Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Met with a banker today... after a Startup Business Class with SCORE

    First of all I want to say that "Business Plan Week" looks more and more like "Business Plan Month" just to start with. It is more overwhelming than I though and just dealing with all the startup questions is too much for a newbie like me let alone the technical details.
   That is why I registered for a class with my local SCORE office here in Sacramento and took a 3 hour class called "Simple Steps Startup Basics (Pre-Business Orientation)" which was very basic and easy to understand. All the info can be found on your own on the SCORE website reading the tutorials, which I did and I was familiar with most of the stuff spoken of in the class but the good part was that you could ask questions. That was the best part actually because the class was held by two volunteers who used to be one a former CEO for a financial firm and the other VP of sales for different corporations. Impressive, I know. Believe me when I tell you that they knew what they were talking about and I left a little wiser. Now I have to make an appointment with a mentor to talk to him about my idea and be rest assured that I will log everything that he will have to say.
    After this I had to deposit my paycheck from work and went to the bank and talked to my banker (currently I have an account with CHASE - it is relevant i believe because I learned that not all banks are the same) and asked him about a bank loan for my business - I didn't have a business plan with me or anything else for that matter, just asked if it is possible. After asking me some questions about my business, like what will I do, how much do I plan to invest out of my own money, what business structure will it be ( very important as you will see) and when do I think I will start actually selling something ( I said 3 or 4 months - that is without a loan, just me saving money for assets). After all this he said is pretty tough to get an SBA loan, for which by the way you don't need a collateral - I asked him that specifically, and the interest rate for the last loan he approved for a startup was at a 13% interest rate. which in my case won't make much sense because two credit cards I have are at 14% APR so we came to the conclusion that is better to use the credit cards in case of emergency. 
   Overall my meeting with the CHASE banker (business accounts specialist) left me pretty impressed with the service and he actually took the time to go through all that with me and answer my questions. He advised me to open a sole proprietorship business account for now, hearing my concerns that I will need an LLC to protect my personal assets but I do not want yet to spend the $800 minimum tax that is required here in California (payable within 90 days of filing incorporation request with the Secretary of State). So he will open another one when I file for LLC and transfer all balance to that account. Not bad for a big bank paper pusher. I am hooked, oh  and all this knowing that right now I have a little less than $100 dollars to invest in my business....  Now I can confidently say that I have a banker. 
    Just have to find the right people with the right attitude  I guess. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Business Plan Week

   This is the end of the beginning as I decided to write a business plan and implement it in order to finally make some money. Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, big thing at church so I'll be mostly occupied with that and by next Saturday I would like to have completed the business plan just in time for Easter. I give myself a week because I feel I need it and being such an important project. Right now I will try and find all I can about business plans and start implementing my own requirements and rules, make it more suitable for my needs.
   My issue with the internet startup help is not the quantity or the quality of help you can find online but the homogenization of information pertaining to the whole business community in general. Of course it is separated in different trades but that doesn't help much with individualization. What I am trying to say is that for all the time I spent researching my business idea I didn't come up something that can apply to me not 100% but at least 60%. There is always something to tweak or adapt or change completely. I am saying this for the engineer in me who wants a template that would fit exactly with my idea and this blog is mostly about me trying to do just that: tweak the massive volume of information available on the internet on startups and business in general and personalize it for my exact needs.
   So here we go ... to bed for now, it's midnight and I still have to wash the sippy-cups and put all the toys away. Looking forward to tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fictitious business name

  I completely forgot about this one. Last Thursday I went down to the Sacramento County business office and got me a Fictitious Business Name statement. Paid $27 for it . Also it has to be published into a newspaper once a week for four weeks and I have to do that within 30 days from the filing date. That would be easy given that I already received advertisement letters in the mail and they go from $15 to $30 which makes it easier to choose from - the cheaper the better for now.
 This is the link for the Sacramento County online FBN search ( which I did before filing my own)
  Here's the form as I submitted to the clerk and this is what i got back. ( sorry for the whiteout , I am afraid of spammers - if you have any questions or you need to contact me by phone, email me ).

Trademark scare!

   I sweat quite a bit over these past two days at the thought of trade mark infringement. I was in the doctor's office with my son and while waiting I was reading the only magazine that didn't deal with hair style or cooking recipes and came upon this article about the aftermath of a lawsuit against a little company in Florida from a big tuna in New York ( I do not recall the names or the issue in question). My point here is that I suddenly realized that my business name contains "cruiser" and that is close to PT Cruiser which is savagely trademarked by Chrysler, LLC .
   First thing I did when i got home was to search for the said keyword on the US Patent and trademark office website and found plenty trademarked such words and many of them contain the word "cruiser" with a note on the there that they do not intend to use the words except in the meaning that was trademarked. So that is reassuring.
   Not taking that information too lightly I did contact Chrysler at the email address provided on their website and  asked for more info on this subject saying that I did start a business Gaming Cruiser which I want to make sure does not infringe on any of their patents. No answer of course.
  Oh well, after a day of thinking I kind of realized my mistake and stupidity. I can't contact every company that has a "cruiser" word trademarked and ask for permission. There are lawyers and entire law firms dedicated to this delicate subject so I'll just let them deal with it and I will see to get some money for my startup for now. If worse comes to worst, I will deal with it then and there.

  If anybody from Chrysler LLC comes over a detailed email about some trademark bla-bla and skewed legal terms, please ignore it and do not post it on your office wall and write "what an idiot " on it. Thank you in advance!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Social Media Accounts

   My goodness! Following Brody Dorland's advice on blogging I put myself on this beautiful Sunday noon to get some accounts online to link my blog to, and boy is it time consuming. Only a few of them and I already lost count, luckily I wrote down on paper the website and the password and the security questions and the user name and the alternate e-mail address and the retrieval code and ....
   The accounts i already had are on Twitter (@gamingcruiser), Facebook (Gaming Cruiser), gmail (, and Now I added quite a few: Word Press (alternate blogg site - to see how that works), LinkedIn, Digg, amazon, youtube, craigslist ( I want to sell some stuff to raise money for my startup) and also ebay, skype, flickr, yahoo, msn and .... I think that's it.
   I don't know if I should make an account on MySpace... are any would be customers on it? Anybody still using Myspace? I don't know, maybe it won't hurt ... ok, add myspace.
   Any other sugestions Mr. Brody Dorland? Or anybody else?

Expenses spreadsheet

   I put my big two expenses on a spreadsheet for everyone to see and I will update every time some new expenses occur or I put money towards the startup budget.  Follow the link

Friday, April 8, 2011

Finally a logo

   Thursday I spent $5 on and ordered a logo. Here it is:

   Honestly, the wheels are crooked and overall it looks like a snow plower or some kind. I am not happy with it but gave the guy thumbs up anyway because he did what i described i want. He did  a good job given the requirements i sent him. Here's a page with sketches that I did while "studying" in the library at school:

   Where should I look for a logo or better yet how should I describe what I want? I think that I expect something without knowing what I want. Now, what do i want?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Step three

   All day today I tried to come up with a logo for my business. I looked online and tried some free software for logo design but nothing that jumps at me. With my limited funding is hard to find somebody to do it for me until I stumbled upon and I think I'll give it a go with that. It's a little after 4PM and maybe I will have a logo by day's end.
   Don't change the channel, I'll be right back. ( crickets...)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Second step

   After talking to my wife and looking high and low for long forgotten cash and bank accounts (under sofa cushions included) I have an idea where i stand financially. Do not laugh at me!
   In my bachelor days checking account I have $32.45, in savings $34.80 and $90 in cash. Out of which I paid $10 to register a domain name ( I'll get to that later) and $40 cash are my one year old son's - he got them for Christmas and I wanted to open an account for him- imagine! so I won't touch those. Which brings us to a grand total of $107.25 to start my own business. :) Couldn't be better. 
   Now remember that we want to use our salaries to pay the debt and Mr. Dave Ramsey might have a word or two to say about this, but I will use any extra money that "I" (not we) will make to use towards the business, not debt.
   I have to add that at this point in time I am not looking for outside funding, I think it would be better if I have a business plan put together and then I will take a chance at pitching my idea to investors and of course  I will blog about it in detail. Correct me if I'm wrong. 
   STEP 2: Startup funds, CHECK!
   Next step: who knows? I'm my own boss! ( outside 9 to 5. And when I'm not at home. Or with customers... oops, I spoke too soon).

Friday, April 1, 2011

First step

   There are plenty of articles on the web about the first steps to start your own business. I think I've read them all (no, really, I did). Nothing applies to me so I'll just take my own steps and write my own "road to success".
  Today I looked for a suitable vehicle for my purpose. Some van (Ford 350 or Dodge ) seems the most suitable and long enough to house two 42" TVs. I looked for some gaming chairs, in particular for the dimensions to have an idea how many fit in the van. I would like to fit at least 8 chairs inside. That would require some major retrofitting but oh well , let 's do it.
   Another important thing is that I went over my finances and ... it doesn't look pretty. I will spend some time over the weekend and make an accurate assessment of all my available startup funds ( missus will have an important word to say to this regard). I will post that on Monday, most likely.
   What I need done asap is a list with major purchases needed, like TVs , Van , Chairs, Retrofitting the van, a generator for all the electronics, game consoles( xbox, ps3, wii - do I need all three? ) , accessories for the electronics ( nunchacks , cotrollers- wired or wireless, etc) , and that s pretty much it.  HEEEYYY, there's my list! Woohooo.
   Make major purchases list: CHECK.
   Next step: asses available startup funds.