak Ave. The current owner is very motivated to sell, and is willing to owner-carry financing.

The location has high visibility from Pikes Peak, and easy access. US Bank recently commissioned a traffic study for Pikes Peak and there are 80,000 cars a day during typical business hours.

It is fairly spacious (more room than I expected).

The current owner is willing to upgrade the electrical from 110v to 220v to support a commercial espresso machine at his cost.

We could use this location to market/promote our walk-in location one block west (our current shop) with:
Lunch, free wi-fi internet, 500 sq ft private meeting room, live music events, etc. I believe operating the drive through would help us to build business at the main shop.


The Bad -
The facility has electrical power and phone, but no water or waste water. We would have to operate with fresh water tanks, wastewater tank, and pumps. This is not optimal, but they make equipment for this purpose for espresso carts and kiosks. It is readily available and not expensive ($750 for pump, water purification/softener, and tanks).

The coffee 'hut' is in minor disrepair. It could use some TLC, but the current owner is willing to do some of this work prior to the sale.

No on-site bathroom. Whoever is working would have to be given breaks to come to our shop one block west to use the bathroom. I was on submarines in the Navy, and I know how to pee in a bottle, so this would not be a big issue for me. Girls might have a problem with that, as might the Health Department.

Health Department typically requires a hot water heater and three compartment sink. Once again, these are manufactured for kiosks and carts and are readily available. I would rather talk them into letting us collect dirty dishes and take them to our current shop at the end of the day for washing. We will not have any 'for here' dishes, so it would be limited to steaming pitchers, spoons, blender pitchers, etc...

The Ugly -
The cart has the beginnings of an awning that a previous operator had started, but not finished. We would have to pay about $2500 for a professional awning/signage.

The current owner threw out a starting ballpark figure of $25,000 for a sale price, to include a big pile of garbage equipment already there. We indicated to him that 95% of the existing equipment is not usable (didn't feel like telling him it was total crap). I told him that $25,000 is unreasonable considering:
1. Not a fancy place, just kind of plain and in disrepair
2. No plumbing
3. Equipment package deal is worthless
4. I told him we are NOT buying a business, just a location for us to start a business. There is no existing clientele, as the place has not been in operation for 1 1/2 years.

More of the GOOD:
Owner agreed that it is just a location and not a business. Said he would significantly discount the equipment, or not utilize it altogether. Said he was motivated to sale and is willing to negotiate on price, as well as owner carry financing. He is going to schedule a meeting with the Health Department and determine what needs to be done to get their blessing, and we will proceed from there.

Speculation:
I believe we can purchase the location for $10,000 to $12,000 without equipment. I intend to propose $5000 cash down, and owner carry another $5000 to $7000 on two year payoff terms. It would cost us $5800 to outfit the place for operation. Based upon being open 8 hours a day, we would have to get 58 customers a day to break even. Averaging 15 customers an hour (feasible with 80,000 going by) our monthly gross sales would be $11,700 with net profits of $4000 (Gross sales less product cost, labor, operating costs).


So there it is in a nutshell, Nemo's Coffee 2!
I'll keep you posted on what we find out from the Health Department. I am hoping they would allow us to operate as is (after being fixed up/repaired). Hard plumbing and wastewater would cost around $10,000, so we do not want to go that route...

gotta get some sleep...
Take care,
JD

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Major Events...

I heard back from the owner of the second location we are considering today. I was concerned that they were not interested because so much time had gone by with no responses to my inquiries. He has been in Nova Scotia for two weeks and just returned yesterday!

We are meeting at the location tomorrow to discuss a potential deal. The 'facility' is ready to go, and is fully stocked with equipment (refrigeration, coffee brewers, grinders, espresso machines, microwaves, shelves, cash register, etc). Basically, the previous manager turned off the lights and left everything in there. We won't want to use the two espresso machines (crummy super automatics), but everything else should work for us, provided it is in working condition.

The current owners have had other people run the business for them, and they have never gotten a good manager. They had poor quality products, inconsistent hours (some days they were open, some days they weren't... just depended on if they were hung over that day). As a result of having several failed attempts at getting it up and running, the current owners do not have an appreciation for the value of the location and the equipment. They are very discouraged and want to sell it. I think we can do well with the high quality products that we sell, and with solid staff to run it.

Another issue that I took a look at yesterday was how my departing the shop has affected our budget. We hired Robert full time as an assistant manager to fill my hours and responsibilities. The increase in labor budget has pushed us back onto the wrong side of the break even point. We will have to do a little more growth based upon current trends to get back to the break even point. I know that the increased labor would have an impact, but I didn't know how big. We'll see how things go...

Gotta run,
JD

Monday, October 15, 2007

Nemo’s News 10-15-2007

Well, last week never did shape up and have a strong day. We rounded out the week at about $500-600 lower than our recent typical averages (for the whole week). We have found that holiday weeks really are strange. I’m hoping to see things rebound this week. The last time I said it was time to start doing some advertising or marketing, we jumped up in sales and had a good growth spurt. I’m hoping the same thing will happen, but who knows…

Tracy and I visited some other coffee shops recently.
We went to Sorrano’s yesterday, both their Colorado Springs location on North Academy and their Monument, CO location (which is their original location). The coffee was very good, as we have heard. They utilize La Marzocco semi-automatic espresso machines, as do we. The owners roast their own coffee, and I have to admit is one of the best local products I have tried. The best goes to Kaladi Brothers in Denver, Sorranos is probably second best, followed by a tie with Crowfoot Valley in Castle Rock and CCM (Colorado Coffee Merchants) here in the Springs.
As for Sorranos, the Academy location is new, and is very corporate looking. They have lots of woodwork, but it is the ‘corporate installed’ looking stuff. They have a gas fireplace, and a large retail wall. We had Josh, Jonah, and Ethan with us and the clients already in the store decided the place was a library, not a coffee shop. I don’t blame them for being confused, because it was incredibly quiet. We got lots of angry or irritated looks from several people. Overall impression – The coffee was very good (brewed coffee for Tracy, vanilla Americano for me). The décor was very nice, but too corporate feeling, and to sterile. There was no warmth, except for the massive inferno in the gas fireplace (I had to get up and move farther away). The existing clients were not nice or friendly, although the staff was. Their Monument store was a little older, and had a better feel to it. It was basically the same concept, but not as fancy. The staff was friendly, but the décor and atmosphere were more inviting. I bought a pound of decaf espresso (we are almost out and might run out before our coffee order arrives). They weighed, measured, and packaged it as regular espresso. They labeled the bag as espresso, so I asked if it was decaf. They said ‘oops’ and started over.

I have stopped into It’s A Grind coffee shop near Intel several times in the last couple of weeks. The store is very corporate, and matches the franchise theme you see on their website. The point of sale is way in the back and to the left, and the décor back there is all dark (black ceilings, too). It feels like going into a cave to order coffee. The quality of the coffee is absolutely horrible. I had really bad coffee one day, so I tried an Americano the next. It was by far the worst Americano I’ve ever had. They do have an orange scone that is very good. The flavor of the icing reminds me of the Orange flavored cinnamon rolls my Dad used to make for Shellie and me when we were kids. They have no prices marked on anything, so after buying two scones there, I still have no idea how much they are or if it is a good value or not. The staff is the sickeningly sweet, over the top, kind of friendly. They have that “it is company policy” to be friendly feel to it, rather than a genuine friendliness. Every single customer gets the same robotic greeting of “What can we make for you today?” with a big cheesy smile. I’m sure the people there are friendly enough, but they come across as plastic and not genuine. Based upon my experience there over a period of two weeks, I would say they are in trouble. I saw very few people coming in to get coffee on the way to work, and I was there during what should be the morning rush. They do have quite a few people (who appear to be retired) hanging out in the café drinking coffee and reading papers, talking, etc.

We have not received any response to the voicemails I have left for the current owners of the second location we are interested in. I am going to mail letters (certified mail) to the current owner’s home address (for the life of me, I don’t know why it is publicly available… I found his name on the county assessor’s website, then did a people search) and to the address listed for the business address. If we don’t get a response from that effort, I’ll look for a commercial real estate broker that specializes in business properties.

I had a meeting with our equipment vendor and had productive results. My effort was to resolve the issues, get what we need, and still maintain the relationship. You never know when an espresso machine boiler element might go out, requiring quick service. I think I could do most repairs to the equipment myself, provided I can get the parts. In any case, I did not want to sever ties with the only company in town that services espresso/coffee equipment, regardless of how bad an experience we’ve had so far.
The results of the meeting are as follows:
1 – They are going to repair our espresso machine. Specifically, they are going to replace the bushing on the steam wands that are leaking, check the touchpad for brew head #1, and troubleshoot the inconsistent performance between group 1 and groups 2&3. They are also going to install a two cartridge purification/softener system at my request. I will be paying for parts and they are going to install without charging labor $$.
2. They are going to repair the Bunn G1 bulk grinder. We have already replaced this piece of equipment at a cost of approx $800. We can use it at a second location, keep it as a backup, or sell it on EBay for about $300.
3. They are going to swap out the La Marzocco Swift grinder for a new espresso grinder of our choice (Mazzer). We have already bought two Mazzer grinders for our shop, but we can use the new one at a second location, or keep as a back up.
4. They are going to try billing the electrical contractor for the $800 repair bill, and will not be invoicing us for that, as agreed in the beginning.
5. They are adjusting the small wares invoice to remove four items that we were unhappy with and returned to them. Once adjusted, we will pay that bill.

These guys are actually nice guys and I personally like both of them. They put some equipment in our shop that we were not satisfied with, and they are making good on the deal we originally agreed upon. I wish things hadn’t gotten so ugly in the last couple of weeks, but we are definitely on the right path to resolve these issues and maintain a business working relationship.

I have had a photography group meeting at the shop since June. If you are local and would like to check it out, here is the link:
http://photo.meetup.com/586/

We teach photography lessons, have studio photo sessions, photography field trips to surrounding areas, have photography contests with prizes, participate in local charity events providing photography services for their websites, etc…
It has been a huge success, and I’ve met some great local photographers through the group. I enjoy being a participant, but I have determined that I’m not really interested in teaching photography. I have spent nearly 25 years learning photography by trial and error. I enjoy the skills I have developed, but it isn’t that much fun to me to teach them to others. Now, Photoshop is a completely different story!! I have been using Photoshop since about 1995 and I have gotten pretty good with it. I recently started a Meetup group for Photoshop and we had our first meeting/lesson on Friday night. That was a blast, and I really loved doing it. We started with a meet & greet, followed by setting up some goals for the group, then reviewed some of my Photoshop work, and the work of two other members. We followed all of that up with a lesson in black and white conversions. I covered, the basic desaturate command in Photoshop, converting an R, G, or B channel to a BW layer, the Channel Mixer option in monochrome, and the holy grail of BW conversion, CALCULATONS! The night was a success and I think everyone enjoyed the discussions and lessons. We will be splitting the group into a Beginners group and an Advanced group. I need to schedule the next lessons individually.
I took several photos and uploaded them to the group Pbase site and gave the assignment for everyone to practice BW conversions on them. I have also posted several Photoshop tutorials at the Meetup site for everyone to take a look at and to try. If you are interested in learning Photoshop, check it out here:
http://photoshop.meetup.com/238/

Tracy and I took the boys to the Pioneer’s Museum on Saturday afternoon. They have a current exhibit of fine woodworking and quilting projects. They are not antiques, but are current work of various local artists. I have been inspired! My grandmother made me a quilt, and it is one of my favorite possessions. I am finding that the older I get, the more I appreciate things that someone else has made for me. Josh, Jonah, and Ethan all love that quilt, and have all used it at one time or another. It has gotten thread bare in one spot, and I need to take it and hang it up somewhere, rather than continue to use it as a blanket. In any case, I have set a goal for myself to make each of the boys a quilt for Christmas! You can call me crazy, but I really think I can do it. I designed a pattern yesterday, and I made one quilt panel for practice and it came out great. Basically, I just need to make 20 quilt panels, sew them all together, sew a border around it, layer it with a solid backing with quilt stuffing inside, and sew that… and wa-la, you have a quilt. After giving it much thought, I have pretty much decided that it requires much sewing to make a quilt. I’ll leave my pneumatic nail guns out of this project!

Well, I need to run…
Thanks for taking a look into our lives with regard to the shop, and, well, some things not related to the shop!
Take care everybody…
JD

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Nemo's Update 10-8-2007

Well, what is going on around here???

We had a strong week last week, but we started this week with Columbus Day. Much of the surrounding buildings are Government or City agencies, and we do very poorly when there is a holiday. Yesterday's sales were weak, and today was weak, although not as bad.

We are hoping to see things go back to normal for the remainder of the week.

We did the coffee service for the American Diabetes Association Walk-a-thon last weekend at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. I also did candid photos, and formal group photos for the ADA website. It was a lot of fun...

Tracy and I are researching a second location for Nemo's Coffee! We did not plan to consider a second location until sometime in the undetermined future, but a situation has arisen that makes good business sense for us to proceed. The location we are considering is currently not in operation, and there are no signs, phone numbers, etc listed. I looked up the address in the El Paso County Assessor's records and identified three co-owners. I then researched them and came up with six phone numbers. The first five I tried were disconnected (Assessor data is from 2003). The final number was a good number, but I got voicemail. I left a message and I am hoping to hear from the current owner. I will keep pursuing this and keep you posted!

Things at Intel have been very interesting. I love doing the lab work, and this scope is something I enjoy doing. They still have several positions to fill, and I gave them contact information for my friend Kevin. He interviewed last week and started work yesterday. If you are in the Springs area (or are willing to move here) and have a technical background, give me a call if you are interested in working here. Please keep in mind it is a temp position which will end when Intel finalizes chip production at this facility (in other words, local is better than moving here).

We have had some problems with one of our equipment vendors. We paid for refurbished equipment, and they delivered the equipment WITHOUT refurbishing it. Once piece of equipment had tin foil jammed in the fuse block, creating electrocution and fire hazards. We have spent over $2400 replacing faulty equipment, and still have other concerns that need to be addressed. In the meantime, we have withheld $250 payment for a small wares order we did with the same supplier. It isn't much in comparison to the issues we are having, but I have chosen to withhold that payment until our equipment concerns are resolved. This company put an attorney on retainer, and sent the issue to collections in the last couple of weeks. I reached him by phone and set up a meeting for Saturday October 13 and he agreed to resolve our equipment concerns, rather than us counter suing him for far more than the $$ he is seeking. After agreeing to this meeting, we have continued to receive calls from his attorney, as well as letters from a collection agency. I am assuming these are events he set in motion and has failed to discontinue yet, considering that he is wanting to resolve the issues on Saturday.

In the meantime, I sent this notice to him since we are not clear on where he is headed with this (names have been xxxxxx'd out):

Mr. XXXXXXXXXXX (equipment vendor owner),
Per our previous discussion, you and I are meeting this Saturday to discuss several issues regarding financial transactions between XXXXXXXXXXX (equipment vendor) and Nemo's Coffee. Specific issues are:

1. XXXXXXXXXXX (equipment vendor) is seeking payment of approximately $250 for small wares.
2. Nemo's Coffee is seeking resolution of unsatisfactory equipment condition. An equipment package price of $7000 was to include refurbished equipment as follows:
La Marzocco Linea 3 Group Espresso Machine
La Marzocco Swift Grinder
Bunn Twin Brewwise coffee brewer
Bunn G1 bulk grinder
Fetco brew grinder

The equipment was delivered without being refurbished. Nemo's Coffee has spent $2400 replacing grinders (decaf and regular espresso grinders and a new Bunn G1 grinder) in order to operate their business. Furthermore, the Swift grinder was found to be jury rigged, with tin foil stuffed in the fuse block. This condition presents an electrocution hazard, as well as a fire hazard. Not only was this equipment not refurbished and not in good working condition, it was a serious safety hazard. The La Marzocco Linea has leaking steam wands (both), inconsistent performance from one group to another (probably flow meter issues), and has a group keypad that is defective. The Fetco grinder has no known issues. The Bunn G1 grinder grinds all coffee extra fine, regardless of the setting and is unusable. We have lost several whole bean coffee customers as a result of this grinder not functioning properly.

3. The Bunn coffee brewer was damaged by our electricians, and a meeting was held with XXXXXXXXXXX (equipment vendor), Nemo's Coffee, XXXXXXXXXXX (electric company), and XXXXXXXXXXX (my general contractor). It was agreed that XXXXXXXXXXX (electric company) was responsible for the damage to the brewer. It was also agreed that XXXXXXXXXXX (equipment vendor) would repair the unit and XXXXXXXXXXX (electric company) would be fully responsible for the repair cost. Nemo's was in no way involved in this transaction. XXXXXXXXXXX (equipment vendor) recently billed Nemo's Coffee for approximately $800 for the brewer repair. Per our most recent discussion, you agreed that we are not responsible for this repair cost, but you sent us an invoice anyway since you have been unable to obtain payment from XXXXXXXXXXX (electric company).

Nemo's Coffee has made numerous phone calls to XXXXXXXXXXX (equipment vendor) in attempts to resolve these issues. We have scheduled meetings with you, most recently on September 20, 2007, and you have not showed up, nor have you communicated with Nemo's Coffee to explain why you missed the meeting or to reschedule.

Nemo's Coffee then received a phone call from an attorney, stating that he has been placed on retainer to obtain approximately $1000 from Nemo's Coffee. First of all, that amount is incorrect, as the outstanding balance is approximately $225.

Since that time, you and I spoke and set up a meeting for Saturday October 13 to discuss these issues. You have stated that you are willing to make repairs to our equipment to bring it up to the standard that we agreed to when we set the purchase price. You also agreed that Nemo's Coffee is not responsible for the approximately $800 repair bill for the brewer.

We received yet another call from an attorney on Monday October 8, 2007, and I also received a letter of collections from XXXXXXXXXXX (collection agency) on Tuesday October 9, 2007. The letter from XXXXXXXXXXX (collection agency) stated the following:
"Your inaction has left us no alternative but to recommend to our client that this claim be forwarded to an attorney in your area for civil litigation."

This was the first correspondence we have ever received from XXXXXXXXXXX (collection agency), so the claim that we have not taken action is incorrect. In fact, Nemo's Coffee has made numerous attempts to resolve these issues though communications with XXXXXXXXXXX (equipment vendor), and YOU personally have not returned phone calls or attended scheduled meetings.

I am receiving mixed signals from you with regard to this situation. If you wish to resolve these issues Saturday, then I would like for you to discontinue the calls from the attorney, and the collection efforts. If you wish to proceed in that manner, I will be counter suing in the amount of $50,000 for breach of contract, harassment, false billing, lost revenues due to faulty product, and most importantly, for XXXXXXXXXXX (equipment vendor) knowingly putting my employees and my facility at risk by installing the Swift Grinder with electrocution and fire hazards.

I am assuming these continued phone calls and collection letters are a result of efforts set in motion that you have not yet terminated. Please notify me at your earliest opportunity as to your intentions. I will be placing my attorney on retainer Friday October 12, 2007 if I do not receive a response from you. I will also make another attempt to phone your office tomorrow.

James Dean Anderson II
Owner, Nemo's Coffee


I am hoping this letter will get their attention and put a stop to this garbage. Welcome to the world of business...

I need to run. Take care everybody and keep us in your prayers!
JD

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Security System

I received a comment asking what video surveillance system I purchased. Off the top of my head, I don't remember. I will be installing it sometime in the next couple of weeks. I just bought a package that includes four 30 fps cameras, and software. I will be connecting it to my own computer and flat screen monitor. I want to use one computer for an office computer, and to run the video. I might have to purchase a video card that supports dual monitors. Or, I might have to use two different computers. I have the equipment to support that, but I'd rather get one to multi task.

OK, now I really am going to go home and go to bed.
JD

New job at Intel

Well, I got to take a look at my scope of work for Intel today. I thought I would be doing certification testing on Ultra Pure Water systems that support the Fab (clean room manufacturing facility). As it turns out, I will be pulling water samples for every water system on site and performing various tests to analyze for pH, conductivity, turbidity, ppm concentration for chemistry control agents, water hardness, biological micro contamination, etc, etc, etc... We performed so many tests today that I can't even remember what they all were.

So, in other words, I am a mad scientist...

As for Nemo's, we are currently on record pace for sales in a week, as well as most customers in a week. If we finish the week strong, we should be able to set some new records.

The projector arrived for the studio/meeting room. I am going to put together an audio/visual cart. The main purpose is to facilitate teaching Photoshop classes beginning on October 12, and to use it for the Photography groups. We offer the studio to everyone for free, but I will be offering the AV equipment for a fee. I still have to work out the details. I just found out that the Phantom Canyon restaurant charges $500 per event to use their room, and another $300 to use their AV equipment. That seems kind of ridiculous to me...

Haven't slept much this last week and a half, so I'm out of here.
Everyone have a great day on Thursday!

JD

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Quick Update...

1. I'm exhausted. I have averaged about 3 hours of sleep per night over the last week or so.

2. We set a new record last week with 809 customers in a week!

3. We set a new record today with 177 customers in one day!

4. We went over 13,000 all time customers yesterday, and we went over $60k in all time sales yesterday!

5. It is nice having Intellitec's automotive vocational college in the same complex as us. My Jeep needed a $600 brake job, and one of our regular customers from Intellitec did it for me for cost of parts ($95 - Intellitec discount from supplier), a few free coffees, and a free portrait session for him and his family!

6. One of our regulars from the Pikes Peak Work Force Center (their web developer) met with me today and we laid out the plan for a Nemo's Coffee website. Once again, a few free coffees are doing wonders, along with a little $$.

7. Unseen and Brad Ewing were incredible Friday night! I can't wait until they come back again in November.

8. I met with a National Geographic photographer who lives here in the Springs. We are going to exhibit his work in December-January!! He is also going to put us on his website and link back to our site, which should bring us some traffic.

9. I went back to work at Intel this week.

10. Did I mention that I am exhausted?

11. Our Point of Sale to Office server network crashed Friday and I could not restore it. I had to rip out the POS computer and bring the Office server out to the bar to ring up customers. I decided to run POS and QBPro off the same computer at the bar instead of having two computers networked. We have had countless crashes over 5 months and I'm tired of dealing with it. The only advantage it gave us was to work on payroll or other financial tasks without interrupting customer service. We'll just do those financial maintenance items when we are not ringing up sales...

I had to remove the original server computer from the bar and reinstall the POS workstation, including the touch screen monitor (boy have we ever missed that!).
I just finished installing QBPro 2007 on the POS computer and importing all of our data from an external hard drive backup(IF YOU ARE READING THIS AND YOU OWN A BUSINESS OR ARE STARTING ONE, THIS IS WHERE YOU GO AND BUY A BACKUP EXTERNAL DRIVE IF YOU DO NOT HAVE ONE YET). I then had to uninstall QBPOS and then reinstall it, and restore our company POS file from the external hard drive backup. I then had to get QBPOS and QBPro to sync together and communicate. That is all finished, and I am now downloading all of the QBPro and QBPOS program updates. That is taking forever...

12. I can't remember if I mentioned this, but we hired a girl named Vanessa and she started training shifts this week. It looks like she is going to be STELLAR!

13. It looks like one of our other employees is going to move to Denver sooner rather than later. She went up there this weekend and submitted job applications and she has an interview scheduled for Friday with EchoStar (satellite company). We interviewed one of our regular customers yesterday and it looks like we are going to hire him to replace Michelle. He has coffee house experience, and he has a great personality. He is currently going to school studying anthropology at UCCS.

14. The kids had their final Landsharks race (cross country) yesterday, and had their end of season party today after school. Tracy and the boys got to the final meet late and Ethan missed his race. He was really upset, and decided to race with the kids who were currently running a race. They were 2nd graders (he is in Kindergarten) and they had started their mile race two minutes earlier (Ethan's age group runs the half mile). He took off and caught up to the group and beat some of the second graders, even though they had a two minute head start!! He is definitely our 'athlete' in the family. At today's party, Josh was voted most determined runner, Jonah got voted best sprinter, and Ethan got voted 'most likely to beat the older kids'!

15. Well, I still have to make burritos and it is 11:30pm. I have to get up at 6:00 to get the kids ready for school, drop them off, head for Intel, leave there at 5:00, go straight to the shop, make another batch of 20 burritos, facilitate our Photography group lesson, and go home tomorrow night at about 10:30pm. Did I mention that I am already really tired??

Gotta run...
JD

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Brad Ewing LIVE Tomorrow Night!

Don't forget, Brad is playing live tomorrow night (Friday).
If you are local, come and listen to some great music!

Things are falling into place...

The contract is signed and I will be going back to Intel full time starting on Monday. I have been here at the shop until 1:00 or 2:00am every night this week trying to set systems in place or to wrap up loose ends before I go. I could use another full week, at least, to get all the things done that need to be done...

Here is what we have made progress on:
We hired our nephew James to work here, but he has too much of Starbucks ingrained in his way of doing things. It is our intention to serve a better product than Starbucks, and to treat people better than they get at Starbucks. We tried to teach him our way of doing things, and he decided to quit. That's OK, it was worth a shot for both of us.

With me gone from the shop next week, we were seriously needing to find a new employee pronto. Robert suggested a friend of his that has some coffee house experience. Her name is Vanessa and she has worked at Starbucks, and at Peete's Coffee. Prior Starbucks employees have the "McDonalds of Coffee" mentality and have lots of bad habits that need to be broken, but Peete's is a great environment, and used the exact same espresso machine that we have (La Marzocco Linea 3 Group). She came in and filled out an application. Tracy and I sat down and talked with her for a few minutes and we hired her on the spot. Our initial impression is that she is 'the perfect coffee house employee'. She is very pleasant and friendly, very laid back and east to talk to, very pretty, etc, etc... Just close your eyes and picture the person you want to buy your coffee from and it is Vanessa! We are looking forward to having her as part of our team. Hiring Vanessa takes care of our biggest issue with the schedule, but we probably still need one more person. Our morning business is growing, as is our lunch crowd, as is our bulk lunch catering. We did a lunch package for 17 people today for the Health Department. I still need to discuss food service deliveries for Premiere Global, which could easily account for $300-$400 in additional sales per day. If that is a good concept, we will definitely need another person on during the day.

We have been open on Saturdays from the start, and this location is just not a good Saturday spot. We are here from 6:00am to 3:00pm, and we do about $200 in sales on average. We really don't want to continue to ruin our weekends for such a small return for our time invested (not to mention the kids have to hang out with us all day on Saturdays). I believe it would be easier to build Sunday sales, as there are lots of churches within a one mile radius. I think we are going to hold off on that, though. We'll see how our daytime staffing works out, and if anyone steps up to the plate and shows promise like Robert has, we may go back to being open and have them run the store... We have events scheduled in the studio on Saturdays through mid October, then it is lights out for the weekends...

We wanted to put in a video surveillance system from the very beginning, but I didn't want to spend $1700 on a four camera system at Sam's Club. I got some quotes from local security system companies and they were expensive as well. I finally had time to do some research and found a four camera system with security software and a 4 camera capture expansion card for $770. I have extra computers, including a flat panel monitor to display out front, that I can use to operate the system. Basically, the unit at Sam's is very similar, but they are charging an extra $900 or so for a crummy Celeron computer and generic 15" flat panel monitor. That's crazy! It will take some time to install the system, but it will give us permanent video records of all activity in the store, and it will give us remote viewing capability. Tracy and I will be able to check on the store from home or anywhere else with Internet access.

I ordered a new convection oven and it is scheduled to arrive tomorrow. That will actually be a big help since we cook so many things here...

I have a million more things to do, so I'd better run...
Take care,
JD