Archive for September, 2011

Korean BBQ On The Move

In this week’s blog post, sourtosweet hoped to feature Korilla BBQ, a company that operates distinctive food trucks serving delicious Korean barbeque to the New York City population.  The founder of Korilla BBQ is a Columbia University alum who graduated in the late 2000s into the depressed job market.  From this misfortune, the concept of Korilla BBQ emerged.

Sourtosweet discovered Korilla’s story when the company was featured on this season of the Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race.  For those familiar with the show, the most recent episode revealed Korilla’s dismissal from the competition on suspicion of cheating.  Tyler Florence, the show’s host, provided little detail about the actions identified as cheating before ejecting Korilla from the competition.  Communications on Korilla BBQ’s facebook page indicate that the company is contractually prevented from discussing details of the show until spring of 2012.

Before their ejection, Korilla was a frontrunner in the overall competition.  After their ejection, some audience members condemn them as cheaters.  Others await more information or Korilla’s defense.  Still others act as staunch defenders of their favorite food truck.  You can find all three viewpoints on Korilla’s facebook page.

Prior to last week’s episode, sourtosweet approached Korilla about contributing its story to the blog and Korilla agreed.  However, the circumstances of this past week would throw a wrench into the best laid plans.  It is sourtosweet’s hope that Korilla will find time in the near future to discuss how they have begun to build a Korean BBQ empire on the streets of New York City.

According to Korilla’s website, the company’s opening day was October 18, 2010.  Opening day was preceded by an extensive planning phase that began as early as 2008.  Since opening day, it appears that Korilla has experienced tremendous success as evidenced by the addition of two food trucks to its fleet.  The additional trucks came on line early this summer.

Sourtosweet had the opportunity to travel to the corner of Varick and Vandam in Soho this week to sample Korilla’s fare.  At 1pm on a Tuesday, hungry New Yorkers lined up more than halfway down a long city block waiting for the distinctive tiger-striped Korilla truck to open shop.  The line can be attributed in part to Korilla’s effective use of the latest social media tools.  For instance, Korilla tweets its truck locations and latest updates to its twitter audience.

When the truck opened its doors, the service was polite and efficient.  The food was delicious.  Sourtosweet officially recommends both the pork and beef barbeque tacos with kim chi slaw and either the Korean BBQ sauce or the Korean hot sauce.

Based on what I have seen and tasted, Korilla is a very successful business which emerged despite and because of the economic downturn when a unemployed college graduate and his friends decided to share their love of Korean Barbeque with the world.

Hopefully, sourtosweet will soon have the opportunity to post a follow up on Korilla with more detail about the company’s birth, development and success.

In the meantime, Korilla, best wishes on continued success!

If you have, or someone you know has, successfully pursued their passion despite this tough economy, please contact me here.

© sourtosweet

I See Magic in Your Future

Meet Donna Purnell known professionally as Alexanderia the Great “The Queen of Extreme,” one of the few female escape artists in the world. Local and national news agencies have picked up her story dubbing her the “Modern Day Houdini,” “The Female Houdini” and the “Housewife Houdini.” When I spoke to her, Ms. Purnell identified herself simply as Alex. She is also wife to her husband, Bill Purnell, and mother to their three teenage children, Nicole, Kristin and Michael.

The Purnell’s shared love of magic dates back 25 years to high school when Mr. Purnell tried to impress his future wife with some basic rope ties. Her response: “That’s cool, but I can do better.”(1) The two kept their magical hobby a secret from friends and family, fearing what others might think. While raising their three children, Ms. Purnell worked as a day-care provider and teacher.

After losing three jobs during the recession, she considered whether their love of magic could be more than a hobby. In an August 22, 2011 interview with WABC Eyewitness News in New York, Ms. Purnell explained, “At that point after losing three jobs I was really low, my self-esteem and I really needed to find a way to bring me back.”(2)

Alex’s career as a public performer began at the age of 47 in October of 2009 in her hometown of Dedham, Massachusetts when she volunteered to take part in the Worldwide Escape Artists Relay. On the evening of October 24, 2009, in front of a hometown crowd, Alex stood by the side of Dedham High School’s pool while 55 pounds of weight, including steel shackles around her wrists and ankles, multiple chains, nine padlocks and a 15 pound lead belt were strapped to her body. After taking several “breath holds,” Alex jumped into the 12 foot deep pool and sank to the bottom. Alex freed herself from the locks and chains and surfaced in under sixty seconds. Success. This stunt, named the Underwater Leap of Faith, is one of many daring escapes she has since publicly performed.

News of Alex’s stunts has spread rapidly since October of 2009 helped in part by videos of her escapes posted on youtube.com. Usually her stunts involve underwater escapes. She has freed herself from shackles, padlocks, chains, mailbags and recycling barrels while submerged in water or in similarly “airless” circumstances. In her newest stunt, the Underwater Cell, she immerses herself in a 3 foot high plexiglass cell filled with water and must unbind her hands and pick the cell’s lock in order to escape.

Alex also holds a world record for the fastest “extreme” straight jacket escape, which she achieved live on Fox & Friends in autumn of last year. In this stunt, she escaped from a straightjacket as well as 50 feet of chain and 10 padlocks in only 2 minutes and 37 seconds. There is a link to Alex’s record-breaking escape on her webpage.

Currently, Alex performs locally with a group called Lydia’s Carnival Sideshow. Their next performance will be Saturday, September 17th at The Great New England Steampunk Exhibition in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Alex and Bill would ultimately like to take the act on the road. “I would love to have a show and take it places, whether Atlantic City or Vegas.”(3)

Alex prepares for her escapes with free-diving courses, breath-holding trials and underwater weight lifting. In an interview on Greater Boston with Emily Rooney, Bill explains, “The breath training is to keep her safe.”(4) The couple believes that the breath-holding training has already saved Alex’s life once when the plexiglass cell malfunctioned during training for the Underwater Cell. Alex is now able to hold her breath for as long as 3 minutes and 50 seconds in a static, low stress environment.

Alex’s story inspires. She intends it to. “It doesn’t matter your age it doesn’t matter your sex if you are in a situation and you think that that’s not where you want to be, just go for it.”(5)

Her story also exemplifies what this blog is about. “The economy has really thrown people a curve ball. You need to look back at what you do well and are passionate about,” she told me during our interview.

Message: Identify your passion, pursue it, and success will follow.

Alex, best wishes and stay safe!

If you have, or someone you know has, successfully pursued their passion despite this tough economy, please contact me here.

(1) Quote taken from article “Taking the Plunge,” by Taryn Plumb published online by the Boston Globe on February 1, 2011. Full article available at http://articles.boston.com/2011-02-01/lifestyle/29346704_1_deep-breath-buckles-sideshow.

(2) Quote taken from article “Woman makes magical decision after losing jobs,” by WABC Eyewitness News published online on August 22, 2011. Full article available at http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/firstatfour/story?section=firstatfour&id=8320206.

(3) Quote taken from interview on Greater Boston with Emily Rooney, dated February 24, 2011. Video of full interview available at http://www.wgbh.org/programs/Greater-Boston-11/episodes/Feb-24-2011Escape-artist-Alexanderia-the-Great-25355.

(4) Quote taken from interview on Greater Boston with Emily Rooney, dated February 24, 2011. Video of full interview available at http://www.wgbh.org/programs/Greater-Boston-11/episodes/Feb-24-2011Escape-artist-Alexanderia-the-Great-25355.

(5) Quote taken from article “Woman makes magical decision after losing jobs,” by WABC Eyewitness News published online on August 22, 2011. Full article available at http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/firstatfour/story?section=firstatfour&id=8320206.

Pictures provided by Mackay Entertainment, available at http://mackayentertainment.blogspot.com/2011/03/alexanderia-great.html.

Acknowledgements: In addition to my own communications with Alex, information contained in this post was gathered from a series of news reports (both written and verbal) about Alexanderia the Great. These news reports are available at the following links: Fox News Interview dated September 4, 2010 available at http://video.foxnews.com/v/4329692/moms-an-escape-artist; The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric available at http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7357307n; Boston’s Chronicle HD available at http://www.thebostonchannel.com/video/25463812/detail.html; The Boston Globe available at http://articles.boston.com/2011-02-01/lifestyle/29346704_1_deep-breath-buckles-sideshow; Greater Boston with Emily Rooney available at http://www.wgbh.org/programs/Greater-Boston-11/episodes/Feb-24-2011Escape-artist-Alexanderia-the-Great-25355; WABC Eyewitness News available at http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/firstatfour/story?section=firstatfour&id=8320206 and Alexanderia the Great facebook page available at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Alexanderia-the-Great-Escape-Artist-Extraordinaire/175216655822724?sk=wall.

© sourtosweet

The Newest Mobile Dog Groomer on the Block

Meet Christine the owner of The Good Life Mobile Dog Grooming Company.  Christine is a trained and certified dog groomer who travels to her clients’ homes and provides grooming services to their furry loved ones.  She resides in Rockland County, New York and The Good Life operates locally, serving customers in Rockland County and lower-Westchester County, New York and Bergen County, New Jersey.

When Christine talks about her company, her face lights up.  She is animated, enthusiastic and happy.  To her, The Good Life is not a job, grooming dogs is her pleasure and joy.  “When I have a dog in front of me, I know that is where I belong.  I don’t look of these animals as a business.  There are a lot of injustices done to animals in this world.  I won’t be part of that.”

Christine has an eclectic employment history.  “I’m the kind of person who always looks for a window when doors seem to be slamming.  I’m a survivor.”  She worked as a manicurist, freight auditor and, most recently, a telecommunications salesperson, before pursuing dog grooming.

After eleven years as a telecommunications salesperson, Christine realized that she had had enough.  She thought seriously about pursuing a dog grooming as a career path.  She did her research, made phone calls, and discussed her thoughts and dreams with her loved ones.  Finally, in January of 2011, she pulled the trigger.  “I threw it up in the air like confetti and walked away,” she said.  She described how eleven other employees who heard her story followed her lead and left the company to pursue other options.  “It was crazy.  You could feel the energy.”

When Christine left her job in January, she had already put a deposit down on the biggest investment for her future, the truck.  She ordered the truck from Wagon Tails, a family business in Michigan that manufactures grooming vans.  During her planning phase the previous year, Christine determined that she could pay for the van and pay her living expenses while her company got off the ground by cashing in her pension.  Although this was a gamble, she was committed to her plan.

It was a good gamble.  She learned that the dog grooming industry has not suffered during this economic downturn.  “It just snowballed,” Christine explains.  After completing training at New York Dog School of Grooming, Christine apprenticed with another local mobile dog groomer.  “She could have looked at me as a competitor but she did not.  I rode in the truck with her.  She was very helpful, very supportive.”

Finally, through word of mouth, Christine obtained her first client.  “I received a phone call from a woman who asked me to come and groom her cockapoo.  The truck was just delivered the day before.  I was thrilled.”  Christine drove the truck around as an advertisement for her business.  With the assistance of a friend, she created a company website, www.goodlifegrooming.com.

She obtains most clients through word of mouth, good work, and personal service.  “I’m looking to at it as treating people fairly,” she explains.  “I charge what I think I should charge.  Anywhere from forty and up.  I can’t tell you what I’m going to charge you until I see the animal.”

Just a few months into the business, Christine is working with a reputable accountant to help her manage her company’s financial success.

Christine’s story is atypical for this blog because she made the independent choice to leave her job in telecommunications and pursue her dream.  Nevertheless, her story provides a useful lesson to those interested in pursuing their dreams – look for an industry unaffected by the economic downturn.

There is another lesson to be learned from Christine’s story as well – go after your dream.  If you are happy doing what you are doing, then your chances of success increase exponentially.

Christine, best wishes for continued success!

If you have, or someone you know has, successfully pursued their passion despite this tough economy, please contact me here.

© sourtosweet