|Kristen and Heather, co-owners of Toast Wine Lounge|
Do you want to open up a wine bar enough to scrub toilets after they've been used by builders for three months? Nooo? Well think again about the last one.
|Toast crew meeting|
Time went by and Heather, a local realtor and Kristen a photographer, found themselves wheeling babies around the streets lamenting the need for a comfortable wine bar where they could chat with babes in tow. They spent many hours dreaming, plotting and planning this imaginary bar while sipping wine and conferring with their trusted friends, whom they call their "Board of Directors".
Their aim was to make Toast a comfortable community space that welcomed children — a wine bar to impress the keenest oenophiles, but with no pretentiousness. The wine - chosen to go with the food - is sourced from small producing vineyards, the limited production meaning that wines would be constantly rotating with a sense of newness and adventure. Their slogan: Drink More Wine.
The outside street-side patio has high chairs and dog bowls and inside are industrial lights, swervy wood tables, benches salvaged from Richmond High (with naughty graffiti removed) a blackboard drawing of a huge corkscrew and wild flowers.
Six Start-Up Tips from Kristen and Heather:
1. Get feedback from your community.
They canvassed everyone they knew and created a "board of directors" from trusted friends with lots of evenings sharing wine, ideas and advice.
2. If you're not naturally optimistic, don't open a business.
Kristen:"Since we didn't have experience in wine bars we didn't know what was not possible and we just assumed it was."
3. Assume everything will take twice as long and cost twice as much.
Opening: They signed the lease on 1 Dec and their planned opening date of Feb was delayed two months because of stipulations about a grease trap and hood.
Cost: They assumed it would cost $500,000 to open and it cost half that! They pre-sold 2000 wine vouchers for a total of $50,000 and raised $16,000 in 90 days through the website Kickstarter where you state the amount you need and the time frame. The owners invested $15,000 and the remainder came through three investors, one who walked in off the street.
4. Be prepared to do everything yourself.
Heather: "I have polished the floor and cleaned the fridge." And of course scrubbed the toilets. During our interview they were folding napkins and linens which they'd washed themselves.
5. Know your market.
Both women have lived here for ten years and Heather has sold "half the houses in this area". They saw residents as sophisticated foodies with high standards.
6. Be honest with your partner at the onset:
Heather: "You are gambling with your friendship and that often doesn't go well. We got together one night and laid out all our flaws. We agreed Toast wasn't going to bring us down. " Kristen: "I'm clean but not tidy. There can be piles of papers everywhere, but it drives me nuts if things are sticky." Heather: "I'm a real control freak and I have a hard time when things are not done by the deadline."
You can read my review of five Toast wines in the East Bay Express.