Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Loan Approved: Next, Spiral Light Candle's New Factory

Spiral Light Candle got very good news this afternoon. A loan we wanted was approved.

That means that we can get new candle manufacturing equipment and supplies: and buy a building to put the stuff in. Just as important, Spiral Light Candle can start hiring folks to operate the equipment and see to it that folks who order candles get what they asked for.

The new Spiral Light Candle factory will be in part of a soon-to-be-refitted potato warehouse in Hillsboro, North Dakota. My son-in-law gave the place a good once-over, and so did I. More importantly, a building inspector went over the property, and told us that:

  • It needs some work
    • We knew that
  • The older part is a half-century old
    • We knew that, too
  • The building is structurally sound
    • That was the really important thing
We've even got rail access: although that's not something Spiral Light Candle will need for another year. At least.

I've done my whooping and hollering about the loan approval, my daughter and son-in-law are treating themselves to a well-deserved night out, and tomorrow it's back to work.

Related posts:

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Candles: Analysis, News, and Very Odd Questions

It's about half-past midnight, and it looks like I'll get to bed earlier than I have since the week started.


I spent this evening working with my son-in-law, working out what it will take to get Spiral Light Candle through next year. Dropping data and formulas into about a thousand spreadsheet cells is detailed, nitpicking, fussy, work. But we've got a good planning tool to show for our efforts.


Seeing Spiral Light Candle's name in a newspaper wasn't all that unexpected. My guess is that doing a short article about new local or regional companies is routine for most papers: particularly when there's something colorful about the outfit.

A fairly steady stream of articles, often in newspapers or magazines that aren't all that close to North Dakota: that's not something I'd counted on. And, of course, it's good news for me.

The latest article is in a magazine back in North Dakota:
"RRV:Unique innovation keeps candles burning"
Prairie Business (published in Grand Forks, North Dakota) (December 1, 2011)

"Driving through Arkansas, Aaron and Sara McWilliams stopped at a winery and noticed wax taking shape around bottles. As the family continued their travels, Aaron McWilliams started to hypothesize about how to control the flow of wax to make the wax take any shape it would need to take...."
The Prairie Business article is a quick read: a little under 500 words long.

Back to how I spent this evening.

Very Odd Questions

My wife and I have been getting more involved in Spiral Light Candle, as the operation grew. I didn't expect to spend so much of a week on this analysis job: mostly because I had no notion of just how much I didn't know about candles and how they're made.

An example:

A few hours ago, my son-in-law and I were working on part of the spreadsheet that handled raw materials. The conversation had us saying things like:
"How many feet of wick in a pound?"
That sounded funnier, at the time. Maybe it's the hour. After midnight 'funny' has a higher threshold for me.

Asking how many feet of wick there are in a pound actually makes sense, by the way.

Obligatory Self-Promotion

Before wrapping this post up, I'd better mention Spiral Light Candle's website. (spirallightcandle.com). Also Spiral Light Candle Corp. Storefront, our presence on Amazon.com.

That's it, I'm done for the day. Or, rather, I'm done for Friday. I'll pick up Saturday's tasks in - about eight hours, probably.

Vaguely-related posts:In the news:

Friday, December 2, 2011

Candles, a Spreadsheet, and Taking a Break

I'd love to be working on Spiral Light Candle's website (spirallightcandle.com) upgrade, but it's just as well that I'm not. My site design and programming skills are a bit rusty. And seriously out-of-date. Writing HTML aside, I haven't worked with the nuts-and-bolts end of website design for a few years.

Skills: Old, New, and Rusty

Which, at age 60, doesn't feel like much time. But when it comes to information technology, it's a little like an expert flint knapper thinking about working as a machinist. I've been asking my son, who earned his A+ certification recently, when there's a technical issue.

And: yes, those are the words of a proud dad.

Amazon.com's user interface is designed with non-technical folks in mind, though, so I've been able to lend a hand with the Spiral Light Candle Corp. Storefront there.

Thanks to a checkered job history, I've been a licensed radio operator/disk jockey, have experience delivering flowers, and spent about a decade as 'the computer guy' and database manager at a small publishing company. I also answer phones and make coffee.

Speaking of coffee, it's time for a coffee break.

Analysis: A Task That's Work

I learned how to set up spreadsheets, among other things, in that 'database' job: including getting spreadsheets to do things that aren't in the manual. And that's another topic.

The point is, I know how to set up something where you put in numbers and get organized, calculated, results.

That's what I've been doing this week, setting up a complicated, über-detailed budget and sales forecast spreadsheet for Spiral Light Candle. Actually, I don't think it's "über-detailed." But there's a lot of equipment, processes, and people, that go into making and marketing candles: and my son-in-law has mapped out what he thinks we'll need for the next several months.

My task is to take his notes, and make a working spreadsheet out of then. By last Wednesday.

I enjoy working with data: figuring out how to break it out into categories; finding relationships between sets of data; setting up the results so that someone else can easily use them.

When I have to do something on a deadline, though: that's more 'work' than 'fun.' Deadlines are wonderful motivators though.

Break Time, Productive Time

That Wednesday deadline went whizzing by, but that was the for the 'detailed rough' version. Today, I'm closing in on getting what he'll need when he talks to some folks next week.

This 'coffee break' is taking longer than most: but I think it's worth the 'extra' time. I was literally getting a headache, almost unheard of for me, figuring out how some of the data was supposed to connect.

Now that I've been away from that maddening matrix for several minutes, I think it's going to make more sense. You've heard the usual psychobabble about 'subconscious' and 'unconscious' before, so I'll skip that.

I still have time for the 'done and ready' version of this spreadsheet, and decided to use my brain for something unrelated. The light exercise of walking over to the microwave and heating coffee helps, too.

Anyway, break time's over. I don't see it as 'wasted' time, since I'm coming back to the task at hand with a (slightly) fresher mind and a (marginally) revived body.

Urgency, Priority, and Nitpicking

This spreadsheet is still high priority, and it's now urgent.

But the difference between "priority" and "urgency" is another topic. Several, actually.

Good grief! I was going to say why I think it's vital to get so nitpicking about details: and I'm out of time. That'll have to go in another post.

Not-entirely-unrelated posts:

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