A Few Thoughts on the Crumbling of Crumbs and Life in Small Business

July 14th, 2014

Sweet Revenge Pure cupcakeWith the recent announcement of the closure of Crumbs, a cupcakery that got its start in 2003 on the upper west side of NYC that became a public company in 2011, I’ve heard lots of buzz, shock, awe, horror and opinions from friends and patrons.  It’s the end of the cupcake era! The cupcake bubble has burst!

To be blunt, a business model that relies on selling a $3 item and its own brick & mortar requires crazy volume. This is very tricky to pull off. The wrong location, excessive overhead (ie taking on a larger location that whats needed), and overstaffing can keep a business upside down until its last breath. There’s a blessing and a curse being out in front, and Crumbs was the leader of the pack in going big. The blessing of being first is attaining that proverbial “first mover’s advantage”, getting in before others do. The curse of being first & having hysterical success is that its possible to attribute success to the wrong factors. The truth gets revealed when like-conditions are not maintained. And sometimes, the truth just isn’t very pretty, especially in the not always sweet world of desserts.

When I concocted the business plan and brand of Sweet Revenge®, my restaurant & wine bar, I wanted it to be experience based, not reliant on any one particular product. I’d read about the success and failure of Krispy Kreme and wanted to steer clear of that unsavory trajectory.  Big things can go against you in small business that are far out of your control. I built in flexibility in the event the cupcake fad turned into a cupcake fade.

By no means am I saying I’ve got it all figured out and have perfected the business model. Quite the opposite. I’ve stayed really small and not because I want to. Location, location, location. If I would’ve had beginner’s luck & a heftier appetite for rent risk, I might’ve chosen a well trafficked location on Bleecker street or one on the upper west. My hunch says I would’ve achieved brilliant financials, but I wouldn’t have known that those were largely due to phenomenal foot traffic. Proof: there’s a lot of mediocre establishments in primo locations doing seemingly well. Their financial success has nothing to do with the service they provide, their menu or their ambiance.

It’s important in small business to look out for the what-ifs and have contingency plans. By doing so, I babystepped my way from dessert & wine bar to restaurant & wine bar. Its a tricky transition asking yoru patrons to think of you and treat you as something different from what they’ve known you for. Having the resilience of a tortoise, patience, a commitment to excellence and an appetite for the long distance race come in handy. I make a lot of mistakes as an entrepreneur but manalive do I “note to self” myself.  And I keep going.

I’m not shocked that Crumbs didn’t make it. I was more shocked when they went public. Fundamentally, the business model has to be sound. As a business owner you’re on the hook to nail the crazy tidal wave of factors that create and sustain success. Similarly you’re on the hook to fix what’s broken and to look out ahead to avoid Krispy Kreming or Crumbing your business.

“Failure is a great teacher” (Steve Harvey)

Cheers,

Marlo

 

 

Fireworks & Magic

July 3rd, 2014

Marlo making Sweet Revenge candlesWhat a whirlwind week it has been! For quite some time in my “spare time” I’ve been noodling away at very yummy Sweet Revenge® branded lifestyle products.  The process has been pure joy. I’ve been concocting, daydreaming, researching and planning. And FINALLY I’ve gotten around to the doing :) !  From the earliest days in my 2007 business plan and for the last 6 years, I have believed hand-on-heart that the deliciousness inherent in the brand could be expressed in all kinds of fragrant & stylish ways beyond the outrageous food & dessert we make at my restaurant & wine bar Sweet Revenge®.

We’ve been selling Sweet Revenge® perfume, apparel and some gorgeous cards with the bird on them for years, so I’m familiar with the build it and they will come philosophy of Field of Dreams. However in the real world, possibly unlike American baseball (or presently FIFA world cup :) ), you can’t just build something and expect it will go and grow on its own. You’ve gotta nurture it and give it love, resources, time and attention and focus. My day-to-day reality as an entrepreneur is that there’s a lot of moving parts that take a hunk of that time, love and focus, and it’s just not possible to do it all at the same time.

When facing a deadline, super powers activate. Time compresses & magic happens. I stared down an intellectual property deadline, knowing I needed to get out of my own way and get ‘er done. Missing the deadline costs money for the lawyers to file extensions with the USPTO. Been there done that. No need to repeat feeling crummy for not being on my a-game in managing my time and limited resources. Its an interesting coincidence that I got over the finish line this week and July 4th is tomorrow. What a perfect pairing: sparklers in the sky and all the giddy good feelings of bringing these magical beauties to life.

I took inspiration from our cupcake flavors and as a staunch proponent of quality, I used gorgeous raw ingredients like coconut oil, shea butter, aloe vera, Japanese peppermint essential oil and vitamin E among many others. Here’s just a few of the items I’ve been making. They’re on the website www.SweetRevengeShop.com. By next week, Fleur de Sel (salted caramel) and Dirty (dark chocolate) candles and Pure Peppermint lip balm will be available. YUM!

Sweet Revenge Reed Diffuser OilSweet Revenge Pure Body ButterSweet Revenge Pure candleSweet Revenge necklace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cheers to fireworks and magic in your life and Happy 4th of July!

Marlo

RIP Dinner & Be Merry

June 16th, 2014

Sweet Revenge Chicken & WafflesWith heavy heart I bid adieu to our truly delicious Dinner & Be Merry menu at my restaurant & wine bar Sweet Revenge®. After plowing a mega investment into it for the last 8 months, I analyzed the numbers to see if they backed up my hubby’s big picture observations & rainman-like number crunching talent. Indeed the data showed, at best case, it was a break-even proposition.

The Dinner & Be Merry menu for me was a source of pride. I loved it. I was enamored with its presentation, the wine & beer pairings, the quality of the ingredients, and I knew intimately the amount of hard work behind the scenes in its development. Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be. I have a litany of reasons why dinner was not successful.

I had to suck it up, put my pride aside and take the emotion out of the decision process. We 86′d dinner last Friday. Our yummola Small Plates & Be Merry menu is available every day 3-10p which our fabulous bartenders plate at night. The menu items are prepared ahead of time by our chefs during the day. This is a much better use of resources on many levels.

Being freed up from dinner allows me, my hubs G and our staff to focus on the next adventure. I’m sure will be delicious. Glass half full.

To quote one of my fave lines from Semi Sonic’s ‘Closing Time’: “ Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

Cheers,

Marlo

 

Sweet Revenge Featured on Native New York!

June 16th, 2014

We are happy as clams for the sweet coverage on New York Natives! They’re singing our praises and that makes us want to sing “New York, New York!”

Read the story

Our Outrageously Delish Lunch Special!

June 5th, 2014

Sweet Revenge Lunch SpecialIn an earlier blog post I discussed how we’d gone through a rough patch. An excessively long, cold winter; a beloved neighborhood joint coming back to the street after a year & a half hiatus (the much admired great Grey Dog); and frankly what I call a mass exodus of humans in my nook & cranny of the west village all contributed to our lean times. When the Grey Dog re-opened, they took a big ole bite outta my breakfast, daytime coffee and lunch sales.

My hubby Gur observed the Grey Dog’s enviable take-away & dine-in lunch crowd and informed me we needed to offer a to-go & dine in lunch special ASAP. I quickly brainstormed ideas for wraps with the chefs and then promptly sat on the project. Eventually I found time to set my goals and analyze the anticipated new menu’s food costs. I wanted the lunch special to 1) turbo boost our lunch sales 2) be profitable 3) be easy & fast to assemble for the chefs and 4) impress the heck out of everyone who tries it.

The recipe costing model very clearly showed our delish ideas would be 1) very time-consuming for the chefs and 2) not profitable due to fancy shmancy ingredients. I freed my mind and and scrapped the original ideas. Instead I chose simple cold salads easily scooped into wraps, a side salad and a bowl of soup. I put that into the recipe cost model while our talented chefs Shannon & Danielle busted a move on yummy recipe development. Bartender Miguel demonstrated madskills with chalk and created the new chalkboard. I updated the menu and my hubby put it up on the window for display. Voila! Our new $10 lunch special was born!

Fellow small biz owners, you will appreciate that this simple menu addition is boosting our lunch sales. I’m delighted to report that I’m accomplishing my above mentioned goals. The chefs agree the lunch special is a snap to assemble, and my daytime bartender-servers are happy campers, hustling during lunch.

Stay tuned….there’s a breakfast special in the works :) ….

Cheers to delicious ideas and a great team effort turning into tasty results,

Marlo

Sweet Revenge® is in The Huffington Post!

June 4th, 2014

It’s quite a thrill that Sweet Revenge® is included in The Huffington Post’s article on the best cupcakes in NYC! Not only did two Sweet Revenge® cupcake, wine & beer pairings make the list of twelve, but they mentioned our breakfast, lunch, brunch & dinner too!

Read their story “12 New York Cupcakes That Are Better Than Magnolia’s”

Shiny & New

May 19th, 2014

Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been chipping away at changing to a direct supplier for electricity, finding a new POS (Point of Sale) platform, and switching phone/internet providers in an effort to reduce costs while improving the level of customer service. I’ve also examined food suppliers and trash removal companies. It blows my mind how long it takes to research and then implement something that should be simplistic and a minor admin to-do. To be fair, one of these has been a snap, which was signing up with a direct energy company, but that was thanks to doing business with my friend Nick Gerome who works in the energy industry.

Sometimes macro conditions lead to changes in the micro (soft) level, errr something like that. Microsoft recently discontinued support for Windows XP, and my current POS vendor used this situation as an opportunity to jack me with a ridiculously expensive quote to purchase all new equipment  instead of making an affordable software patch available.  So I’m using this situation as an opportunity to change POS vendors. I’m in the process of getting set up with TouchBistro‘s POS solution and Paypal’s credit card processing and going all new fangled like with an Ipad. Its a really exciting, savvy platform, and I’m excited to launch it. With a little luck, we’ll roll out the system early next week.

I wish I had inspiring news to share about my switch from Verizon to Time Warner for Small Business phone/internet. Alas that process, which began in January and finally made it over the installation finish line last Friday (nearly 4 months later with a lot of high maintenance intervention), was fraught with epic fails by Time Warner at every step. They waited until I called them in March inquiring about the install date to let me know they were reneging on the signed contract since it was supposedly going to cost them more than $5K to do the install. This was highly suspect since 30 residential units in my building have their service. They repeatedly misspelled my husband’s name on the contract and in correspondence. Generally speaking, a lack of attention to details is not a good sign, but most definitely a sign of things to come. When we finally got a Time Warner sales rep to meet with us at Sweet Revenge a couple of weeks ago, we were promised their guys would ensure a smooth setup on the day of install. This promise was re-iterated by the installation scheduling rep over the phone, who assured me we would not have any service interruptions during the install. EPIC FAIL for Time Warner. We had no working phone for several hours, and the tech rep explained that it wasn’t his responsibility to set us up on their system. We had no way to process credit cards, had no internet or wifi, and our ADT and camera security systems went down. When we called the rep who had visited us, he completely punted, even telling his technician to re-install Verizon. Shocking. The on-site tech rep explained he saw the “oversell” happen all the time just so contracts got signed. Needless to say I could not be more underwhelmed or less impressed by my first and all subsequent impressions of Time Warner. They’re lucky their internet speed is an upgrade to Verizon’s and they’re cheaper.

A funny thing happened on the way to change. I turned at the corner of black & blue and went on the Say Whaaaaat Roundabout. But would you look at that  - there’s light there yonder. I’m really looking forward to seeing these shiny & new relationships turn into bedazzling bottom line results.

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” (Lao Tzu)

Cheers to change,

Marlo

 

The Time Out Corner

May 9th, 2014

Owning a small business is like having a child. It’s a 24 x 7 hour job. You invest everything you’ve got in its development and future, take great pride & a lot of pics in its first steps and all of its milestones, laugh & cry because of things it does or doesn’t do, and you never get any sleep. It can be tricky to step away and feel good about leaving your baby in the care of others, as smart phones make being plugged in the modus operandi.

When you’re a kid, going into the “time out corner” means you’ve been bad. I’m becoming quite confident I could create a whole new business of “time out corners” for adults – and I don’t mean for the bad grownups. I mean for the good ones, for those who need some downtime to enjoy the pleasing sound of peace and quiet, to escape the never ending to-do’s and to re-prioritize taking care of one’s self. Imagine: no phones, no texts, no calls, no facebook, no instagram, no twitter, no LinkedIn, no pinterest, no dramarama – for at least as long as you’re in “time out”. I think this corner has appeal for not only small business owners but for everyone.

When I’ve pushed myself too far for too long, a time out becomes mandatory. Doing yoga or taking a long walk around the Cloisters does a lot of good for my soul and sanity. I recently got a bike, and it reminds me of growing up on Grandview lake in Columbus, Indiana. I used to zip around with my pals Em, Jules, Al & Heather, and manalive life was Fun with a capital F. When I flew over my handlebars and knocked out my front tooth  my pal Ali ran to my home to tell my mom I was splayed out in the middle of our country road. Say it with me B A T T L E  S C A R. I didn’t fall off my bike on accident. We’d set up a pop-a-wheelie on a hill near Jule’s house so we could fly through the air on purpose. We were a pack of Evel Knievel-ettes. Yes indeed, being back on a bike after 35 years is a thrill that makes me smile a big cheesy grin & packs my head of fond memories while making new ones. Afterward, I feel really relaxed. My bike may get it’s own chapter in my entrepreneur’s journey.

“Give yourself a gift that will keep on giving … time for yourself.” (Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D.)

cheers,

Marlo

Cookin’ Up Inspiration in My 4/26 Business Plan Class!

April 25th, 2014
Marlo with a Kwak & Pure cupcake

Marlo with a Kwak & Pure cupcake

I’m excited to meet aspiring entrepreneurs in my Saturday 4/26  “How to Write A Business Plan” class.  I’m teaching this workshop at Sweet Revenge® in the wee hours from 8a-10a so clearly it’s for early birds… or those of us who rely on caffeine :) . This is the third time I’ll be hosting the class. Being around fellow entrepreneurs is inspiring to me since I get caught up in their enthusiasm about going after a big dream. Folks on this path have great momentum and energy.

Education is empowering. I took many small business and restaurant industry workshops in preparation of adventuring off into the world of my restaurant and wine bar, Sweet Revenge®. I believe in being candid and not sugar coating what it’s like and what it takes to be an entrepreneur. In my class I share the template I used in 2006-2007 which helped me land a $400,000 SBA loan. I also take students through the original business plan for Sweet Revenge®.

What are you waiting for? A layoff? Thats what it took for me to get it in gear and become my own boss. Actually the third time was the charm and it has been over 7 years ago since my last pink slip from corporate. My how time flies when you’re enjoying really good food & wine and have a beautiful place to call work (errr a home away from home :) ).

SIGN UP! Go for your beautiful dream! To register and get more details: http://marloscottproductions.com/how-to-write-a-business-plan/. The 2 hour class costs $150 and it includes pastries & lots of caffeine.

“The key to unlock your entrepreneurial spirit is your imagination.” (Ifeanyi Enoch Onuoha)

Cheers to entrepreneurs!

Marlo

 

 

Great Friends & Fam with Fabulous Ideas

April 13th, 2014

Sometimes I suffer from SR myopia :) , a condition that affects my ability to see solutions to my small business issues as I get caught up in the daily to-do’s. Thank the goodness, I am blessed with fantastic friends and family who offer up kickass suggestions that cure me of this.  I thought I’d share a few. Enjoy!

Recently, I enjoyed breakfast with a dear friend Joe Cote. Joe is an inspiring entrepreneur who has just launched CapsulePen, a cleverly disguised pill container that looks like a pen. I supported his kickstarter campaign and my mom is going to be the lucky recipient of these at Christmas this year (Please keep this under wraps! :) )). Joe and I were noodling on ideas to increase “real food” sales at Sweet Revenge®. One of his fab ideas was to deploy a popup coupon to drive website traffic into foot traffic at 62 Carmine. Can you believe this never occurred to me to investigate? Oyvay! I am currently reviewing StoreYa’s CouponPop app to integrate on the website and also possibly facebook. Stay tuned, I hope to have this badboy installed this weekend, offering delish dinner coupons as a thank you for providing your email address.

Last weekend, my dad treated me to a weekend escape in Florida where I got to enjoy some much needed R&R with my best girlfriend Heather (a friendship going back 40 years!) and her two munchkinas Alexandra & Katherine. Along with splishsplashing with A & K in the ocean and doing hold-your-breath-under-water competitions, I got some great ideas from Heather. My fave was her suggestion to sell pupcakes at SR and offer up a dog walking service.  I love the idea of SR being a community spot for dog lovers, as I have been one since I was a munchkin like A & K. Funnily enough in the original business plan, I wrote about pupcakes! My dad suggested I put up a digital picture frame in the window with rotating pictures of our beautiful food. High five Dad on your mega watt idea!

A few days ago, a few of my friends and I pulled off an impromptu catchup at youguessderchester Sweet Revenge®. My dear galpals Nancy Rothschild Gerome aka fancynancy and Marcy Assalone aka marcilicious suggested I move up the “Small Plates” section from the bottom of the dinner menu and put it on the top, renaming it as “Nibbles” or “Appetizers”. They explained the bottom placement felt like “sides” and that’s less glamorous when one wants something to nibble on when sipping vino. They also suggested we add crostinis so I’m going to investigate! Needless to say, I will be in powerpoint this week making changes to the menu!

As a final nod of gratitude, my dear hubby Gurhan recently observed patrons doing takeaway lunches from the recently re-opened Grey Dog coffee shop across the street from us.  The lightbulb went on and he said we need to get in on the to-go lunch specials game. We brainstormed a shortlist of easy to assemble wraps which will be offered up with a choice of soup or salad. Stay tuned – we will be debuting this fun new grab & go lunch by the end of the month!

Hugs & love to my all my loved ones for their love & support, rah rah rahs & brilliance.

cheers,

Marlo