Finances and corporate stuff
There a number of administrative and financial issues that need to be addressed in the very short term. I’ve identified experts I need to consult with each item. Since we have no money, I’m looking for some pro bono help to get things off the ground. Please use your network of contacts if you know people to help me clarify these issues.
1. Budget. I’m working on a budget for the organization to plan cash flow, startup costs, fixed and variable expenses, and revenue sources. Although I’ve owned and operated small businesses for many years, I’m not an accountant and would love to have someone to collaborate with me on this.
2. Corporation. The current corporation needs to be addressed. The current officers that I’ve spoken to are prepared to hand it off but I would like to have other people besides myself listed as officers of the corporation. This is a LONG TERM commitment and not a decision to be made lightly. The 2013 annual report and fees have not yet been filed and paid. We could just form a new corporation but I do like the name and we would have to use a different name if we started over. The current corp is a non-profit corp in the state of Florida but not a Federally recognized non-profit. Any attorneys willing to help with this?
3. Non-profit status. I need to learn about how donations and taxes work for corporations who are non-profit at the state level but lacking federal non-profit status. Assuming we are able to get 501c(3) status, it still takes a while to go through the process. Until that happens, I’ve talked to Tm Willingham about riding her coattails financially for any donations that we may receive. She is looking into how that would work. This may be an issue with the South Tampa space since the owner would likely receive a tax benefit from allowing the use of her space. I need a CPA familiar with non-profits to advise us on this.
4. Finances. Knowing that there will be startup costs before we can open our doors, I was considering whether it would be acceptable to take deposits for memberships. To keep things above board and reduce the risk that members could be swindled of their hard earned dollars, I was thinking of options to escrow the money until we actually sign a lease or begin actual build out of a space. One option is to use a third party like LI4E to hold the funds until such time as they are needed. Another is to do a kickstarter campaign where the money is only committed if the startup is completely funded. I would like a lot of discussion on this so that people are comfortable and confident moving forward. I’ll post more about this once we have some clarity on the space decision and have a budget drafted. I’ll post separately about the kickstarter momentarily.
I visited two spaces yesterday – The Roosevelt in Ybor and a 3 BR house in South Tampa that is adjacent to commercial property and immediately available. Both sites had issues but none of them were insurmountable.
Pluses: Nice vibe with lots of creative types around. Space could be occupied almost immediately once we have an agreement with them. There is already a lot of makerish activity and DIY things going on so it has the potential to be a good fit. We could have space for some equipment and take advantage of the larger facility for classes and workshops. Location is very central for residents of Hillsborough County.
Minuses: For projects involving loud equipment (saws, etc.), access would be restricted to a schedule that works around other events and times when their store and cafe are open. The equipment space upstairs is only about 200 square feet and it is WIDE OPEN. As in, no security, no way to effectively restrict access, no way to keep stuff from walking out the door. I think there may also be some risk in coming to agreement with the landlord. I’ve heard a lot of different perspectives but my sense is that they are looking for more ways to use the space but aren’t sure of their own mission and need to attend to basic realities like paying the rent. I plan to bring them a specific proposal and an abbreviated timeline in which to respond. After a year of discussions, it is time for our group to make a decision. Location isn’t great for people in surrounding counties.
Pluses: This is a three bedroom house that, with some cleanup, could be occupied fairly quickly. The owner is really nice and very enthusiastic about using it for some kind of community space. It really looks like a great spot that would offer us several workshop areas, a classroom/meeting space, and an isolated area for loud equipment (the garage). It is air conditioned but the plumbing hasn’t been hooked up inside the house although it is connected to city water and sewer afaik. It is adjacent to commercial property and no more than a 30 minute drive from Pinellas, Odessa, Apollo Beach, Lutz, etc. It is extremely conveniently located. Structurally, the building is in great shape. There is room to park 8-10 cars in front plus street parking is available for classes and workshop attendees. There is a great yard out back where someone could garden and we could locate the aluminum furnaces (assuming they aren’t meant to be used indoors).
Minuses: Before we move in, the plumbing needs to be addressed. Additionally, we may have to deal with zoning and ADA compliance. I’m talking to an attorney this week to get some clarification. Because the space is largely unfinished, it needs cleanup. I see the main living area and the garage as the first spaces to open and plan get the rest done after we’ve started using the space. We would need to have the electrical checked out to be sure it can handle the equipment. There are wood floors that I think we need to cover with non-static linoleum tile or rubberized flooring to protect the owner’s investment. We need to invest in a security system. The attic and crawlspace below the house are wide open to varmints. I know that there are a lot of cats living under the house right now. They would need to be trapped and handled in a humane way and the spaces need to be sealed off from future intrusion.
If you have skills or contacts who can help with sorting out details on the spaces, please put them in touch with me. In particular, I wouldn’t mind having a second opinion on the legal stuff and getting an electrician and plumber in to assess those items for the south tampa space. Also, what to do with the poor, possibly soon to be homeless kitties?
Ryan Holmes joined me yesterday at The Roosevelt. We looked at the space together and talked about a Kickstarter campaign to fund a 3D printer and memberships. He and I are both very enthusiastic about this avenue for funding. Ryan has a videographer lined up to make the video and we’re both researching the premium levels and working out the details to get this up and running ASAP. It would be great to get someone with previous experience running a successful Kickstarter campaign to advise us on this effort.