Friday, 29 May 2009

Seven Weeks

Wow, can you believe it, we have been open seven weeks today. I had every intention of doing an update one month on, but somehow didn't manage to get round to it. But I am here now so I can explain how it has gone so far.

We managed to open on time, and had a good reception for the opening day. And then it went dead, not a soul, not a peep, very quiet indeed. The whole weekend was the same. From then we started to put signs up on the A96 and at the end of our road so there is a chance folk can find us. I have to say the improvement has been immense. On our worst day we took a whole £2! It's days like these when you have to remind yourself that first and foremost we are a production facility, that people can come and visit. Isn't it amazing what you tell yourself so you feel better. I have to say though, it has only been one day that quiet. Now a quiet day is £25, and although that is not near our daily target, it is still a vast improvement. I would say that at least half the time we are now hitting our targets which takes some pressure off cash flow, although this does continue to be a juggling trick.

We have held two chocolate parties, the first for a ladies 40th, and the second was last night. There has been huge interest in this idea, with lots of fliers being taken from the shop. Only time will tell if this catches on.

Just like at home, when you keep moving the furniture round until you are happy with it, we keep shuffling things in the shop. It is hard to make sure the products have a flow and make sense to the customer.

The biggest difference is opening up the blast freezer. Initially we used it for bulk storage until the secret room was discovered and utilised. Then we set it up as a Kids Zone with arty activities. It seemed that people were missing the cakes as they were in the back room, so we decided to have a swap around and the cakes are now in the front. This is the first thing people see as they walk in the door and they do get a great reception.

This left us with the back room for other purposes, what should we do with the space. It has to earn its keep, so lets put in a little coffee bar. Having checked with the regulations we can have up to 12 seats without needing toilet facilities (still working on that one too!). Initially we looked at the idea of having a top grade vending machine that produces cafe standard drinks, but it was going to be massively expensive (you don't want to know!) and it would still be a vending machine. Most of the time there are still only two of us here. Kev is making chocolates, and I am looking after the office and the shop and Joshua. Kev is great at getting Joshua off to sleep, and he is no trouble at all. Kev does also step into the shop when needed. The thoughts of adding a coffee bar to the list is kind of scary!!!

Having sat and thought about it, we decided to offer a very basic, but somewhat indulgent menu. Fresh brewed coffee, using a very smart bean to cup machine, fairtrade and organic tea, and our own hot chocolate. In addition to this we will be offering four types of cupcakes and cold drinks. As this is secondary to the main business we can afford to keep the cost of the drinks down. Having talked to customers about the idea, they seem very receptive so hopefully it should be open over the weekend.

There are four of us here on a Saturday, which as expected is our busiest day. With George looking after Joshua it frees us up to get on with what we need to, so hopefully that will help with the coffee bar as well. As for during the week, we will have to see how it goes. We already have one volunteer, but we are always looking for additional help :-) Wages are paid in chocolate, of course!

All in all, a very positive start, with many changes and challenges happening along the way. I nearly forgot, we have also rewritten the website and included an online shop which can be accessed at The shop is nearly complete, still needs photos but that will be done over the next few weeks as time allows.

Well that report was certainly longer than I anticipated! I think this ramble proves that we really should do this more often! Until we meet again, I bid you adieu.

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