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The money goes round ...

Posted by Dave Bull at  12:23 AM, November 11, 2014 [Permalink]

A bit of a different update tonight ... I recently posted stories about our opening days to my A Story A Week series [1 2], so anybody interested in reading about 'how we are doing' so far can check those for an update. Here on the Conversations blog, I'd like to update you with some info on a more hidden side of our business.

Everybody knows that we ran a Kickstarter campaign a couple of months back. It gathered quite a lot of support from our old fans and friends (and of course a bunch of new ones), and the money people spent there was intended to help us build our new shop. As I wrote in the campaign page, we thought we had basically enough money to cover everything, but ran the campaign anyway, because we felt that things were just too 'close'.

That was one of the smartest things I have ever done. As Lee-san, Ioan and I got deeper into the renovation, we came across many aspects of the work that caused problems and delays (completely normal for a renovation of an old structure of course.) The work that I had originally thought could be done in 'around a month or so' took us the best part of two months. My labour costs thus doubled, and we also lost the (anticipated) revenue from what would have been our first month open, but which was instead an extended renovation period.

In addition to this delay, my absence from the Ome workshop led that work to fall further and further behind. My crew kept up (barely) with the subscription prints, but a lot of other things got ignored, and over the past few weeks, things became pretty shaky, with all manner of jobs waiting for 'Dave to do something' before they could proceed properly.

Money became a real problem. My accounts were scraped to the bottom, my credit card was maxed out, and it was only the prospect of Kickstarter money arriving that kept us moving forward. But where was the Kickstarter money? The campaign ended at the end of September; surely we had the money by now, didn't we?

Well, no. At the end of the campaign, Kickstarter waited the advertised two-week period for peoples' payments to clear, and then sent the money to Ioan's account in Canada. But as he was still in Japan working on the construction, he was unable to initiate the international transfer, something that had to be done in person at his Vancouver bank.

After he returned to Vancouver in mid October, he immediately started that process, but it didn't go smoothly. The first two transfer attempts were returned to his bank (after about a week of delay each time) and it wasn't until just about a week ago - right on the last day of October - that his bank told him that it had gone through.

My payroll was due at the beginning of November, and I had nowhere near enough money to cover it, not to mention a ton of other bills due, but there was no sign of the money from Canada. As we moved into November, I asked many of the staff to 'please hang on a bit longer', and I got the credit card company to extend more credit to allow me to pay the people who had rent or mortgages due, and who were thus unable to wait.

And still nothing came through.

Late Friday night, I found out what the problem was. I had returned to Ome after nearly a week down at the shop, and found a stack of mail and newspapers in the entranceway. The Ome staff had not touched any of this, but as I went through it I found a letter from the Post Office Bank. It told me that money had arrived for me from overseas, but that they were unable to deposit it into my account until I answered a few questions. I'll scan it here for you ...

Yes. For nearly a week, the Post Office had been waiting for me to confirm that I am not a terrorist, and that I am not buying weapons of mass destruction.

At the bottom of the letter was contact information (a phone number) with the note: "Office hours Monday to Friday, 9 to 5"

I called the number Monday morning (this morning) at 9:00:01 and spoke with a young lady, trying as well as I could to avoid screaming abuse at her. She had a script to follow, and insisted on reading the full text of each of those questions, one by one. I answered properly, mightily resisting the impulse to shout out something about the delay in my most recent missile shipment ... She then replied that the money would be in my account the next morning.

At that point, I did lose it. I put on the coldest hardest harshest voice I could, and demanded that the remittance be deposited into my account by noon. Noon, at the latest.

It was.

I spent the next hour or so busy at this keyboard distributing it to other accounts, from which I made transfers to cover all the overdue bills, and of course all the staff salaries. There is even a bit left. Not much, but something.

All the expenses of building this new place are now paid and behind us. I am debt free, my credit card cleaned off. We don't quite have enough in the bank to cover next month's salaries, but there are three weeks left this month, during which we will of course have more income. We still have to fulfill all the Kickstarter rewards, but that's something we can handle in the normal course of business over the next couple of months (most of the two 'in stock' reward prints have already been shipped, and work on the Great Wave print will now get underway ...)

We're up and running!

Today at the shop was the second day of our Open House, and a number of business friends dropped by near the end of the day, including carver Asaka-san, the man who did the negotiations of the lease agreement on this place so many months back. I left the stack of stuff on my desk to stew by itself, and asked them to join me for dinner, taking them to a nice little place I have discovered just around the corner from our shop. We hoisted a few beers, and I happily accepted their congratulations on the opening.

After they left, I cleaned up a bit in the shop, put out the shop garbage bags for the morning, and then headed for the station to begin the long journey back to Ome, where I have to spend tomorrow with the staff here catching up on all the waiting backlog.

I'm now at my desk in Ome, posting this just after midnight Tokyo time. I've had a bit too much beer this evening, and am kind of tired, but hey, it's now my birthday!

It's been a pretty good few years, these past few ... since taking the decision to 'open up' the workshop and bring in other people. I could not have imagined any of these recent experiences, and I guess that's the way it's going to be for the next little while ... I honestly have no idea where this thing is headed. We're on a kind of rocket, and we all know what that means: either a steady flight to a stable orbit, or .... ka-boom, and nothing left but dust. There is no inbetween.

But what a ride!




Added by: Albert A on November 11, 2014 12:53 AM

Happy Birthday!

Added by: Slawik on November 11, 2014 1:56 AM

I wish you a Happy Birthday then!

I'm glad to see I did not finance the development of the North Korean nuclear programme!
People at the post office had probably heard about the world famous "Great Wave project"...

Anyway, it's cool to see everything got in line, because now, the best is to come: a well deserved success for the Asakusa workshop!

Added by: Stu on November 11, 2014 2:47 AM

Happy Birthday, Dave! I don't think you could have asked for a better set of presents than the Kickstarter funds transfer and (most of all) the wonderful new shop! I hope to visit both the Asakusa and Ome shops someday soon....

Added by: Franz Rogar on November 11, 2014 4:55 PM

Joyeux anniversaire! ;-)

Glad you got money things worked out... It's a pain to fight against the *burrocracy* of the governments...

Added by: Anita Cage on November 12, 2014 11:47 AM

Happy Birthday, Dave. I'm glad to hear about your firm voice and the transfer actually happening by noon! I'd surely count that a win, given the intransigence of bureaucracy. I empathize with the feverish end-of-a-tight-month scramble and hope it is the last you ever have to manage. Here's to smooth sailing and many more happy birthdays!

Added by: Dave on November 12, 2014 12:41 PM

I'm glad to see I did not finance the development of weapons of mass destruction ...

Well, back when I worked in the music shop, some of the Chinese saxophones we sent out might actually have fallen into that category, but I don't think our prints qualify at all!

Added by: Margaret Maloney on November 15, 2014 2:40 PM

Happy birthday, and I wish you many happy returns of the day!

(Most of all, though, I wish you the opportunity to take a breather once the dust has settled. You deserve it!)


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