Friday, November 25, 2011

Truck Sale Follow Up

It's been a while, but I'm finally following up on our truck sales we had this past Summer. Things went well. I did find that two locations was a lot for me to manage and moving forward I will likely just stick to one spot (probably UNI). We sold a lot and it made for a very exciting week of futon-ing. See below for some pictures that will give you a pretty good idea of how everything went.

Left to right: Me, good friend Ryan Mauritz, Ryan's roomate and now my friend Will. This was the Ames crew. We got ourselves a location on one of the busier campus streets and had the good fortune of being positioned right next to the campus book store. Ryan and Will did a great job. It was really nice to have them there running things on the days I wasn't able to be in Ames.

Left to right: Brother-in-law John Sewell and sister Sara Parker. They held down the fort at UNI while I was running inventory from one place to another. This was our second year being located behind the UNI Bookstore. Sara and John also did a great job and sported some excellent Custom Futons t-shirts!

Ryan playing some tunes.

Lots and lots of futon mattresses! I literally had to stack them to the ceiling.

Sporting some Panther pride.

More mattresses.

My father-in-law Gary helped me prepare all of the pine frames. These too were stacked to the ceiling.

Here I am all loaded up and ready to go!!! This was one of two rigs that was loaded. Each a full-size van pulling a 6 x 12 enclosed trailer full of futons!!!

We did a pretty darn good job getting rid of stuff. I came home with some inventory, but each location did more than well enough to pay staff, cover expenses and end up with black ink at the end of the day. So all and all, a successful trip.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Futon Season

Futon season is in full swing. The shop has been pretty busy lately so that is why its been a while since my last post. This is just a quick update to let everyone know what I've got cookin this Summer in terms of our futon venture. 

Last August we took a trailer of futons to The University of Northern Iowa and had a truck sale behind UNI Book and Supply (the campus's main book store) during their move in weekend. It went so well that this year we are planning on doing it again and adding another campus to the agenda. At the urging of my good friend Ryan Mauritz, I have decided to take a second load of futons to Ames, IA and sell them on, or close to, Iowa State University's campus. I've known Ryan since childhood. He is a great friend who shares my enthusiasm for entrepreneurship and is totally pumped about selling futons. He is currently taking business classes at ISU and considering pursing an MBA.

UNI and ISU's move in weekends overlap so Ryan and his roommate (Will) are going to be running the Ames / ISU truck sale while I hold down the fort at Cedar  Falls / UNI again. Since we are attempting to double our truck sale figures from last year, that means I have twice as much stuff to get ready. Long story short, I've got a garage full of lumber, a store full of mattress building supplies and tired muscles. We will be offering pine futon frames accompanied with black futon mattresses, all of which I have to get ready between now and August 16th. Luckily I've had offers from friends and family to help with all of the prep work and it is likely I will be taking them up on their kind offers to help. 

I've included some pictures below of the UNI truck sale last year and a couple pictures of the supplies I've ordered in to get ready for this years sale too. I'll be sure to do a follow-up post to let everyone know how it goes. Hooray for FUTONS!!!!

We didn't have enough room in our back-room to store all of the foam we needed to get ready for the busy season. So... I stacked it all in the showroom. It looks a little funny but it works. Gary, my father-in-law, helped me unload all of this foam and has also been helping me cut wood for pine frames.
More foam.

I moved all of my tools to our garage at home to make room for the cotton and foam at the store. The store will be a mattress factory and the garage will be a frame factory.

I ordered all of our lumber from a local lumber yard here in Dubuque, Spahn & Rose. They have been great to work with and the quality of the lumber has been very pleasing. The best part... they deliver!!! It was cool to watch. This guy pulled up with a "crane truck" and literally picked up these big stacks and just put them on our drive way. Then I loaded it all into the garage. Sweaty job, but it beats hand picking each board from Menards. 

UNI truck sale 2010!!!

My sister Sara and my Dad both went to UNI with me to sell futons while Jenny watched the store in Dubuque.

Here's my Dad and me. It was so HOT that weekend.

I guess that's a wrap for this post. I'll be sure to give an update on how it all goes. Thanks again for reading.

Monday, June 13, 2011

My hops are growing!!! Well, some of them anyway.

My rhizomes were planted a little over two months ago and I finally have some results to report  on. The Cascade rhizome has shown the most significant growth of the four different types we planted. We were expecting this to be the case based on research Gary had done before planting and based on what Jerry from the Brew Haus had told me when I bought the rhizomes. As you may recall from my first "Hops" post, after getting them in the ground we covered the sprouts with a bottomless plastic jug to keep rabbits away. Here are a few pictures showing how we did this. When I say "we"... I should specify that this was Gary's great idea and he did it, so there was really nothing "we" about it.

haha, take that you wascally wabbits

After the sprouts got large enough, Gary removed the plastic jugs and put some chicken wire around each plant. We have had one causality though. The Centennial does not appear to have sprouted at all and we are starting to believe we won't see any growth from it. Here are some more pictures of each plant. As you can see, the Cascade plant is well over 4 feet tall now! The Willamette and Nugget are growing, but much slower than the Cascade.

This is the base of the Cascade plant. Note: to the right of the tape measure we actually have another new little sprout started! The Cascade rhizome took off the quickest by far.

Here is a full shot of the Cascade.

So there you have it. Though I wouldn't quite call it a bumper crop, we are making progress. Gary and I are considering digging up one or two of the extra sprouts that have appeared around the base of the Cascade plant and re-planting them where the Centennial was intended to be. I'll let you know how that turns out if we decide to do it. That's all for now, thanks again for reading!  

Monday, June 6, 2011

I'm a Cheapskate

I've made some pretty awesome media changes lately that are saving us a lot of money. Here is a break down of costs before and after the changes. Bottom line, because more services are being offered online and because TV stations now broadcast in digital formats, I'm getting more and paying A LOT less.

Before the changes we had $180 in total monthly media bills:
$86 - cell phones - 2 lines with US Cellular, we never used all our minutes
$30 - internet DSL connection
$24 - land line phone
$30 - basic cable
$10 - netflix

After the changes we now have $65 in total monthly media bills:
$22 - tracfones - these are prepay cell phones, we only pay for what we use 
$30 - internet DSL connection
$3 - ooma Voice Over IP - use your house phone via your internet connection
$0 - FREE digital TV channels over the air (we get 23 channels)
$10 - netflix - tv and movies streaming to our TV
$0 - pandora - online radio stations tailored to our music preferences
$0 - hulu - tv and movies streaming to our TV

So as you can see, we're saving $115 a month and getting tons more media! I should mention a few things;
We did cut back our cell usage. Tracfone gives us each 100 minutes per line per month for $11 per line. We can add more minutes as we need them and pay as we go. No contract, no termination fees, and we got to keep our same numbers. Best of all, the phone itself only cost $10! The phone I have can text and call... that's it. It's nothing fancy but Tracfone dose offer other phones that can browse the web, have built in cameras, etc... I plan on getting an i-pod touch so I can keep up with the ever changing world of apps despite my lack of smart phone.

We haven't got the Ooma voice over IP yet, but we will eventually. Basically we'll buy this box looking gadget that is about the size of a small book that plugs right into our wireless router. Our home phones then plug into the Ooma box and use the internet connection to make calls. No long distance charges, no fees or monthly charges, the only thing we pay is $3 for federal tax. It can even be set up so that we don't have to move any of our current phones. The best part is that all of the features phone service providers currently charge extra for come free with Ooma. Call waiting, Caller ID, Long Distance, its all included for the $3 a month. The Ooma box costs anywhere from $200 to $249 and we can keep our existing number for a $40 "porting fee" The box can be plugged in anywhere there is an internet connection.

So tracfones in conjunction with an Ooma phone allow us to talk as much as we want for MUCH less. The only slight downside is that we just have to be aware of how many minutes we use on our tracfone and there is a little bit of initial cost to get Ooma set up. Tracfone is nice enough to display our remaining minutes front and center on the phones screen so we are always aware of how many minutes we have left.

3.) Broadcast TV- With a digital tuner and a decent antenna, we are getting 23 TV channels. That is more channels than we were paying Mediacom for and its FREE! Again, there was some initial cost in the hardware. Our signal amplifier was about $60 (we already had an antenna, we just bought this little thing that mounts to the antenna mass that boosts the signal so we get more channels) Our digital converter box was also about $60. If we would have gotten a new TV we wouldn't have needed to get a converter box because HDTVs have digital tuners built in. I'm cheap though so I decided to get a $60 converter in stead of spending $400 on a new TV. Here is a cool website I found that helped me determine what channels are available by zip code. 

Also, here is a website of a company that specializes in large antennas like the kind we are using that is in our attic.

I felt fine dropping cable because of whats available through netflix and other internet based tv/movie providers. I can watch shows I want to watch when I want to watch them instead of being at the mercy of what cable providers decide to air. We got a Blu Ray player that has built in WiFi and supports netflix so we can stream our netflix movies and shows right to our TV. The Blu Ray player also supports Pandora, Napster and Cinema Now so we get many additional media options brought right to our TV via our Blu Ray player. 

Pandora gives us free radio stations that play songs based on what we like. 

Hulu provides free TV shows and movies through its website, but charges if you want to stream to your TV via a Blu Ray player or other internet connectible device. So I got an adapter for $40 that lets us hook up our laptop to our TV so we can watch Hulu shows via their website on our TV. Here is a link to the website I bought my adapter from.

So we now have cell phones, home phones, 23 digital TV channels, online radio, netflix and hulu for the low price of $65 per month. Really the only thing we are currently missing is the whole mobile device "app" sensation but as I said, I plan to get an i-pod touch. I've been back and forth a lot on weather or not to get a smart phone. I just can't bring myself to pay $40 or more per line per month just so I can have the internet at my fingertips anywhere I go. I feel an i-touch is an awesome stand in that will allow me to venture into the whole world of apps and other smart phone like technologies without having to pay a monthly bill for the service. It will essential do everything for me that a smart phone can do when I'm in an area with wireless internet. 

Anyway, long story short. I'm saving over $100 a month and actually have much more media at my disposal. There have been some initial hardware costs, but when you consider how much I'm saving, its totally worth it. 

Monday, May 9, 2011


Jenny's parents offered to grow some hops for me this Summer in their back yard. They have a rockin garden and were really excited about being able to contribute to my brewing hobby. When making beer, hops are boiled along with other ingredients to add flavor. Different beers use different kinds of hops. Gary, my father-in-law, did most of the research to get us ready for planting. Here is a neat video he found about a local guy in North Liberty, Ia who started his very own Iowa hop farm!
So I stopped down to The Brew Haus and bought some rhizomes. If you're like me, your thinking, what's a rhizome?!?! From what I can tell, a "rhizome" is a little root or stem that you plant in the ground that sprouts into a plant. Here is a picture of me holding my "Cascade" rhizome and as you can tell, I'm quite excited.

So, I bought these little root things from Jerry at The Brew Haus, took them over to the Sewell house and got them planted. Jerry said that we may have enough growth this year to brew one or two batches using our own home grown hops! I guess it takes a while though to really get your plants going well. It could be two to three years before they develop to the point shown in the above video. We will have to have patience. I'm finding that is the case with many things in the home brewing process. This is good for me as I have a tendency to rush things. With brewing beer you have to wait a lot and I'm finding that to be challenging, but it's good for me. Here are a couple more pictures of me actually getting the rhizomes planted.

First Linda had me sprinkle some stuff on the ground where we were going to be planting the rhizomes. Honestly, I can't remember if this stuff was for fertilizer or if its just something to keep the rabbits away.
Then I hoed up the dirt and kind of worked that stuff I sprinkled around into the ground.

Then I dug a little hole and put those rhizomes in the ground.

Linda made these neat little labels for each rhizome.

Here is the Nugget rhizome, look in the background and you can see the little sprout just peeking out above the dirt. Three of the four we planted had little sprouts like this already started.

We planted four rhizomes total; Cascade, Centennial, Nugget, and Willamette. From the research Gary was doing on growing hops in Iowa, and from what Jerry at the Brew Haus was telling me, we are expecting the Cascade to do the best, but only time will tell. I was at the Sewell house this past Sunday at which point they had been in the ground for about a week and a half. The Willamette and the Cascade had definitely shown some growth. We've had a very cold Spring so I think things are off to a bit of a slow start. Gary cut off the bottoms of some plastic jugs and put them over the sprouts to protect them from the rabbits. Can't wait to post updates once these plants start growing some more!

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Bunny Is Back

This rabbit just won't go away! After closing up on Saturday evening I thought the showroom was rabbit free. I must have been mistaken because when I got to work this morning I found my little friend hiding in a plant next to the front window. I just about jumped out of my skin when I discovered him... again. I'm not sure how he got back in here, but he has definitely been here since Saturday evening because I found little "clues" all about the showroom that he left behind. Hilarious.

He is currently still in the plant and I'm trying to figure out how to get him to move. I think he must be the Easter bunny.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Futon Bunny Rabit

This was an awesome little bright spot in my day! A bunny rabbit came hopping into Custom Futons today while I was helping a customer. We couldn't believe it.

This little guys hopped around the showroom for a bit and eventually found himself feeling comfortable under a nightstand in a corner. My customer left with a smile on his face and as soon as he was gone I grabbed my camera to get a picture of this little dude. After getting this picture I directed him to the front door and watched him hop away. What a great reminder Spring is here.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Woot! A new blog for me!

So here I finally am in the world of blogging. Not sure what this means, not sure how to use it, not even sure what I'm doing, but I guess I will find out soon enough. I plan to post details about my life as a husband, small business owner, beer brewing and home recording enthusiast, and well... I guess just whatever other random things come about in my life! It is my hope for this blog to provide helpful information and bring joy into peoples lives.