Closed in Mia's office, Nell sweated over facts, figures, reality, and possibilities.
She liked the possibilities best, as they included a secondhand computer with all the capabilities she required, an attractive sales kit, professional business cards, a cozy yet functional home office, and a commercial-grade food processor.
The fact was, she needed all of these things, and several more, in order to create a viable, reasonably profitable business.
Her figures proved she could make this her reality if she settled for a reality without any frills-which included food, drink, and clothing-for approximately twelve months.
As she saw it, her choices were to live like a mole for about a year, or to do without the professional tools that would help her build her business.
Living like a mole wasn't so bad, she mused. She'd done essentially that for months before she'd come to the island. If she hadn't weakened and frittered away money on wind chimes and sandals and earrings, she wouldn't have remembered how much fun it was to fritter away money in the first place.
Now it had to stop.
By her calculations she could, provided Marge at Island Realty was patient enough, scrape up the money for the computer within three weeks. She would need several hundred more, of course, for the printer, the phone line, the business license, the office supplies. Once she was set up, she could design and generate the sales kits and menus right on the desktop.
With a sigh, she sat back, combed her hands through her hair. She'd left out the uniform. She could hardly cater the Macey affair in jeans and a T-shirt, or a sexy little halter. She needed good black slacks, a crisp white shirt, sensible but classy black shoes.
She looked up when Mia walked in.
"Hi. I'll get out of your way. "
"No need. " Mia waved her back. "I just need to check something in the September catalog. " She plucked it off a shelf, flipped through while watching Nell over the pages. "Financial worries?"
"Why do you ask?"
"They're not worries so much as obstacles of varying heights. I hate admitting I'm taking on too much too fast. "
"And why is that? Not hating it, but why do you say you're taking on too much?" Mia asked as she sat, stretched out like a cat on a hearth rug.
"A few side jobs, some boxed lunches, one major party, and here I am designing logos and business cards, trying to squeeze out money for a computer when I can easily keep things organized in a spiral notebook. I need to rein myself in. "
"There's little that's more boring than reining in," Mia stated. "When I started this place, most people didn't think I could make it fly. A small community, a seasonal tourist trade. Bookstores and fancy coffee were for cities and snazzy suburbs. They were wrong. I knew what I wanted, and what I was capable of achieving. So do you. "
"In another six months or a year," Nell agreed. "But I'm getting ahead of myself. "
"Why wait? You need capital, but you can't risk going to the bank for a business loan. So many pesky questions about credit history, employment history, and so on. "
Mia inclined her head when Nell sighed. She enjoyed hitting the center of the target with the first arrow. "As careful as you've been, you may have left a hole," Mia continued, "and you're too smart to take chances there. "
"I thought about it," Nell admitted. "If I opened myself up that way, I'd never relax. Nell Channing doesn't have a credit history, and it'll take me time to establish one. "
"Which is one of the obstacles to that capital. There are spells, of course. But I dislike doing spells for financial gain. It seems so. . . crass. "
"It doesn't seem so crass when I'm trying to stretch my budget to buy basic office equipment. "
Pursing her lips, Mia tapped the tips of her fingers together. "I had an acquaintance who was in a bit of a financial squeeze. She worked a spell asking that her current money worries be cleared. And won fifty thousand in the lottery the next week. "
"Really. She was able to pay her debts and treat herself to a week at the Doral Spa in Miami. Fabulous place, by the way. When she returned, her car broke down, her roof sprang a leak, her basement flooded, and she received an audit notice from the IRS. In the end, she'd done nothing more than trade one set of worries for another, though she did get that week at the spa, which can't be discounted. "
Nell acknowledged the humor in Mia's words with a small grin. "I hear you. Magic isn't a crutch to be used for convenience. "
"You're a quick study, little sister. So, let's talk business. " Mia toed off her pretty heels, curled up her legs. "I'm in the market for an investment. "
"Mia, I can't tell you how much I appreciate that, but-"
"You want to do it yourself, and blah, blah, blah. " With a flick of the wrist, Mia swatted Nell's protest aside. "Please, let's behave like grown-ups. "
"Are you trying to irritate or intimidate me into accepting a loan?"
"I don't generally try to irritate or intimidate, though I've been told I'm good at both. And I didn't say anything about a loan. We're discussing an investment. "
She uncurled lazily and got a bottle of water for each of them out of her mini-fridge. "I would consider a loan, I suppose, for your start-up costs. Say, ten thousand, payable over a period of sixty months at twelve percent interest. "
"I don't need ten thousand," Nell said, giving the bottle cap an annoyed twist. "And twelve percent is ridiculous. "
"A bank would charge less, but I'm not a bank and I wouldn't ask those pesky questions. "
Mia's lips curved, red and shapely over the mouth of the bottle. "But I prefer an investment. I'm a businesswoman who likes profit. You have a skill, a marketable one, which has already proven itself of interest on the island. With working capital, you can establish a viable business, which, I feel, will enhance rather than compete with my own. I've some ideas on that, actually, but we can get into that later. I make a ten K investment, become your silent partner, for a reasonable compensation of, say, eight percent of gross profits. "
"I don't need ten. " It had been a very long time, Nell thought as she tapped her fingers on the desk, since she'd negotiated fees, contracts. Amazing how quickly it came back.
Ten thousand would be welcome and would eliminate the sweat and worry. But if you avoided the sweat and worry, she thought, you eliminated the glow of satisfaction that came when you succeeded.
"Five will do," she decided. "For six percent, of net. "
"Five, then, for seven, net. "
"Excellent. I'll have my lawyer draw up a contract. "
"I'll open an account for the business at the bank. "
"Would it be less sticky if I took care of that, and the license application?"
"I'll do it. I have to take a stand sometime. "
"Little sister, you took one months ago. But I leave it to you. Nell," she said as she opened the door, "we're going to kick ass. "
She worked like a demon, preparing, planning, implementing. Her kitchen was a hotbed of experimentation, rejections, and successes. Her little office was the scene of hours of late-evening sessions where, on her secondhand computer and printer, she became her own desktop publisher, producing menus, flyers, business cards, invoices, and stationery, all with the inscription "Sisters Catering" and the logo she'd designed of three women standing in a circle, hands clasped.
And every one listed Nell Channing as proprietor and carried her new phone number.
When she finished putting her first sales kit together, she took it, along with the best bottle of champagne she could afford, and drove to Mia's to leave them on her doorstep.
They were in business.