Monday, May 30, 2011

Getting the Business Going

All the necessary papers have been submitted for our business to be valid in the state of Missouri, so we are simply waiting for the numbers to arrive.  Armed with the complete tax numbers we will be able to wholesale purchase the materials for the robes.  Well, that is if we can find the materials.

On May 10 we made an exploration trip to St. Louis to try to connect with a couple sources we had identified on the internet.  When we arrived at the first one I think we were mutually shocked. We walked through the door that we thought led to a showroom only to find some stacks of papers and a couple women with desktop computers.

The lady nearest the door politely informed us, "I'm sorry, but we only do internet orders.  If you have the item number we can order it for you."

"Could we see some samples? Renee asked.

"No, we don't have any samples here; our goods are drop-shipped from several different warehouses."

We kept on moving.  A retail store nearby was more promising.  We found a couple bolts of fabric that would work well.  After buying samples, we went home and started some more research.  We came upon their source of one fabric, but when Renee telephoned about ordering it they were surprised we had found that one on a store shelf.  "We quite carrying that one about ten years ago," the representative said.

The other fabrics were unfamiliar to the company rep. Now back to the drawing board to search for a source for quantity and quality fabric.

Meanwhile, Richard is sewing up the samples for the materials we were able to get.  This week it looks like the rain may be letting up so he is pursuing his seasonal passion - gardening...

... and Renee's seasonless dream.
Richard has taken on keeping the laundry done and Renee is euphoric.  The Lord has mysterious ways of providing even in earlier assumed adversity. {wink}

Monday, May 23, 2011

Botswana in Our Backyard Briefly

A few days back we were taken by surprise. For Mother’s Day Sarah had sent me a 5-gallon bucket of white sorghum grain, the traditional grain of Botswana.  

On Thursday, May 12, Betty Mathiba, a friend from Botswana whose husband is studying at Missouri S&T in Rolla, came to our house to show us the proper traditional way to process the grain into a usable flour for porridge.  Here is a photo record of the process.

We had brought a kika and motsi (mortar and pestle) from Botswana as part of our artifact collection.  This small one was really designed for pounding meat, but the grain pounding one was too large to fit in our shipment back.  Betty was resourceful in helping us make this one work.  

Betty moistened the four cups of the grain in the mortar with one and a half cups water. The water helped the grain swell slightly to push off the outer shell. She then set to work pounding the grain kernels to crack off the hulls. 

The slow and arduous task of pounding the grain was followed by the even more challenging work of winnowing the husks off of the desirable part of the grain.

Betty was able to keep the edible part of the kernel in the basket while making the hulls dance off the edge.

The growing drift of hulls on the floor mat were ideal to save for chicken feed later.

Betty made the grain fly.

Peter tried his hand and after much effort became pretty talented.

The hull-less kernels were then clean and ready to go to the next stage of the grinding or flour making process.

The hull-less grain went back into the kika to be ground into a fine flour for cooking. Betty again put water on the grain to help it swell slightly to be easier in breaking down.  

The "thud-thud-thud" of the motsi carried on for a total of 6 hours by the time we got about 8 cups of the grain processed.

We tried to use a metal sieve to speed separating the finer flour form the course chunks, but...

The basket still proved to be the best tool to get the finest and most consistent product.

Finally, we were finished.  We had about 3 quarts of bopi jwa mabele or sorghum flour.  The following week we had porridge for breakfast.  The porridge is made from a starter that takes about 2 days to sour a bit.  I have no proof of the effect of the fermentation on the food quality, but I suspect it improved the amino acid formation and mineral/vitamin content.  Regardless of the nutrition data, it was delicious!  Frankly, I was so excited that I forgot to take pictures to share the final product's appearance.  Oh well, I guess I will just have to do it again.   

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Getting to Business - To the Accountant

When Richard did personal tailoring for men at seminary 25 years ago the rules must have been dramatically different.  Granted, we were living in a different state, but today tax practices have intensified the money end of running a personal home-based business.  Wanting to be cautious and above board, we made an appointment with an accountant to help us set up reliable and simple record keeping.

Molly Malone, our accountant, graduated from high school with Richard.  I have been greatly honored to have met Molly many times over the years and have sincerely enjoyed her.  Now I feel empowered by her sound advice.  She is helping us submit the federal and state papers to acquire the necessary numbers and permits to do business with integrity and legal compliance. We will be known as an L.L.C. which means Limited Liability Company.  As a married couple it is the most efficacious way to go. Therefore, I am disciplining myself to always write Man of the Cloth, L.L.C. when I am formally speaking of business.  

Back to business... Molly has clarified current business and tax record keeping so that we feel empowered to equip the business for production and integrity.  Our plans are to purchase a stock of standard fabrics Richard can use for producing robes of various weights and fashion.  That goal has created a challenge. Fabrics are not as readily available as in decades past. 

Last Tuesday we were in St. Louis all day searching location to location.  One national chain store had marginal quality fabrics for premium prices. Another store was not a traditional store.  The woman at the desk said, “We only sell online. If you have the product number I can enter your order for you.” Finally, a locally owned fabric store had premium fabric for premium prices. Another locally-owned merchant had very no fabrics that would work for ecclesiastical garments unless the pastor would want to be a drag queen in satins and taffeta – it only supplied bridal fabrics.     

That dismal search has led us to the internet where we are not exactly impressed with our findings.  We are ordering samples of fabrics and continuing our search.  Meanwhile, we will work with the St. Louis shop with the premium fabrics to get started.  Next Tuesday, we are back in the city for a doctor’s appointment and a buying trip.  Hopefully, we will have more info later.  

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

The reality is sinking in that Richard is home full-time now.  As of April 22 he was “resigned in good standing” at the Missouri Veterans Home as is their policy when a person enters long-term disability.  The maximum time of disability support will be four years given Richard’s age. At that time he will be rolled over into early retirement without penalty at age 62.  Since his time of service within a state agency was only eighteen months, his state retirement will be quite small, significantly smaller than disability.  Also his retirement from any other sources will not kick in until he reaches 65 or older. 

Anticipating a gap in income, we see a time to take stock of our future by looking at the past. We recalled that Richard had received a parcel a few months before his incident that led to his diagnosis and brain surgery. The parcel was from Jane Hillhouse, a cousin and graphic design artist. 

Back in 1994 he had been corresponding with Jane about publishing the patterns he had developed while he was in seminary.  In the 1980s during his seminary years he had supported the family with a home-based tailoring business specializing in ecclesiastical garments.  He had developed his own patterns for albs, cassocks, surplices and other components of the clergy wardrobe.

In 1994 he was seriously seeking to publish the patterns but even with Jane’s help he could not find a printer to reasonably produce an affordable product.  Botswana then came into our picture and Richard told Jane, “Thank you, but we can forget this.  It isn’t going to work.” Jane set the parcel of samples aside.

In 2010 Jane was cleaning a closet and found the parcel.  She posted it to Richard.  He looked at it and placed it on his I’ll-get-to-it-later shelf, dismissing it at the time.

As is the natural nudging nature of a wife, I reminding him of the pattern parcel when we were waking up to our financial future.  He pondered it a few days and then declared, “I’d like to try my sewing business again. I’d like to be my own boss.” 

We have embarked on the new journey back to tailoring.  This time I am more intimately involved because Richard is not certain about managing the financial and marketing side.  We are not living in a seminary community, thus we will have a different challenge in connecting with customers. 

To assure himself that he can do it, Richard decided to construct some test garments to confirm that he can manage the patterns.  It looked like watching a man take to a bicycle after years of sitting on the curb.  He was a bit wobbly at first, but then the momentum grew.  Soon he had the small, medium and large albs completed.  What a blessing that the Lord so conveniently provided models for test fitting them.  He was even able to try different styling features on each one.  Voila!

MAN OF THE CLOTH is born again.