The Stock Market
Your Own Business
Money for College
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!
Dollars By Design
Life on a Tight Budget
History of Currency
A Shoplifter's Story
ON2 Money Credits
--Cash Rules Everything Around Me.
|Author Jason Upshaw in his bike shop|
The rap group Wu-Tang Clan made up the acronym: C.R.E.A.M. to describe what makes many people's dreams come true. Sometimes the world really is about dollars and cents. When I started my business, I had to think about the money needed to make it work. Without "cream" I was just another coulda', woulda', maybe wannabe dreamer.
Now I have my own bike shop that's making money. I have 3 employees and a reputation for knowing what I'm doing. Next year, I plan to work part-time while attending Babson Business College.
MONEY IS IMPORTANT, BUT SO IS COMMON SENSE
When I started my bike shop, 2nd Gear Bicycles, getting enough money was important to me. But not as important as making the right decisions and making sure that I had the resources: a good working space and the proper tools. Too many expensive mistakes would have sunk me.
My idea came from the only two things that I knew in depth and really liked: bicycles and people. Ever since I was 12 years old, I worked in bicycle shops. Before that, I sold all types of things including wrapping paper, candy and holiday cards. I had a clear vision of what I wanted in my shop: nothing but young faces and bright minds helping customers select the right bikes, and repairing bikes skillfully, with enthusiasm.
When I was 15, I was hanging around my neighborhood teen center when one of the directors asked me to join in meetings aimed at building bridges between adults and kids. This was called the Area for Neighborhood Coalition.
During these meetings I learned about Urban Development Action Grants, (UDAG) which pay for projects that help communities. (If I hadn't been a part of the neighborhood coalition, I could have learned about UDAGs through ads in local papers.)
I joined the subcommittee that reviewed grant proposals. At the same time, my idea for a bike shop was coming together. I forgot about the deadline, however, and ended up writing the proposal in one night.
GET YOUR IDEAS ON PAPER
Demonstrating the basics of bike repair
Getting my idea on paper was hard. But no one would talk to me unless they could see it all planned out in a proposal. I had to think about my target audience, my goals and where and how I was going to make this work. I know now it helps to pass the proposal around and get criticism. It may hurt, but it helps in the end.
The night I decided to write my proposal I talked to only one person, my mother. I knew she would approve, but hearing what she had to say is always important to me.
When I told my closest friends about my idea, they spit their milk out. I said, "This time next year, I will have my own bicycle shop." They thought that was funny and their reaction made me feel a little uneasy. But I just took it as a challenge. And today, one of those friends does the books for the shop.
THE BUDGET IS THE HARDEST PART
When I submitted my first budget, it was the most unsure thing I had ever put before someone else. Everything is an estimate, especially if it's your first time putting a budget together.
Estimating what I was going to spend over the next six months was very difficult. I just stuck to the costs I knew like rent and tools. Things like telephone, heating, electric, and supply costs were all unknowns to me.
Projected '97 Budget
*Note that "in kind" means supplies or services that didn't cost me anything because they were donated.
I asked for $14,000, but I only got $3,000. This was enough for two months' rent and some tools. I worked at an ice cream store to help pay the rent and keep the shop open.
I found out about a program called Youth Ventures while I was volunteering at a place that recycles old bicycles called "Bikes Not Bombs." The folks who run Youth Ventures were doing outreach to kids in the neighborhood.
I applied to them for help, and they gave me the money I needed to buy more tools.
During the start-up, I was working really hard and sometimes sleeping at the shop. I do everything: fix bikes, pay bills, make schedules and work on ads. Sometimes you have to figure out creative ways to get things done. By working with afterschool programs, I could pay people a buck an hour to work in the shop and the program makes up the rest of their wages. Now, I'm at the point where the shop is paying for itself with the bikes we sell.
Last year I applied for a grant with the Bank of Boston and was very excited, I met the deadline, my proposal was my best one yet, and my venture was doing great. My hopes were high because at the time I was 2 for 2 in grant writing I was unstoppable, I thought my chances were good being I was only asking for a little bit of money ($6,000) compared to the $100,000 they were giving out.
But I didn't get it. I found out the bigger companies have people that they're already invested in and have made more of a commitment to. It shook me up because it wasn't the world I thought it was.
I wasn't discouraged, though. I believe I've had a great deal of success. I applied to five different sources and collected $24,000 in grants from three of them. Three out of five is not bad, perhaps you can do better.
SOME OF THE THINGS I'VE LEARNED:
Find out who is going to support your idea.
Projected Sources of Income
There are many foundations, non-profit organizations, banks and families with money to give away. It seems that they all have such a broad range of projects they fund but you have to read the fine print.
The fine print in this case is looking into the past. Who has a particular grant-giver or bank awarded money to before and what was their angle?
Does this foundation already have a particular group they want to support that has been predetermined even before you ask? This is something I found out (note my two failures ) and became very disturbed by. It is disheartening. But it served as a lesson to me as to how serious this business of grants for projects has become.
Pay attention to deadlines and meet them.
Start at least a week ahead of time. Also, tailor your proposal to a particular organization's focus. Some groups just have to hear: "Yes, we are serving under privileged youth ages 9- 19," and they will approve the project.
Share what you've learned.
I have my first proposal
posted on the wall of my store so that kids can see that it. I hope they realize
that you can make your dreams come true. It's easier (and harder!) than you