Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Wishlist

Well, it is almost Christmas. The last couple of years have been a new exercise in 'frugal' for us. Starting a new business right before the global economy goes up in flames is a pretty tough deal. If you keep up with our blog, you know that we are OK with whatever comes our way. Overall, the shop is barely holding its own. Tracy's compensation for all of her hard work is a brand new Honda CRV, leased through the Nemo's business, and whatever she gets in tips. My salary as a Project Engineer pays the bills on the domestic side of things. My earnings on the side for photo and video projects is filling the gap for some major purchases including our new lighted sign and making up for any budget shortfalls. We are making it, and we hope to continue to make it. It is in God's hands, and Tracy and I are both OK with that.

Now, if I were to use my imagination a little, what would I like to buy with my photo/video earnings, if they were available to spend? My biggest want/need/desire is a new camera body. I am currently operating with two Canon EOS 20D bodies. I would love to upgrade, but the 30D was not much of an upgrade when it came out. The 40D was tempting, but not worth spending the money at the time. The new 50D is an impressive camera, but I am ready to step up to something better than the higher end pro-sumer models. Megan left her Canon 5D with me while she was in Italy. She took my Canon G9 with her for that trip. I did a couple of photo shoots with the 5D and I loved it. Canon recently released the Canon 5D MkII. It lists for $3999, but can be purchased from a reputable dealer for $2700. It is a full frame sensor, 21 Mega-pixel still camera, and it also shoots HD video! Here are a couple of images to slobber on:





Hopefully I'll be able to grab one of these in 2009. The only thing good about waiting on technology products is that the price drops as more time goes by. The original 5D is selling for $1500 now. If things don't pan out for a MkII, I may go ahead and grab a 5D first generation body. Either way, they are great cameras and I'm looking forward to eventually having one in my gear bag.

As for Christmas this year, I'll take my lumps of coal and be happy. I have too many blessings to count, and it is not really about presents anyway.

Take care,
JD

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Our Anniversary!

Today is Tracy and I's 12th anniversary. I'm not going to say much, other than this is how we survive and stay strong:

1 Corinthians 13 4-8 New King James Version

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.



1 Corinthians 13 4-8 New International Version

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

If you ever find yourself at a difficult point in a relationship, test your love against this definition shown above. Whenever I do so, I find that I need to give more of myself, and expect less of others. That ALWAYS fixes whatever problem I am having.


Take care,
JD

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Nemo's Photos

From Day One, I had planned to post photos taken at Nemo's on a regular basis. I always seemed to be too busy to get it done. I would either not get photos taken, or if I did, I would not have the time to sit down and post them. Well, today I decided to take a couple of photos, and MAKE SURE I GOT THEM POSTED HERE!

Before anything else comes up to distract me, I am going to upload the images! Click on an image to see a larger version. Use your back button to get back to the main page.

This is a shot of Tracy and Rachelle (one of our employess who stopped in, but was not working today).



...and a shot of Matt, who was working today.


And a few shots of the cafe:
In this shot, you can see two movie theater seats tucked in next to the half wall. People LOVE these seats! You can also see a big stick to the right of the loveseat. When you have three boys, you end up with sticks everywhere. If you read the Drudge Report, you might remember a story about the thousands and thousands of flags that got thrown in dumpsters after the DNC convention in Denver. Many people were appalled by this. The flags you see in this image are two of them. McCain/Palin had a rally here in Colorado Springs, and they heard about the DNC flags in the dumpsters. They sent people up to Denver to get them all. Tracy brought these two back from the rally.


This half wall originally separated the two storefront spaces. Ryan had an idea to put a water feature in this space. It was going to be a textured glass plate that water would run down. With colored lights, it would have been a really cool water feature. As constuction got behind schedule, we decided to put in shelves instead. I think I like the shelves better. Most of the books are my Photoshop technique books, and other art books. A number of the nick-nacks came from Tracy's grand parents' homes. The antique dog on wheels belonged to Tracy's dad when he was a toddler. He can remember sitting on it and riding it. The raku fired sphere on the top shelf is one of the first items Tracy and I bought when we moved into our first home. The Colorado book is a photo book showing scenes around Colorado from the 1870's, and shot again from the same location in 2000. The wooden book stand was a Christmas gift from my Mom a few years ago. The enamel popcorn bowl was a Christmas gift I got for Tracy a couple of years back. The solid maple a walnut checker board on the bottom right was from an estate sale. Tracy was able to speak with the man in his 80's who had made it. Most things in life have a story to them, but hundreds of people come an go without any of these details. I made the table sitting under the bookshelves. It is Padauk, with two strips of Maple inlaid. The apron and legs are Ash. The pine chairs were part of the dining set from Tracy's childhood.


The table on the right came from Tracy's grandfather's home. The round table in the back came from Tracy's older sister's house. The table on the left was the table Tracy owned when I met her in 1995. The fourth table in this image came from an estate sale for $25. The estate sale was in the same neighborhood where Tracy's father grew up.


Gotta run... I've been on the move all day (about 10 hours straight) and my shoulder/broken collar bone are KILLING ME.

JD

Monday, December 15, 2008

Update 12-15-08

Well, so far our sales have been higher this month than in December 2007. That is a good thing. We are still experiencing a downturn in sales for November and December overall, but not nearly like last year.

I was able to finish two of my three video projects recently. I have to get the last one out very soon. I also have four photoshoots to edit and get prints out to customers before Christmas. I was recently hired to design a company logo. I keep getting side jobs, and thankfully, my injuries are healed enough to work at the computer. I went to the doctor today for x-rays. He said my clavical is healing slower than normal, and that I need to keep wearing the sling for another four weeks. I wonder if the slow healing has to do with me using my left arm for too many tasks, instead of letting it rest and heal better??? I guess that is an acceptable trade off. I would rather get things done now and take longer to heal.

Gotta run. We are all doing well, and I hope the same for you.
Take care,
JD

Friday, December 5, 2008

Continuation from yesterday

Anyway, this is what I really wanted to say about TV yesterday, but I ran out of time. There was a new show on Wednesday night. I caught some previews a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been looking forward to seeing it. The show premiered Wednesday night, and it is called The Secret Millionaire. Basically, multi-millionaires agree to give up everything for a week, and agree to live in a poor community with only one week’s worth of welfare wages.
Their goals are to survive on just those welfare wages, and also to interact with people in the community. At the end of the week, they are to give away a minimum of $100,000 of their own money to people they feel are in need and worthy of the help. I really enjoyed watching this show! It was very powerful and moving. I’m not a sappy person, but this show brought tears to my eyes several times. The main premise of the show is powerful, but it is not what impacted me the most. What really captured my attention were the people in these communities who have absolutely nothing, and yet they spend all of their time and limited resources to help other people in their communities. Tracy and I give to a couple of charities, and we volunteer at our church. However, this show made me realize we can do even more. Looking back on my life, I know that the times I have felt the best in my life are times when I have done something to help others. The feelings and emotions after helping others are so much more enriching than just about any others I can remember. If you are in the habit of helping others, then you know exactly what I mean. If you haven’t done something like this in awhile, then I challenge you to do something nice, helpful, and maybe even unexpected for someone in need. You will be amazed with the results for yourself, not to mention for the people/organization you have helped.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Nemo’s…

Last year our sales took a dive towards the end of October, worsened around Thanksgiving, continued to decline through Christmas, stayed soft in January 2008, and finally began to rebound in February. This year, October was our best month of sales ever, breaking the $15,000 for the first time! November 08 has continued to show strong sales compared to last year. We are consistently showing $650 to $775 days, with an occasional $500 - $600 weak day thrown into the mix. Considering the horrible economic outlook and dreary financial news we are being inundated with daily, we are especially happy with Nemo’s performance. However, we are taking things one day at a time, knowing that the sour economic news could impact us at anytime. All we know to do is continue to provide top notch quality product, excellent customer service, and to continue strongly in our faith that God knows best. God continues to provide, and we are very content with that, even though we are not paying ourselves. Tracy works incredibly hard without reward, other than her own satisfaction in a job done better than expected. We have our hopes that the economic crisis will eventually pass, and that our sales will climb as a result. For now, we are patient, diligent, humble, grateful, thankful, and trusting…

As for my recovery, I get better every day. I no longer take Motrin, and I do OK throughout the day. In my past, I typically ignored pain and continued with my life, regardless of my injuries/condition. I can’t count the number of times I ripped stitches out playing sports (when I was NOT supposed to be active following knee/ankle surgeries, etc)… I’m not nearly as tough as I used to be, but I think I have weathered this injury pretty well. Going back to work just 10 days after re-breaking my clavicle was a real challenge, but I survived it. Today is four weeks of healing. I have loosened my sling, and I’ve started supporting the weight of my arm with my muscles/collar bone. It is painful, but I’m very much in tune with how much stress and strain I can put on it without causing any damage. I tried to open a new jar of grape jelly yesterday, but I couldn’t do it. I felt the strain on my broken clavicle and gave up prior to hurting it. I am still injured and severely limited in what I can do, but I’m getting there!

As I mentioned before, I was forced to watch a great deal of TV while I was immobilized. That goes against the grain for me, and most of it was poor quality content. I enjoyed watching various shows with Gordon Ramsey. He is rough around the edges, but he is absolutely brilliant! He knows how to get people to perform at his level of expectations, and he does so in a very short period of time. If I were to make a list of 10 people I would like to meet, he would certainly be on the list. Some others would be Glenn Beck, Norm Abrams, ummmm… that’s all I can think of. I don’t care too much about celebrities, but there are a few who I think are quite remarkable. Well, three anyway.

Gotta run.
JD

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Good & Bad of a broken clavicle

Good things about breaking your clavicle:
1. Nearly impossible to get run over by a bus while immobilized at home.
2. ummm… can’t think of anything else

Bad things about breaking your clavicle
1. Lots and lots of pain. Breathing hurts. Blinking hurts. Thinking hurts. Not even moving hurts. Moving causes REDICULOUS pain.
2. Can’t lie down; must sleep in a chair for weeks and weeks
3. Miss two weeks of work at the most inopportune time. Must return to work sooner than you are able to out of fear of losing your job.
4. Finding out that you did not opt for short term disability coverage on your health insurance plan.
5. Placing the burden of every single thing in your life on your wife, without the ability to help her do even the simplest of tasks.
6. Trying to do anything with only one arm/hand.
7. Unable to shower. Giving yourself a sponge bath is ineffective because it hurts so much to even make small movements
8. Unable to interact with your children for fear they will hurt you (three boys do not understand calm, even if they try their best)
9. Unable to use deodorant. Axe men’s body spray only goes so far to make you smell better
10. Being in a sling makes your hand and fingers swell up and ache, also to go numb and tingle.
11. Being forced to watch tv for hours on end. Everything on tv is total crap. Cooking and remodeling shows are somewhat bearable.
12. Putting on socks is nearly impossible. Can’t tie your shoes.
13. Having to take liquid calcium supplements that taste bad.
14. Not being able to complete the editing of a wedding, a family portrait session, a high school senior photo session and having disappointed/frustrated clients.
15. Unable to get comfortable, not sleeping well all night because of it. Finally get to sleep, only to have the alarm go off. Sit there for a couple of minutes and realize nothing hurts, everything is comfortable, but have to ruin it by getting up to get the kids ready for school.
16. Having clients call to schedule photo sessions and not be able to accommodate them at the height of Family Holiday Photo season.
17. Unable to edit two different industrial training video projects, and create 150 DVD’s for the clients.
18. Can’t button my Levi’s.
19. After a week or so in a sling (non-stop) your skin on your arm/hand starts to itch. After scratching it (causing much pain in your broken clavicle) the skin hurts and burns. Trying to get a wet washcloth inside the sling to try to keep your skin healthy is difficult and very painful. Applying Neosporin or lotion to your now unhealthy skin is difficult and hurts.
20. Your tailbone feels like it is on fire after sitting in/sleeping in a leather recliner for days on end.
21. Venturing out to church, and being TERRIFIED of somebody greeting you warmly with a hug or a friendly slap on the back.
22. Watching your wife carry groceries into the house and being unable to help.
23. Going anywhere and being TERRIFIED that someone might bump into you.
24. Finding out roads you thought were smooth actually have TERROR inflicting bumps in them. Roads you knew were bumpy cause you immense pain beyond belief.
25. Having to spend Christmas money when things are already tight on medical bills.
26. I could think of a million more things… I give up for now.

Front Range Orthopedics

When I went to the ER following my accident, they TORTURED me in order to get x-rays. They had me move my arm in many different ways that were excruciatingly painful. For their final trick, they laid me down flat, which made my shoulder feel like it was going to explode. Then, to make matters worse, the moved the table from horizontal to a decline of about 15 or 20 degrees (head down, feet up), which nearly caused me to have a heart attack. Then they splayed my arm out to the left away from my body, and then pulled my upper arm away from my body at the shoulder. The tech had to hold my arm and manipulate it into that position, since my collar bone was broken. After the x-ray was completed, the tech just dropped my arm and walked away. I felt my collar bone rotate up and push against the skin from the weight of my arm. Lucky for me, it did not puncture through the skin. I had to reach over with my other hand, grab my left arm, and put it back into place, once again shifting my broken collar bone in very painful ways. I can’t remember ever screaming in pain like that at any other time in my life. I broke out in a cold sweat, and I was trembling in an uncontrollable manner. It took several minutes for that to pass. I told the x-ray tech that I was going to hunt him down and hurt him once I was able to…


Fast forward three weeks… I had an appointment yesterday at Front Range Orthopedics for new x-rays and general follow-up. I have been absolutely terrified all week. If I try to lie down flat, my clavicle feels like it is going to come apart. I’m still sleeping in a recliner at about 45 degrees upright. I have just over 2 weeks of healing completed (after re-breaking the clavicle a second time), but even the slightest movement of my arm/shoulder causes excruciating pain. As a result, I’ve made it a point to not move those areas at all. Just the motion of walking causes pain, which I can handle. Moving that arm though, even just a fraction of an inch, causes tremendous pain at my clavicle and in my shoulder. I also have had lots of clicking, pain, and instability in my left shoulder as well. The thought of going through x-rays again like I did at the hospital has been weighing very heavily on my mind this week. I have literally been terrified of going to this appointment. Well, I voiced my concerns prior to starting x-rays and the tech just stared at me in disbelief when I described what they did at the hospital. He said that is insane and unbelievable, and said whoever did that to me should be fired. He did the new x-rays with me standing up, without removing the sling. Totally pain free!!!! That is how they should have done it at the ER as well. The doctor said my clavicle is healing well, with some, but not excessive, overlap of the two bone pieces. He said the instability and pain in my shoulder is normal for a full clavicle fracture. The clavicle is one of several anchor points of stability for the shoulder. Even with 2 ½ weeks of re-growth, he said the clavicle is still moving and flexible, and not supportive of the shoulder. That is great news! I thought sure I was in line for shoulder surgery once my clavicle heals, but that may not be the case! I’ll find out in three or four weeks.

All in all, I am very happy with how things went. The Ortho doctor also gave me another pain med prescription. I don’t take them during the day, but they are so helpful for sleeping. Last night was the best sleep I’ve had in a week! I went to Walgreens to get the prescription filled, and I found a small miracle tucked away on the shelves while waiting! I can’t move my left arm away from my body, so I have not been able to use deodorant for three weeks. Instead, I’ve been hosing myself down with Axe men’s body spray. That is the best I’ve been able to do, but it doesn’t really work that well. Last night, I found Arid Extra Dry deodorant in a cream! I can just barely apply it without causing too much pain. There are many things I take for granted. A debilitating injury really highlights the conveniences in life that we don’t think much about.

So, overall, the prognosis is good. Now I just need to wait for the medical bills to start rolling in. So far, the costs have been $230 in co-pays, $110 in prescriptions and calcium supplements, and two weeks of lost pay at work. I took 40 hours of vacation pay which helps, but I now have no vacation pay for 2009. I’m not sure how much of the medical bills will be covered by insurance and how much will be my responsibility. Knowing my luck, my insurance probably has a clause exempting idiots that crash their bicycles into heavy steel commercial building doors. Basically, if anyone asks what I’m getting for Christmas in 2008, the answer is “a new clavicle and left ear.”

Gotta run…
JD

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Clavicle Update

Well, it has been nearly three weeks since my original break and two weeks to the hour since the second time I broke my left clavicle. I came back to work Monday, which was 10 1/2 days since the second break. Unfortunately, I was on my feet, moving around, travelling between different project job sites, packing boxes to move from one office to another (where I have more help available to me), etc... All I can say is that it was way too early to go back to work, and completely INSANE for me to be that active. I stayed for 8.5 hours, and tears ran down my face during the drive home. I can't even begin to explain how much pain I was in. As a result, I have been working six hour days Tuesday/Wednesday, and I'm shooting for eight today.

As for my injuries, my shoulder is very unstable and painful. I'm not talking about my clavicle... I am certain that I also sustained some shoulder injuries on top of the broken bone. As for the clavicle healing, I can feel the two bone pieces shift and click (painfully) even with small movements. I have gotten used to it, although occasional SEVERE pain results in an involuntary scream. My co-workers were concerned at first, but now they just laugh at me!

I still can't lie down on my back, so I am still sleeping in the recliner/rocker in the living room. It is so uncomfortable. I can't wait until I have enough stability in my shoulder/clavicle to be able to lie down and sleep in my bed.

I take ibuprofen in the morning, but I usually get busy at work and forget to take more. Then I wind up hurting pretty badly...

I go to ortho on Monday for x-rays. I am really hoping and praying that the clavicle alignment is acceptable, and that I will not have to have surgery to re-break it and fix it with a metal plate.

Gotta run...
take care,
JD

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Update

if you feel the need to break a bone, be sure it is not your clavicle (collar bone). i've spoken to people who have cracked their clavicle, and that is not so bad. a complete break of the clav is devestating. anyone who knows me will know that i am no stranger to sports injuries. i have had six knee surgeries (including an ACL reconstruction from a patellar tendon graft), one ankle reconstruction, countless stitches, and also too many concussions to keep track of. this clavicle break is the worst i've had to go through. this is horrible.

one thing i have noticed in the last couple of days is that my left shoulder feels like it has gravel in it, and it has painful clicking and popping going on. i am 99% sure that i am going to be faced with shoulder surgery after this clavicle heals. that's bad ju-ju...

i went to the doctor yesterday to get the stitches taken out of my ear. i have had over 200 stitches in my life (hands, arms, knees, legs, feet) and this was the first time a doctor ever took them out. i have always ripped them out playing sports, or if they survived a whole week, i usually took them out myself. i congratulated the doctor on this fine accomplishment, and he thought i was a little strange.

gotta run... my shoulder is starting to hurt pretty badly.
jd

Sunday, November 9, 2008

re-broke my clavicle

Well, it has been almost one week since i crashed. my collar bone had started to feel a ittle more stable, which gave me a slight sense of security, i think. i took a shower wednesday night, which was very difficult. i have since decided that is too risky. feeling clean is a luxury i won't be taking for granted anymore. on thursday, i tried to open a little bottle of welches juice. i was able to hold the bottle tightly with my left hand (same side as my broken collar bone) without feeling any pain in my shoulder/clavicle area. i tried to twist open the sealed plastic cap with my right hand. i gradually increased the twisting force, expecting the cap to spin free once the plastic seal broke free. instead, i heard a sharp crack and felt a sharp pain in my left shoulder, right where the break is. a small amount of movement confirmed my worst fear. my clavicle was completely unstable again, and i could feel the bones moving freely again, and grinding against each other. i completely re-broke the clavicle again, on a stupid bottle of juice, no less. now it is sunday, and i have three days of healing under my belt, instead of seven days. i don't think my chances of going back to work early this week are very good. bummer...

i have since decided to not try anything at all. no unneccessary movements or actions. i need to get better.

as for nemos, we had pretty decent sales last week. we have live music monday, and matt, one of our new employees, will be covering. i'll have to be there, but i am just going to sit still and listen. tracy is doing an amazing job of running the shop, and doing everything at home without any help. i feel really bad that i have put her in this situation. the kids have been troopers too. they are all willing to help, and they have made things easy on me getting them ready for school.

gotta run... it starts to hurt if i sit upright for too long without supporting my bad arm with my good arm.

take care and God bless!
jd

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

All busted up...

i would much rather just have a broken a arm where i could have a cast and go on with my life. trying to keep a completely severed clavicle immobilized is near impossible. i keep feeling the bones rub against each other. the only good thing about a broken clav is that it hurts enough to not even think about my ear that i split from top to bottom!

jonah took a couple of photos of me yesterday...





Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Halloween Surprise!

We are very happy to say that October 2008 was our best month of sales in our 18 months of operation! We barely made it over the $15,000 in sales threshold by about seven dollars!

On the bad side of things, I had a bicycle wreck yesterday and broke my left clavicle (collar bone) and lacerated my left ear from top to bottom. Six stitches (with no anesthesia!), a sling, and a chest compression wrap later... and I'm ready for more action. Well, that's if you consider sitting around trying not to move 'action'.

Several minutes of sitting fully upright is making my shoulder hurt, so I'd better run.

Don't forget to vote today! I'm still in my hospital gown because I can't move my arm and I'm going to go vote...

Take care and God Bless!
JD

Monday, October 27, 2008

Nemo's Update

Things have been hectic lately for us. We recently did a round of interviews and wanted to hire just about everybody, even though we only had one definite spot to fill. We hired two and were really happy with our picks. Jessica received a call from her previous employer who asked her to come back. So after just one shift, Jessica was gone...
We quickly brought another great interviewer on board, and Matt is doing awesome! He is taking Megan's place as our closing supervisor.
Josh is our other hire, and he has close ties to the local music scene, and he will be a great asset for building our live music.
Tracy also hired another Megan, and I have not met her yet...

We just finished tonight's Bluegrass Music Jam. We had 15 musicians tonight, and a packed house for spectators. The local newspaper ran the event for three days in a row last week, and it has really increased our turnout. We have people that drive 2 hours every Monday to get here from Boulder, Broomfield, Pueblo, etc...

We are in the biggest financial turmoil in nearly a century, but we are on pace to have our highest sales ever. We should just barely get over the $15k mark for the month of October. We have never reached $15,000 in sales for a month before, so this would be a great milestone, and it would be very encouraging to see that happen during such financial destruction in so many areas. God continues to provide, and that is where we put our faith and trust.

Our new lighted sign should be going up in two or three weeks. I'm looking forward to that!

I have two more video projects underway for building commissioning and turnover for the Army Corps of Engineers. These video projects are going to provide an extra dose of income on the side this year. It will pay for our lighted sign and allow us to have Christmas! I have been keeping my eyes peeled for good deals. I bought the boys a $200 Meade telescope with tripod and planetarium software for $20 (found it on www.bargainoutfitters.com). I found $120 skateboards on sale for $14.99 at Amazon yesterday, so three of those are on the way. Josh already has an air rifle with scope (bb/pellet gun), but I'm looking for two more for Jonah and Ethan. I'm hoping to find some on sale soon... I also loaded up on some Nerf toys from Amazon ($24 rapid fire nerf dart guns for $8, some Bionicle figures (normally $10 for $2), and some Army guy action figures (like GI Joe, but different brand) for $2 each, etc). Yes, this year is "Internet Clearance" Christmas.

OK, it is after 9:30 and I still have to close up shop and do payroll.

Take care, and DON'T FORGET TO VOTE next week. I honestly believe the outcome of this election will have ramifications that could last for decades. Whichever side you support, GET OUT AND VOTE. I believe this election will go down in history as one of the most important during our lifetimes. Don't miss it.

JD

Friday, October 17, 2008

Nemo's Update

Well, this week turned out surprisingly well, considering how it started. Monday was one of our lowest sales days in many, many months. Days like that kind of scare us... However, Tuesday through Friday all rebounded with strong sales and higher customer counts! We ended the week in good shape, which I did not expect after Monday's dismal showing.

A couple of random stats:
Since our opening day April 26, 2008 until today, our total sales have been $228,594. We act as a distributor for the Solid Rock Cafe, and we earn 15% on those sales. We also have a number of catering events for Premiere Global, Time Warner, the El Paso County Health Department, etc. Those events get invoiced through QBPro, and do not show up in our sales history in QBPOS. Our total customer counts have been 48,682! That is an average of 2863 per month, and 130 per day. I would really love to get that up to about 165 a day, consistently. As it is, we are still nervous about making it or not. If we can boost our daily customer count by even 20 per day, we'll be in the clear.

I have a very busy weekend ahead of me. I have approximately 20 hours of video to edit and create 12 DVD movies from. They are training videos from commissioning a building that my company just completed. I have to create custom DVD menu's with navigation, custom labels, and custom DVD case inserts. On Monday, I start two more major video projects, and a third following two weeks behind that. I also have to complete some wedding edits, and create a DVD movie set to music, using motion effects on the still photos from the wedding. I also have a photo shoot on Sunday, and I'm going to do school portraits for the boys at the same location. There are several other families who are interested in having school photos done as well, but none of them have confirmed for Sunday yet.

In my "spare time" this weekend, I will be working at Nemo's Saturday from 6:30am to 2:30pm, and then Tracy and I are dropping the kids off at a birthday party/sleepover, and then Tracy and I are working the espresso bar for our church's Saturday night service. I also have to finish making Jonah's Halloween costume, and I think Josh wants me to make a costume for him too.

That should be enough stuff for this weekend... I don't see much sleep in the next couple of days...

Take care,
JD

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Who to hire?

Tracy and I had a number of interviews on Saturday, and we have another tomorrow night. We had about 60 applicants from a 3 day Craig's List ad. So far, everyone we have interviewed are keepers. How do we decide from there, how to fill two spots? I guess we will narrow it down by what our schedule needs are, compared to what their availabilities are, and how many hours they want. If we have a 25 hour per week position to fill, and someone says they need 35-40 hours, then they are out... Usually, there are one or two standouts from a group of interviews. This is the first time we have ever wanted to hire EVERYONE we talked to...
We will be making a decision on Tuesday or so. Stay tuned...

As for the financial turmoil, who really knows what is going to happen? This is kind of scary for us. Starting a business 18 months before a global financial meltdown is about as bad as it gets. Right now, I have no way of predicting whether or not we can ride it out and make it. Our sales dropped a little last week from our recent averages. People are leery of parting with their money right now. We'll have to see how things go, not just for us, but for everyone out there...

JD

Photos from today...

We drove to Manitou Lake, a few miles outside of Woodland Park, today to let the boys run around and do boy stuff. They had their hearts set on catching garter snakes, but it was a little chilly and no snakes could be found. Instead, they had a blast with cat tails!
Click on any of the images to see a larger version...









Later,
JD

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Craig's List

Craigs List is a wonderful thing, if you need to get word out quickly that you are hiring.
Megan is going back home to Arkansas, so we need to replace her. She has been one of our most solid employees, working a larger number of hours per week, and being a key holder for closes, including counting out the drawer. With her leaving, we need to fill the void.

I placed an ad on Craig's List this afternoon. Within 15 minutes I had seven replies by email. It is now 8:30pm and I have 17 responses by email. Megan said five or six people came into the shop and filled out applications during the afternoon before we closed.

Did I mention that Craig's List is free? Our newspaper ad when we first started cost over $300 and got us about 12 applications over the course of 10 days...
The new generation communicates differently than all us 40-somethings and older. Knowing how to reach them can save time and money.

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

Monday, October 6, 2008

Monday 10-6-08

We had a pretty good day, above average, thanks to Tracy's catering at lunch and our live Bluegrass Music Jam tonight. It doesn't matter where it comes from, just as long as it comes! Every dollar counts!

I had a meeting with a representative of the lead (most popular) local television channel. They are pitching television commercial advertising to us. My gut feeling is that it is not a great deal. They want to charge approx $3500 to create a 30 second commercial (one that Tracy and I are responsible for the content, script, and speaking parts -- nothing fancy or overly helpful) and two minutes of air time a week for three months (Nov, Dec, Jan). The commercial would play between 5:00am and 6:00am (when no one is watching TV). If we had money coming out of our ears, we might do it. Since we don't, we'll probably take a pass and find some other way to spend our advertising dollars. I'm not opposed to TV advertising, but not for that chunk of cash and that time of day for air time. Let's see... that is $9.72 per second, and $583.33 per minute. Naaahhhh....

It's late...
Gotta run.
JD

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Stealth Bomber in Colorado Springs

The US Naval Academy is playing the US Air Force Academy today in Colorado Springs. They have fly-overs for all of the AF games, but have amazing fly-overs for games against the other military academies. This is a shot of a Stealth Bomber in a high banked turn, going South to come around on the Air Force football stadium. That is Pikes Peak in the background.
I was driving home from Nemo's and saw this guy coming. I pulled over and snapped a couple of shots with my Canon G9.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Early October Update

Not too long ago, I mentioned that I did not believe we had seen the worst of financial failures yet. The last couple of weeks have confirmed what I thought… Our whole economic system is on the brink of failure, and many foreign banks have invested heavily in US securities, backed by failing mortgages, resulting in a global economic issue. How will all of this pan out? Who really knows at this point? Our dysfunctional government is acting like they are going to do something about it, but it failed in its basic form as a rescue plan during the vote in the House. It didn’t pass the Senate vote until hundreds of millions of dollars in special interest pet projects were added. If a representative of our government, elected by the people, refuses to do what needs to be done unless they can get millions of dollars in fraudulent spending added for their state or their district, then how can any of us have faith in our government? The founding fathers believed that ‘the people’ need to run the country, and that the federal government was a necessary evil for basic services such as national security. Our government is so bloated and corrupt; many great men in our nation’s history would roll over in their graves if they knew what has become of us.

OK, enough ranting…

How does all of this impact Nemo’s Coffee?
We have not had any sales growth for quite awhile. When the worst of the financial crisis news hit about ten days ago or so, we had some of our worst sales days in a long time. It was quite discouraging. However, sales have rebounded this week and are back to where they have been averaging for the last several months. The dire situational news really scared people for a few days there… I still think things are going to get worse, but for now, people have gotten over the shell shock of last week’s doom and gloom announcements and have gone back to their normal spending habits.
There is a ballot initiative on the November ballot for Colorado Springs to raise the sales tax by another 1%. That doesn't sound like much, but that would raise our sales tax rate to 8.4% overall. The county is talking about having a $40,000,000 budget deficit without this increase in tax revenue. I am going to vote no. If they can't run the county on 7.4%, then they need to fire some people and go back to the drawing board. We don't need our prices to go up in our shop, and have the increase go to the county. Our customers do not want to pay more.

We have approved our new lighted sign, and it will go into production soon. It should be installed sometime in November. All the other businesses in the center already have their sign, but we had a prolonged ‘dialogue’ with the ownership over costs of the sign, and who was to pay for it. We lost, but the ownership is going to pay for half.

The construction at the center is still progressing. Intellitec’s new building is up and boxed in. They have nearly completed the outdoor café by our storefront. The wall is complete, the patio slab is poured, and all it needs is outdoor furniture and landscaping in the planters. They are now working on the parking lot, to reconfigure the parking scheme, add landscaping, and new blacktop.

I have been averaging about $1350 per month in photography and video projects on the side, which is helping since we are operating at a slight loss. The added income will cover our cost of the new sign as well. I just signed a contract this week with a local company that wants to use my photography for their website and marketing materials. I am charging them an annual flat rate, and it works out well for me and for them…

I had a meeting and signed a contract with an accountant earlier this week. I have learned the basics for payroll, sales tax withholding and payments, unemployment withholding and payments, etc… However, there are accounting responsibilities that need to be done, and will help us more accurately determine our profit/loss status. Our accountant also has a Masters in business, and has some marketing ideas for us. We can use the help, since we are just a couple of amateur hacks!

Tracy has more catering events scheduled for next week. One is at a medical facility on Printers Parkway, which is one of the areas in the block south of us that we want to break into. The other event is at Memorial Hospital, which is just a couple of blocks to the Northwest of us. The more we branch out to these large facilities, the better…


Here are a few recent photos… Click on any image to see a larger version.


We drove up into the mountains, to Cottonwood Lake outside of Buena Vista to take photos of the Aspens last weekend, but the weather conditions were poor. It was very overcast and windy, and not very good for the type of images I wanted to get. When we drove back down in elevation and were headed out of Buena Vista, the sun burst through the cloud cover and lit up this area along the Arkansas River. I stopped and set up my tripod and took a series of photos, bracketed from -4 stops to +3 stops (above and below an average exposure for the scene). I then used Photoshop, and a high dynamic range software called Photomatix to merge the seven exposures into one image, as you see here:


Some Aspen trunks shot in overcast, low contrast conditions...


The three coolest boys on the planet (slightly biased opinion)


Close up details of a dead tree trunk


Ethan hanging out on the railroad tracks...


Josh is really not this serious all the time, but he doesn't cooperate so much anymore for photos...


Cropped section of a sunflower. I played with it a little in Photoshop.


Cool leaf, in Black and White


...and to all a good night. or a good afternoon, or weekend, or whatever works for you.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Is the Economy Melting Down?

Well, that is a really great question. I've never gone a day in my life where I had to worry about a meal, a car payment, or anything else, really. Economy fluctuations were always going on, but it really didn't affect us much. Now that Tracy and I have a small business, we are very concerned about where things are headed. It seems like it just gets worse and worse every six weeks or so. As bad as last weeks new was, and this week's band-aid approach to fixing it, I just wonder what is around the corner. Heading into the Great Depression, the stock market crashed in October 1929. Banks didn't fail until three or four years later. We are in a situation now where banks are failing, resulting in stock market fluctuations. What does that mean? I don't know for sure, but I do know that events in our world today are unprecedented, at least during my lifetime. My gut feelings tell me we have not seen the worst. I also believe that our enemies are slowly conspiring to take action. Russia has been performing military maneuvers in conjunction with Venezuela and speaking of installing missile systems in Cuba again. They also want to claim the Arctic to the north of us. Iran is doing its thing, and China is a sleeping giant. I keep my eyes on world news and pick up small bits of information all over the place. Any one story is just a data point, but when compiled altogether, I see an abstract movement, an alignment going on that is potentially going to align a number of countries against us and against Western Civilization in general. Is anybody out there watching? Is our government too busy trying to prevent an economic meltdown? I traded gas guzzlers for efficient cars over the last couple of years. I have also started eating leftovers and mending clothing instead of buying new. I believe we are at a time in our culture when people are going to have to alter life styles and go back to the way things were... At least make a move in that direction somewhat. It will be interesting to see how things pan out...

As for Nemo's, sales have been a little bit slower. We have not seen much of a decrease in sales, but it is there. Is it an anomaly, or are things about to crash and burn? No way of knowing, I guess... We will keep working hard and doing our best. Keep us in your prayers...

Thanks,
JD

Monday, September 22, 2008

A few Fall photos...

I had a high school senior portrait session yesterday and I took a few shots with my Macro lens after we were finished. I don't get much of a chance to shoot for pleasure anymore, but I like the way these came out. 15 minutes of shooting for fun is really nice every now and then...

Click on the image(s) to see a larger version. Use your BACK button to get back to this page...









I have been in negotiations with a local company who wants to use a number of my images for their website. It is a funeral home, so they are looking for simple, but pretty images like the ones above, as well as landscapes of Garden of the Gods, Pikes Peak, etc. I am meeting with them tonight to finalize terms and $$.

Gotta run,
JD

Friday, September 19, 2008

Wow, it’s been a long time since I have posted…

Well, gas prices have pretty much stabilized (but still way too high), but everything else seems to be going down in flames. The economy has been sputtering somewhat for a year or so, but not to the point of qualifying as a recession. The things I have noticed most are gas prices and food prices. The recent bank failures concern me, though. It is unbelievable that major financial houses have put themselves and us (you and me, Joe Taxpayers) in jeopardy with high risk loans in the housing market. Tracy and I have been talking about this for years. We bought the house where she grew up in 2005. It is about 1800 sq ft, it is 40 years old, and it cost $172,000. Our payment is $1135 a month, which is high to me. I decided years and years ago that if a car payment is over $300, then I can’t afford that car. I also believed that a house payment should not exceed $1000 per month. I have gone over those numbers slightly, but only in recent years, and not by a lot. Those limits have actually served us well. All of the tens of thousands of new homes built in Colorado Springs over the last decade have been in the $200,000 to $600,000 on average, with some developments being upwards of $1,000,000. People I have worked with, people we know from church, other families from our children’s schools were buying these new houses. Tracy and I actually had conversations wondering what we were doing wrong. How is it that people in our ‘financial range’ are buying houses for $350,000??? Well, it is apparent now how they were doing it. Interest only, adjustable rate mortgages without income verification. There are so many people here, and throughout Colorado losing their homes. The problem is, they could never afford the homes to begin with. The first year or two at 2% interest only worked out great. After that, they are in trouble. Meanwhile, the mortgage reps made a fortune over the last 5-8 years on processing fees. Instead of buying more expensive houses, we would just buy a moderate house and rent out our existing home. We did that twice, and it resulted in us having two rental houses (one of which we sold in April this year). I couldn’t even begin to count the number of pre-approved home loan and home improvement loan offers I received in the mail. They offered $300,000 loans for $900 a month, or they offered to loan up to 125% of the value of our house. It took about 2 seconds to realize those programs are a bad idea. All of them went into the shredder. Do you realize that if you do a 125% loan on your house, and it burns down, you are going to owe the 25% (or more)? The insurance company isn’t going to give you an extra 25% just to be nice. Mortgage brokers sold people on this by telling them their property values will grow so rapidly that in a few years their 125% loan will wind up being a 100% or 90% loan. All they had to do was wait. Well, they waited, and now they are bankrupt and homeless. You and I are going to pay for their poor decisions via out taxes, after Uncle Sam bails out all of these failing companies.

Do you know that when the government bailed out and took over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac last week, the CEO’s of both companies were sent on their way with multi million dollar severance packages? Could somebody out there explain this to me? It has been uncovered that the organizations cooked the books to make the companies look healthier than they really are in order for CEO’s and other company management to receive the highest possible incentives and bonuses. They ran the companies into the ground, for self benefits, and then are given millions in severance pay when they get fired? Why are they not in jail???? I want answers!! You should to.

OK, enough ranting…

How about Nemo’s? Sales have been off a little since the Labor Day holiday, but they bounced back this week. Believe it or not, the property owners still have not resolved the issue with our new overhead lighted sign. We finally came to an agreement (which consisted of the owner’s refusing any of our requests/demands) this past week. The property manager is now working with a sign company on specifications and design criteria. We should have a lighted sign back up again by November.

In the meantime, I ordered two signs that are 4’ x 8’ (same size as a sheet of plywood). I am going to mount them to plywood in the back of my truck and park it in the lot out by Pikes Peak. It will be impossible for people to miss it! I would expect to pick up some morning commuters. After a month or two, I am going to change the signs to say Lunch at Nemo’s and see if we can grow our lunch crowd.

I hired an accountant the other day. Tracy and I are both too busy to stay on top of things the way it should be. I will still do payroll and actually pay our vendors and bills, but the accountant will take all of our documentation for each month, reconcile everything, categorize everything, and provide us with reports including a P&L statement. He will also be completing all of our tax filings, including quarterly filings for employer withholding from payroll, sales tax payments to city, county, and state, unemployment insurance taxes, etc…. Trust me… It will be money well spent!

Construction has begun on the outside café. It looks like it is going to be a good size, and will be right outside our shop. The good thing about it is the property manager is considering it community space for the entire complex, not Nemo’s space exclusively. As a result, we will not have to purchase tables and chairs or maintain it. However, most of the usage will be by our customers…

I have been pretty busy lately with video and photo projects. I recorded 15 training sessions for my company, and created DVD’s with navigation menus for each of the sessions. I designed a custom DVD case insert, and made DVD labels to match. The end product was very nice! My pricing came in at $3000, but I discounted it to only $750. A few people who work in video have told me I’m crazy, but there are a couple of reasons for it. First of all, I taped the sessions during my normal work day, so I was paid my normal wages for being at work. Secondly, RKMI has done this type of thing before by sending an intern out with a camcorder, copying the movie file to a CD or DVD, and turning it over to the customer. The quality was poor, but it met the contract requirements and required very little effort or cost on RK’s part. Even though my DVD’s with navigation menus and custom labels are much nicer, RK is not going to pay thousands of dollars for it. If I charge them a rate that is 25% of industry standard, they will have me do it over and over again. I get to put a little extra cash in the bank, and they get a good deal. Sounds OK to me…

We have been without internet service at home for quite some time. Our Comcast cable internet kept going dead. I finally cancelled it, as well as their cable TV, and our Vonage internet phone service. I got a bundled deal from Qwest including DSL at 7.5MBPS service, phone service, and Direct TV with DVR for $50 a month less than my other CRUMMY services combined (Vonage was pretty good, though). I am setting up our wireless network tonight. With internet service at home again, I will be able to make posts more often…

Gotta run…
Everybody have a good weekend.
JD

Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Aug 29, 2008

I don't have much time, but I wanted to hit on a couple of things...

The Colorado Springs Hot Air Balloon Classic is this weekend, with mass launches of 150+ hot air balloons Saturday, Sunday, and Monday mornings at 7:00am. This is one of the largest events in the Colorado and surrounding states each year. It takes place two blocks west of us at Memorial Park. We are setting up a tent and giving out free coffee, as well as fliers and coupons. Thousands of people walk to Memorial Park from the surrounding neighborhoods, and we will be in place to put our coffee in their hands all three mornings. It should be a good thing for us to reach some of the local residents that do not know we are here...

I booked several senior photo sessions, a family portrait session, and I just completed a three day video event. I documented owner training for the commissioning of six buildings at Fort Carson. The training covered system overview, operation, and maintenance of all building systems (HVAC, Domestic Water, Hydronic, Digital Controls, etc). Several of the sessions were in depth training courses on specific equipment such as boilers, make-up air units, rooftop HVAC units, exhaust fans, split system air conditioning equipment, hydronic heating equipment, pumps, building management systems, etc. I now have to convert the hours of footage into DVD's... I also created an agreement with a local establishment to be their house photographer. They have about eight weddings a year at their facility.

I tried to watch a little of the DNC Convention the other night, but Hillary Clinton's speech was more than I could take. I think she is a very smart woman and has many talents, but her speaking voice gets to near maniacal levels at times. Her speaking voice might be the most annoying sound on the planet! I noticed on the TV Guide channel that "The World's Funniest Commercials" was on the next channel. I really tried to listen, just to have first hand knowledge of what she had to say, but I couldn't take it. I watched funny commercials for a half hour instead.

However, I did watch Obama's speech last night. I admit that he is a very charismatic speaker, and he draws you in with his personality. However, if you try to listen for substance, there just isn't anything there. His speech was thematic and based on high level ideas, with no details on how he plans to accomplish any of it. Anyone can get up and promise the moon, but if you can't deliver, then what? I would suspect that after both conventions are over, many TV and radio ads will come out that will factualize Obama's ties to far left radical people and ideas. People who think for themselves will evaluate the info, and maybe do some research of their own to validate it. I think those people will choose not to support Obama. Others will discount the information as character assassination politics. It will be interesting to see how things turn out...

I think it is quite intriguing that McCain chose a woman to be his running mate. I'm sure Hillary is fuming somewhere right now... A Republican woman has stolen her thunder. Interesting...

Gotta run.
JD

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Democratic National Convention in Denver

If you read my blog, I’m sure you have figured out I am a conservative, Christian Republican… Right now, the leadership of the Democratic Party is very liberal, and they align with the extreme left. If you don’t know what that means and why it matters, read a book by Michael Savage called “Liberalism is a Mental Disorder.”

I’m not going to go into anything about the DNC being in Denver, except how it has directly affected me. I dropped my sister off at the Denver airport Sunday morning. The city is struggling with revenue to support the convention, and I was the proud winner of one speeding ticket at the airport. I drove into the terminals on a road about six lanes wide, going the same speed as everyone else. A cop pulled up behind me at the terminal and gave me a ticket for $130 for speeding. I never saw him anywhere, nor did I see any signs noting a 35mph limit. I hate to waste $130 for anything, but I especially hate to see my hard earned money go up in smoke to pay for a bunch of Denver decorations, signs, and banners strung all over the city to welcome the DNC. I have ordered banners for Nemo’s before, so I know how much they cost. I literally saw tens of thousands of dollars worth of “DNC Welcome to Denver” banners. It really bugs me to think that my $130 is going to pay for that… Or, maybe my $130 paid for some of the homeless population’s free haircuts or movie tickets. The city provided free haircuts to the homeless in an attempt to ‘disguise’ them during the convention. The city also offered them free tickets to the Denver Zoo, area museums, and area movie theaters, as well as free bus tokens, just to get them off the streets and away from the convention area. Maybe I helped pay to send a group of meth addict, unemployed vagrants to the zoo. I hope they are having a good time.
We had plans to go to Elitches Gardens (an amusement park in Denver) after taking JoRenda to the airport. Unfortunately, Elitches is right next to the convention center. I called in advance to insure they would be open, and they were (I had pre-purchased tickets early when I was still at Intel, so changing dates was not feasible). I also checked on road closures, since they will be closing I-25 and the major streets around the convention this week. I was told that no street closures were to occur on Sunday. We arrived at Elitches around 8:30am, only to find out they do not open until 10:00am. We left and found a bagel place and hung out there for an hour, then went back to Elitches. The police were out in force, and there was a sign stating that the left lane was closed on Speers Blvd. No problem… the entry into Elitches is a right turn anyway. Lots of traffic slowly merged into one lane, the right lane, and when I got one block from the Elitches entrance, I was shocked to see road cones closing Speers! The cones were forcing everyone onto I-25 North to Ft Collins, Colorado. We had no plans to go to Ft Collins. I stopped, rolled down my window, and asked one of the officers how I can get to Elitches. He said it was closed and for me to go home. I told him it is open, and that we had already been there once this morning, and my turn is just one block ahead. He said to go home. I told him we live in the Springs (1 ½ hour drive) and that we had pre-purchased Elitches tickets. He said if I didn’t like it to call the mayor. Well, the mayor of Denver is a total idiot, so I have no desire to talk to him (he formally requested a one week waiver on marijuana laws during the week of the DNC convention--- can you believe that? ---don’t forget, Liberalism is a Mental Disorder). By this time, I had approximately 150 cars backed up behind me honking. I told the officer I was not going home, that I’m not familiar with Denver streets, and that I just need some simple directions on how to go another way to get to the street I needed. He said to go home and forget about Elitches. By now Josh, Jonah, and Ethan were getting very worried that we were not going to the amusement park. We had been planning this for over a month, and we could see the roller coasters from where we sat. We could also see hundreds of cars streaming into Elitches from the north. The officer came over to my car, reached into his pocket, and gave me all of his money. He said that was to offset the cost of the tickets, and for me to just go home. He wouldn’t take his money back, and he told me to move and stop blocking traffic. I got on the Interstate, then got back off again right away and found a place to park. Me and the kids had a 30 minute walk to get to Elitches. On the way, we went by the same intersection, and the same officer was there. I tried to give him is money ($39) and he still would not take it. I ended up leaving it on top of an orange traffic cone for him. I hope he got it…
While waiting in line for our first ride at Elitches, a girl in front of us was really upset and talking about how her and 400 others in an organization were going to protest Obama’s acceptance speech at Invesco Field (where the Denver Broncos play). This caught my attention, because she was young, and most young people I know support Obama. I listened to her story and she and 400 other people were promised tickets to the speech if they help with the campaign. After logging over 2500 hours of campaign work in their group, they were denied tickets to the speech. When they reminded Obama’s campaign people of their promise, they still did not provide the tickets. Apparently, they are angry enough to protest at his speech, and I am assuming they are no longer going to vote for Obama. There was a story on the local AM radio station recently about how 80,000 people in Colorado registered for tickets for Obama’s speech. They were all told that if they campaign for Obama, they would get tickets. When it came time to distribute tickets, only 30,000 were allotted to locals. That means there are 50,000 people out there who got stiffed by the Obama people, after volunteering hours for the campaign. Interesting…

I haven’t been affected anymore since we left Denver that day. I don’t really expect any more direct impacts from the convention.

As for Nemo’s, we had strong sales last week, and we beat our break even budget by $500. I would be incredibly happy to continue doing that week in and week out. I hear one report that the housing industry fallout is only beginning, and then I see another report that the worst is over. I see a report about consumer confidence rising with recent drops in gas prices, but common sense tells me energy prices are still a huge problem. Going from $4 a gallon to $3.60 a gallon is not a resolution to the problem. It is still very bad. The OPEC nations, Russia, China, and Venezuela have all positioned themselves to control oil in the future, and Western Civilizations are and will continue to be at their mercy. Iran has stated that they will cut off oil flow in their gulf if they are attacked by us or Israel over their nuclear ambitions. That would push oil prices up to $200 per barrel. Meanwhile, we have a bunch of politicians arguing over a major power grab, and pushing a socialist agenda. Why don’t we have ANY politicians working on a plan to alleviate energy prices, which are benefiting all of our enemies? Russia is big trouble coming in the near future. They invaded Georgia over what they call support for two independent states that are pro-Russia. The real truth is that the two rogue states are part of Georgia and it was none of Russia’s business. Russia has now fortified their positions in the very important Georgian port city. There are also deep dredge operations going on in Syria, which would allow the porting and operation of large Russian naval vessels there. The Russia military has just realigned their naval fleet commands to reorganize their operating structure in the Mediterranean and Middle East areas. The Chinese have just completed secret bases that are built into the side of a mountain (underground) that can support a number of aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines. The North Koreans have announced today that they are no longer suspending their nuclear weapons programs and intend to start them up again (just weeks after we lifted sanctions for this very reason). Russia is speaking of installing missile systems again in Cuba, in retaliation of our missile defense deal with Poland. There are two main differences, though. The missile defense system in Poland is to protect Western Europe from missile launches from aggressive Middle Eastern countries like Iran and Syria. The Russians intend to put missiles intended for an offensive strike in Cuba. Syria is in talks to purchase modern armaments from Russia, which is very unnerving to Israel. There are so many things going on in the world, and each individual thing doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. It is not as big of a deal to the average American as getting a big screen TV, or a new car, or a Harley, or whatever else… But, if you look at what is going on and put it all together, our enemies are aligning themselves with each other, and bad things are coming. We need a government that is on top of it, that recognizes the threat, and has a plan of action to respond. The few things that I know about are just the tip of the iceberg, I’m sure. How many things are going on in the world that our government knows about that is not common knowledge??? I have had a feeling for about a year or more that things on the world stage are moving in a direction that is very bad for us… Everyday I see bits and pieces of news that supports those thoughts. Hopefully, I am wrong, but I know that is not the case. We need strong leadership in our country now more than ever. Let’s hope enough of America recognizes that need and votes accordingly in November…

Well, that is probably enough mindless rambling about mostly non-coffee related topics. Welcome to the whirlwind of my mind…

Take care,
JD

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Reply to KJ Comments!

KJ posted the following, and my comments follow...


KayJay has left a new comment on your post "Long time, no updates…":

Hi JD!

Your blog has been tremendously educational... I just spent six hours reading it from the very beginning.

I've been researching the coffee business for the last three years, and have several years' experience in food service management (I love it, actually) -- and although I've yet to own my own place, a few things jumped out at me as I covered the last 18+ months of your life in a short span of time. Keep in mind, I have no experience at running a coffee house, obviously, so YMMV.

1) You listed your COGS as 40% for your first year of operation, and were satisfied with it. Every forum, book, or website I've read recommends 30-32% COGS, maybe 35% maximum. Cuts can be made in sourcing product, or prices can be raised. As you said earlier, food costs have skyrocketed; no one expects a business to absorb it all, and raising prices once or twice a year may be scary (for you) but regular customers will bounce back. Are your prices in line with your competition's?

2) You stated several times you have yet to do "advertising." Again, that's something that could have made a difference in the past months, and can definitely have an impact now. If you have 80K cars passing by your shop every day (one way? are you on the morning commute side?), but getting less than 200(?) in the door, then there's work to be done. I think the term is "work smarter, not harder". Getting Nemo's name and product in front of eyes at least half a dozen times gets it remembered. One-time flyers won't do it. I think it's pretty standard for folks to build in a 3-5% advertising/marketing budget in their figures. Again, so I read. (In practice it's MUCH harder, I know!)

3) You're breaking even -- but are you really? You and Tracy, God bless you both, have been working for free...? Is Tracy drawing a salary at all, as a manager? If not... then everything I've seen says that's not breaking even at all. Your labor is not covered. If something happened where either one or both of you were not able to cover the store for a period of time, what would happen to your labor costs? Looks like you've been running 22-26% labor -- industry standard for fast food is about that, but I worked in a family-style restaurant (pizza) and their goal was 18%. Difficult, yes. But doable.

All told, you have done phenomenally well and I am awed by the incredible work you both have put into your shop and your lives. I certainly couldn't have done all that you have. I would be remiss, however, if I didn't speak up and point you in the direction of the Small Business Development Center in your area -- they have FREE services for people like you, and can help pinpoint areas where you can improve performance and change the way things are done, to get you into the black.

I've always lived by the three ways to improve your bottom line: lower COGS, decrease labor, or increase sales. As far as I know, there are no other options.

I want to see you continue to succeed... because then, maybe I can too if I ever take the plunge! God is in the details.

Good luck!

KJ




First of all, I think it is amazing that you spent six hours reading the entire thing!! I had no idea that this blog was that entertaining, or maybe you were just really bored! Either way, I appreciate that you spent some time taking a look at what we have done, and took even more time to offer some advice. Thanks!

In reply, we set a goal to maintain our Cost of Goods Sold at 40% maximum, even with the dramatic increase in product costs. One task I have been working on recently is to build a spreadsheet that allows me to enter the current cost of various products. The spreadsheet will then calculate our COGS for each retail product we sell. For example, the spreadsheet knows how much egg, sausage, cheese, potato, tortilla, salsa, salsa portion cup and lid, and aluminum foil wrap goes into each breakfast burrito. It then adds up our product cost based upon the main list of overall costs, and compares it to our retail prices. Our breakfast burrito is currently at 30% for COGS, right where we want to be. I am slowly adding all of our products to the spreadsheet. Once complete, I can calculate an average COGS based upon quantities of items sold. If one item has a COGS of 31% and we sell 225 of them a month and another item has a COGS of 42% but we only sell 10 a month, the overall calculation will be weighted for quantities sold. I imagine our Quickbooks Pro software could do all of this for us if I took the time to enter all of our inventory items and build each product sold as an ‘assembly’ in Quickbooks. I am much more comfortable using Excel than Quickboooks.
Anyway, I set up a “rough” break even budget using 40% as a worst case scenario. Based on the items I have entered so far, I think we are going to land in the 34 to 35% range for overall COGS. We also recently tweaked our prices a little. We did not do a dramatic, across the board increase, but we did bump a few prices up by 10 cents on some drinks, and by 25 to 35 cents on some food items. Our demographics are a little strange. We have doctors, nurses, lawyers, stockbrokers and other well paid professionals as customers, but we also have a large number of middle class and lower earners in surrounding businesses. The neighborhood itself has a high number of elderly on fixed incomes (homes are approximately 30-45 years old in this area, with many elderly residents that have been in their homes for 30+ years), and some lower income demographics. Our decision to choose this location was based upon the quantity of daytime workers that commute into the area and work in surrounding buildings and complexes. The neighborhood demographics would not make for a successful shop alone. The 80,000 cars a day are very important. They are additional workers heading to and from downtown (the downtown business district is about 1.5 miles to the west of us). Pikes Peak Ave is a four lane two way street, not one way, which is good. We have discussed having people stand out by the street with a sign during morning rush hours to attract attention to our shop. I am sure that most commuters that travel Pikes Peak Ave do not know we are there. We have also considered advertising $1 coffee for awhile to commuters to get some people in the door to try our product and learn that we are here!

As for advertising, I know we have been slow to proceed with any major marketing ideas. The center is 40+ years old and looked very “tired” and unattractive. Part of our lease negotiations included discussions that the owners would complete a major renovation of the building façade and parking lot. It includes demolishing 100’ linear feet of the west end of the facility, and rebuilding it to accommodate Intellitec’s automotive campus (an 18 month technical college). This renovation and construction was supposed to happen quickly after our opening, but contract negotiations, design approval, and implementation took a year longer than expected. We really wanted to wait until the center was renovated before we marketed to the masses, but we didn’t expect for it to take so long. I agree with you about getting our name out in front of people 4-6 times, but I’m not sure we have the money for that kind of a campaign right now. We have researched print media and it costs about $1200 to $1800 per advertising event. To do so four to six times would definitely help us to grow sales, but I don’t know that we can afford to do so right now. In the meantime, our goal is to get our name out to the high density office and medical spaces close to us 4-6 times through flier distribution, face to face time including taking product samples to their offices, etc. If we can capture the local business/professional crowd to grow sales, it will get us over the hump and we can do more widespread advertising via print media once we are self sustaining. It is a difficult decision to make to spend remaining capital dollars on advertising. It makes sense to do so, but the cost is huge and cash flow is vital. Once I have liquidated some additional assets and get our operating capital back up to $15,000 or so, I should proceed with some print media advertising. There is a long running radio show here that broadcasts from local restaurants on KVOR 740. We are considering doing a live broadcast lunch special soon. The cost is $600 and we will have to provide lunch for two for $7.40. We could provide two sandwiches and sides for this cost and break even for the day. The show has a huge following and gets lots of response. Unfortunately, the live broadcasts are always on Saturday, and the majority of our customers are Monday-Friday daytime workers in the area. I will have to see if they will do a live broadcast on a Friday.

As far as ‘break even’ goes, you are right… Neither of us has taken a salary from the business, and that does not meet the widely accepted definition of break even. Since I am working full time, we can operate the shop indefinitely without an income. Obviously, that is not our long term goal. We want this business to provide an income, not just be our hobby. In the short term, though, we want to achieve our ‘break even’ definition during this time of high gas prices, mortgage industry meltdown, high inflation and skyrocketing food costs, etc. I do not believe these problems will last much past the November elections, and I just want to be able to operate the shop until things rebound without running out of operating capital. Right now we consider success to be able to operate without having to input additional capital, even if it means not paying ourselves. As things improve, we will change our definition of success. You are right, though. If Tracy and I were not able to run the shop due to illness or injury, our labor costs would hurt us. I just did a quick calculation and our labor costs (including payroll withholding taxes) for July 2008 were 19.5% of our gross sales. Not too bad… If we were to take a salary, that number would go up… We probably need to look at our schedule and see if we can trim some labor.

You are right to point us to the Small Business Administration. I researched their website some time ago and saw lots of valuable information. I have not had the time to meet with them to be mentored on small business ownership. I need to make time for that, as it would be very valuable to us.

And finally, you mentioned that God is in the details. I totally believe in this. If tough times are God’s way of growing and refining us, then so be it. We will stick it out, put in the effort, and mature and grow as people, disciples, and as business owners. If it is not God’s will for us to have a shop, then our efforts are against the grain anyway. Success in business does not equal success in life, nor does failure in business equal failure in life. Our life’s success is based upon relationships with each other, and by living a solid Christian life. The business side of things is irrelevant in the big picture. Our needs are food, shelter, clothing, and strong relationships in our family. Anything above and beyond that is a blessing. The poorest in our nation are rich compared to many places around the globe. Keeping that perspective is important, and a little humility goes a long way, whether successful or not…

Thanks for your comments!
JD

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Long time, no updates…

Sorry for letting so many days (or has it been weeks?) go by since my last post.
I’ve been incredibly busy for the last five or six weeks. Since I have not been working at Intel at night, I’ve been trying to get caught up on some projects around the shop, at home, and spending time with Tracy and the boys.

We have had a good summer, mixed with some fun with the boys and lots of hard work with the shop. We went to Disneyland in June, we went to the Renaissance Festival, we’ve been to some baseball games, the boys played baseball in little league, we’ve been swimming quite a bit at the YMCA, Jonah and Ethan both got new bikes (we are a family of five and we have 11 bikes!!), Jo Renda (my little sister) is coming to visit next week, and we are going to Elitch’s (an amusement park in Denver) in two weeks. The kids start school again on August 18th and we have been getting ready for that. I finished building loft beds for all three boys, and we moved their dressers under them. That included emptying their dressers and getting rid of worn-out and out-grown things. We have a 30 yard dumpster in front of our house right now. We are getting rid of lots of landscaping debris, trees, and other junk we have accumulated over the last 13 years (Tracy and I are both pack rats). We also ordered new windows for the front of the house and they will be installed in the next several weeks (including a really cool bay window in the living room). We plan to install new windows in the back of the house next year. We had planned to repaint the outside of the house this summer, but that is not looking very likely…

As for the shop, the construction has proceeded with the building remodel and our end of the building is finished! The framing is complete, it has been skinned, and the stucco is done. It really does look great. It took 10 weeks longer than promised, and those construction impacts have translated to no growth at the shop. Fortunately, we have not really seen an overall drop in sales on a monthly basis, but we have seen definite impacts on certain days. When the entire front of the building was covered with scaffold, it looked like we were not open. We had some really slow days during that time. Other strong days made up for it overall, but we should have seen growth this summer and did not.

Currently, the façade work is finished, but we do not have any signage. The owners have obtained quotes for new signs and they want to charge us for 50% of the cost. We are fighting that. We had an operational lighted sign, which they took down and threw away. I feel it is their responsibility to replace it. I need to set up an appointment with the property manager and review the lease with regard to signage. That will be the deciding factor… In the mean time, the new sign will cost $4000, and we just don’t have that kind of cash to spare right now.

The $4 gas and the doom and gloom reporting on the economy have not helped either. Once again, we have not seen a slide in sales, but the vital growth we are looking for to get us over the hump has not happened. We have been operating most of this year right under the break even point. If we miss breaking even by $200 to $400 a week, it does not seem like a huge deficit. Over six months, though, it has a huge impact on our operating capital budget.

The bottom line is that we are finding ourselves to be a little cash strapped. We have some assets we can liquidate and come up with another $15,000 for operating capital pretty quickly. We can also sell our remaining rental house and come up with another $15,000 to $20,000 in operating income. Now comes the time for tough decisions. Do we expect for the gas prices to go down and for news on the economy to get better? If so, it makes sense for us to invest additional $$ and ride out the undeclared recession. If we do so, and things don’t get better, then we will find ourselves in a situation where we are nearly out of money again, without additional reserves, and still not be making a profit at the shop.

We have decided to invest some additional money, but not sell the rental house, and keep going. There is no way to predict what has happened with gas prices, and the resulting increases in raw product costs, not to mention tighter budgets of our regular customers. Some say oil could hit $200 a barrel, which would be devastating to our entire economy and to every individual. Nemo’s would not be the only casualty of such an event. Things could also stabilize after the elections in November and everything could go back to normal (as normal as things get, anyway) for another four years. I have always been interested in politics and how they affect world events. As a business owner, I am much more tuned into what is going on and what impacts things can have. As a result, I am very concerned about the upcoming elections. I am a conservative Republican, and McCain is not my first choice for a presidential candidate by any means. However, all the Democrats have to offer this year are borderline Socialists in Obama and H Clinton. They have stated they intend to provide national health care, to increase government spending through various programs, and both will result in a major increase in taxes. They also oppose any oil exploration or drilling, which will prevent America from becoming energy independent, which is important for both our economy and our national security. When you look at the increased consumption by China and India, and the way that Russia has reinvented itself to be the OPEC of the next century, we could be in real trouble. Does any of this concern our politicians? A few I suppose, but the Speaker of the House is off on a book signing tour while her approval rating with the American people hovers at about 9%. Unbelievable… I’m not a political activist by any means, but these issues play a part into whether or not our business survives. If you are concerned about gas prices, I would suggest calling your elected officials (Senators and Congress members) and tell them you are concerned. Better yet, state your opinion with your vote in November. If you want your tax dollars to pay for medical coverage for millions of welfare recipients and illegal immigrants, then vote for Obama. If you want gas prices to continue to increase, then vote for Obama. If you want the existing tax breaks (put in place by G Bush) to expire, vote for Obama. If you want our country to ignore rising threats in Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and elsewhere, then vote for Obama. An out-pouring of concern by the People is the only thing that will get our politicians to address our problems with real and effective solutions, instead of working for self preservation and self-wealth… If you want for Nemo’s Coffee to survive, then vote for McCain and call your elected officials and tell them you want lower gas prices.

If you are a conservative by nature, then I’m sure this post makes sense to you. If you are an Obama supporter and this post has offended you, then I suggest you research the issues I’ve mentioned above. Do some honest research into where Obama stands on these very important topics, how they will affect your taxes and your lives, and then decide who to vote for.

Regardless of the economy, world events, presidential elections, and the cost of oil tracy and I need to increase our sales just a little to allow us to operate above the break even point. Once the kids start school next week, Tracy and her mom are going to distribute fliers to surrounding medical complexes, office buildings, the Olympic Training Center, Memorial Hospital, and other high density areas close by. We have been waiting for the building remodel work to be completed prior to doing so, and we expect to get a boost in sales from this effort. We had 5000 fliers professionally printed, and they are ready to go! We considered hiring someone to distribute them, but we would have no way of knowing if they really did it, or just put them in a dumpster and went to the movies instead. Tracy wants to be the one to interact with office staff personnel, especially at all of the medical complexes close to us.

We are basically at the breaking point. If our efforts work and we invest a little more cash, we will make it through this tough time. If our efforts have no impact and the economy continues to decline, we will not make it. Small deficits will eventually bleed us dry. Any prayers you have to offer would be greatly appreciated!

Gotta run,
JD

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

2:00am and I'm at the shop...

During my six months of working two full time jobs, a great deal of admin fell behind here at the shop. Tracy and I have decided that I will come to the shop every Monday night to pay our vendors, do equipment maintenance, work on payroll, etc. Tonight is my first night, and I am finding all kinds of things that need to be finished.
First priority is catching up on quarterly reporting. We are behind, and I absolutely need to get finished. I can tell you, it is not much fun trying to figure out tax stuff using Quickbooks reports of our company financials on one computer, and being on the internet researching the forms and instructions on another computer.

It is 2:00am and I have been here doing this since 7:30pm. I also found a workers comp audit that needs to be completed for our insurance company. The Secretary of State for Colorado seems to want us to send him an annual report. The two delinquent notices he sent is my proof. In all, I found 15 things that need to be filled out and sent somewhere. The El Paso County Health Department caters lunch from us occasionally. They want us to fill out an 'approved vendor' W-9 form so we can get paid. This is all stuff that I have to research how to fill out, so it all takes awhile. I found a notification from our bank of a bounced check (from one of our customers). I need to send out a notice to them to pay up before we unleash the goons.

Moral of the story...
Don't let your admin get behind. Even if you are working two full time jobs, even if you are falsely accused and imprisoned in Argentina, even if you did fall down the stairs and you are in a coma... figure out someway to get your paperwork done anyway. I am now playing catch up and it is not much fun. This week, and probably the next couple of weeks will be long nights. Once I get caught up, it should only take a couple of hours. For now, though, I'm getting tired and don't feel like doing paperwork.

It is now 2:07am, and I am still here. I need to wrap up the City of Colorado Springs sales tax returns, and then I'll go home and get three hours of sleep before my new day starts. I'll catch up on the county, state, and federal stuff later...

Gotta run.
JD

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Jeff Sato Photo Shoot


I completed my first photo shoot in awhile tonight. It was with Jeff Sato, a judo athlete who has trained at the Olympic Training Center. I can't even begin to tell you how hard Jeff has worked. He has an amazing work ethic, and his Olympic dreams fueled is life. Unfortunately, he did not make the team for China in 2008. He is currently helping some who did with their training, and will decide later if he is going to continue to compete and train at this level until 2012. In the meantime, I did a photo shoot for him. I haven't even looked at all of the shots yet, but here is one... I'll post more later. Click on the image to see a larger version.

OK, here is another...


OK, and just one more for now. I'm going to go home and get some sleep...