7
Oct
2014
2

The G-Spot and the food cart you can start in college.

This post is going to ignore food safety regulations – so do your research before you take my advice. If you decide that you still want to pursue this idea do some more research on how your campus deals with student entrepreneurs and their crazy ideas. If you go to an University, it would probably be more complicated to get away with what we did, but if a small liberal college is where you are at, then you probably already know that putting up a food cart on a Sunday afternoon is not a problem at all.

So this is what we did:

It was late summer of 2009, Jax and I were driving a gigantic green and purple bus back from Ragbrai, a bike ride across Iowa. We were seated at the helm, it was a finicky machine to drive, plus you really felt it could break at any point and since Jax had converted it to run on veggie oil he was the only one who knew how it worked. As I fulfilled my childhood dream of sitting right against the windshield of a huge vehicle, Jax and I talked about life, which eventually brought us to the realization that unless we wanted an un-sailable sailboat to cruise the waters upon graduation, we would have to save some money to buy our boat. This meant we needed to start another “company”, one that was more profitable than Beloit General, Jax’s online general store, Beloit Tea Source, his tea business, and Yapa, my recycled-crafts line.

Towards the end of the eight-hour long drive we decided that we would use our last week of summer break to build and furnish a crepe and bubble tea cart. The Spring before we had quickly put together a cart called “The Peanut Stand” where we sold donuts and bubble tea to students. Having had tested the idea, this time we were going to go all out. With a drawing, that would insult any engineer in-hand, Jax, I and fortunate help Jaxon’s dad who is an architect started building the cart. We designed it to include a mini fridge, two crepe griddles, space to store all of the toppings, a cd player to play french music, hanging lights and a space to deal with the money.

It took us about 3 days to build the cart in Jax’s dad woodworking shop. We called a friend’s dad who we knew had closed his coffee shop and offered to buy his cream whipper, coffee thermos and syrup flavors. We read about crepe making, purchased the tapioca bubbles online, along with cups, straws and huge mixing bowls. When we got to school we painted it, assembled it and drew the terrible logo that would mean that no one knew it was “The G Spot” rather than the SPGT (pronunced by people spigot) or the Crepe Stand.

Our first night was a complete success.

We hauled the cart to the middle of a concert in campus and had a constant line from when our lights went on, at around 6:00 pm until around 1:00 am. It was a summer night, so the bubble tea sold as much as the crepes. After we had exhausted most of our ingredients we hauled it back to a basement kitchen that once, many years before, had “probably” passed FDA inspection and spent the next 3 hours meticulously cleaning every inch of the cart with bleach water. We really did not want anyone to get sick.

The next day was a Saturday, we spent most of our day buying ingredients, preparing the batter, preparing the cart and at around 9:00pm we went to our college’s main street, where all the fraternities hosted their parties. Somewhat intoxicated students would roam the street looking for food and we were in the perfect place to please them. One crepe, two crepes, some singing and a generous tips later, most student would be on their way. We stayed up until 12:00 to 1:00 am, most nights we sold out. Then we would clean for about two hours, walk to our apartment and go to bed at around 4:00 am, only to start the whole thing again the next day.  We ran Spigot G-Spot every weekend for about three months, almost every night we made a profit, but by the end of the season we were sick of Nutella, crepes and having the same conversation every weekend with the same drunk student.

Intoxicated student who bought crepes from us last weekend: Wow! Crepes! I’ve never seen you here before! This is an awesome idea!

Us: Hehe, thanks! What would you like today?

Intoxicated student who bought crepes from us last weekend: What do you recomend?

Us: I bet you’ll love Nutella with banana

Intoxicated student who bought crepes from us last weekend: Yes!! How did you know that? I love Nutella and banana.
We parked the cart in our driveway and said goodbye to the G-Spot. With some savings under our mattress and a business that had made more money than any of our previous had, we decided that we loved our weekend nights too much to continue with this venture.

So, that’s what we did… Now, this is what I would do differently:

I would replace the crepes with pomme frites. For those of you who do not know what pomme frites are, they are pretty much a snobby way of saying french fries, although some would argue that they are much longer and delicious – I agree. Anyway, drunk college student do not know that. So, I would buy two deep fryers like this one, a bunch of sauce containers like these and fill them with delicious sauces like bbq, ketchup, mayo, mustard and siracha (if you felt so inclined you could even look up some recipes and make your own – yum!). Instead of the crepe griddles I would put the fryers, make sure the cart is extremely stable and that no drunk college students can get to the hot oil, as to avoid any accidents. I would serve them up on these, add some salt and voila you are done.

Let the people get all excited about the sauces, they – for the most part – are drunk and hungry and fries are much more fulfilling and cheap than crepes, so they will eat. You would need an initial investment to buy or make the cart and furnish it, but most colleges would be happy to fund their entrepreneurs. The cleaning would also need to happen, but hey, you are running a food business you better be into cleaning if you do not want to get shut down or even worse sued.

To test out the idea you could go to Cosco or any of those destroyers-of-small-businesses stores and buy some frozen french fries, that way you minimize the amount of time you spend peeling and cutting potatoes. Once you think you have a profitable business in hand, probably the cheapest way to have a bunch of fries would be to buy them and cut them with something like this. If you are into locally sourcing ingredients, you could talk to a local farm and ask them to give a deal on a bunch of their potatoes.

Anyway, just an idea…

…for any dedicated college-aged entrepreneur who is willing to work rather than party their weekend nights. Although to be fair, you could always be the party. Put some good music on and your friends will stick around – at least until it gets cold, then move inside.

 

I am posting these against my better judgement! But I just want to show you how not legit you can look and run a business! And even make a profit!

Internal rambling:

I know the short-hair is not my best look! But I apparently lacked friends to tell me at the time lol!

Yes, the logo was that bad! Yes, Jaxon warned me that it would not read G Spot, but I won…

 

Below: The awesome veggie oil beast of a bus!

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2. The Peanut Stand! (Validating our idea)

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Yes people did this for us! I’m so sorry dude! We didn’t know better!!

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3
Oct
2014
0

Can a credit card fit in a cassette tape?

Two weeks into our relationship, Jaxon had convinced me that I could make goods out of recycled junk I found at thrift stores, mark it up and sell it at our college town’s only “green” store, Bushel and Pecks. After buying a whole bunch of old cassettes, recycled fabric and new zippers I could not wait to get started. On our way back to the dorms I had decided I was going to make wallets out of them, I envisioned the whole thing in my mind and I could already tell they were going to be perfect! Lucky for me, Jax had class first thing that Monday and I could use “our dorm” (yes, we moved in together in the first week of knowing each other, a crazy move in retrospect) to spread out the goods and get to work. The entire two weeks that had just passed I had seen Jax struggle to efficiently launch the online store he was running from our dorm, so I quickly came to the conclusion that if I did my wallet project efficiently he would be impressed when he got home, hence find me a more suitable mate.

I started by cutting all of the fabric into rectangles, using previous cuts as markers for next cuts (first mistake). I wanted to get them all done by the time Jax got back, so I had two hours to finish 15 wallets (second mistake). After cutting the fabric, I chose zippers and cassette cases for each fabric and sewed all of the zippers to their respective fabric (third mistake). Then I grabbed the cassettes and realized I had yet to envision  how I was going to attach the fabric to the cases. I sat down and thought for about 2 min and decided that hot glue was the only option (fourth mistake). So I lined up all of the cassettes and laid out its respective fabric with zipper on top. A hot mess later, the 15 wallets were done! They were not the prettiest things, but hey! People were buying recycled goods, what did they expect! I had 10 min to spare before Jax came back! So I cleaned up, laid the wallets on the table and nonchalantly sat to read a book in bed.

After complimenting me on my work he asked me “so, how do they work?”. Shit, I never really tested them I quickly realized! I mean, I had tested the first and second one and they opened, you couldn’t really fit a credit card in, but that wasn’t my fault that was the fault of the cassette manufacturers who had not thought ahead. “They work well” I replied, explaining that people could use them for spare change and bills. “Cool! Can I have one?” he asked! I was flattered, my product was already selling and not to just anyone! To the person I was trying to impress! “Yes, choose your favorite”.

Jax’s favorite did not open all the way, nor did his second favorite but on the bright side, the third did! The fourth did not, nor the fifth or sixth, but the majority of the rest did. A margin of error I thought, not too bad. Next set of questions Jaxon asked me were related to research. “So, what tutorial did you find before making them?” I thought to myself, tutorials? what are those?.

At the end I sold about 3 wallets, just enough to cover my expenses and make no money on my time. So, my failed wallet example is a bit extreme, but that day I learned key things about entrepreneurship that I would not fully understand I learned until years later when we were running our web development agency.

Patience, perseverance and research.

Follow those words like a dogma and do not do it because I am telling you, do it because they are.

 

“It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.”  –Babe Ruth, Baseball Legend

“If you’re not a risk taker, you should get the hell out of business.”  –Ray Kroc, McDonald’s Founder

“Waiting for perfect is never as smart as making progress.”  –Seth Godin, Author

“I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”  –Steve Jobs, Co-Founder and CEO, Apple

“Never, never, never give up.”  –Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister

Ok, so after you have read some established personalities tell you to just keep on going. I am going to tell you why these three words are extremely important to an entrepreneur, right after just doing it! Yes, actually doing it is the first step and I’ll write a post all about that soon. For now, I’ll just bring you back to my wallet example.

If I had had the patience to analyze various ways in which I could have made the wallets, I would have quickly realized that I could only come up with about two ways and that I needed to research other ways. Maybe, one of the 7.7 billion people in this earth had already run into my credit card not fitting problem and might have had a solution. Becoming an expert on the field you are entering is essential and this requires research – Do NOT mistake this for using endless research as an excuse never to start. Set a strict time limit on research for very specific questions and once you reach that limit, make a decision and stick to it.

Finally, perseverance is probably the most important of the three words. Had I taken my complete failure as a granted, I would have not gone on to develop my recycled goods line, Yapa, which sold a jaw dropping  total of $110 in about a year. That’s about less than $10 a month… so I could count it as another failure, but I don’t. I just decided that crafts was probably not my strong suit, unless I wanted to invest a lot of time to gain the skills. So, instead I joined forces with Jaxon and we headed into the cooking world and started our G-Spot Crepe Stand.

 

“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and falling over.”  –Richard Branson, Virgin Group Founder

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2
Oct
2014
0

Ready to be an entrepreneur?

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into smaller manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”  –Mark Twain

As we are about to start working on our second big venture, Jax and I have been once again diving into entrepreneur literature, reading everyone who-is-anyone’s advice on startups, stories of success or failure  and even Valleywag, Sillicon Valley’s incredibly well written gossip blog. We have devoted hours upon hours of our life to discussing what we learned about investment distribution, time management, stress and partners with Invento and all the mistakes we should try incredibly hard not to repeat but rather use them as teaching tools. We have talked about our personal goals with the new company and even if we actually want to go through the hassle of creating a new stress-factor in our life. Yet, there is a part in our personalities that is high in curiosity and chooses to ignore its salt-life counterpart and pushes us to want to do this all over again.

In the coming days, if Mila permits (#lifeofamomtrepreneur) I will write a post on each of the following points. They will be based on what Jax and I have learned throughout our years of running our own business and reading about a library-full of inspiring books. I will be listing resources to further explore each theme as well.

Buckle up people! For those of you who have no interest in starting a new business, taking unlimited time to travel the world, sustaining yourself freelancing while sailing, etc. this might be a boring week in the blog. For those of you who have been waiting for some inspiration and direction, here is your chance.

 

Things to know:

You do not need a degree, you just need to have a lot of patience and perseverance.

Have a clear vision of where you want your company to head, but be open to the way you get there.

Do not fund it yourself, validate your idea with customers and outside investment. (If you can’t convince a target customer or investor that your idea is good, you need to do some thinking before proceeding.)

Do not sacrifice your life over it, the work will never end regardless of the hours you pour into it. Enjoy the process and celebrate small successes.

Work on something you enjoy, if not you will not succeed or not be happy – both of which will bring stress into your life.

Everything takes about 3-6-9-12 months longer, so count on that. (at least in technology).

It’s almost all about attitude.

 

Things to think about as you enter this new world:

Power vs Money.

The co-founding dilemma.

No need to a create a huge company, just enough to sustain your lifestyle.

 

trying

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1
Oct
2014
1

I’ll stop being lame…

It has been over two years since we stopped sailing and I feel like one of those people we used run into in marinas (when we were sailing) holding on to their sailing years like their first born child. I refuse to be that lame (ok not all of them were lame! They were with no exception actually very nice… but it would be lame of me to keep writing about that). Yes, one day we will go back to the ocean and from there I will be longing for a hot shower, a washing machine and a life without worrying about an anchor, but for now I will just focus on my current state of affairs.

Apart from holding the tiller and watching the weather, I also hold some other valuable skills, such as being a mother (FYI, it takes a lot of skill to pull that one off – for real, yes, go call your mom and say THANK YOU!!), I am also an entrepreneur and not just in any field! I unintentionally landed in technology (a world dominated by men) and have been pretty actively advocating to bring more women into this sphere by… doing nothing.

That is right… I have done nothing to spread the techpreneur love, but that is about to change. I hereby promise I will become a more useful part of society and share what I have learned about tech, motherhood, living with the same guy in small quarters for a long time and how we ended up In this entrepreneur deal.

 

Anywho… here are A LOT of photos of my family!

Oh yeah! I almost forgot! The blog has changed… I got bored of looking at the last one… hope you like it!

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4
Sep
2014
0

John, Emma and our life

So, our life is once again changing. With our awesome nanny going back to college, our new endeavor becoming Jax’s full time gig and Mila growing to be an awesome little human being, we have decided to change our daily routine. Jax will now work from a nearby co-working space, giving most of his attention to work, and Mila and I will stay home doing what we do best, cuddle, dance, be mesmerized by the animals at the zoo, baby yoga, baby music classes and gang out with other mama friends. That is one scenario… The other would be finding a new nanny, so that I could work part-time and keep working alongside Jax, doing what I love – also in a co-working space though. That our current dilema.

On another note, I have been reading “The Pearl that Broke its Shell”, a novel by Nadia Hashima, that deals with the struggle of women in Afghanistan, interweaved with the story of a girl named Rahima. The book accompanies her through her years as a bacha posh, which is when a family who has no sons “turns” a girl into a boy so that she can be helpful to the family (since women in many areas are barely allowed outside the house). After having the freedom of a boy, Rahima is married off at the age of 13 to a men three times her age.

Her story is one of sorrow and hope and although I have yet to reach the end, I am endlessly happy to not have to face the struggles that Hashima’s character encounters. I am so thankful to be able to have arguments with Jaxon and know as a fact that he will not beat me, sell my children or be disappointed if we do not have a boy. Life is not easy for so many women around the world, I am glad to have been born into the family and society I was.

Our friends John and Emma are taking off to Jordan tomorrow. We have had an amazing month with them and are sad to see them leave. Nonetheless, we feel so blessed to have been able to spend so much time together this summer. Thanks for the great visit guys!

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Photo credit: Emma Horton

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27
Aug
2014
0

Randomness of thoughts

Today I just want to write! There is so much to write about! Like the fact that I went to see my mom in Miami for 5 days, or the fact that our awesome friends, John and Emma, have come to visit us all the way from Jordan for a whole month. There is also the fact that our last (well almost last) website will be completed this week and that we will finally start working in our next venture this coming week. There is just so much to write about! Nothing important – just life… Like the fact that I finished an awesome book and now miss the characters deeply. Yep, that’s right all of these are facts… I hate repeating a word so much in ONE paragraph… Today, I’m a lazy writer. Anyway…

Mila has taken off, so my life has gone from a week of freedom where I got to watch her walk around the house being harmless, to guarding everything from her explorative touch and cleaning the floor constantly to prevent her from eating EVERYTHING she finds on her way. No dog water can be at her reach, for she will dip her fingers and suck on them (yuck)!!

Life is so exciting some days, other days we just miss sailing. So we have set our adventure deadline. We will give this new venture 6 months to flourish and if we are not satisfied with its course, we will ditch this life, buy a boat and explore the seven seas. That is what I keep telling myself! It helps me feel a little bit less domestic. “That’s right I do not need a changing table, playroom, a conveniently located grocery store or some awesome farmer’s markets! What the hell, I don’t even need stable ground! We can take off and be just as happy” – hopefully Mila agrees with all of this…

Even though we are so ready to take off, we are as ecstatic to start our new business venture! In the last year a whole bunch of planning and questioning has gone into the validation of our idea and it has survived all of our attempts to scratch it and take off. In the last few weeks we cannot help but to smile when we think of what is coming our way. It is so comforting for us to know that if we want something, we just have to work to get it – it is powerful to have that control.

My house is a mess right now… Time to make food… Goodbye stream of consciousness…

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15
Aug
2014
0

Happy one

One year ago today, I was climbing to bed feeling your kicks and shifts. In between dreams and pee breaks, I would look at your changing table, that lay right across from the bathroom, wondering what your face looked like and wishing to meet you before my birthday in 5 days.

At around 2:00am I felt my stomach contract and I knew you were coming. We called our midwife to let her know that the contractions had started and she advised that I rest, for the work had just begun. The contractions began every 10 minutes apart, an hour later, 8 minutes apart and by 7:00 am, I felt you coming every 5 minutes. I had no control over what my body was doing and the only thing I could do was to cope with the pain as well as possible. I lay in the warm water being one with evolution, awaiting your arrival with much anticipation.

At 1:13 pm you emerged from the water and within seconds you laid on my chest. You were warm and heavy and mine. My heart stops and my eyes water thinking back to our first 5 minutes together. I looked into your eyes relieved that the birth was over and overjoyed to meet you. Since that very instant you stole my heart. Watching you grow has been the most rewarding experience. There is not one second I would change from the time we have shared, from the very first smile to the sleepless nights.

I consider myself the luckiest woman alive, for I have held you every day. I have been there to witness everything, from the moment you first opened your eyes, to you now running around the house, from just drinking mom’s milk, to chewing corn on the cob, from wondering what you wanted to now having mini conversations of no and yes.

Thank you for your smile and your teeth.
Thank you for the way you sayYaku to everything.
Thank you for your little steps and your nodding dance.
Thank you for your curls and your hugs.
Thank you for your belly and your eyes.
Thank you for your laughter and your toes.
Thank you for filling my days with endless joy.
But most of all, thank you for loving me and calling me mamá.
You are by far my biggest blessing.

Happy first birthday Mila. I will try my hardest to make every year of your life one full of love, stability, adventure and laughter.

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12
Aug
2014
0

So much love… wedding take 2

I have never been to a more beautiful, fun and relaxing wedding, ever. During the weeks leading up to the event, ourselves and a bunch of our friends migrated to central Wisconsin to help with the all the to-dos leading up to Saturday. By Thursday, the list was almost completely clear and the majority of us were hanging out, talking, drinking beer and chasing Mila. Morgan and Jena, the protagonists of the week, were so chill that it was a pleasure for everyone to go the extra mile and make sure that everything turned out perfect – and it did.

Although the groom and bride’s personalities contributed to their state of mind leading up to their wedding, it would not be fair to continue this post without mentioning how beautiful it was to see the Wisconsin’s community and Jena’s close family come together and put long hours, a lot of laughter and skill to make the Peaseblossom farm shine.

The ceremony was held in the middle of the woods. It was quick, extremely touching and overwhelmingly beautiful. Jaxon sobbed from the moment he walked behind his best friend to the natural altar until Morgan and Jena passionately kissed. A tree was planted at the site to remind us all of that day (and also how long it takes for trees to get big.)

The food was perfect, the company was immensely pleasant and the band did an amazing job at making everyone dance. Mila fell asleep in one of the rooms in the house and Jaxon and I got to party until 2:00am – when most were too drunk to dance and stand up at the same time.

As we drove home I meditated on the week, feeling thankful that Mila got to be surrounded by so much peace, love, smiles and peaches. Morgan and Jena’s stability throughout the week was inspiring – so thank you for that.

The photos below are a mix of some taken by me and Jax. There are not too many, for our hands and minds were tight to Mila as she ran around the uneven ground. Soon I’ll post photos from our friend John’s camera – he is a great photographer and an incredible writer and if you would like to read some great stories, head to his blog were he narrates stories of living in the Middle East and Galapgos Islands – among other things.

 

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11
Aug
2014
0

Wedding take #1

We spent this week surrounded by some of our bestests of friends. They arrived from New York, Jordan, Vancouver and all around the Midwest to witness two of our pack-mates hold hands, say their vows and make (at least me) cry.

When Jaxon and I started talking about having kids he was adamant about having either one child or five (knowing I would not go for five) – we settled on two. The reason behind wanting a single child was because he himself is the only inheritor of the Klein/Davis household. Nonetheless, Jax did not grow up as an only child, his entire life he has been surrounded by three best friends, Morgan, Devin and James – who were all born within a couple month of each other and lived only 3 miles or so away (in rural Wisconsin that is considered next door neighbors). As life evolved, the pack added two awesome women, Allison and Norah, and the group keeps on growing.

When I first met Jaxon, all of his close friends were single and since then most of them have found their live partners. At first I was bit worried about meeting Jaxon’s bff’s, for I knew that if I did not like them I was either way stuck with them. Fortunately, they all turned out to be incredibly cool!!! Then they met their significant others and I got really worried, for in theory I would have to spend time with these ladies when Jax and his mates made fart-inducing chillies. First I met Kristy, Devin’s spouse. She is from Mexico, so we immediately knew we were going to be incredible friends. Then I met Jena, Morgan’s now wife. She could not be cooler, I actually have yet to met a nicer, more legit human being in my life. Then I met Samantha, James’ soulmate, and after watching James and her interact I knew she was meant to be in our pack.

Norah also found a fantastic mate, his name is Schuyler, we all instantly bonded with him and he is just one more. I could keep describing all these amazing people, but it would be boring for most of you. So, I wont. I will just leave saying that we have spent our week hanging out with these great friends and our very good friend from college, John, who has come from Jordan to visit the US for a month.

The week has been awesome. Now a photo drop.

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