DeeTwenty just finished its third month of operation, and it's time for reflection and assessment.
Overall the response to DeeTwenty has been overwhelmingly positive. I've been inundated by messages of thanks and congratulations from local geeks who recognise the value of what we're trying to do here. The same value we saw in the idea when we decided to do the DeeTwenty thing in the first place. Great minds, right?
We've had some really really busy days, and some really really quiet days. We've got a core group of regulars who practically live here, and a larger circle of occasional visitors who pop in from time to time.
We've celebrated some important successes and milestones, and we're making big plans for the future. It's an exciting project, and the excitement isn't running out any time soon.
That said, not all is rosy. When DeeTwenty started up, it was as a result of two major contributors. One is Owen Swart (me) who works at the club full time, manning the bar, keeping things going and handling the day-to-day operations. The other is our capital investor, who has loaned us enough startup money to get DeeTwenty going and to keep me from starving to death in the mean-time.
Why starving to death? Because until DeeTwenty is profitable, I don't earn a salary. That's right. I work a 60+ hour week at the club for free. I'm okay with that in principle, but in practice it's not exactly sustainable. DeeTwenty is a labour of love for me, and I don't expect it to ever make me rich. But it does eventually need to at least pay me a fair wage so I can keep food on the table, and adorable little jerseys on my chihuahua Morsel.
Most new businesses take a year or two to become profitable. While DeeTwenty is no exception to that, there's a major constraint that we face: our initial capital contribution is finite. As of the end of March 2014, DeeTwenty needs to be bringing in enough income to cover its basic expenses or we'll have to close the doors. March will be DeeTwenty's 6th month of operations, and most business are at least covering their major expenses after that long, if not already turning a profit.
DeeTwenty is making money, don't get me wrong. The Power-Up Bar is completely self-sustaining, and the club's overall income is enough to cover our daily expenses and then some. But it's not yet enough to cover our single biggest expense: rent.
Once we're completely covering our operating expenses, we can worry about things like being profitable, my salary and making significant upgrades to the facility. We need to get there soon.
So this is where we ask you for help. DeeTwenty is a business, so we don't accept donations. Really, we don't. But we do accept fair trade, business proposals and other goods & services. If you're looking for a venue for your thing, whether it's a dance class, a gaming tournament, a club meeting or a fandom conference, we want to work with you to make it a success.
Even if you don't already have a thing planned, if you've got a skill and the ability to teach it, odds are someone in our community is willing to pay you to learn it, and you'll need somewhere to hold your classes. If you have a class to teach, we have a room for you to teach in.
If you don't have anything like that to work with, all we ask is that you come down to the club and be a paying customer. We're open five days a week. Just rock up, preferably with your friends, and do your geeky thing. I'll personally serve you coffee while you're doing it, make and bring you the food you order, and I'll clean up after you. Liking us on Facebook is cool, we appreciate that too, but what will keep DeeTwenty open is you actually being here.
I know there are lots of you guys out there who've been wanting to come through to the club, but haven't made it yet for whatever reason. I know, because I get emails and messages from people like you all the time... and there are probably plenty more I haven't heard from. If you want to come, come! We want you here, and you being here is what will keep DeeTwenty alive!
We also accept good ideas and suggestions. If you have a great idea for how to make DeeTwenty more profitable, we want to hear it! Go post it in our online suggestion box and we'll see if it's something we can do.
We've already got lots of plans for the future. But like many of the ideas I'm sure you have, most of them need some money to kick them off, so they're all off the table for now. Effectively we can't go spending more money in the hopes that we'll make it back at some distant point in the future. If we did that, DeeTwenty wouldn't be around long enough to see that distant future. The ideas we implement need to be possible using the resources we have at our disposal right now, which are considerable.
We also can't consider suggestions that involve lowering our prices. We tried that already, and it didn't work. We're happy with our current pricing model, and making it any cheaper at this point would be shooting ourselves in the foot.
In conclusion: DeeTwenty is awesome, and we're doing well. But we're not yet where we need to be to ensure DeeTwenty's long-term survival. We need your support to make sure it's a success, which will mean that you get to take some of the credit for helping to establish this new, rising cornerstone of the future of Joburg geekery.
Be a DeeTwenty superhero! Come visit us!