I just wanted to write an update for those of you who have been following along with our progress in Gloucester, VA -- in particular to those of you who have helped and given valuable input along the way.
If you recall, the situation has been fairly unique, in that the landlords (husband & wife) of the building we were looking to use were approaching things from a benevolent approach/perspective, and had chosen to focus on their desire to support the business and less about the agreement and our roles. Several of you (rightly) had apprehension over that, and in response to your advice of the advice of other mentors, I have been making firm efforts to nail them down on some kind of agreement over the past two weeks. (It hasn't been easy.)
Long story as short as I can make it - the results have been disappointing. When I finally got them to give me some hard numbers, their proposal was $17.40/sq ft for the lease. To give frame of reference, commercial real estate in the area typically leases for anywhere from $6/sq ft up to $16/sq ft on the high end. So, we suddenly went from them being invested in the vision and wanting to help foster that to it being very cut and dry and them essentially making me a business offer that I'd have to be foolish to accept.
The good news is that we got this out on the table now versus later.
I did not respond to their offer right away (it was made during a meeting last Tuesday), as I wanted to have time to process and do research. I'm scheduled to meet with them this evening, where I will tell them I cannot accept their terms and see where the conversation goes. It's likely I'll need to walk away, which is totally ok, because I know it isn't about a building.
Additionally, I've recently taken on a partner. She is a young lady who was looking to start a local small business incubator, and we both felt our similar interests and what we bring to the table would complement the other well. So, the focus has shifted a little, and the plan is now to create a coworking space that would also have a small business incubator built in, including an advisory board of mentors who are local business owners and entrepreneurs who have expertise and experience to share.
Our group of interested coworkers continues to grow, and we're now up to about 20 people who have said they want in when the doors open.
I also got an email from the local newspaper this morning, and they're looking to do an article on what we're trying to do.
This afternoon, my partner and I are going to look at the upstairs of a local building as a possible alternative location. It's old and needs a lot of TLC, but the rent/lease is about 25% of what the other landlords were asking. The thought is that we could get our feet wet there and learn about running the space, and we could even just go cheap on the furniture by getting thrift store stuff, building certain aspects (floating wall desks), and just trying to operate n a shoestring budget until things take off.
We've also found a local accountant who is going to help us make sure we're doing things by the book in that regard, and she will be on retainer for $150/month (which we think is pretty cheap).
We're thinking about just going ahead and launching presales and doing some crowdfunding to help with upfront costs, but our fear is that people won't buy into that without a building/location. I'd love to hear from any of you who have been successful in similar circumstances.
As always, I appreciate all feedback and support.
More to come.