I Failed At Opening A Dessert Bar

September 30, 2013

It was Fall of 2011 and I was keeping a secret. A really exciting secret that was gnawing at my insides. Business at the cupcake shop was slow but I knew if I could unleash this secret and tell my community that I had just WON Cupcake Wars on Food Network, that customers would start lining up around the building instead of trickling in one by one. But I was signed to a half million-dollar secrecy contract for the next four months. Meanwhile I was trying to work on my business expansion plan knowing that if I wanted to expand at all, doing so after securing a major win on Cupcake Wars was a better time than any. The 400 square foot cupcake shop was becoming suffocating and limiting to growth. Knowing that the opportunities and excitement of my win would last only so long, I had to be fully prepared to take advantage of them while I could. And so began my expansion plan for the Dollop Dessert Bar. After months of grueling research and hours spent talking to advisors, attorneys, and accountants, a complete business plan was finalized.

Executive Summary

Overview of Dollop Coffee Bar & Dessert Lounge With an opening targeted for Spring 2012, Dollop Coffee Bar & Dessert Lounge aims to be the premier dessert destination in Rochester, NY for middle-to-upper income adults. It will appeal directly to people who want a distinctive, modern place with great ambiance and “cool factor” that’s close to home and where they can spend quality time during an evening out with friends, family, colleagues, and significant others. Secondly, it will be a unique lunch & dessert option for surrounding businesses during the day. Thirdly, Dollop will continue its dessert catering business for parties, weddings, showers and businesses.
In my mind, running the Dollop Dessert Bar would be loads of fun. With a team of fully competent trained and caring people I’d feel poised for success. And the thought of savoring a nightcap in my own establishment at the end of each night was tantalizing. Of course there were many hurdles to getting this new venue off the ground. Number one, was money and number two, was location. To solve the location problem I brought the best realtor and designer on board to scour available buildings. In between long days of making cupcakes and managing my staff at the cupcake shop, I scooted around town with the realtor and designer checking out locations for rent. Too big, too small, too secluded, too expensive—finding the perfect spot was harder than I had thought it would be. With each meeting and each location viewing, I learned that pieces of the business plan would need to change. Finally in December of 2011, we found quite possibly the perfect spot for the Dollop Dessert Bar. The spot was in downtown Rochester in an “up and coming” area with the potential for great foot traffic during the events of the summer months. And with a couple theatres nearby, Dollop Dessert Bar could become the go-to destination for post-show treats. After a couple meetings with the building owner and after showing him my business plan for proof of concept, I received via my realtor his letter of intent. “Wait, what? A ten-year lease? That’s nuts,” I told my realtor. “And this rent is outrageous,” my realtor scoffed. “Don’t worry, we’ll negotiate him down.” But there were no negotiations. He wasn’t budging. He actually wasn’t even replying to my realtor’s correspondence. I couldn’t understand why. Why would this building owner take multiple meetings with me, discuss my business plan, even tell me that I could sell Dollop’s desserts in his neighboring restaurant, if in the end he wouldn’t even negotiate the lease terms?* But I forged on, seeking out the next perfect location—determined to bring the Dollop Dessert Bar to life. I was beyond excited about this concept. I saw a void in the marketplace that I felt I needed to fill. My city needed something fresh and fun like the Dollop Dessert Bar to enliven their sweet senses, I reasoned. But in addition to the location problem there was also that money problem looming over my head day and night. In a fight to solve the money problem I met with potential investors to sell my idea. I secured a bank loan—one of my most prided accomplishments to date. And I ran the numbers over and over and over again—boiling them down to the barest of bones. dessert bar funds My friends said the dessert bar was a great idea. They invested their time and energy while discussing it over coffees, lunches, drinks, and desserts. My customers asked me daily when I was going to expand. I felt the pressure to get this off the ground. But then the more I thought about it, the more I ran the numbers, the more I envisioned myself stuck in the dessert bar day and night, felt the overwhelming stress, and struggled to find another perfect location, the more I decided that it just wasn’t right. Businesses go through more planning phases, ideations, and potential transformations than they let the general public know of. Some plans work out and you get to experience the end product. But many don’t. It’s all those uncompleted ideas that we hide for fear of looking like a failure. But it’s all those failures that inevitably turn us into successes.    *The answer as to why that building owner wouldn’t negotiate the lease terms is that he liked my business concept so much that he decided to take it as his own and open his own dessert bar. Hey, I must’ve had something right.      

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