Archive for May, 2011
One of the early decisions when we were planning for Cafe Solstice, my wife Missy’s new cafe, we were really interested in using Square. Square is a service/device from the fellow behind Twitter. For us, we simply created an account at SquareUp.com, and shortly after, we received a small device that plugged into the headphone jack of our iPhones, iPads, or an Android phone, and could download the app that works with it.
I’m always for using new technology, and loved the idea of the “oh wow” factor of using an iPad at a cafe may have as just one of the things to help us stick out. But my concerns were two fold: how would we do paper receipts, and how does the system hold up under pressure of a lunch rush.
In our experience, and I was surprised by this a little, we barely have any credit card transactions. On a busy day, we’ve had maybe four cards, and all of the rest cash. That means all of our transactions are recorded, but we only pay the small per transaction cost to maybe four checkouts a day.
In over a week an a half, we’ve only had to fill out three paper receipts. And for those that want the digital receipt, we discovered that if you do use your card, it retains your email address for repeat customers, eliminating some repetition, just like at the Apple Store.
As a POS (Point of Sale) system, it’s even better. Missy setup our entire menu in the system under her account, which gives it an interesting periodic table feel at the bottom that you can scroll through. When we get busy, and I happen to be in doing my freelance work in the cafe, I can step up with my own iPad, log in, and have the cafe’s offerings right there. Even if I didn’t have a square device handy, I was more than capable to take care of cash transactions, which all report right back to the account.
On the back end, Square offers a great reporting page you can log into online that gives you transactions, how they paid, and running totals for the day. Missy, who’s kept her day job through all of this, can easily check in online to see how we’re doing. It beats waiting for end of the day register counting.
As I mentioned, the wow factor has been a great sticking point. The scores of people coming through our door that ask “is that an iPad?” have been interesting. Some have even seen us ringing them out and asking about the service for their own ventures. One fellow said it would be perfect for doing transactions for his photography (of which, he has some fantastic Pittsburgh cityscapes).
Recently, we even discussed the possibility of doing deliveries or expanding to some sort of food truck in the far future, and the prospect of being able to deliver locally and take cash or credit on the spot with an iPhone or Android device, which ties right into our system remotely would be a tremendous chance for expansion.
Over a week and a half ago, I left my job I’ve held since 2004.
It was a job I was dropped into part time. I fought to find out what was next inside the company, and then the options outside, and here I am.
After 6 years going to the same place everyday, or since October, three times a week, it’s a scary proposition. You lose that sense of security, and benefits you hardly thought about, for so long. Realizing you have to fend for yourself. And sometimes that work may not be there. Growing into your own agent, not answering to a manager, but those directly responsible for your potential for making a living, or in some cases, the mass audience you hope to cultivate to the same end.
That scared feeling subsided pretty quickly for me, actually. And surprisingly so. That last day at my three lettered company just felt like another day. We had a lunch with my production coworkers, and I was once again scrambling to get something completed. I don’t know why since my best friend asked my why I cared with a month left in the job period, but alas, I can’t shake my sense of responsibility.
But, while I’m cautious, I’m not worried moving forward. I’ve been learning a lot trying to build some social media and fill in all the technical blanks at Cafe Solstice, where you can find me camped out in the corner doing my work most days, and just launched a new show with the Pittsburgh Foundation, along with a few other projects I’m very excited to get out there.
It’s a wild, scary time, but I love it.
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the TWIT network and the work of Leo Laporte ever since the good ol’ ZDTV days, and I frequent the TWIT app on my phone. I’ve attempted to emulate his Skypasaurus on my own terms (with hand me down LCDs and CRTs, unfortunately)
As those that listen to the show know, Leo’s been spearheading the expansion of his network there in Pataluma into a larger facility. I watched a recent video by Mr. Loic Le Meur (He’s a French fellow that does Le Web and Seesmic) that was showing off the progress of the renovations, and a little bit about Leo’s strategy and goals for the network.
Why should you care about Leo’s success? It’s the opportunity. It’s an outline as to what building something for yourself can be. This Week in Tech’s network is littered with personalities and journalists that seem to be refugees from mainstream media and other bigger online outlets bought by the bigger fish (like CNET now belonging to CBS).
His path has served as something of an inspiration to me, as I’ve served to attempt to build out something similar, but in my own direction, and tapping into the community around me here in Pittsburgh, but on a shoestring budget.
“I’m building a playhouse for myself”
If that isn’t the ultimate goal, I don’t know what is. Who doesn’t want to wake up in the morning, do what they want to do, as Leo puts it “..without having to ask for it” The ability to not answer to a higher up to server your niche that you’ve carved out for yourself, as he has with tech news. You see all sorts of networks popping up, such as 5by5> and Grizzly Bear Egg Cafe filling in those niches with people talking about what they want to and not having to answer to anyone. Maybe as a true venture. Maybe as an outlet to the creative restraints of their day job as mine started out as.
It’s fantastic to see something built from the ground up, from an audio “studio” in his attic (which I feel akin with my basement setup) to this large facility. You’ve seen the number and variety of shows grow, and configurations shoe horn into the TWIT cottage space. Watch what he’s done, read his wiki, and the same with these other podcasts. The big ones and small ones. You’ll learn a thing or two about how to achieve your own goals.