A Chat With the Women Who Started ‘Rice Paper Scissors,’ A Vietnamese Restaurant in San Francisco

We're Valerie and Katie, the founders of Rice Paper Scissors, a Vietnamese restaurant based in San Francisco.

Earning a Living as a Floral Designer: An Interview With Ladybird Poppy’s Sarah Tedford

I first heard about Sarah Tedford of Ladybird Poppy when I started dating my husband in late 2008. The two were friends from high school, and he hired her to design a floral arrangement for me when he asked me officially to be his girlfriend. Sarah was just on the verge of starting her own business as a floral designer at the time and now, more than five years later, my husband and I are happily married and Sarah’s business is thriving.

Owning an Old-Timey Store is a Dream—Until it Becomes a Nightmare

The Times's small business blog has begun to document the story of Caroline Scheeler and Joe Vajarsky, a husband and wife team who decided to buy an old-fashioned general store in their small town that had sat vacant for several years and turn it into a new business. They spent a ton of money on gutting and designing the store and now are facing a lot of financial issues.

Pirate Joe’s: Canada’s Bootleg Trader Joe’s Store

There are no Trader Joe's stores in Canada, but there is a Pirate Joe's store. Canadian Michael Hallatt loved Trader Joe's products so much while he was living in San Francisco that he decided he wanted to buy a bunch of products at regular retail value in the U.S. and resell them in Vancouver. He's now being sued by Trader Joe's.

Inside ‘The Scratching Pad,’ a Cat Shelter Run Out of One Man’s Apartment

If you’re a New Yorker with a beating heart, you probably remember the subway kittens that shut down the MTA last summer in the most adorable way possible. If you’re a cat lady like me (which oh praise is now a badge of honor, thanks New York Times), then you might already know Steven Liu, the guy behind the Scratching Pad, who took in the tiny bandits and fostered them through their eventual adoption. In July of last year, Steve found a duplex apartment in Bushwick, moved in with two roommates, and started taking in cats—current total eight.

We Bought An Ice Cream Store

Last spring, my boyfriend and I moved to Cleveland from Los Angeles and decided to start a small ice cream business. I wrote a piece here describing how we were going to try to sell our ice cream at a food festival, and detailed the costs of being a vendor for two days. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to write an update.

After our first event in May, we were booked six days a week, sometimes multiple times a day, at different food truck events, festivals and farmer’s markets. We made ice cream on the seventh day. We’ve been fortunate to receive an incredible amount of support from the Cleveland community, including a “best ice cream” award from a local magazine. Our business plan was to make more money than we spent, and we broke even on everything, including the purchase of secondhand commercial  ice cream making equipment for approximately $8,000, before summer ended.

In September of 2013, a local ice cream shop in a walkable neighborhood of Cleveland closed. We took a look at the place, and liked both the area and the 60-year ice-cream history of the building. But was it too soon to go from our first event in May to opening a brick-and-mortar just a few months later?

(Spoiler alert: The banks think it is.)

The Cost of Operating a Hot Dog Cart

You may not think that it could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to operate a hot dog cart, but there you have it.

Raising Money to Keep Selling Books

To stay in business, some independent bookstores are using sites like Indiegogo to raise money from regulars and neighborhood locals—as much as $60,000 in some campaigns. It's really great to see that kind of support for small business owners, though probably not sustainable. The Times story mentions Book Court in Brooklyn as one of the indie bookstores that have managed to thrive and expand, though it doesn't say how it has done so. It should! Those kinds of stories are always worth sharing.

Making Paper in a Paperless World: An Interview With Pulp and Deckle

In 2012, Jenn Woodward and Gary A. Hanson started a papermaking studio. Based out of Portland, Ore., Pulp and Deckle manufactures paper and gives workshops and classes about the process. Recently, I had an opportunity to chat with Jenn about her studio.

In a paperless world, you’re making paper. What was the impetus to start such a business? A lot if it came from living here in Portland. There’s a vibrant small business culture, and there’s such an emphasis on “green.” The types of papermaking we’re doing (recycled paper, plant-based paper) is a slow, sustainable art form.

For me, a major part of the appeal is having a connection to how something is made. It transforms your understanding of it. When you go to the farmers market, or go to a woodworker’s furniture store, you’re voting with your dollars to say you want to connect with your food or your furnishings on a deeper level. You want to know who planted it, who carved it, etc. That’s what we’re all about.

I think papermaking is kind of magical. It’s one of those art forms that not many know about. I like showing people that something they take for granted in their everyday environment can be special and imbibed with meaning, beauty and purpose.

How’d you get into papermaking in the first place? I first learned about papermaking while getting my MFA at the Museum School in Boston. I was doing a lot of drawing and mixed media work and got interested in making my own surfaces to work on. I got really into making onionskin papyrus…

Maybe We’ll Soon Have Our Very First Cat Cafe

Back in the fall of 2012, Maggie Hamilton wrote a piece for us about how she felt like she was stuck in a career rut, and that perhaps her dream career would be running some kind of bakery where there were a bunch of cats around to hang out with. Cat cafes are huge in Japan and in some European cities, but food service regulations in the U.S. have made it impossible to have animals around where people consume food. Our American dreams of the cat cafe are constantly being dashed.

Messy Man Starts Cleaning Business

DNAinfo has a story about a one-man cleaning service called "Maid Men" which is funny to me because so far the service includes just one man, part-time rapper Chuck Bennet, who says he's hoping to hire another staffer—likely a woman. "I guess I'd call it Maid Men and Women," he acknowledges later. Other fun tidbits in the article: Bennet's mother helps him advertise by making flyers for him, and his cleaning experience includes being part of the staff at the the Hotel Elysee, which was used in the most recent episode of Mad Men. Bennet charges $25 an hour for his services.