Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Starting construction

It's official. We started construction this week at 5001 25th Ave NE (across the street from University Village). Our spot is street facing - the middle storefront (in between a Verizon Wireless and Fondi, a brick-oven pizzaria). There's also a Dessert Sun, a Rooster's Coffee, an Emerald City Smoothie, a dentist's office, a pediatrician's office and ob/gyn in the Northcut Landing complex.

It's beyond exciting to see the walls start going up, as they did today. On Monday, they were just red chalk drawings on the ground (some of which we ended up erasing (like the door to the back office) and some of which we ended up changing and moving (the front counter). Today, the drywall and metal framing went up.

I'm also excited to report that our "ugly ducts" have grown into swans. Here's the before picture (taking our 12 ft ceilings down to 8ft):

And here's the after:

8 weeks and counting!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Learning when NOT to bring up The Year of Magical Thinking

Karri has now come on board full-time as Julep’s first paid employee. It’s been so great to have her enthusiasm and energy in attacking our ever growing to-do list.

This week, I met with a great husband and wife CPA couple who helped me to figure out how to actually pay Karri, and other exciting accounting questions. Mike and Dolly Waller have desks side by side in a modestly furnished office in a modest building (“People expect accountants to be penny pinchers!” Mike explained. “We don’t have to pay for those fancy offices the way lawyers do.”).

Although my appointment was with Dolly, Mike chimed in with many interesting questions, comments, and gems of advice, which Dolly built upon and incorporated.

As I was walking out the door (running a little late for a conference call), I had to comment on how amazing it was that two married people could spend their whole workdays sitting just four feet away from each other. Dolly laughed and said that when they were raising their children, being with her husband all day long (including their commute), enabled her to focus on their children when she got home. Their unique solution enabled her to juggle work and family more effectively.

I think I might have ruined an otherwise lovely moment by bringing up Joan Didion’s “Year of Magical Thinking.” I love this book, but I’ve really got to stop mentioning it because it’s a surefire conversation killer.

“It’s so amazing what you have, it’s just like Joan Didion and her husband. Have you read ‘The Year of Magical Thinking?’” As I watch the words fall out of my mouth, I can see that I have no plan for a good place to take this conversation. But it’s too late.

“Well, it’s about a husband and wife who spend all their time together, because they’re both writers, and they just work in the same space, and sometimes on the same project. And they never tire of each other, it’s so beautiful. . . . uh . . . and then he dies suddenly.”

“Oh,” says Dolly, and immediately I feel horrible, but I’m late for my conference call.

“Anyway, thanks for the “No Activity” form, I’ll be sure to get that in.”

I have a section in my notebook for “lessons I have learned.” I will now add “Do not bring up ‘Year of Magical Thinking.’”

Here a few of the other lessons on my list:

- Write EVERYTHING down – appointments, minor changes, phone calls, etc. If it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist.
- Remember to apply the above to “Lessons learned” too. Take the time to process and write them down.
- Think about what might be on someone’s mind before launching in with a Julep related question. They just might not be as obsessed with Julep and have other things they're thinking about.
- Honor your comfort zone. If something feels awkward or uncomfortable think about whether to change it. (“Pull on the string until you figure out what’s at the end” as a BCG mentor once taught me.)
- Think through out WHO to turn to for WHAT advice. The most sympathetic shoulder might not be the one you really need.
- Presentation always matters. The underlying idea is necessary but not sufficient.
- Words (contracts) are important, but people are more important. Build relationships of trust with people whenever possible.

Hmm. No that deep, when it comes down to it, but that’s some of what I’m trying to master.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Which is a good thing, because we're starting construction next week.

For about five seconds, I was walking on air. "It's really happening! We have a lease!"

Then I came crashing down. "Holy $*&* now we have 9 weeks to get EVERYTHING else done. We have a lease."

But those five seconds sure were great.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


It’s happening. It's really happening. Construction starts on March 26, and I have a lease that’s FINALLY finalized and in the process of being signed (I know, I know, not perfect timing, or exactly perfect timing, depending on how you look at it).

Karri, our Director of Education and Lead Vernisseur started on payroll this week, as Julep’s first official paid employee.

These movements towards the concrete are thrilling – in that 99% exciting, but 1% Depends-requiring, terrifying way.

This week we are:
- Ordering the ergonomic seating for our vernisseurs
- Finalizing our product line up direction
- Finalizing our menu
- Going to visit local beauty schools to ramp up recruiting
- Finishing up writing the content for our website
- Putting our want ads in Craig’s List, The Stranger, and other local pubs
- Finalizing our POS/online scheduling solution decision (to start configuration next week)
- Meeting with an accountant to figure out what tax forms I need to file
- Meeting with a book keeper to set up Quicken
- Finalizing the graphics for my store signage
- Trying to figure out how to get our graphics made into a stencil that we can use for the store front as well as these custom light drums we’re building (to enable our vernisseurs to have great, movable task lighting)
- Sending our graphics to our nail polish manufacturer and finalizing color selection

I’m also:
- Taking my son (five months late) to his five year old check up (my goal was to take him in closer to his fifth birthday than his sixth)
- Getting the dents pulled out of my car (my resolution to get my household in order before we open the store)
- Going to the social security office to finally fix the incorrect birth date they have for me in my file (which gums up our online filing)
- Trying to figure out what, if any, summer camps we’re signing our son up for

I hope I’m not jinxing it by writing it here, but if construction starts on March 26, we should be done by May 18, and open by May 23.

That’s only 67 days away. And counting . . .

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

T minus two weeks? (to start construction)

I went by my site today – and was so very very excited to see how wonderful and high the ceiling looks now that the massive, cumbersome duct is gone (if I can ever remember to have a camera with me when I visit the site, I'll post some pictures).

To recap, over the past two months, the finalization of my lease has been held up because of the surprising appearance of an enormous duct snaking through what seemed to me the entirety of my lovely high ceiling that I was planning on having exposed.

To his credit, the developer has been a great partner in problem-solving this (highly unusual for a developer, I understand). Initially, he asked me to bring him some ideas for options that would not require moving the duct. Tom (my architect) and I sat down and came up with a very creative solution for putting up a ceiling that would conceal the duct but stay true to the original concept. (Okay, okay, in reality, Tom came up with the idea while I just sat next to him and oohed and ahhed).

Unfortunately, this very creative solution also ended up being very expensive. And while the developer and I never talked about it explicitly, I think the floating assumption was that he would have to cover at least a sizeable chunk of the cost. Fortunately, we never had to cross that pricey bridge.

In the end, he decided to move the duct, and now there is space to breathe when you walk in. 12 feet high of space, to be precise.

I can only say this in retrospect, but looking back on this one issue, it seems to me that the very best “negotiation” happens when both parties are making their best attempt to be collaborative problem solvers. Obviously, we were each looking out for our own interests first and foremost, but I think we were also genuinely trying to explore alternatives that might be reasonably acceptable to the other. Or at least it seems from my position, especially since the duct is gone.

So I hope I’m not jinxing my progress by writing that I hope to finally, finally, have my lease signed this week (since only a handful of relatively small “i”s remain to be dotted) – which is a good thing because I’ve already submitted for permitting and am planning to start construction in the next 2 to 3 weeks.

Which means that Julep will be open, beautifying Seattles hands and feet by late May/early June. I’m meeting with my general contractor tomorrow for specific project details. I’ll keep you posted.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Bonding with Quickbooks tech support

Against the advice of two fellow entrepreneurs, I’ve decided to start off by keeping my own financial books. I know my time crunching numbers as a newbie consultant at BCG that there’s a command of the real picture that comes seems to magically emerge from managing the information yourself. At least until you have done it enough to be able to trust your own pattern recognition capabilities.

I set myself up for Bank of America’s online payroll system (free if employees have an account at Bank of America), and ordered Quickbooks from Amazon. Then I found someone on Craig’s list who said he could do a quick tutorial and get me up and running in a matter of just a few hours. It seemed foolproof.

Except that Quickbooks won't load on my laptop. I’ve said that to several people – my husband, my technology guru Jeanne, and my neighbor. All three had the same response – “Maybe I should have a look.”

But when I say, “Quickbooks won’t load on my laptop,” I MEAN “Quickbooks WILL NOT LOAD on my laptop.” I mean that I’ve spent two-and-a-half hours with a poor Quickbooks technical support installing and uninstalling, hard-installing, double-hard re- booting, and “going-around-the-speed-bumps-instead-of-over-them” installing. Finally, I had to give up control of my computer to my support guy, who, as it turned out, was working from India, where it was 3am in the morning.

Although we were strangers on different continents, our time together was oddly intimate. We were comfortable chatting, but also comfortable just sitting, wordlessly waiting out yet another ten minute install. Apart, and yet together.

Every once in a while, he would break the silence by clearing his throat. Then, hesitantly, “would you mind very much if I asked you a question? ”

Something in his voice told me it wasn’t about the install.

It wasn't. “I have always wondered, what does it mean, LLC?”

He was very polite, my first Quickbooks tech support friend. At one point, while my computer was installing (yet again), he asked me, “would you mind very much if I just took just three minutes to go to the washroom?” After everything we’d been through together, it seemed churlish to say no.

My second Quickbooks tech support relationship was very different. This time I got a chatterbox from Arizona who was just about to go see a child custody lawyer as soon as we were done.

By the time I got off the phone with him, I learned that he had once dated someone who owned a nail parlor, and that he loved taking his four year old daughter to McDonalds. And although he had been divorced for only under a year, his ex-wife was engaged to be married to her best friend’s brother, who lived in Chicago. He was hoping that his ex-wife and daughter weren’t going to move, but just to be sure, he was going to court to modify his child custody because he didn’t have a lawyer the first time, so his ex-wife got sole custody. “I just want to see her on the weekend sometimes, you know?”

The story did go on a little longer than my download, but it seemed rude to interrupt just to tell him that the Quickbooks icon had appeared on my desktop (false alarm, it still didn't open).

Several Quickbooks tech/customer support/ sales relationships later, I’ve given up on ever installing the software and have opted instead for the online service (with some discounts that Quickbooks very nicely agreed to). By that point, I was too exhausted to get past inputting my name and address, but that’s farther than I got with the other version.

While I wish nothing but the best for all of my new Quickbooks friends all over the world, I wouldn’t be sad if I didn’t have a reason to call them ever again.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Hanging out with Diane

Shari and I spent a couple of hours on Monday afternoon creating party favors for some lucky guests of today's Nordstrom fashion show, which featured Diane von Furstenberg's spring collection (fabulous) and benefited the Seattle Repertory Theater (also fabulous).

I mixed and filled jars of organic shea and mango butter lotion ("hand-crafted", right?), and then Shari made labels and gift cards that we creatively attached to the jars using scruncci ponytail holders (the only thing Shari could find at the local QFC at 10:30pm). Heady, strategic stuff.

When I called Shari after the show to tell her how great our party favors had looked on the table, she asked me whether I thought it had been worth doing. I realized that there are several different ways to think about this question:

- Most importantly: Will it be successful in bringing new guests into Julep? (Hopefully! It was definitely the right target audience.)

- But also: Did we learn anything from the experience? (YES! Even simple ideas - let's give away some lotion! - can take a lot of time to execute, and time is becoming even more of a precious commodity).

- And not insignificant: Was it fun? (YES! YES! YES! How great was it to be doing something with my hands, sitting on Shari's couch while talking about toddler shoes. It was such a welcome break from being joined at the wrist to my laptop).

So thank you Marisa for thinking of Julep and sharing us with your friends and fellow supporters of "the Rep".

Friday, March 2, 2007

Shopping and shopping and shopping

One of the most fun parts of starting up Julep is all the shopping. Just this week, I've been shopping for:

- super soft, 800 gram cotton towels
- "environmentally preferrable" paint and dual flush toilets
- 5.8 Ghz cordless phone system that won't interfere with our wifi
- a flat screen TV (thankfully prices have fallen quite since my husband came home with one 18 months ago)
- a sound system (just learned about a "squeeze box" that will enable me to stream music from an online service)
- a dishwasher (love the new