Rising from the ashes...
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It has been three weeks since my last posting and to be honest I have not been burning the midnight oil every night either. In my previous posting I mentioned that I was unable to secure an office space in a timely manner; so, I decided to step back and pull the plug on my execution.

I decided to revisit STEM (Sicence, Technology, Education, Mathematics) business and look into Franchise Disclosure Documents (FDD) via FDDexchange to learn more about alternative business models. One new franchise that contacted, shared that they have over two hundred franchisees signed-up to open new locations for this year (2018). That is huge when compared to established k-12 existing education sector like (i.e. kuman, slyvan, huntington, etc); maybe there is an opportunity here! The director of franchise development shared that they prefer to be in the same shopping center as the standard education because 1) they complement enrichment, and 2) have the same target clients.

After some consideration, I once more decided to find another vendor/partner to white-label the curriculum, in which I started my evaluation process once more. Next, I tried to find space next to complementing education business; however, there was no space available.

With realization that I am running out of time for summer camps and not being able to secure an ideal location based on my site selection strategy, I decided to find "any" vacant space to pilot the STEM business, which can be moved later if the business model worked.

My plan is to start a summer STEM camp, and then attempt to convert parents to subscription model for year long education. With enough subscriptions, it makes sense to commit to long-term lease agreement. Remember, that the peak of the business is during the summer.

Alternative Location Strategies
Option 1:
So, I started looking for vacant offices to lease from landlord. After contacting three different landlords, I was surprised to learn that they prefer to leave their offices vacant than to lease them for short duration (e.g. two months of summer camp).

I contacted my brother who is a successful entrepreneur and commercial property landlord to ask him the rational for why would a landlord prefer to keep a space vacant than to collect on a short term lease. According to my brother, he would consider month-to-month leases in California bay area (silicon-valley) due to business and economic demographics; however, he would prefer to keep his space vacant in central California because it would cost him more to evict a tenant than for him to collect on the short-term lease.
Apparently, it is common for entrepreneurs to NOT pay their lease (due to lack of cash-flow) and still stay in on premise in hopes of earning extra few bucks; thus, requiring landlords to take legal course of action.​

Option 2:
While talking to my neighbor, he suggested that I try to pilot the business from home. That seemed to make sense since many people run day care services from their homes.
Looking through logistics of starting a daycare I learned that I need to go through Department of Social Services to get Child Care Licensing Division (CCLD) for California. After some more digging, I learned that daycare is intended for children that "require" supervision, which means that I couldn't target middle-school and high school children.

Option 3:
I then decided to contact local city ordnance to see if I can still run the business from my home by tutoring kids in my house. According to local ordinance, I may NOT have more than two clients at a same time and no more than six clients per day can visit my home business.

Option 4:
Next, I decided to contact local school district in attempt to rent their classroom for piloting my summer camps. The classrooms are being rented for $40 per hours. If I rented the classrooms for 8 hours a day for nine business weeks then I would need to pay $14,400 just for the facility. This does not include any other expenses!

Option 5:
I was starting to get discouraged, so I started to look for event centers, fedex office, and halls to rent. All of which were too expensive or not available.

Option 6:
In my town there is a local university; but, I initially dismissed the idea of contacting them when I learned that K-12 school district charges $40 per hour. I assumed that the university facilities would cost even more than K-12 facility.
However, after speaking with an event coordinator at the university, I learned that the classrooms can be rented for as low as $75 per day!
This was a fantastic find; because, 1) the location is more in the center of the city, 2) I get associated with higher academic learning, and 3) the rate is much lower than any other find.
The university event coordinator did informe me that due to rolling enrollments, I may get bumped-out and lose my classroom. I can notify parents about classroom changes as long as I am guaranteed a classroom. Unfortunately after further investigation, the facilitator informed me that they could not grantee classrooms (even if they changed).

Option 7:
My city population is about 72,000 people and it does not have many hotels; however, I decided to contact local hotels to see if they had an event center. The idea of having kids go to hotels for education is not appealing to me; but, it is not uncommon for events to be held in hotel event centers. After calling around and visiting a few possible hotels, I found one hotel that has its event center available for $100/day for the summer.

This was the first break I had. The facility looks good, and its rate was in the same order of magnitude as having an actual office space lease. For the same 9 week duration, the space would cost me $4,500 as appose to over $14k.
I asked the hotel manager to pencil me in for the month of June and July as I expedite other activities.

It is important to note that I didn't first consider the idea of piloting a business model as outlined above; however, I'm glad that I lost the first lease opportunity. This gives me a chance to test-out the waters without making a large capital-investment commitment.
I realize that this is not always an option; for example, how would a prospecting automotive dealer or a restaurant entrepreneur pilot before making a large commitment. However, with some brainstorming there maybe other creative ways to explore piloting concepts; but, this idea is not always easy to exercise.
Complete Business Entity Requriements
Because I was on the fence with regards to continuing with the business, I never submitted the required Statement Of Information (SOI) after incorporating Gradupath Corp. with the secretary of the state. The submission of SOI is is clearly mentioned on the incorporation form, which states that SOI must be submitted within 90 days of incorporation. In my case it has been more than 100 days since my incorporation.
I contacted secretary of CA state and learned that there is a late penalty of $250 for missing SOI; however, I would get a warning notice for late submission, thus having about another couple months time before I would be fined. In another words, I didn't have to pay the penalty and could submit my SOI today..
Looking at the California incorporation forms I saw that I could submit SOI electronically for California, which was validated by the secretary of state agent that I spoke with. Completing and submitting the application costed me $25, now I needed to look at other requirements.

While reviewing my California S-Corp form, I found business resources from California Secretary of State. This page is important because it is list locations that I need to contact to get appropriate license and permits. I plan to review each resource and contact relevant entity to insure that I have addressed all the federal and state requirements to operate my business.

I still need to satisfy my local city business requirements. That is, I need to contact my local city and submit a business license application along with my "zone permit" or "zone waver" for my location. I suspect that I will most likely qualify under the "zone waver"; however, I just found my business location availability; so, getting the permit has to wait until next week. Once I settle on the location, I can proceed to complete City Of Turlock Business License Permit with an $85 application fee.

Revise Business Name
Now that I'm change concepts for a new business model (coding/programming/robotics) my existing business entity name, Gradupath, doesn't really fit. Dissolving Gradupath and incorporating a new business entity will take both more time and money. Additionally, Gradupath entity name is still in the spirit of the education; so, I've decided to use a different trade name under the same entity by submitting a Factious Business Name (FBN) Statement with Stanislaus county clerks office. Incidentally, FBN is same as Doing-Business-As (DBA). Additionally, I intend to have DBA both with Corp. and without Corp. suffix.

I already went to great pain to come-up with Gradupath; so, I was not looking forward to coming up with a new name.
While coming up with a business name, I first check the availability of the domain name and would prefer .com for a top-level domain suffix. However, while talking to a vendor I learned that he gets lots leads because his top level domain name has .education suffix and because his domain name is relevant to his industry many web users visit his site out of curiosity. Yes, I know there is Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy at work; but, his statement regarding his visitors is still interesting.

With this in mind, I was more flexible with regards to business and domain names.
During my recent (few days ago) investigation, I thought that I found stem.education to be available; but, when I went to register it today I found that it was no longer available. I'm hoping that I typed the name incorrectly during my initial search; otherwise, this means that our domain searches might be monitored (possibly due to vendor partnership) for others to buy; to only to sell them at a later day :(

In any case, I looked for a few more domain name and settled on the domain name LearningStem.education. Like before, once I found a domain name available, I started to search business entity name in all states and then the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) database for entity name availability. Once I validated the availability of the name, I purchased the domain name and plan to register the DBA or FBN.
Doing Business As (DBA) or Factious Business Name (FBN)
Once I got my domain name, it is time to get my FBN/DBA in place. I intend to use the following entity names:
  1. Stem Learning Education
  2. Stem Learning
  3. Stem Learning Corp.
The name with Corp suffix will be used in contracts for protection, and the first two names (without suffix) will be used for marketing collateral.

Submitting the Stanislaus County Clerk Factious Business Name application costs $34 for the initial application and $7 for each additional name, which totals to $48.

While working on the FBN form I was required to specify address, email, and a phone number. This triggered the next sequence of events before I could complete this form.
Email & Voice
I need to get a business phone number; however, I don't have a physical address to start with. After some googling, it seemed like a good idea to use free Google voice for a phone number. I already have a google voice, which I use for my household. When someone calls the household phone, it forwards the calls to my cellphone.
However, I'm allowed only one google voice number per account; thus, need to create a new email account.
With regards to email accounts, there are many options available (i.e. zoho.com); but, I decided to register with Google G Suite because I know that there are many software integration with google (remember when iPhone was more popular due to apps, and PC compatible machines dominated industry because of the software). I opted for the basic package of $5/mo or $60/year per user. I register my domain names with NameCheap (due to their competitive pricing), and used their marketplace to purchase G-Suite, which easily associated with my domain name. I did have some trouble getting into my email (probably because I did something wrong); but, NameCheap online support chat helped me through it.

Once I got my domain verified through google, I enabled Google Voice for my G-Suite account.

There is research to support that missed call is a loss in sales opportunity; so, I want to take advantage of answering service for both for phone and online (i.e. chat).
I called answerforce.com and learned that Google voice does not play well with answering services, and I was advised to use my existing carrier to add a new line.
I contacted my mobile carrier, AT&T, and asked to add another line to my existing service; however, I learned that I would not be able to have two numbers be routed to the same phone number. I once more contacted the answerforce.com and was advised that the easiest and most cost effective solution would be simply get a cheap phone that can be used to forward the calls. This way, I can have calls forwarded to my mobile and have conditional rule to forward to answer service.
What's Next
Time is running out, and I have only about a month to complete many inter-dependent tasks, which include:
  • Create my marketing assets
  • Build a website
  • Initiate marketing campaign
  • File DBA/FBN
  • Figure out and file all other license
  • Obtain insurance
  • Open a business account
  • Figure out my payment (possibly tied to website)
  • Figure out my payroll
  • Post jobs
  • Interview candidates
  • Test the facility power connection with my laptops
Do I even have time to review and revise my original business plan with such tight timeline!

Do I even have time for anything-else?
Well, I have already planned to take my young son to a boy scout caveman camping event and am not planning on canceling it. It is time for me to walk away and get our camping gear/meal ready.​
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