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Monthly Archives: August 2012

The modern-day lemonade stand

Kids these days. Who needs an MBA anymore when you can just open your own business in the garage?

My 10-year old son has taken the concept of a neighborhood lemonade stand to another level. Only this time he’s not donating proceeds to charity. He’s in business for himself.

Along with several other committed kids in the neighborhood, he’s created a bike repair service called Opie’s Bike Repair in our garage. As the “general manager,” he pays the other kids a “salary,” which we’ll get to a little later.

Most of the time they spend sitting in the garage, waiting for the phone to ring or a random customer to happen by. They’ve made a bit of money doing various bike jobs for friends and family, and they’ve reinvested it in the company, after paying out expenses.

Understanding the need for additional customers, they’ve started marketing with a website, created special offers, and plastered flyers all over the neighborhood. Recognizing there is a limited potential market for bike repair services in our neighborhood, they’ve recently added car washing to the menu of Opie’s services.

And they’re already getting a taste of labor disputes with the employees (a.k.a friends) demanding to be equal partners in the enterprise instead of specialists hired to do a job. As a result, my son sent a memo to the staff requesting feedback on how to make work more fun, via anonymous notes dropped in a mailbox. Employee engagement 101!

As a parent, it’s a fine line between encouraging enterprising behavior and being the voice of reality. For example, when they wanted to add a new phone number for the business, I told them that would cost around $30/month, which they didn’t realize. Of course, that’s not in their budget and so the news was hard to take. On the other hand, they’re learning nothing in life is free and you have to work hard to make something succeed. It’s difficult not to just tell them how to do things, because I want them to have some success. After all, isn’t this how Bill Gates and Mark Cuban and Steve Jobs got started? I’m just hoping the friendship dynamics on the street don’t get permanently bent out of shape while they figure it out.

What’s amazing to me through all this is that the lessons my 10-year-old is learning are on some levels the same ones any small business owner learns. And I hope that the experience he’s gaining today will help him succeed in the future. By the time these kids get to college, business degree curriculum is going to need a major update.

But, until then, the next time you have bicycle in need of repair or a car that needs washing, remember Opie’s, just down the street.

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Posted by on August 20, 2012 in Business, Family, Thoughts

 

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Mini-random Journeys

Happy observations, profound thoughts, minor annoyances, pleasant surprises…

  1. How can you tell if kettle chips are stale?
  2. Why must the other car drift into my lane right when I’m passing?
  3. If it’s over 100 degrees, it really doesn’t matter that it’s a dry heat.
  4. There are few things in life as important as getting the cereal-to-milk ratio just right.
  5. The latest study shows that three out of four people make up about 75% of the population.

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Posted by on August 19, 2012 in Random, Thoughts

 

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Ocean + Mountains = Great Wine

The Santa Cruz mountains may not have the mystique and popularity of Napa Valley or Sonoma, but the unique ocean/mountain climate here produces some great wines without the fuss and crowds that you can find elsewhere.

And, of course, getting there is half the fun. We loved breathing in the 79-degree mountain air with scents of pine, as we navigated the endless wild twists and hairpin turns up the mountain roads.

There are more than 70 wineries in the region, most family-run small-to-medium operations. In our short time here we were able to hit four of them while driving by several more.

First on our self-guided tour was Testarossa. This is the oldest continuously running winery in the Santa Cruz mountains and the Bay Area. The property used to belong to Jesuit monks who still live nearby but no longer do the wine work. The ambiance still reflects this influence with a higher-end feel. Tasting fee was $10 and the 2006 reserve Pinot Noir was the best, though none of the 5 pours were sources from grapes on the estate.

Inside Testarossa Winery.

 

Next up was Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyard, which had more the feel of an old fashioned dude ranch. Half of the property is a horse stable, so we saw kids breaking young horses, doing stunts on bareback, and walking horses all around. Inside the main cabin was the tasting room. For $5 each we got 5 pours, mostly estate grapes. They had Chardonnay and Pinot and Cabernet Franc, which was the best.

Tasting at Cooper-Garrod.

The next day we went to Savannah-Chenelle Vineyards, which has one of the most beautiful properties of any winery. Romantic and rustic, the wine tasting included estate and non-estate grapes, including an unusual un-oaked Chardonnay, which was nice and fruity. But the Pinot Noir was delicious — even for me, since I usually prefer the drier Cab. The property is sprawling with a Villa on top of a hill, clearly marked varietals of grapes on the hillsides and areas for a quiet picnic. Views of the mountains and valley below are fantastic. Tasting fee was $10 for six good-size pours.

The Zinfandel grapes at Savannah-Chenelle.

Finally, the best for last…the Mountain Winery is not only a vineyard but also a quaint outdoor amphitheater where we saw (and met backstage) the Barenaked Ladies, and also Blues Traveler. Perched high on a mountaintop, breathtaking views of the Bay Area from San Fran to San Jose made it easy to see why the locals were “tailgating” in the parking lot with actual crystal glasses, vintage wines, olive trays and cheese boards. Truly a unique sight to behold. And the locally sourced Cabernet reserve capped off a great experience.

What a venue for a concert at the Mountain Winery!

So next time you’re seeking out wine country, don’t overlook the Santa Cruz mountains. They don’t produce large quantities here, but the rich flavors make this area unique.

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2012 in Thoughts, Travel

 

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