- Posted November 29, 2010 by
Saint Louis, Missouri
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Your tips for Small Business Success
Life after a Corporate Layoff!
I was a designer for a large co. in San Francisco, Levi Strauss, I loved everything about my career but do to layoffs I came to St. Louis for a design position with May Co. Two years later there was a corporate take over and I lost my job.
It was very scary losing a salary and there were no other jobs in my field here in St. Louis. There were no other jobs for me in my field here in St. Louis and having been recently married in St. Louis, my husband and I decided to take the plunge and buy a small building that was in foreclosure. It was a mortgage company and it was in horrible shape, it had gone in foreclosure. I had always dreamed of having a café and he always wanted an antique store so we combined ideas and went for it! I am originally from South America and have always traveled all over the world so I wanted to bring my experience to St. Louis via great food, coffee, music and eclectic decor.
It took 9 months to rehab it, there were drop ceilings and white drywall walls and cubicles. Now it looks like a café you would find in Paris.
I was a ton of work but we love it. We brought life to this block. We have music, trunk shows, it’s a blast.
I was very shocked that none of my business experience, research or business plan could have prepared me for the unknown and unexpected costs! There was fee after fee for applying for permits, petitions, appeals, inspections, "Historic" repairs that fell into a $ category all their own... :(
Advice: Get many quotes, shop around, don't just "hand" your project to a large contracting or architecture company. When we started the rehab, when I got quotes for the project as a whole and I was quoted huge sums. Instead we acted as our own general contractors and we are NOT from this industry but we still did it.
For example we hired: A carpenter, a plumber, an electrician, workers to do the tin ceiling, a roofer. Quotes differences ranged in the Tens of thousands for the SAME project!
As far as advertising, it’s too expensive but I know it is necessary so finding great organizations such as CNN who are willing to promote us is a huge help. Social Networking is great and creative solutions such as Groupon have also been wonderful. I think what we accomplished is outstanding and unique. There is nothing like it in St. Louis and we have people visit from LA, NY and cities in Europe who tell us this is the best and most beautiful Café they have ever been too and this is an amazing feeling. This is a place where people meet, laugh, talk, bring their kids, dogs and relax. Seeing their faces full of joy is a great reward for us!
It was a life changing experience, going from a coosh job with International Travel, great money and "security" (OK, not that) to working side by side in construction for NINE months in the St. Louis summer heat but I have to say that I love this a lot more than my old life!
We love what we do so we can give it all of our passion, what ever you do, make sure it is definitely a labor of love because it is not easy....
HGTV and Diy Networks did a show about our efforts, to watch a clip and see the schedule of the next show date/time click here:
Araceli and Richard Zimmer
Rue Lafayette, 2026 Lafayette Ave. St. Louis, MO 63104