Sunday, 30 October 2016

To Do...

My to-do list.

  • Write proper blog re: past events; future events; new developments; moving home & my journeys since.
  • Buy a van.
  • Get website up & running.
  • Find a storage space.
  • Finish mum & dad's garden.
  • Get growing some ingredients!
  • Prepare for Christmas events.
  • Develop a range of new syrups.
  • Spend time with my family.
  • Catch up with old friends.
  • Organise a tighter schedule for myself.
  • Get a part-time job.
To be continued... 

Thursday, 9 June 2016

The Plot Thickens...

This blog has been months in the waiting.

A huge shift in circumstances has meant it has been pushed to the bottom of my priority list, amongst the many to-do lists of ‘hunt for job,’ ‘find a house’ and ‘sort out life’.

For those of you who don’t know, my most recent employer Gareth, has decided to close the doors of Irie's Caribbean restaurant. A well-loved establishment that fell victim to the bar and restaurant industry and the tough nature of business in Aberystwyth. If you want to read more about the future of Irie himself, head on over to his blog here.

After a few days of being utterly terrified that I wouldn't be able to feed myself, I took a walk to the beach and had a chat with my good friend Heather. She was so excited when she realised I’d finally have some time to focus on myself and the things I want to do. Her enthusiasm infected me and I was suddenly so positive. Finally, this is a bit of an opportunity to focus on the right path. A lot of pent up stress is slowly fading away and I finally have a chance to take a step away from working towards someone else’s dream.

My house contract is also up at the end of this month, which meant looking for a house and a job. For a while, I was in a bit of a Catch 22, never wanting to commit to such a demanding job that means having no weekends (or energy) to build my own business. Looking around flats with no storage space and expensive rents was starting to take its toll on me; so during a recent visit back to South Wales, I decided that I'm going to take the plunge and finally leave the Aber bubble that I've fallen entirely in love with.
I'm moving back to my home town of Risca: To get my feet back on the ground, find a decent job and not have to worry about my savings shrivelling into extortionate rents. It’s about time I went back to look after the people that have looked after me for so long.
As business is going at the moment, it makes more economical sense for me to commute (the beauty of a mobile bar) every so often, than to live in a place that sucks the savings from my very soul.
South Wales has so many more opportunities for food festivals and the like which supports and helps the growth of local, particularly pop-up businesses. Being close to Cardiff, Newport & Bristol will be perfect over the summer and I'm excited to see what the future has in store.

But that doesn't mean that I won’t be in Aberystwyth all the time. I still want to run events and keep a strong connection with the town that stole my heart. And with the amount of incredible people that I've met here, I don’t think it’ll be difficult to keep in touch!

The next jobs on my list are marketing this business. Getting people to know about The Wonder Bar. Pushing it into your faces until you’re all fed up of hearing about it.

My first marketing step was a wedding fair back at the beginning of the year. An old colleague and friend, Kerry Ferguson - who’s becoming quite the dab hand at setting up businesses (and helping others do the same) - held a Wedding Showcase at the Gwesty’r Marine Hotel.

I was nestled amongst some of the fantastic array of stalls, where I met very many lovely people – brides, grooms and other local businesses. A chance to network and get my name out there.

I also set up a Crowdfunder page for start up business costs. In a rush before my birthday in December, I set up the page to give family and friends a chance to help me with costs, rather than buy me Christmas/birthday presents. A December birthday is often a curse and I feel if I had set up the page at some other point of the year, it wouldn't have been such a strain on people’s wallets. Christmas is an expensive time, so I understand that the target wasn't met. I definitely should have pushed it more and really made the most out of the project, but we live and learn.

However, it still raised £215! I’ve said it a million times before – but THANK YOU so much to those who pledged! It means the world that people believe in me enough to part with their hard earned money and I can’t fully express into words how grateful I am - boozy chocolate would have to do! In return for people’s generosity, I handmade some Irish Cream & Kahlua truffles. OK, OK, it was meant to be fudge… but as it didn't set, I coated them in chocolate, making them look and taste far posher than I imagined. Hurray! And I was told they were quite delicious too. I shall be sticking to my day job though, I am definitely no chocolatier...

Since I started writing this blog months ago, I was approached with a steady job to keep me going and build connections before I depart. The Castle Hotel has provided me with a wonderful network of people and a few hours a week to keep the steady saving going! The hold of Aberystwyth is strong and though my heart is telling me to stay, my head knows that further opportunities will arise if I venture further afield.

Through Careers Wales (a highly recommended service for anyone looking to start a business!) I was directed towards ReAct funding. A Welsh government funded resource for those who have been made redundant. The funding provides training to develop skills necessary to return to work. Through this scheme, I will be doing my BIIAB Level 2 Award for Door Supervisors, in preparation for gaining my SIA licence (those blue badges that bouncers wear!) Another useful little skill to prepare me for putting on my own events.

You see, what I've learnt in the last 6 months is that there are many people who like the idea of a mobile bar, but excuses to hire one are few and far between. I need to seek out the food and drink festivals, learn to tackle social media and put on a few parties myself!

And so I'll end this long post with the details of The Wonder Bar's next appearance:

Alfie's Beer Bus is bringing the party to The Printhaus in Cardiff. On the 2nd July, we'll be celebrating micro-brewed beer, delicious street food and live art all topped off with a delightful soundtrack of local and lovely music.

As Alfie specalises in #Microbrewedawesomeness, we will be there with a range of tasty and unusual cocktails and mocktails to satisfy the needs of those who like something a bit sweeter or a bit weaker than beer! #BeerVsCocktails

I'll finally sign off with a wish: That those who remain in Aberystwyth will party with me until the end.
And be here when I shall return!

And to those spread across the rest of the country....
Keep your ears open... We may be coming to a venue near you...

Thursday, 25 February 2016

January and So Forth...

Happy new year! A tad belated, but sincere nonetheless. 
So, January through to February has been fairly busy. Juggling my job whilst being a control freak is proving a bit of a challenge. I've tried to sort all of the business side of things before delving into gigs, but now what I need is the business so I can properly get the feel for how everything will work and what’s to be expected for the coming year(s)…

Now I’m going to tell you all about what I know you want to hear – the first event!
Black House presents: New Year’s Eve Soundclash. What a bitter-sweet start to the year this was...

The lead up was an exciting and panic-inducing smorgasbord of emotions: stress, hope, fear, joy, relief and above all gratitude.
The event itself was fantastic. The production, as always, was incredible - such a huge effort goes into turning any space into an indoor, festival paradise and it was a pleasure and an honour to be a part of the proceedings for the night. For such a wonderful evening, credit goes to Kirk Holland – the brains behind Black House – and his incredible team of aficionados and friends alike. I can't thank Kirk enough for having the faith in me to run the bar for the night. Words cannot describe the revelry that went on that NYE, but check out the event video created by Paddy Walker, which sums it up brilliantly!

Unfortunately, the event will be forever tainted by the theft of around £2000 door money. It makes me and so many many others in the community sad and angry that some selfish individual would take from someone who has personally given so much to the music scene in Mid-Wales. Have a read of this and if you have any information, please get in contact.

The team for the evening, Max, Elli, James, Heather, Robin & Jenn, were all absolute saints - Thank you guys! Having a handful of people who are close to me and real grafters was absolutely priceless. I couldn't be more grateful for the awesome work they did that night (and day... and days beforehand!!) We danced, we laughed and we all worked really hard. I ached for days into 2016; it was all worth it!
It’s also very handy having someone close to me who’s good at all of that arty stuff, so a special shout out goes to my boyfriend Tom, who not only designed the price lists and made me an awesome, giant chalkboard menu, but kept me calm when I felt like my head was going to explode.

As I've mentioned before, these blogs are a way to track my progress. It is an honest depiction of how I'm trying to set this business up. It’s a great tool to look back on past events and work out what went well and how the next can be improved. I hope it comes in handy for others reading who would like to set up a business or something similar. I'm open all ears if anybody wants to get in contact to exchange advice or information!
On that note, things that could've been improved that night:

The menu
Kirk and I had come up with an idea beforehand of what drinks we would've liked to sell that night: Canned lagers and ciders (it was a no glass event), standard spirits & soft drinks, prosecco and a couple of simple cocktails.
Having been to many a Black House event, I wasn't sure how the cocktails would go down. I didn't need the amount of fresh fruit I’d prepared, but not much went to waste and the cocktails were a success. NYE is a night where people want to treat themselves and the customers were impressed by the preparation and taste of the drinks! The liquid stock was bought on a sale-or-return agreement, which meant we could deliberately over order. Running out of booze in any situation would be a complete disaster!
Unfortunately, we left it a little late before buying the stock, so instead of the cans we intended to put on the menu, we were left with Stella Artois and 3 different types of cider... Most people seemed satisfied with the choices on offer, but if there’s one thing I've learned since working in the service industry, it’s that you can’t please everyone all of the time. (But I’ll keep trying!) Pre-ordering stock well in advance is something that I know is crucial for the next event.

The bar itself and the display fridges were borrowed from a previous employer of mine.  Whilst I find my feet, I’ll be looking to hire equipment specific to the event. Refrigeration units and a van are top of the list there. When my house contract runs out in June, I’ll be looking for somewhere more permanent to move – somewhere that I can store such items when the time comes to invest! My bar is coming along nicely too, so I need somewhere to put that…

My lack of transportation was also a huge issue. Those who know me have heard all about the car fiasco that has been going on for nearing a year…. Here is the low down.

I was given a car by a friend who went travelling. A friend of a friend introduced me to a guy we’ll call Dave (a ‘mechanic’), who agreed to check over the car to see if it was all in working order, before I drove to South Wales the next day. After giving me the thumbs up, I made my way to sunny Newport – 40 miles into my journey, the little Clio gave up. A week, £90 and a tow back to Aberystwyth later, Dave told me he felt awful that he’d said everything was A-OK with the car when obviously it wasn't, and agreed to fix the car up in his spare time. I didn't have to pay for the labour, I just had to pay for any parts it needed… And here’s where the story gets complicated.
For months, Dave told me that he was nearly there. “It’ll be done by the end of the week,” “tomorrow,” even “tonight,” before something else went a bit wrong, or it needed another tweak or he had a family problem which meant he couldn't work on the car that day/week/month. Followed by weeks of not being able to contact him, no replies to my texts and missed calls that never got returned. The whole thing was really frustrating and stressful. But with the lack of information I had, no idea what to do with a car that didn't work and being told that no other garage would touch it because it was worth next to nothing, I let this whole thing carry on.
10 MONTHS PASSED. I know, I know, how on earth did I let this go on for 10 months? I wish that everyone could experience having a conversation with this man. It’s hard work.
In this time, he got caught for driving a car without insurance and his driver’s licence taken off him. Many people told me to get the car off him. But, where would I put a SORN-ed car that’s half fixed in Aberystwyth – where the parking spaces are lacking and I don’t own any land…? The options were little so every time I got told “next week,” I just waited. Call me a fool, but my options at the time were very limited!
In light of recent events, I have actually been given a different car by him. It’s not the best or flashiest car in the world, but it runs, so that’s a start. It’s had a few different people look at it and I’ll be taking it to the garage tomorrow to have it looked at properly and re-MOT’d! So my transport issues are over for now and I finally have a way to get around the country for future events!

And the last issue I have from the night, which is entirely my own fault, is the lack of pictures! I was so overwhelmed with joy and kept myself so busy that I completely bypassed taking any photos of the night. None of the bar, none of the set up and only one or two of the preparation. Amateur error, but one I know is so so important for next time!

Me & Elli - on the bouncy castle rave cave post party!

I've blabbered enough for one day, so thank you as always, if you've made it this far! I have a lot more info to update everyone on, so stay tuned for the next chapter of this business journey!