Diary of a New Business

 

By the Yankee, Arlene Winkler

Step 1: Inspiration
There are weddings and then there is the wedding of your dreams—like Kathy and Tom’s, a fantasy of barefooted bridesmaids, tripping lightly over the grass in the simplest of gowns, trailing bright floating scarves of aubergine and chartreuse; and River Guerguerian drumming in the bride, who comes gliding down the aisle in elegant taupe with the same bright accents— and matching suede boots (that I would cheerfully kill for); and a proper minister who doesn’t laugh when the ducks in the nearby pond interrupt his very proper sermon.  And then there is the music—as one might expect when the producer of said event is a dancer, and her husband/partner is a musician/composer who plays lead guitar with The Business. So no one is surprised when Joe Arrendell and the entire band appear on the balcony to lure the guests inside for the celebration—and the melodious stylings of the legendary Kat Williams, accompanied by whom else, but the groom.
How do you follow an act like that?  With a fine champagne, of course, and waiters offering trays of delicious hors d’oeuvres prepared by (choose 1): a) her friends, b) her children, c) a professional chef.  But it is the elegant tables that steal the show.  When is the last time that any of us attended a wedding where the meal was served on fine china?  Bone china dinner plates, to be exact, on silver chargers, with delicate mix-matching soups and salads, set on vintage Japanese paper over gauzy white table covers, each one with a different, color-coordinated floral centerpiece.
Welcome to the elegant, up-cycled dream settings of Kathy Meyers Leiner, founder of Moving Women, a collaborative performance ensemble known for its original choreography and inspired sets.  Anyone paying attention would have known she was planning the second act from the way she prepared for the wedding—her second, his third—buying up pieces of orphan china at every consignment shop on the Eastern Seaboard. 
“I think it grew out of my “When I get too old to dance/B&B Fantasy,” Kathy explained.  “For the last few years, it’s been my excuse for picking up little treasures whenever I go to an out-of-town workshop.  So I already had a few things when I began thinking about the wedding, plus my mother’s silver teapot. It was the only thing of my mother’s I had left, after my ex stopped paying any child support.
“My kids had moved five times in seven years by that time, and I wasn’t about to let that happen to them again.  But I was a dancer, by profession; a labor of love that barely paid, and I didn’t have a car, which meant I was totally dependent on my friends for transportation.  All I had was my house and I was determined to hold onto it.
“I had to sell everything to hang on to it, all of my mother’s beautiful china and silver, the silver I had left from my own wedding, I even sold some of my furniture.  It’s true that what doesn’t kill you makes you strong, and one of the advantages of being a dancer, is that I was also physically strong—which was how I managed my day job of gardening and painting houses for people. 
“It certainly was different than the way I grew up.  My mother set such a beautiful table. Even now, the smell of coffee sets off a memory of watching her pour it into her beautiful cups for her bridge club, of me hiding in the kitchen with my brother until the ladies had finished, so we could run in and eat the left-over desserts.  She used to take me with her to church every week to help her make the flower arrangements. These were skills she passed on to me, as well as the pleasure.
“My father was very proud of her. He was a bargain collector, the kind who would buy anything now and regret it later.  One of those times he came home with a big load of used windows in the back of his truck, “Quick, Kathy,” he called, “Help me hide these before your mother gets home!”  I think both of them would love it that now I’m doing the same thing. “
Tom and Kathy became engaged in December a year ago and began to make plans for the wedding.  They were planning to rent the dishes and glassware for the reception, until she saw the limited selection.  She found the first plate at Goodwill, in January:
“I knew I had it bad when I went back and got another one.” 
A visit to the attic with her sister yielded more treasure—three-dozen champagne flutes and several boxed sets of wineglasses. By February, she was planning the wedding flowers with her neighbor, a talented gardener of the British school. They decided to plant them in both their back yards.  By March she knew she was expecting more than 100 guests. It was turning into a production with as many moving parts as a dance performance, and required just as much management and artistry—but these are Kathy’s time-proven talents.
She began experimenting with different arrangements, trying for a layered look with a combination of silver chargers, dinner plates with traces of gold or silver and simple graphics that picked up the colors of the dress she was having designed by Brooke Priddy, and a mixture of patterns for the teacups, salads and soups. 
“By the time I was done, I knew how each table would look and who would sit there; who would enjoy sitting next to whom, who was a vegetarian or diabetic or didn’t drink alcohol. I wanted to create a special experience for each one. 
Step 2: Decision
“Now I’m ready to provide the same thing for other people: eclectic, up-cycled and elegant.”

Step 3-Listen and Learn:
√ Sign up for classes at Mountain Biz Works to learn how to write a business plan.
√ Visit the Small Business Center at Enka-Candler AB Tech to learn how to qualify for the Small Business Incubator
√ Register business name* and get a tax ID
√ Line up commercial insurance
√ Make a contact list
√Design a web site
* Send your suggestions care of this publication: www.wncwoman.com

Following is a short listing of resources in our community to help:
MountainBiz Works
Mountain BizWorks is a non-profit community development financial institution that promotes economic self-sufficiency for women (and men) in Western NC through entrepreneurship. They serve all women who have a desire to start and successfully run a small business, especially those who face barriers to business ownership such as low-income status, language barriers, low educational attainment, and low socio-economic achievement.
Their business development services for Women Owned Small Businesses (WOSBs) are substantive and results-oriented, ensuring that all loans submitted by women business owners to Mountain BizWorks are given full consideration and that other recommendations for financing are made if the loan is not approved.

Kathy enrolled in MountainBizWorks Foundation Express Classes
Day & Date: The next series begins on Monday, February 13, 2012 and runs for 5 weeks.
Time: 9:00 am – 12:00 noon
Location: Mountain BizWorks, 153 S. Lexington Ave., Asheville
Facilitator: John Bonham
Description: Turn your business idea into a business plan! Learn the business-planning process while building your business skills.  Foundations Express is an accelerated version of the full Foundations curriculum designed for current and prospective entrepreneurs who are willing to complete a business plan quickly and work independently.
Hours / Credits: 5 sessions, 15 seat hours
Registration: Introductory class fee is $185 for all participants. Space is limited and pre-registration is required.  For information or to register, contact:   Erika Rodriguez, 828-253-2834 x27 or erika@mountainbizworks.org.

 

ABTech Small Business Center and Small Business Incubator.

Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College recognizes the vital role of small business entrepreneurs in our economy. The Business Incubator and Small Business Center provide a focal point for education, counseling, advising and referral. The programs address the continuing need for updating information, refining entrepreneurial skills and the enhancement of techniques to improve the profit advantage in risk taking. Special emphasis is given to the critical areas of capital formation and prevention of business failures.

 

Free One-to-One Counseling
The Business Center provides free one-to-one counseling for business owners or prospective owners to assist them in getting started or with a specific area of concern. Counseling can cover a variety of topics ranging from licensing and marketing to patents and trademarks.

 

Professional Services Office
A Professional Business Services Office within the Center for Business and Technology Incubation provides clients with access to a variety of outside experts. These professionals, who work on a pro bono basis, come from the accounting, financial, international, legal, marketing, management, military and technology fields. In addition, there are experts available who hold specific experience in emerging growth, turnarounds and workouts issues.

 

Workshops and Seminars
Workshops and seminars are sponsored by the Center to assist the business entrepreneur with continuing education in the areas of management and supervision, communications, taxes and the “how tos’” of operating a business, as well as other topics.

 

SBC Network and SCORE (Counselors to America’s Small Business)
The SBC network involves all levels of business and civic leaders as well as organizations in the community, including local chambers of commerce, SCORE and numerous other agencies. The Center works cooperatively with state and local governments, universities and colleges and private enterprise in promoting assistance to small business firms. In addition, the U.S. Small Business Administration and SCORE provide additional materials and services.

Small Business Incubator Program
The Business Incubator program is designed to provide companies maximum flexibility while working closely with them to identify areas of improvement and to assist in locating needed resources. The typical program is for a term of two years, allowing companies to grow in the incubator and then relocate into the surrounding community.
Business incubators provide a location, assistance and counseling to the development of entrepreneurial companies, giving them much needed assistance during their start-up or expansion phases. A National Business Incubation Association (NBIA) study reports that 87% of incubator startups are still in business after 10 years, compared to a survival rate of only 44% of non-participants after four years in business.

For information please contact Jill Sparks, Director: jsparks@abtech.edu Or visit: www1.abtech.edu/content/small-business-center

To talk to Kathy Meyers Leiner about your own event—call her directly at 828-215-2410

Arlene Winkler is a freelance writer, with an unabashed passion for fine art, fine food and fine wine. A former ad agency president and enthusiastic participant of life on the New York fast track, she moved to Asheville in 2002 with her sculptor husband, Robert Winkler. A mother of three, a grandmother of five, she is dealing with her culture shock by writing about the accomplishments of women above and below the Mason Dixon line.

 


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