Monday, January 31, 2011

The Ladder

Or, a better title might be "the lack of the ladder"!  Jim and I went to hang Zoe's banner on Saturday morning only to find that the tall ladder that had been in the space was no longer there!  This morning, I sent a note to the construction foreman, Tony, to ask if I could borrow the ladder tomorrow morning.  He confirmed that it would not be a problem.  So I will be banner-hanging (and hopefully have a picture to share with you) tomorrow morning!

I did a few things to prepare for my trip to market later this week.  One of the key things is noting the locations of each of my wholesalers!  Since I'm meeting with all of them in one day, I wanted to be as organized as possible.

The saleswoman from ResortMaps contacted me today to ask if I had a "tagline" for Zoe.  I had not really considered a tagline.  I've been looking at my business plan but nothing is jumping out at me so far that would make a good tagline.  I may go with something more basic and descriptive rather than try to come up with something "cute".  A bad tagline is like a bad name for a child - it pretty much guarantees that business (or child) will be ridiculed at some point.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Old Friends

It is good to work with people that you trust, especially going into a new venture like this.  Today, my former co-worker and friend Joe came to review my accounting and progress on the business thus far.  I appreciate all of the questions he asks to make sure I am on the right track.  He seemed pleased with where I am and we've agreed to work together.  I feel very good about this.  (Plus, he got a Zoe bag to take to his wife).

I made a quick trip to the Business Post Office in Alexandria this morning to pick up my mail.  (No, I did not mail myself anything else).  A few more pieces had arrived, including my 2011 business license from the City.  Since my 30 days was almost up, I had to ask if they would extend it another 30.  I was glad when they agreed to do so and gave me the proper form to fill out.

Jim and I developed our plan for hanging the banner tomorrow morning.  We will hang it but tie it up out of sight so that I can easily release it on Tuesday (the official date that I am approved to start displaying it).  Joe asked Jim during our meeting how involved he was in the store.  Jim said "She has me measure things sometimes but then I just stay out of her way!"  But his support for this whole venture is why I'm here in the first place - he plays a FAR more integral part than he ever realizes.

I received a shipment of Chan Luu earrings for spring!  They are lovely and I love the fabric pouches that come with them.  The UPS guy is getting used to me stalking him when he pulls up in the neighborhood.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Coming Soon

This morning, I had extra incentive to shovel my driveway!  I had a call from the sign company saying that Zoe's "Coming Soon" banner was ready!  As I've mentioned in previous entries, I can begin displaying the banner per the temporary sign permit on February 1st.

The banner was even MORE beautiful than I thought it would be!  I was thrilled!  I hope that Jim and I can actually hang it this weekend but keep it rolled up.  Then, on February 1st, I can unroll it so it is truly on display.  I promise to post pictures!

I spent a good part of the rest of the day reviewing my accounting system and making sure I had all of my entries in place.  It is a good thing!  My (hopeful) new accountant was originally coming to meet with me tomorrow evening but changed it to mid-day.  I'm glad I'm not scrambling!

I've also spent some time on my designer's websites, reviewing some of the lines I'll be seeing at market.  It is nice to go in with an idea of what I want to look at more closely as well as the pricing and colors.  I think it will make market even more enjoyable and efficient!

No word on the permitting (I asked) - the office was closed today due to the weather.  Hopeful I have something GREAT to report tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


As you can imagine, there are many different opportunities and ways to advertise a business.  My plan has been to minimize on paid advertising since there are so many free ways to communicate with people.  But I am open to tried and true methods that will reach large numbers of people AND be continuous over a period of time.

In yesterday's blog, I had mentioned that I would be meeting with a representative from Resort Maps on Thursday.  Since the weather prediction wasn't favoring a Thursday morning meeting, Sally asked if I could meet her this afternoon.  We had a great meeting at Firehook Bakery on Union Street (just down the street from Zoe).   I had seen Resort Maps at other places I had visited and had been an user of their product so I knew the standard layout and strategy.  The Old Town Alexandria version will have one side that goes from Rt. 1 down to the waterfront.  The other side will be Route 1 to the top of Old Town as well as have an inset map for National Harbor.  The map will be published in April and will be distributed through March 2012.  The maps are free and are handed out at local hotels, visitors centers and participating merchants and restaurants.  I made the decision to buy a space for Zoe on the map.  Many of the other boutiques in Old Town had already done so and this will be a nice way to be noticed!

Since I was so close to the store, I was delighted to see that the brokers had already had the "Leased" signs removed per my request to them.  I worked on filling out the Signage Permit this afternoon (the City of Alexandria allows you to prepare it online) and have asked for a few other items from Affordable Signs so that I can complete the application.

I received a specification from the landlord's architect for the water fountain for the store and confirmed (along with my architect) that it would be fine for installation.  And, I got the final budget from the construction company and have signed off on it.  I have not yet had a report on the permitting process that was to take place today but hope to learn something tomorrow morning.

This evening, I worked on updating my point of sale system with the Red Engine denim that I received late last week.  I can't wait for you to see this denim - I absolutely love it!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


No, not Dave & Busters.  Although that sounds like fun about now!

With D&B, I'm referring to Dun & Bradstreet.  I received a mailing today that they had assigned my LLC a  D-U-N-S number (Data Universal Numbering System) and asked that I update my profile.  I started work on it this afternoon and will continue to do so this week.  Since many companies (including ones I've worked for in the past) check your D&B report before making decisions about the business, I do want to have an accurate representation out there.

And (woo hoo!) I mailed my 1099s today.  As I told Brian and Janie, the alignment of the forms and the printing was the most difficult thing.  I will then need to send the 1096 form to the government by 2/28.  Glad to have those in the mail.

Knowing that my banner will be ready to go by early next week, I asked the landlord's broker if they could remove the "Leased" signs from the front of the store.  They confirmed that they would take them down ASAP.

I was really delighted that the head of the Old Town Boutique District emailed me with a reference to an organization that does speciality maps directed at tourists.  She said that she had found it advantageous to advertise her business with this organization.  I am meeting with a representative from the company on Thursday morning.

And I was also delighted that my friend Renee asked me if Zoe would donate something to her son's school's silent auction coming up in May.  He goes to school in the City of Alexandria so it will be a perfect venue to introduce Zoe to more people and support an excellent cause at the same time.  I'm already thinking about what I want to donate!

Taking bets on whether or not Zoe's permits get pulled tomorrow....

Monday, January 24, 2011

Signage Approval!

I got the phone call today from the Planning & Zoning office to confirm the approval of my signage application for the Historic District.  In the course of my errands today, I went by Affordable Signs and placed my order!  I should have the banner pretty quickly and have approval to hang it beginning February 1st!  This was a big hurdle.  Now I need to enter the signage permit so that we can hang the permanent signs when they are ready!

I've confirmed all of my appointments for Market in Atlanta and am very excited about my meetings.  Now that I know the reps and what to expect from the process, it will make it much easier.  Also, I'm flying down the day before so I won't be so stressed and tired from flying in that morning.

My potential new accountant and I are meeting on Friday evening to review what I've got so far and next steps.  And 1099s should go out tomorrow!  In a related vein, I also met with my financial advisor today to review my portfolio.  He was eager to hear about the progress on Zoe and we took the opportunity to talk about how I'll structure my retirement fund contributions once I start contributing again.  We also discussed an additional life insurance policy (to cover Jim in case I left any obligations that he would need to pay in the case of my death) and long term disability.  He will be sending me additional information on all of this so that I can consider it.  I feel so valuable (to Jim, anyway!)

I spoke to the Senior Project Manager from the Construction company today and confirmed that there is not anything else he needs in order for us to go to permit on Wednesday!  He will be sending me the new quote on Tuesday morning.  If you hear me yelling for joy on Wednesday, you'll know why (even my Seattle ladies might hear me!)

Friday, January 21, 2011


A day with progress is a good day indeed!

I started my day with a call to the Urban Planner reviewing the signage application.  When I didn't hear from her in the morning, I decided to stop by City Hall following my meeting with the landlord and the construction company.  It turned out that she was out sick but I was able to meet with another person in the office and clarify their questions.  They confirmed that I should get sign off on the signage application on Monday!  And, I've already gotten approval on the temporary sign (that was a different process).  Now, I have to get a sign permit (a permit is needed for EVERYTHING).  I went up to the permit office and brought that home to review.

The meeting with my landlord and the construction company went well.  We were able to arrive at agreement on the cost splits.  The construction company told me that they would have a new price schedule to me by end of day today but I haven't seen it...but they are promising permitting next Wednesday.  I may camp out at City Hall to make sure...

I confirmed another one of my appointments for market, got the freight costs for my fixtures (along with lead times) and obtained my Fast Badge for market entry (once you pass the initial buyer hurdles, it is not difficult to renew!)

I go into the weekend feeling MUCH better!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The F5 Key

When I would teach classes on software in my previous jobs, I would caution people that the F5 key was not the "Turbo Key".  In other words, pressing it to Refresh the screen was not going to make anything go any faster than it was going to go anyway.  But that doesn't mean that I don't personally wish for a Turbo key!  (And doesn't it truly make you feel better to press it anyway?)

Today was one of those days that I was going down my list of to-dos and pressing that F5 key!  I did have a good conversation with former co-worker Joe regarding accounting work.  He is going to meet with me next week to discuss further but we think we can work well together.  I have a great deal of trust in him and that is key to me for something this important.

I had a lovely lunch with Graphic Designer Cori and caught her up on everything going on with the store.  It was fun to get to share the signage designs with her and to know that the beautiful work that she did will soon be on display for many people to see and enjoy.

I stopped by City Hall prior to coming home to drop off my 2010 Business Tax Forms for the 2011 Business License.  With no income from the business for last year, it was easy to fill out the forms.

After arriving home, I heard from the Signage Review team with a couple items from my submission.  One item that I had included did not need to be included and actually requires a different form.  That's fine but it is a little annoying since I went to their office last week, showed them this specific item, described what I was going to do with it and asked if it needed to go on the application and was told "Yes"! (Grrr!)  But, that's not a big issue.  The other was a misinterpretation on how the lettering will be attached to the fascia board but I confirmed with the signage company and will discuss this with the Zoning Office tomorrow.  I feel confident that both items can be resolved fairly quickly - I just need to confirm whether or not I need to resubmit the application or do some type of addendum.

Eagerly anticipating tomorrow's meeting with the landlord and construction company!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Yes, we are still talking about Signage!

This morning, I FINALLY turned in the application for Administrative Approval of my signs for Zoe.  The application covers a temporary hanging banner that would be placed inside the space as well as two hanging signs (one for Union Street and one for the Prince Street courtyard) and Acrylic Lettering facing the Prince Street Courtyard.  The package included two sets of a two page form, photos of the sign locations, a detailed description of the materials, height and placement of the sign, and illustrations of the signs.  The City will review and give me a call.  I'll keep you informed!

I've been very busy setting up my appointments for market in February and focusing on the accounting for Zoe.  I'm finalizing my 1099s and will be sending them out early next week.  I'm also considering a change in accounting firms as I haven't been 100% pleased with the attention I've gotten from my current firm.

I was thrilled that Zoe got a shout out today in my friend Juice's blog!  How cute is that picture of her dog Chloe sitting in the Zoe bag?  I feel so lucky to have so many wonderful friends!

Very exciting news - on Friday, my landlord and I are meeting with the construction company to finalize everything (hopefully once and for all)!  A big week for Zoe!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sharing Zoe with Friends

Yesterday, my friends Shari and Janie came down to visit Old Town Alexandria and see Zoe's new home! It was so much fun getting to take them into the space to show them the "as is" and then share with them the floor plan of the "to be"!  They both seemed to really enjoy their visit to Alexandria and getting caught up on Zoe's status.  Thanks again to all of you friends who are supporting me in every way possible!

Today, I've registered for my "Fast Badge" entry to the market in February in Atlanta and am also contacting my suppliers to set up appointments with them.  Now that I know how market works, I can be much more focused and efficient this time!

Since I also want to carry some fun items in the store, I've recently been accepted as a buyer for some youthful basic lingerie.  And, I'm in discussions with a maker of custom stationary for some nice notecards to sell!

I also got an updated quote from Barr Designs based on my additions/changes and am hoping to finalize the fixtures portion this week!  Also, I'm finalizing my signage application so that I can hand carry it to the city tomorrow morning!  Never a dull moment!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

My Friend the Tape Measure

On Saturday morning, Jim and I went to Zoe's home to do some early morning measuring.  In order to complete my signage application, I need to know how high off the ground I plan to locate the hanging signs.  There are many other signs on Union that look like the right height but I wasn't sure exactly how high they were located from street level.  Hence our traveling down early in the morning to measure them (so as not to weird out the other store owners).  Plus we can normally find good (and free) parking at that time of day!

Jim brought me a special present when he returned home from visiting his friend Marshall on Saturday afternoon.  Friend Karen had found a gorgeous Garfinckel's box in her attic and shared it with me for decorating the store.  Karen, I love it!  (For those that don't know, Garfinckel's was a high end department store in the DC area that still existed when I first moved here in the late 80s).

Last night, I spent time reviewing the fixtures quotation and identifying any questions as well as determining what else I might need for the store.  It's getting to be time to start ordering these things!  Exciting!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Wholesale Changes

Ha ha - probably not what you are thinking!

In talking with the company that is supplying the denim line to Zoe, they informed me that they have changed showrooms and I will now be dealing with a different person and a different wholesaler for future denim orders.  This is one area of the business that I'd love to understand more how it works.  How does a line decide whether or not to do their own wholesaling (as some of mine lines do) or to use a showroom/rep agency?  And how do they go about choosing a showroom?  And do they write contracts that have to be rebid?  Still lots to learn.

But, if you are looking for some great jeans, I do recommend Zoe's denim line - Red Engine Jeans.  I have two pair and absolutely love them.  And, they are designed and manufactured in the US (in California).

Yesterday was also the day of quotations.  I received the quotation from the construction company as well as the buildout schedule.  I have sent these on to my landlord for review and they have said they will complete their review early next week.  I also got the quotation for the Merchandising layout and was very pleased with it.  I am reviewing it this weekend and have a few questions/revisions but am overall satisfied.

I'm really hoping everything can go smoothly and we can complete the permitting process and start construction next week.  Stay tuned!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Merchandising Layout

Yesterday, I received the first draft of Zoe's fixture layout from Alayne at Barr Display.  I was extremely pleased with her design.  Barr's process is to have you fill out a detailed questionnaire and then have a conversation with one of their designers.  I also submitted a copy of one of the CAD drawing layouts that my architect had done so that Alayne could lay in the fixture design.  She is now in the process of finalizing the quote for the fixtures based on the rendering.  I really felt like she listened to me and understood my concept.

I completed a number of other errands yesterday relating to Zoe!  First stop was a US Post Office on Duke Street that is purely a business processing center (no stamp sales, package mailing, etc.)  I stopped in to check on my held mail.  (Confession - I had mailed myself a test piece of mail to the Union Street address to see what would happen to it.  Stop laughing - it's just the way I am.)  I was thrilled that they not only had the mail but also a couple other pieces of mail from one of my wholesalers.

From there, it was off to City Hall to ask my signage questions.  I received quick and pleasant answers and was out the door in 5 minutes.  I walked down to Zoe's home and went inside.  I was thrilled that the construction team had started to remove the rolling file cabinets that had been left by the previous museum tenant.  I took some pictures of how things look now on the inside and then went outside to take  some more pictures for submission with my signage application.  From there, off to CVS to get the pictures printed!  I should have the signage application ready early next week.

I did receive confirmation from the construction company that they would be able to process my permits as a walkthrough review.  However, the City only does the walkthrough process on Wednesdays so we are now scheduled for next Wednesday for the process.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

One Approval, Another to Go

Good news!  My landlord approved my signage request on Wednesday!  I spent part of yesterday afternoon working on the Application for Board of Architectural Review (BAR) Administrative Approval of Signs in the Historic Districts.  In researching the information required for my tax map and parcel, I got to play with the City's GIS system.  Very cool!

I have almost all of the information that I need to submit my application.  I need to take some more pictures of the outside of the space and ask a question regarding my hanging banner.  I'm going down to the City later this morning to take care of these items.

On the parking front, I spoke to three different parking companies yesterday regarding their monthly rates and have determined which one I plan to use.  That is another check box that I can fill!

Following the webinar on Tuesday, I wanted to put some of my newfound knowledge into play so I tested the following things:

  • Scheduling an email
  • Creating a link within an image
  • Testing a new "Reply To" address (this was the third and final one!) by sending a question to Zoe
  • Posting a link to the message on the ShopAtZoe Twitter account at the same time the message was sent
My only "goof" was that I originally messed up the date on the schedule but I fixed that when I realized the message didn't go out (I get copied when the message is sent).  I've gotten excellent responses so far from my testers.  I must say that my absolute favorite question for Zoe was:

"If the Abominable Snowman and Sasquatch got into a fight, who would win?" 

Zoe thinks the Abominable Snowman wins.  Great question - you know who you are!!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Buildout - Part Deux

I logged in to my email this morning to find a revised buildout budget for Zoe's home.  Still not quite there but closer.  I sent an email to the Project Manager with my comments and questions and had a conference call this afternoon to work through any remaining issues.  I "should" have a new budget and a letter of agreement to approve tomorrow.  The hope is to fast track the permitting through the City of Alexandria.  As of right now, the buildout schedule (for the landlord's work and my work) is projected for 6 weeks.

Also this morning, I participated in a free webinar offered by Constant Contact on the email marketing program that I've been testing over the past month.  The point of the webinar was to show test users tips and tricks for using the software to the greatest advantage.  I was very impressed with the instructor - he made the class easy to follow and answered everyone's questions with no hesitation.  And, I definitely learned some new things!  Watch for another test tomorrow!

I'm currently looking into parking solutions for when I am at the store full time.  I'd like to be in a garage close by and have found two that may fit the bill.  I'll place calls to them tomorrow to see what sorts of rates they can offer me.

And, I sent the signage proofs to my landlord for review.  I was very pleased with the way they turned out and hope that they also feel comfortable with my proposal.  Once the landlord gives final approval, then it is off to the City to apply for their approval.

(Oh, when I went over to the space yesterday afternoon, nothing was being done or had been done.  Here's hoping today's conversation changes that!)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Weekend Catch-up

On Saturday, my mother and father-in-law came up for a visit and we took them to see Zoe's new home!  This was also the first time Jim had been inside the space, since there was an alarm on the space (connected to the landlord's alarm system).  The alarm connection to Zoe's space was disabled in mid-December so that I could come and go as needed.  Everyone liked the location and the proposed changes for the buildout of the space!

I got a lovely surprise on Saturday evening when we went to dinner with our friends Janice and Marshall.  Janice gave me a gift bag with four beautiful miniature mannequins for the store!  I can't wait to use them to decorate!  Janice was my guide for the antique shopping expedition in Leesburg when I found several items for the store.  I had the opportunity to give her one of Zoe's bags and also leave bags with her for Karen and Katherine!

I received a note from the construction company that they do plan to start the demolition portion of the buildout today.  I need to go to Old Town to visit the City this afternoon and plan to stop by to see what is happening!  I hope to have good news to report!

Friday, January 7, 2011

I Saw The Sign

Apologies to Ace of Base.  Actually, no apologies because that is one of the most annoying songs ever!

But I did see the sign today - actually proofs of my exterior signs and my "Coming soon" hanging sign for the interior of Zoe's space!  Affordable Signs first sent me designs for my exterior signs - my two outside hanging signs and brackets and the acrylic lettering that will go on the building.  I had a slight change to the exterior sign design but was otherwise very happy.  They will redo the quotation for me and will send me the final quote so that I can share it with my landlord for approval.  Once my landlord signs off, then I will submit the required paperwork to the City of Alexandria for their approval.

The second quotation included two potential designs for my "Coming Soon" sign that I plan to hang inside the space (so that it is visible to the outside).  I have selected one and will also send it to my landlord for approval and to the City for approval.  They did a very nice job with Cori's logo and understanding the design message.  And they are just so pleasant to work with - I love all of the creative people I've worked with on this project!!

Thursday, January 6, 2011


It has been almost 10 years exactly since Jim and I moved into our townhouse.  When you don't move often, you tend to try to put those annoying "move" related issues out of your mind.  With Zoe, I'm about to "move" so I have to start making my lists!

I feel like we are much closer on finalizing the buildout.  I've identified the changes to the quotation and asked for a contract to sign.  Hoping to have that by end of day on Friday!

I've been in touch with Verizon (y'all can stop laughing now - I know...I know - where is Super V when I need him???).  That's a delight.  The old address (One Prince) has internet service available.  My new address (130 S. Union), which is connected to One Prince, supposedly does not.  Trying to explain this to Verizon is like talking to my cats - no one listens.  I will regroup on the patience front and try again tomorrow!

I've also been in contact with Barr Display, who will be helping me finalize my store fixtures and design.  I have so many different ways that I could go but thought it best to get a design from a professional first.  This is definitely one of the fun parts of the planning!

You know how in every project you do, there is a period where you say to yourself "Oh, could we please get through this and on to the fun part again?"  That's where I am!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


This morning, I received the detailed breakdown and quotation for Zoe's buildout!  Finally!  And you know I dove right into that detail!  I give great credit to the construction company as they made it easy to follow and understand the pricing and the different components.  But, of course, given detail, I have lots of changes to make!  I spent part of the day talking with my buildout manager and my architect on the items in question.  My hope it to finalize it all by the end of the week so we can begin the permitting process on Monday.  As we all know, nothing has quite gone on Susan time.  But, it just means I'm growing more patient.  (And that's a virtue, right?)

I had a nice conversation with my landlord's architect today surrounding the vanilla shell work they will be performing, especially as it relates to the handicap access.  We are both comfortable and in agreement and he sent me a drawing to review also.

This is such an exciting and scary time!

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Year of Zoe

I have declared 2011 "The Year of Zoe".  I think my Mom was a little confused by this but I explained that there were a lot of self-proclaimed pundits naming it the "Year of This" and the "Year of That".  I might as well join in!

Now that I'm recovered from my illness, all of my enthusiasm is returning!  I had a very good Zoe day today!  I caught up on the accounting and checked Zoe's bank statements.  I went by to check the space and went to the post office to have them hold Zoe's mail right now so there aren't any items lost while we are going into the construction phase.

I traded email with my web designer on one final outstanding item that we had discussed the week before Christmas.  I spoke to one of my apparel vendors and followed up with the signage people.  I spent a lot of time working in the Point of Sale system this afternoon, testing various set up methods for the different items.  And I sent out a new test email campaign using Constant Contact with tie-ins to my social media usage!

I'm getting ready to fill out the form for my 2011 business license with the City of Alexandria.  And I'll soon be starting on my taxes.  Oh joy!  At least I have a CPA doing the business side for me now!

With just getting over my illness, I decided not to do the show in New York this upcoming weekend.  I'm going to start making my arrangements for the Atlanta show in February this week.  Lots to look forward to in the Year of Zoe!