Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What Do You Do All Day?

Fortunately, Jim does not ask me this question!  But many people, as they inquire about my work on Zoe, ask me what is involved in my typical day.  Today is a good example to use to describe how quickly a day can go by!

At 8 this morning, I had a meeting with Potential Build Out Manager Scott.  We met at a place called Tastee Diner, which was the most perfect of greasy spoons.  I had sent him copies of the floor plan of my space, my Letter of Intent, and my Lease draft prior to our meeting.  We discussed the lease for a short amount of time, his qualifications, my vision for the buildout, what he can do for me vs. what I need, and next steps.  Our meeting went well and he is drawing up a Letter of Agreement for me to review and sign.

From there, I drove to Rockville to grab coffee with a friend.  We enjoyed bringing each other up to date on our jobs and on friends we have in common.  From Rockville, I headed back to Alexandria and stopped in Old Town to run a few non-Zoe errands prior to coming home.

After lunch, the proof for my tissue paper arrived via FedEx and I reviewed and signed off on it.  I completed my review of the lease, spoke to my attorney on the phone and sent it over to him for review and comment.  I continued my follow-up with my various wholesalers, starting to arrange meetings during the upcoming Atlanta Apparel Mart and reviewing their spring linesheets.  I also filled out the pre-registration for the Mart on-line.

Web Designer Mark had sent me some web sites (based on our earlier conversations) for review so that I can provide him with feedback on my likes and dislikes of each site.  This will help him to narrow down the presentation that most exhibits Zoe!  I did a top level review of each site with plans to go back through before the end of the week to summarize my thoughts.

Cori and I traded emails on a one color logo design to add to my boxes and paper bags and what she provided is gorgeous (of course).  I am also determining widths and colors of ribbons to order and had my handy tape measure out on the desk, trying to picture exactly the sizes I need!

The day passes quickly and, before I know it, Jim is calling me to tell me he is on the way home!

I want to close by thanking all of you who follow the blog and the many, many of you who share your thoughts with me in person, via email or via phone.  Each of you is an encouragement to me every day!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

For Everything There Is A Season

Whether you know these words from Ecclesiastes 3 in the Bible or from The Byrds 60s song "Turn Turn Turn", you know that the point of both is that there is a time and place for everything.  This passage has always been special to me, even more so after we used it as part of the funeral program for my father.  Those words have been especially meaningful to me in the past two weeks.

About two weeks ago, my doctor's office called to say that I had an irregular result from a common test.  I was asked to come in for more tests and a biopsy.  Obviously, those are very frightening words.  And I got this news on the same day that I had signed a Letter of Intent on the space for Zoe.

As I waited for the lease and for the results of the test, I realized that God had timed everything perfectly.  He would not let me sign a lease if I were sick, and He would let me know my health status before I got the lease.  Today, the doctor called to give me a clean bill of health, for which I was very grateful and relieved.  Thirty minutes later, my broker called to tell me he had just emailed me the first draft of the lease for my review!  I remain constantly in awe of His perfect plans.  God knows how stubborn and impatient I can be!  

With the first draft of the lease in hand (and under review), I am making arrangements to attend some part of the Atlanta Apparel Market in October.  I've spoken with my wholesalers today to see if they will be present and they will!  I hope to begin setting up my appointments by the end of the week.

I am very excited about the meeting with the potential buildout manager tomorrow morning and look forward to understanding what he can do for me!

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Waiting Game

Sigh...No, I do not yet have a draft of the lease.  I thought that I would DEFINITELY have it today!  I am learning more patience than I ever thought possible!

But despite the lack of legal documentation, work on Zoe continues!  I've been thinking quite a bit about the decor for the store and looking for things that are the right fit.  Imagine my delight when I walked over to neighbor Tina's house on Saturday and found a perfect item on her garage sale table!  I wanted to buy it from her but she insisted on giving it to me for the store!  It will be perfect.

I've also looked in places like Goodwill and one antique shop, as well as newer places like Restoration Hardware.  One friend has offered to lend me two items that were left to her by her mother - they will be perfect in the store but I'll be so nervous having them on loan!  I had hoped to visit a great antique store just outside Culpeper, VA on my way back from Charlottesville last week but it had already closed for the day.  I suppose that means I need to take another trip that way!

This morning, I spoke to the gentleman that I am considering hiring to serve as my build out manager.  We are meeting for breakfast on Wednesday morning to discuss my requirements further.  In preparation for our meeting, I sent Build Out Manager Scott a scanned copy of the Letter of Intent as well as the floor plan of the space.

RTR sent an email this evening confirming that they have the proof of my tissue paper on the way for my sign off and also sent quotes for the other items I need for the cash wrap area of the store.

The fun continues!

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Trip Down 29

First, before I talk about my Charlottesville trip from yesterday, I wanted to provide a lease update.  I received an email from my broker yesterday, saying that the Landlord was performing their final review of the lease on Thursday and we should have it soon.  I was hoping that soon would be today (Friday) but nothing yet.  Hopefully Monday!

And, since I'm writing today's blog backwards, I also had my weekly phone conference with my web designer last night after I returned home.  We had a wonderful conversation where he asked additional questions about my wireframes and the vision for the online experience.  I have some follow up assignments for him and he will be sending me some sites to get my reactions before he starts on the mood boards.  He is an IDEO devotee, which helped me know he was the right fit for me!  Truthfully, we have clicked very well and, as I told Cori this evening, he "gets me" (which is a significant hurdle for anyone to overcome!)

Finally, the trip to Charlottesville.  I do not ever need a reason to go to one of my favorite places but had made an appointment with a baker for a cupcake tasting in preparation for my in-laws' 50th wedding anniversary party.  My in-laws have graciously allowed me to plan the party and I have been having a wonderful time!  Since the tasting wasn't until 4 pm, I had some time to do other things.

I have a favorite sandwich shop on The Corner across from the University.  I've known the owner since 1992 (he moved to Charlottesville and began attending my church and I met him there) and I've been patronizing his sandwich shop since that time.  Creature of habit that I am, I've always ordered the same thing.  I don't get to visit very often anymore and hadn't seen him for several years.  When I walked in yesterday, he was behind the counter helping out with the lunch rush and immediately told the order taker what I'd be ordering!  He came out from behind the counter to visit with me and catch up.  Talk about making you feel special!  He was very excited to hear that I was starting my own business and we traded perspectives on the life of a small business owner.  I feel so fortunate to learn from the many people who have gone before me.  What a wonderful start to my visit!

After I finished my amazing sandwich, I visited my mentor Greer at Duo.  She was so happy to see me and catch up on my status with Zoe.  She felt I was doing very well and is excited to visit when I open!  In just the year and a half I've known her, I've loved seeing how her store has continued to grow and expand and find the perfect niche.

I did a little more strolling and visiting small businesses on the Corner before heading to meet the baker for the cupcake tasting (It is a rough life, I know.)  By the way, I took some home to Jim and he has pronounced them "the best cupcakes he has ever tasted".  Sadly, the baker does not have a storefront - she does cakes and cupcakes for special events as her second job.  (She is a medical biller to pay the bills).  Honestly, she is so talented, I think she could do this full time.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Shop Local

Last night, I got a call from one of the boutique owners involved in the Old Town Alexandria Boutique Scavenger Hunt.  She told me that I was one of the prize winners!  I won a gift certificate to Lawrence Miller & Company, one of the boutiques that was "new to me" on the hunt!  I was SO excited!  I can't wait to see what I might buy.  And, truthfully, I probably would not have gone to his store originally if he hadn't been on the Hunt.  But he was so nice and knowledgable, I had already made up my mind to go back.  And now I have money to spend!

The City of Alexandria has been very focused on encouraging people to shop locally.  Here are their 10 Reasons to Shop Local:

  1. Keep more dollars in the local economy.For every $100 spent in a local store, $68 will stay in the community. But, spend $100 at a chain store and only $43 stays in the community.
  2. Create more local jobs.
    That extra money is spent on hiring more people in the community, who buy their own products and services and pay taxes. 
  3. Attract tourism and visitors.
    It’s old Town’s independently owned businesses that make it a unique destination for tourists and residents of the washington, D.C. area. 
  4. Get better service.
    Local businesses take more time to get to know you and the products they’re selling.
  5. Help local causes.Studies have shown that local businesses provide 350% more support to community causes than national chains.
  6. Enjoy a diverse range of product choices.
    Small businesses choose products based on what their customers love and need — not a national sales plan.
  7. Help the environment.
    By shopping in a central business district, you discourage sprawl. Plus, purchases by independent businesses typically require less transportation. And our easy Metro access and King Street Trolleys reduce congestion and pollution.
  8. Invest in the community.Local businesses are owned by people who live here, work here, and are more invested in our future.
  9. Invest in entrepreneurship.Local entrepreneurs work hard to grow their businesses. As they expand, they create more wealth for the local economy.
  10. Put your taxes to good use.
    Shopping in old Town requires less public infrastructure, less maintenance and more money available to beautify our community. Also, spending locally instead of online ensures that your sales taxes are reinvested right here in Alexandria.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Squeaky Clean!

Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved soaps.  I was always fascinated with ones that had special shapes, colors, or scents.  Inspired by my visit to Sonia Says in Athens, Georgia earlier this year, I decided to have soaps created for Zoe.  These will be given as gifts during the grand opening and also as a treat to new customers in the store.

Where does one find custom soap?  In my web search, I found and settled on Carved Solutions, a Vermont owned business focused specifically on creating personalized soaps.  I corresponded with the founder/owner Dawn and we agreed upon a design incorporating Zoe's beautiful Z logo.  I received the soaps today and they are gorgeous!  And they smell wonderful!  I cannot wait to share this little treat with Zoe's customers!

Web designer Mark has had a chance to look at all of the information I sent to him last week and he has not run away screaming! (Yay!)  He told me in today's email that he was very impressed with how "thought through" my business ideas and web ideas were.  We are planning a conference call for later this week so that he can ask some clarifying questions about the information I sent to him.

No news on the lease.  My broker sent me an email on Tuesday morning to say that he hadn't heard anything else.  He's getting quite proactive - probably trying to head off my question before it could come!  I hope to see a first draft by the end of the week.

Monday, September 20, 2010

All About Trademarks

I have a long history with the Patent and Trademark Office.  (They have no idea of this history, which is probably a good thing).  During my two stints with companies under the Charles E. Smith umbrella in Crystal City, the PTO was headquartered in the building next to Smith's headquarters.  They were also an incredibly important tenant, as they rented LOTS of space and the many related businesses that depended upon them were tenants also (patent and trademark attorneys, search companies).

During my time at Smith, a tremendous amount of time and effort was spent on trying to convince the PTO NOT to move out of Crystal City.  The accountants and attorneys were constantly coming up with new scenarios, which flowed to me to slice and dice and spit the data back out to them in the summarized formats they desired.  Fun times!  Sadly, that quest was unsuccessful and they moved to new office space in Alexandria not far from the King Street Metro.  If I really wanted to risk life and limb, I could walk to their offices from my house.  But just because they are practically in my backyard doesn't make it any easier to submit a trademark registration request.

Today, I read the online instructions and watched a cheesy yet very informative video created by the PTO to answer tricky Trademark questions.  The video is hosted by newscaster "Mark Trademan" and includes common trademark situations and mistakes.  I was impressed that the government could deliver the message in such a concise, humorous way!  After watching it, I feel like I know a lot more but I also think I should probably get the help of a trademark attorney when the time comes to complete the application.  (Now I understand why they needed to lease all that space!)

Last night, I finished the wireframe diagram for the website and sent it to web designer Mark.  He confirmed this morning that he had received everything and would be reviewing and preparing for our next call.  The wireframe diagram was 4 pages of thoughts and scribbles (Art is NOT my strong suit - there are those who question whether or not I am capable of drawing a straight line using a ruler).

Neighbor Tina and I finished the Boutique Scavenger Hunt yesterday and are hoping to find out that we were big winners!  Jim got another piece of chocolate out of the deal so he was happy.  It was a really fun experience.  One of the things I picked up as part of the hunt were the days and hours that the different boutiques are open.  I had already researched this with regard to those shops that I felt are my peers (this was for the business plan) but it was also interesting to see what others used as a strategy.  Of course, I looked at all of the other boutique websites as well.  Such a wide variety of web strategies out there!

Hoping to see the lease draft later this week!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Scavenger Hunt!

Yesterday, neighbor Tina and I started our quest to complete the Old Town Alexandria Boutique District Scavenger Hunt!  Starting at around noon and tiring out at around 4, we managed to visit 15 of the 28 boutiques on the list as well as a few stores that were not on the hunt.  We will continue our quest this morning (before I need to come home to watch college football!)

The purpose of the Scavenger Hunt is to introduce shoppers to the many different boutiques in Old Town and encourage local shopping (I'll write more on this next week).  We had tremendous fun discovering new places (and I got lots of additional ideas - both positive and what not to do - for Zoe).  I was also able to show neighbor Tina Zoe's potential location!

At each boutique, we got our "card" stamped with that boutique's logo as well as received a small gift!  Gifts ranged from a coupon for a future purchase all the way to a chocolate/caramel covered pretzel stick from a candy store!  (This was given to Jim for dessert last night!  His comment "Dentists everywhere must love that store.")  Everyone we encountered was friendly and welcoming.  At one boutique jewelry store, the young man even cleaned our engagement rings for us while we looked at another store upstairs.

My main focus on Zoe yesterday was working on the wireframe diagram for web designer Mark.  It is really helping me to clarify my thinking as I sketch it all out on paper.  I have a secret "passion" for usability and want to make sure that the website is friendly, relevant, and easy to use.  I plan to have my first draft of the wireframe completed by Sunday evening to scan and send to Mark.

Off to continue the Scavenger Hunt!

Friday, September 17, 2010

New York, New York

One of the things I HAD to do yesterday afternoon was reorganize myself.  I've had so many different things going on this week, with so much email and soft copies of contracts, proposals, and artwork flying around that I needed to put some structure around the chaos!  I cleaned up and sorted my email, uploaded key documents to my online storage (MobileMe) and updated my contact lists.

I had conversations with three of my wholesalers in New York during the afternoon.  As I was updating all of the contact information in Entourage (the equivalent of Outlook in the Office for Mac suite), I realized that most of my new contacts are in the 212 area code!  I am planning another day trip to NY in October to visit the showrooms for the wholesalers.

Although it took less than 30 seconds, the true highlight was initialing the Letter of Intent at my broker's office yesterday and seeing the Landlord's signature!  The broker said I should expect the first draft of the lease next week.  I alerted my attorney and he is identifying a top notch real estate lawyer for me to work with on the lease review/negotiation.  I'm hoping there won't be too much angst since we've pretty much spelled out the key points in the LOI.

I spent a good part of the morning putting together my information based on my conversation with web designer Mark on Wednesday night.  I sent him the logo, Zoe Girl, and a Word document with excerpts from my business plan.  It contained an overview of the store, the Mission of the store, descriptions of some of the key lines I will carry, and a description of my primary customer.  This will help him understand my style and focus.  He has proposed that he do some Mood Boarding in the development of the site so that I can have the opportunity to choose from a variety of options.

Another task was to bring my accountant up to date on my progress.  He was very pleased when I shared Zoe's potential location with him.  He'll be reviewing my summary and setting time to talk with me in the next few days.

And, Susan, the lovely water lady, has offered to introduce me to a Move Manager who will help to oversee my contractors and bidding process for the buildout.  I have told her that I would be delighted for the introduction.  Despite thoughts to the contrary, I don't have to control everything (ha!)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Sally Field Moment

Yesterday, I will admit to having a Sally Field Moment.  Just about everyone is familiar with her quote (upon winning an Oscar):

I can't deny the fact that you like me!  You like me!
That is how I felt yesterday when I heard from my broker that the Landlord had two minor changes to what we had proposed in the Letter of Intent and I would need to come in and initial the hard copies so that the Landlord could begin drafting the lease!  While nothing is set in stone yet, we are now finally on the way!  As I told my mom last night "I think Zoe is now dating!"

Definitely a fantastic highlight of the day!  I've continued to keep busy on the other aspects of getting ready for the business, including sign offs on the tissue paper and bag designs for RTR, purchasing my printer/copier/scanner/fax, and contacting my accountant to make him aware of where we are in the process.

Last night, I also had a very positive conversation with Mark, the person who will be performing my web design for Zoe.  He suggested that I consider the use of the Web Publishing system Expression Engine, with the thought that it can grow as my requirements for the web presence grow.   This morning, I will be sending him information on my target audience and style and will also be working on a web wireframe to outline the structure of the site.  We're planning to talk again next week to review the information I've sent and our next steps.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

From Inchworm to Cheetah

I was not about to let anything usurp the unveiling of Zoe Girl yesterday.  But the roller coaster kicked in yesterday and I went from inchworm to cheetah in about 2 seconds flat!

I love this picture!  

Anyway, this blog isn't about animals.  It is about Zoe.  As you know from yesterday's post, my day started with the receipt of Zoe Girl!  With her in hand plus the lovely logo, I printed off the order form for my shopping bags from RTR Bag (visited in New York in late July) and prepared my fax to place my order.  (Note - as a cost saving measure, I eliminated long distance service on our home phone so I can only fax locally!  So, I knew I would need to take my fax to the UPS Store or FedEx Office to send it off).  Technically, I could scan the order form and email it but since it contains my debit card information, I didn't want to send that via email.

I was preparing to leave for my meeting with Susan at IMC Water Coolers when I received an email from my broker.  He said that the landlord liked the Letter of Intent and would like to see my business plan and financials!  So, I reviewed my plan again and sent it to him!  He called late in the day to say that the business plan was in the hands of the landlord.  He had shared it with the Landlord's broker and he (the LL Broker) was impressed.  That made me feel good.  When I met the LL Broker on Friday during the tour, he impressed me as someone who really knew the commercial real estate business.  I researched him (of course) and found that he has been in the business for years and was responsible for basically starting the commercial side of the brokerage for his firm.  So, I'm hoping his feedback is as meaningful as I am taking it to be!  I am sure the Landlord (an association who owns the office space and Zoe's potential retail space) will have someone analyze my plan and come back with questions.  

After all that excitement, I dashed to Reston to meet with Susan.  We had a lovely late lunch at American Tap Room in Reston Town Center and she reviewed the offerings of her company and the mechanics/technology behind their water coolers.  I'll write a separate blog on the water but it is part of the environment/experience at Zoe.  What really touched me was that Susan brought a detailed list titled "Who can help you?" with all kinds of resources for a new business owner - people she had dealt with and felt comfortable recommending to me.  She also talked about networking and marketing ideas and was very candid about owning a small business.  She could not have been kinder or more gracious.  I look forward to receiving her proposal this afternoon.

I followed up with the supplier of one of my amenity gifts and she confirmed that the order was already in progress!  I love being able check things off my list.  (And yes, my IT friends, the lists still have the little square check boxes next to them.  I do index cards for short term lists and still do the long term lists in my journals.)

And, I have a call with Zoe's potential web designer this evening!  I'm excited to begin this process also!

Is there anything between an inchworm and a cheetah?  

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Introducing....Zoe Girl!

It is my pleasure to introduce Zoe Girl to you!

You've been reading about Zoe Girl on and off through the course of the blog.  She is part of the branding for the boutique and will be used in marketing campaigns and collateral.  In my mind, she is the perfect illustration of my "daughter"!  I will be forever indebted to Cori Canady and Lisa Henderling for making her come to life!  Please take the opportunity to look at Lisa's website (linked to her name above) to see her many gorgeous illustrations.  It is an honor to join her long list of clientele.

Tomorrow:  From inchworm to cheetah.  In one day!

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Inchworm

You've probably seen (or seen pictures of an inchworm):

I think they are amazing creatures.  It may take them a while to get to the end result and they may contort themselves a bit along the way, but they keep at it.  Today, I moved forward on Zoe at an "inchworm like" pace.  But it was progress!

My broker asked me to sign and fax the letter of intent that we created on Saturday.  Now, this is further than we've gotten with the others, so I'm taking that as a positive sign!  And, I'm in the process of setting time this week to meet (via phone) with my potential web designer!  (He lives in Greenville, SC).

Much to do this week to keep "inching" along!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

LOI - Take 3

Yesterday morning, I met my broker to tour another space in Old Town Alexandria.  This space had previously housed a small museum for the association in the office building behind it.  A new association has bought the office building, is going to use the first two floors and lease out the third floor office to other tenants.  They have no interest in the museum space and wanted to offer it for retail.

I liked the space very much and also felt that the landlord's broker was kind and informative.  He is even on the signage council/committee in Old Town so he was very knowledgable when I asked questions about signage.  He asked me how close I was to being ready to start-up.  I told him that space was my major critical path item and everything else was already well along the way.  My broker and I told him that we would submit a Letter of Intent right away.  He said that would be great and that likely the landlord would want to meet with me and review my business plan.

And, you know, that is actually very positive.  If I do have an opportunity to get in front of the landlord, even if it doesn't work out, I'll know I was the one who blew it.  There won't be any mystery like there has been with the other situations.

The broker sent me the LOI draft on Friday afternoon, and, of course, I had changes.  He sent me back the changed document today and, upon receiving my approval, said he would submit it right away.  I'm taking a deep breath!

I have a couple of "gifts" that I plan to give to purchasing customers at the store.  I spoke with the vendor for one of those gifts yesterday afternoon and am in the process of placing an order.  There is no point in waiting - I just need to keep things moving as best I can!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fashion Events

In all of the excitement of Wednesday, I forgot to post about two big fashion events coming up - one national and one local!

Many of you may be seeing ads for tonight's Fashion's Night Out to kick off New York City's Fashion Week.  Locally, Tysons Corner Center and Tysons Galleria are hosting big events in conjunction with FNO.  I definitely need to "Save the Date" for next year's event and go to New York.  Would be even better than New Years Eve in Times Square!

Beginning next Friday, September 17th through Sunday, September 19th, Old Town Alexandria's Boutique District is hosting a scavenger hunt!  Myself and neighbor Tina are going to "force" ourselves to visit all 28 members of the Boutique District as part of the hunt.  I'm very much hoping that Zoe will be part of this event next year!

This morning, I am touring the site I looked at on Tuesday morning.  The base rent is higher but the landlord covers everything except electricity and char.  I pulled out my business plan and plugged in the numbers to see how it would all average out and it looks reasonable.  The space had been a small museum that was part of an association in Old Town.  The association has moved to another location and took the museum with them and the landlord does not think they can rent that space to the new association taking the office space.  I was not able to "see" into the space (although I've seen a floor plan in the marketing materials they sent me) to really know how much TI and reconfiguration might be needed.

I also got in touch with my potential web designer to set up a time for additional conversation.  I'm really looking forward to getting that ball rolling!  I also went through my business plan and notes and made a list of all of my inventory vendors, their contact information, and the wholesale information.  The challenge I'm having right now is not knowing when I'll have space so I don't know when I can order inventory.  But I know all of the puzzle pieces will fall together!

Happy Fashion Week!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bummer - Part II

OK, so the day started out pretty well!  Let's focus on that first!

I made an early morning trip (before 7 am) to Old Town Alexandria to look at another potential space at Prince and Union Streets.  It was so nice to be out at that time of morning before the traffic picked up and the day got warm.  The only people on the streets were joggers and people walking their dogs.  After looking at the space, I ducked into the Starbucks on Union for an Americano.  Bliss!  After I arrived home, I emailed the broker with more questions (surprise, surprise).

I also had an email this morning from Cori, outlining our plans for communication with Lisa, the Zoe Girl illustrator (of course, this is Lisa's claim to fame!  Just kidding)  and talking about our collateral planning.  I also had an email from Amy regarding the web design/development and provided her with feedback on my time.  After responding to both emails, I went to Costco to pick up some things for the store based on the list I created over the weekend.  I had a very successful shopping trip and was feeling pretty good about the day.

I had an afternoon medical appointment in Arlington and, when I exited that appointment, had an email from my broker saying that the landlord accepted another potential tenant's letter of intent.  When I asked him if we knew why they didn't accept ours (because I really want to learn how to position myself appropriately), he said they didn't give a reason but that several people had sent in LOI's the same time I did.  This is definitely a let down as I had grown excited about this space as had Jim.  I need to think and pray on it tonight to decide what to do next.  But I've learned one lesson - I always feel better in the morning and can see God's hand in the plan.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Details are the Name of the Game

This week, it is all about the details.  Today, I met with the company that is going to do the build out of my cabinetry in my space (if that ever gets settled).  We had a great conversation, I reviewed their portfolio, and we discussed next steps.  I feel comfortable that I've found the right fit for Zoe's concept.

And, as silly as this may sound, I spoke with the company today that will be providing the water for my site.  I want to offer customers water but not bottled water.  And I don't want to have to deal with the mess of a water cooler with a 40 pound bottle on it!  And, I want it to be environmentally friendly.  We are meeting on Thursday afternoon to discuss pricing and options.  I am also researching biodegradable cups for use with the water cooler as well.  Jim has taught me a lot in this area as they often deal with companies who make both plastic and the biodegradable cups.

I heard from my broker today.  We should have an answer on the LOI for the King Street space sometime tomorrow.  He has also put another space out for me to review (I am going to look at it early on Wednesday morning) and I've asked him about another space I saw on King.  We've decided to hold off on the West Street space.  The landlord wants to meet with me, which my broker says is a little odd.  The LL is probably annoyed with all of my questions...

And, I am going to venture into the frightening world of Costco tomorrow.  Check back to see if I survived!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Follow Your Bliss

On Labor Day, this seemed like a perfect time to share a link to a beautiful blog about following your bliss.

On Sunday evening (as you can probably tell, I work at different times on different days), I was making a list of all of the things I need to begin purchasing now as I plan to open the business.  I was dividing the list into back office type items and front (store) office type items when I all of a sudden had an epiphany of sorts around the design for my space.  And that wasn't even what I had even set out to do with developing the lists!  It will require some investigation this week (I don't want to give it away quite yet) but I like the way it helps to define the mission of the business a bit more.

Colossians 3:23 (New International Version)
23Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Who Knew One of Our Founding Fathers Was An Entrepreneur?

On Saturday, Jim wanted to take his vintage BMW out for a drive to take advantage of the beautiful weather! We first drove down to Old Town Alexandria so that I could show him the two new potential Zoe spaces.  He really enjoyed looking at each one and hearing me explain the pluses and minuses for each space.  No word on the LOI yet on the King Street space but I would expect to hear something this week.

After we left Old Town, we drove down the George Washington Parkway to Mount Vernon and then continued on toward Mason Neck.  In the course of our drive past Mount Vernon, we saw signs for Washington's Grist Mill and Distillery.  Neither of us had ever been there so we decided to stop.  The grounds are open from April - October and it is very interesting and educational.  Signage on the grounds talks about Washington's role as an entrepreneur but an excerpt from this article in Reason magazine summarizes it well:

Washington's political and military exploits are of course well-known: He was a member of colonial Virginia's House of Burgesses and a delegate to the Continental Congress; he led the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and won a hard-fought victory for independence; and he served as the first president of these United States.
Yet his business ventures are impressive in their own right. During America's time as an English colony, Washington ran a fishing operation that processed 1.5 million fish per year and sold them throughout the 13 American colonies and the British West Indies. The mill he built ground 278,000 pounds of flour annually that was shipped through America and even exported to England and Portugal. In the 1790s, during the last years of his life, Washington built one of the largest whiskey distilleries in the new nation. No wonder he ended up first in the hearts of his countrymen.
Scholars have documented that Washington's life work was as enthralling as that of any of the Founding Fathers. Whereas Franklin built gadgets at his homestead, and Jefferson built fancy buildings, Washington built was a series of integrated businesses. It may be time to think of him as Steve Jobs 1.0.
It is fun to combine my love of history with business!

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Website and More

As a follow-up to my lunch meeting with Amy yesterday, she provided me with an excellent group of questionnaires that I should use in specifying what I need for Zoe's website design.  Right now, I'm working through answering The Client Survey, The Maintenance Survey, The Communications Brief Worksheet, and the Expanded Tech Check, found at this website.  She has also provided a recommendation for a designer and I've had the chance to review his portfolio on-line.  Just like Lisa the illustrator, he seems to be a perfect fit for what I am projecting with Zoe!

My mom and Jim both reviewed the Zoe Girl designs with me last night and I very much appreciated their thoughts and feedback.  I have selected my "finalist" and, based on email conversation with Cori today, we have a very slight change to her but are very close!  I am a bit biased but my "daughter" is beautiful!

I don't think I mentioned this earlier in the week but I had started looking at the website for Yelp!   Honestly, reading some of the reviews really stressed me out!  It made me really worry about making sure I hire the right people and treat everyone who walks through my door wtih the utmost in care and respect.  I'm trying to take what I learned from all of the negative reviews and, rather than letting it worry me, take it to heart as things I want to thoughtfully address as I hire for the store.

No additional news on the LOI status but I didn't really expect it with the holiday weekend.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

When it Rains, It Pours

And we never know when it is going to rain, do we?

This morning, I spoke with an old friend who had been following Zoe's progress but had recently gotten caught up on the blog.  He laughed at me and said "You are such a control freak, I know the ambiguity is killing you!"  What could I say?  He is pretty much right!  But I've been doing better.  My patience levels are improving drastically!

There are many great things happening all at once!  Before I left for my lunch to talk web strategies, Cori sent me an email from Lisa with 5 possible update designs for Zoe Girl!  She is absolutely perfect!  I have no idea how I'm going to make up my mind.  This is definitely one I'll have to sleep on.  But we can look forward to a new unveiling very soon!

My lunch meeting with Amy was fantastic.  She has a wonderful understanding of both the requirements for web design as well as the technical aspects.  She had a number of great questions for me regarding my vision for the use of the site and will be send me a questionnaire to outline all of it as well as any additional details.  She has someone in mind that may be a good fit for me as far as a web developer/designer.

And, my broker sent me the draft LOI for the King Street location!  I went back to him with questions (when have you ever know of me NOT to have questions??) which were quickly answered.  I have given him the approval to submit it to the landlord for review.  Here comes the roller coaster again!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

More LOIs on the Way!

The tour of the King Street space went well this afternoon and the broker was also able to provide me with answers to my questions on the West Street space.  We agreed to prepare Letters of Intent (LOIs) on both spaces to start the leasing process.  In many ways, the two spaces could not be more different but each has it's own pluses and minuses.  I have a lot of thinking to do!

My broker confirmed for me that the Henry Street location is no longer an option.  I'm sad but it means it wasn't the right space.  Better to know now than later.

Yesterday afternoon was spent reviewing many, many websites to determine what I like and do not like about each one.  This is in preparation for my lunch meeting on Thursday.  Last night, I also did some research on apparel businesses for sale in Virginia.  There is a site that shows general information on the amount of inventory, furniture/fixtures/equipment, cash flow, and selling price and, frequently, the reason the person is leaving the business.  It is very educational to see what others have experienced and I may ask to look at the books for some of the businesses just to compare to my own business plan.  My financial advisor had suggested this and I believe it would be a worthwhile endeavor.

I am also considering trademarking the logos and name of the boutique and spent some time reviewing the process on the Patent and Trademark Office site.

Had a delightful lunch with my friend Wayne today, who tells me he is living vicariously through me.  No pressure for me to succeed, eh Wayno?  :)