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Crafting a Company from Bottom Up


Spark Craft Studios (www.sparkcrafts.com) is a small company, but we have big dreams of growth. We provide customers with a stylish "craft club" similar to an upscale health club. It's a brand-new concept. You can buy craft supplies and then spread out in our workspace, using our tools, equipment, and other resources. We sell studio memberships, classes, private parties (for Girls' Nights Out, bridal showers, baby showers, and adult birthday parties), special events (such as "Wine & Craft," our monthly wine-tasting and craft project), and retail craft supplies.

Amy Appleyard and I co-founded Spark Craft Studios in January, 2005, after developing the concept during a business-plan project at the MBA program at Boston University. Encouraging feedback from angel investors during a presentation convinced us to launch Spark after graduation.

Being ambitious, we carry big jobs. I'm responsible for stewarding the creative vision and long-term strategic goals of the company. I oversee studio membership, classes, special events, and community and business partnerships, as well as marketing, sales, and public-relations initiatives. Amy manages all internal operations and day-to-day activities, including supervising the company's finances and accounting, retail and studio operations, and technology systems.

We faced a lot of challenges starting out. We needed startup capital, so we raised it from angel investors, family, and friends. To sell an unproven concept, we pre-sold memberships before we even had our studio. We found a lawyer to help issue equity and hired an accountant. Renting property as "non-credit" tenants (i.e. not a Starbucks) was tough, but we convinced our landlord to let us have the space with four month's rent as a deposit. We hired craft instructors and Creativity Consultants (our retail/studio staff) while we were painting, refurbishing, and decorating our 3,000-square-foot retail space.

In all, it took us one year to go from business plan to actual business. This is what a typical day is like for us:

8:30 a.m. We carpool to the studio and debrief events from the night before during the 25-minute drive.

8:55 a.m. Quick stop at our favorite caf?, Diesel. We like to support other women-owned small businesses.

9:00 a.m. Arrive at the studio, turn off alarm, and turn on lights in the 10 classrooms, studios, and retail areas. Activate point-of-sale system and make sure customer/sales data is backed up. Check voice mail and return calls for class/event registrations and private party bookings.

9:15 a.m. Open up laptops in our tiny office to get some e-mail and paperwork done before opening the doors. The phone starts ringing with registrations and inquiries.

9:30 a.m. Amy delves into QuickBooks. We have daily finance meetings. We have decided to enter a Series B funding round, so I'm working on a press/investor kit to attract publicity, clients, and new investors. Amy is tweaking the financial model that we'll share with current and prospective investors.

10:00 a.m. Unlock the front door. We take turns waiting on customers.

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