Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’

Sometimes Ya Gotta Go Off Track To Get Back On

Meet the Ezgur’s, a family of five from Chicago, Illinois.  Parents, Wendi and Michael, met during their freshman year of college at the University of Illinois and are celebrating their twentieth wedding anniversary later this year.  They have three children, Aidan, Charlie and Rosie.

Both Wendy and Michael are self-employed.  In the early 1990s, Wendi founded an idea generation company, Leadhead, Inc., which develops innovative products and service concepts for a variety of clients including Kraft, Burger King and Pepsi.  Michael is a real estate attorney with a real estate development company.

When the recession threatened Michael’s company and the family’s financial well-being, Wendi determined to turn their financial misfortune into something positive.

“As the real estate market came crashing down, and my husband came home talking about how we could lose everything, I actually began to feel happy because I saw a big fat juicy opportunity,” explained Wendi.  “I saw the moment in time when we would have my husband to ourselves.  This small window could never come again.”

Wendi focused her innate creativity and ideation abilities on her family and invented the concept of a “family sabbatical.”  She envisioned her family swapping homes or making a temporary home in Europe.

“I went through much iteration of ideas before we finally hit on traveling in an RV.”

The plan for a five month road trip across the western United States hit Michael and Wendi during a twelve hour drive in the family minivan to visit family in New York for Thanksgiving in 2008.  Michael and Wendi discussed the logistics of the trip and began the four month planning process leading up to their April 3,  2009 departure.

This clearly wasn’t any ol’ family road trip.  The Ezgur’s trademarked the phrase, “Family Off Track,” as the title of their five month adventure.  They created a website and blogged about their experiences.

Wendi, on sabbatical from Leadhead for the duration of the trip, took primary responsibility for organizing the family’s travel blog.

“I wish I didn’t have the pressure of doing the blog each day,” commented Wendi.  “On the other hand, what a great archive and history of the trip.”

It became a charming chronicle of the family’s travels and the perfect vehicle for introducing the individual Ezgur personalities.    Here is an excerpt from the blog written by eight-year old Charlie as he explains to Sasha and Malia Obama why his family is going “off track.”

“The reason we are doing this is because my parents wanted a life time experience for all of us. Because of the economy right now, my dad’s business is slow, so rather than just staying home and being scared they decided to do this.”

Family and friends were able to follow the Ezgur’s progress and the five travelers welcomed the 15,000 hits to their website.

Missing the last few months of school, the Ezgur children were responsible for continuing their educations on the road.  “Because we had taken them out of school,”  Wendy explains, “the kids knew the onus was on them to learn.”

Aidan, then 11 years old, focused on his creative writing and journalism skills and became the narrator of the trip.  Six year old Rosie, an artist, was responsible for creating a picture power point presentation of the trip.  At eight years old, Charlie monitored the family’s finances and budget.  All three were also responsible for assisting in meal preparation and helping the family maintain a healthy diet on the road.

The Ezgurs traveled south out of Chicago and continued south to Louisiana.  When they hit the Gulf Coast, they drove west to the Pacific coast of the United States.  Next, the family traveled north up the coast and, finally, back south and east to Chicago.  During the spring and summer of 2009, the Ezgur’s RV could be found in numerous national park grounds, Walmart parking lots, and even behind the Circus Circus hotel and casino on the Las Vegas strip.

The Ezgur’s had several corporate sponsors or partners who assisted them financially or otherwise.  In a blog post published on May 22, 2009, Wendi describes one sponsor’s contribution.

“Our Family Off Track sponsor, Geico, came up with a fun, out-of-the box concept called ‘Dinner on GEICO.’  Basically they said, ‘pick a campground where you are staying and offer to provide lunch or dinner to the people staying there and we at Geico will foot the bill.’”

Wearing Geico t-shirts, the Ezgur children organized special events at various campgrounds to advertise Geico’s RV insurance.  Along the way, Geico sponsored ice cream socials, a Mexican Fiesta night and a Wine and Cheese party.

These corporate contributors only covered a portion of the expenses during the trip.  Nevertheless, the trip was a cost savings for the family.  They budgeted their food, gas and other expenses and saved on regular household expenses and summer camp tuition.

In addition to the cost savings, the trip gave the Ezgurs the gifts of time and togetherness.  The hectic schedule of everyday life in Illinois did not exist on the road.  The five month hiatus also helped the family gain perspective on their financial struggles.

As Wendi stated, “We came back with a clearer head on what our priorities are.  Let’s not get out of control over the things that are not meaningful.”

The Ezgur family’s story exemplifies this blog’s themes – finding opportunity in misfortune and doing something you are passionate about.  The Ezgurs are now back in Chicago.  Wendi continues to build Leadhead, Inc. and Michael has reinvented himself and is focusing on commercial real estate development.  Aidan, Charlie and Rosie are hard at work back in school.

Wendi, Michael, Aidan, Charlie and Rosie – Thank you for sharing your experiences with us.  Your strong sense of family and of adventure are an inspiration to all of us.

If you are, or someone you know is, pursuing a passion despite this tough economy, please contact me here.

© sourtosweet

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Sensational Cuisine, Suburban Hospitality and Love of Family Fuels Fusion

Meet Mark Crescenzo, General Manager and Host of Fusion Café and Wine Bar in Monroe, New York.  Opened in January of this year, the family-friendly restaurant offers high end and reasonably priced American cuisine featuring Latin and Asian influences.

“There are a lot of great restaurants in Monroe, but most are Chinese or Italian,” explains Mark.  “Nothing like this.  No place offering a good quality, freshly prepared, light meal at a great price.”

The food is prepared by Chef and Owner Kathy Egan who trained with Daniel Boulud and Peter Kelly.  Appreciating the qualities of the Chef/Owner, Mark comments, “Kathy’s food is very clean.  You can leave stuffed but it’s fresh and light and everything is cooked to order.”

While Kathy oversees the smooth running of Fusion’s kitchen, Mark ensures guests receive a warm greeting and excellent service.  “I like to host, I like to throw a good party – I want people leaving the restaurant to feel like they just left a really good house party.  When guests return a second time, we’ll remember their names, remember their drinks, remember if they are gluten-free.”

Mark’s career in restaurants began at the age of twelve when he was hired as a bus boy by Cranberries, a restaurant in his hometown of Stony Point, New York.  Four years later, Mark walked into Lynch’s, another nearby restaurant, seeking a job.

“Alice Lynch (the owner) handed me a Duke pad and told me to write down my name.  A week later, she called me in, gave me an apron and the Duke pad, and elevated me to waiter.”  Mark continued working in restaurants throughout high school and college.

A restaurant has served as a backdrop for important events in Marks’ life.  He met his future husband at The Hudson House in Nyack, New York.

Mark left the restaurant word to pursue a corporate career but gave up that job to raise the couple’s daughter.  He was not out of the workforce for very long.  “I was home for nine months.  At that time, real estate was taking off and I obtained my real estate license.  I worked in real estate for just under ten years.”

Their daughter was eight years old when the real estate market collapsed and Mark took a part-time job at Ravi, another local restaurant.  This is where Mark and Kathy met. The collaboration to create Fusion began.

Fusion is located on MillPond Parkway in Monroe.  The 800 square foot restaurant has a 15 person bar and intimate tables seating an additional 46.

The location underwent extensive renovations prior to opening which locals could monitor through the restaurant’s front windows.  “People would walk by, read the menu and give us a thumbs up through the window.  They couldn’t wait for us to open.”

The final result is a restaurant that feels urban despite its suburban location.  “When you walk in, everyone says they feel like they are in Manhattan.  It’s a very clean, very sleek environment.”  It’s a very good fit for Monroe’s population, young and old, families and singles, many of whom commute to work in New York City.

Fusion’s Grand Opening took place on January 27th and things have been busy.  New customers as well as returning diners are contributing to the restaurant’s immediate success.  The repeat business is encouraging to Mark.

“We’re not the only place serving good food, but diners will come back because of how we make them feel.  They will remember that.”

Mark is passionate about family and community and his work at Fusion reflects and feeds these passions.  “My family is involved in the restaurant.  They have all been there and been involved in this.  The community is becoming our family, guests are greeted on a first name basis, the diners are part of our extended family now.”

Sourtosweet had the opportunity to dine at Fusion.  The cuisine is delicious and beautifully presented.  The wait staff is friendly and professional.  If you arrive for an early dinner around 5 or 5:30, you watch as the tables and bars slowly fill with smiling, relaxed and satisfied diners enjoying their evening – exactly as Kathy and Mark intended.

To everyone involved in creating and operating Fusion, best wishes for continued success!

If you are, or someone you know is, pursuing a passion despite this tough economy, please contact me here.

© sourtosweet

Not Your Grandmother’s Garage Sale

Meet Josh Horowitz, President and Founder of Sell My Stuff CanadaSell My Stuff Canada is a Toronto-based company offering organizational and sales services to individuals interested in selling the contents of their houses.  An average customer might require Sell My Stuff Canada’s services when he or she is remodeling a home, downsizing living spaces, or organizing and dissolving the estate of a deceased loved one.

Josh graduated college with a degree in business.  He “had a few businesses here or there” but nothing that lasted long term.  He was working in the condominium development business when the Great Recession hit Canada and his job dissipated during a lay off.

Organizing content sales is a tradition in Josh’s family going back to his great grandmother.  She would organize garage sales informally for a small fee.  Josh’s interest in the family business was renewed when his grandfather’s Alzheimer’s disease required supervision that only a nursing home could provide and Josh’s grandmother needed assistance disposing of furniture that was not going to fit in her new, smaller living space.  Josh stepped in.

“She didn’t know who to call or who could help.  Because of that I did research on the internet and found there was big potential here, a market that was not being served.”  This experience provided the kernel of inspiration for Josh’s next business, a family content sales business that followed in the steps of his great grandmother.  Josh wanted to build “a successful, more reputable business rather than weekend garage sale.”  Sell My Stuff Canada was born.

Under Josh’s leadership, the company employs a number of his family members including his parents, two brothers, sister, grandparents and aunt.  The number of people employed by the company varies from project to project.

Sell My Stuff Canada’s largest project to date was an 18,000 square foot house.  “It was a $12 million house.  It took us a couple weeks to set up and we pretty much sold everything in the house in a one day sale.”  A video depicting this project is available on the company’s website.

What exactly does Sell My Stuff Canada offer?  The company offers “a highly efficient and organized process” of tackling the “insurmountable” task of disposing of the contents of an entire home or estate.  For a percentage commission, determined on a case-by-case basis, Sell My Stuff Canada will organize a house’s contents, research and set appropriate pricing for the items involved, and invite buyers to purchase the items in a one day sale.  Buyers familiar with Sell My Stuff Canada can visit the company’s website to view digital pictures of sale items prior to the sale itself.  Sell My Stuff Canada also offers a junk removal service.

Josh’s extensive use of the internet to market and grow the company is perhaps the greatest innovation he has introduced to the family business.

“We’re the newest and the freshest out there.  It’s not like your grandmother’s garage sale.  We have a newer hipper feel.  We come up with new, fresh ways to do things.  We’re more technologically advanced.  We’re going above and beyond to make each sale successful and unique.”  In addition to its website, Sell My Stuff Canada has a presence on facebook and twitter.

Sell My Stuff Canada is now in its fourth year.  Over the next several years, Josh hopes to build the company’s reputation and brand across Canada and, eventually, into the United States through franchising and a strong web presence.  The company’s new website allows franchisees to create their own site linked to Sell My Stuff Canada’s main page.  To preserve the company’s positive reputation and brand, these franchisees are provided an extensive training manual instructing them on the appropriate Sell My Stuff Canada processes and procedures.

“We are the biggest content sale brand in Canada,” explained Josh, “and we want to be the go-to place for content sales.”

The company’s primary marketing tool is its website.  However, Josh is increasingly contacted by potential customers who heard about the company through word of mouth.  In addition, the company is in talks to develop a reality television show chronicling its activities.  The reality television show represents a tremendous opportunity to build the company’s brand and introduce Sell My Stuff Canada to an even wider audience.

Josh, best wishes for continued success!

If you are, or someone you know is, pursuing a passion despite this tough economy, please contact me here.

© sourtosweet

There’s No Shortage of Talent During a Recession

Meet Lynn Zuckerman Gray, founder and chief executive officer of Campus Scout, LLC.  Founded in 2009, Campus Scout partners with employers to assist in recruiting top caliber talent on undergraduate and graduate campuses.  In doing so, Campus Scout reduces the money and manpower employers have had to invest in recruiting.

“Our target clients are small to middle sized businesses that hire at the college graduate and graduate levels and do not have in house campus recruiting teams or have teams that are small and can use outsourcing support,” explains Lynn.

Campus Scout also offers services to students seeking to make themselves more attractive candidates in a difficult job market.

Lynn earned a B.S. in Psychology from Tufts University and went on to obtain a J.D. from Cornell Law School.  She practiced corporate law for three years and then left practicing law behind to join a real estate investment banking firm.  Lynn became known in the real estate investment banking world for her expertise in a niche commercial mortgage lending business called Credit Tenant Lending.

One day Lynn received a call from Lehman Brothers offering her the opportunity to build a Credit Tenant Lending group for them.  Lynn accepted and spent more than eleven years at Lehman.  As readers may remember, Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy on September 15, 2008 and is one of the most recognizable casualties of this recession.  When Lehman collapsed, Lynn lost her job.  This loss was the catalyst that put Lynn on the path to entrepreneurship.

Lynn acknowledges that she always had a “creative spirit” and has a talent for “continuously developing new ways of doing things.  Nevertheless, she describes herself as an “accidental entrepreneur.“  In hindsight, Lynn recognizes,“the Lehman collapse probably sent me on the way I should have been going for quite some time.”

The inspiration for Campus Scout came from recruiting work Lynn performed at Lehman.  “I had been recruiting, training and developing Millennials (Generation Y) at the rate of 10 to 15 college graduates per year.  I had always loved teaching both to our recruits at Lehman and at seminars over the years up at Cornell.”

After Lehman’s collapse, Lynn joined the faculty at NYU’s graduate program, teaching courses about Management and Advanced Recruiting of Millenials.  During her research for the recruiting course, Lynn discovered that 60% of entry level recruiting was not done on campuses and the recruiting process itself was very inefficient and ineffective.

“When I spent some time thinking about what I really loved to do and had succeeded in over the years, I decided to tackle that 60% entry level recruiting market and build a team of front office experienced professionals to provide quality services at an attractive rate.”

Lynn’s business plan is based on a strong belief in the economy’s recovery.    “Sometimes I analogize Campus Scout during this economy to opening an ice cream store in winter.  People don’t buy ice cream in the winter and people don’t need a recruiting firm when they aren’t hiring.”  Despite the tough economy, Campus Scout has found clients.  Campus Scout attracted its very first client, a European private investment firm with a large presence in New York, with an advertisement on Linked In.

As the economy improves, Lynn hopes Campus Scout will acquire a large list of clients relying upon them to visit campuses and identify candidates for hire each year.  In addition, Campus Scout will attract clients looking for training services and students looking for career advice and guidance.  Campus Scout’s client list will include not only U.S. companies, but also those in Europe and Asia.

While developing and launching Campus Scout, Lynn had the support of 28 fellow unemployed financial services professionals enrolled in Fast Trac New Venture, a short and intense training program for new entrepreneurs sponsored in part by the Kauffman Foundation.  “We were about 80% unemployed financial services professionals and it was like an investment banking Noah’s Ark: 2 from Goldman, 2 from Lehman, 2 from UBS, and on and on.”  Within three weeks, Lynn developed a business plan and logo for Campus Scout and began work on the company’s website.  “But most importantly, I had the support of 28 amazing people who were going through the same process testing out a broad spectrum of ideas and three incredible business coaches from Kauffman.”

Lynn and her classmates also benefited from the global press’ interest in the Fast Trac program.  The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNBC.com, Canadian public radio, Spanish public television, French public television and one of the leading Japanese financial newspapers all featured pieces about Campus Scout.  “This attention from the media really gave us a jump start on establishing our brand.”

Lynn shows her continuing appreciation for the Fast Trac New Venture program now by participating as a facilitator for the program, assisting new entrepreneurs jump start their businesses.

“Of all of the things that I have accomplished in my career, including originating and completing billions of dollars of complex transactions, there is nothing that I enjoyed more than recruiting and helping young talent succeed.”  Now Lynn is able to feed this passion every day as owner of Campus Scout.

Lynn, your optimism and success is inspirational.  Best wishes for continued success.

If you are, or someone you know is, pursuing a passion despite this tough economy, please contact me here.

© sourtosweet

A Blooming Flower in the Essex Street Market

Meet Rona Economou, owner of Boubouki, a Greek food stall located in the Essex Street Market in New York City.

Boubouki is a Greek word.  Translated into English, it means flowerbud.  “I had another name in mind that sounded similar but, when I looked up LLC names it had already been taken.  I like the sound and it actually fits.  It’s a very sweet name.  Flowerbud.  Kind of like my business is blooming or flowering right now,” Rona explained.

Rona did not anticipate becoming an entrepreneur and business owner.  Her education focused on the law rather than business.  In 2001, she graduated Fordham Law School after attending SUNY Binghamton for undergrad and began working as a litigator at a midtown law firm.  As a consequence of the economic downturn, the firm initiated a large lay off in 2009 and Rona was one of many who found themselves suddenly unemployed.

“When you have a ‘real’ job, all you talk about with colleagues is ‘if it wasn’t for my healthcare, or if it wasn’t for this or that, I would do this or that.’  Once I got laid off, I had no excuse not to pursue something else.”

That “something else” became Boubouki.  The inspiration for Boubouki came from the Essex Street Market itself.  “It just sort of happened one day.  I knew I wanted to work for myself but I had no idea what form it would take.  I was visiting the market one day and it all just crystallized in my head.”

Rona grew up enjoying delicious, home-cooked food.  “Cooking is something I have always enjoyed.  I was surrounded by women on both sides of my family who are really excellent cooks.  I grew up eating really delicious, fresh food.”  Now she shares these delicious foods with Boubouki’s customers.

From Tuesday to Sunday, Rona arrives at her 7 by 7 foot stall at around 7:30 in the morning and begins cooking.  Although Boubouki’s hours are not set in stone, Boubouki generally starts serving its customers at 10am and remains open until 6:30pm.  On the menu, spinach pie, a chickpea salad and feta flat bread, butter almond cookies, chocolate chip cookies, carrot cake and pear cake.  Boubouki also offers baklava on the weekends.  Each item is priced somewhere between two and four dollars.

Rona enjoyed practicing law, but she admits there was one aspect of her job that she disliked – the isolation.  “The thing that made me unhappy was the lack of social interaction.  I was in my office all day by myself.”

Isolation is not a problem at Boubouki.  Although Rona is the small company’s sole employee, the hustle and bustle of the Essex Street Market offers a sense of community.  In addition, since its opening in August of 2010, Boubouki has attracted regulars who stop by the stall to talk with Rona and purchase their selections for the day.

When asked about her plans for Boubouki’s future, Rona responded “I have no idea.”  Right now, she is focused on enjoying each day as it comes.  She’s happy to come to work every day and is enjoying Boubouki’s success.

Sourtosweet was lucky enough to visit Rona at Boubouki around lunchtime on a weekday.  The smells of the market itself, and in particular Boubouki’s offerings, were irresistible.  Unable to select just one item, sourtosweet sampled the pear cake, the chocolate chip cookie and the feta flat bread – all wonderful.

Rona, best wishes for continued happiness and success!

If you are, or someone you know is, pursuing a passion despite this tough economy, please contact me here.

© sourtosweet

How to Survive the “Uh-Oh” Moment

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” ~ Ambrose Redmoon

“Courage is being afraid but going on anyhow.” ~ Dan Rather

Why is it that just when we are on the doorstep of doing exactly what we want to do, there is often a moment of hesitation and fear, a moment when we wonder, “Can I really do this?” I had this feeling a few months back as I was about to begin my therapeutic yoga teacher training. I had just gotten onto the subway to head downtown to Integral Yoga Institute for my first session of Therapeutic Yoga Teacher Training with Cheri Clampett and Arturo Peal. I spent months looking forward to this training and it was the first training step toward transitioning my career to work on Compass Yoga full-time. And though I know this is the right path, that this is what the world needs and what I need, I had a very brief “uh-oh, what have I done?” moment.

This isn’t the first time this moment has crept up on me. As an actor and musician in college, I always had this exact same moment right before a show. I would literally be in the wings, on the verge of being sick, wishing I could just run for the exit. It happens to me when I speak publicly, whether I’m presenting or just asking a question in front of a large group of people.

I often feel this moment just as I’m wrapping up a blog post and my finger is hovering over the “publish” button. Is what I’ve written too personal, too candid, or on a topic that is much too sensitive? There is something inherently scary about whole-heartedly putting ourselves out into the world, in front of others, and saying, “This is who I am.”

How can we get comfortable with being uncomfortable? How do we remain equal parts vulnerable and strong?

Now that I’ve dealt with stage fright in all it’s forms for many years, I’ve got a few methods that I use that have never failed me:

1.) Remember that what you’re feeling is not unique and it’s okay to be afraid. I’ll even go one step further and say that if you aren’t afraid to do something new, it may not even be worth doing. Fear is a very human response and a sign that you care so much about what you’re about to do, that you want to honor its importance as much as you possibly can. The best way to honor your action’s importance is to keep going right through the fear!

2.) Remember your intention. For me, this path of Compass Yoga is the work of my lifetime; it is my contribution to humanity. On the doorstep of Integral Yoga Institute that night, I reminded myself of all of the people who will be helped by my work in therapeutic yoga, people who right now at this moment need that help and aren’t receiving it. I walked through that door for them.

3.) Remember what’s on the other side of your fear. There’s so much anxiety that resides in anticipation. Once I get to where I’m going, I’m fine. What I fear is the lead up to that uh-oh moment, not the action I’m taking in and of itself. On the other side of your fears are your life’s greatest accomplishments. So don’t run from fear, but run toward your future accomplishments, recognizing that fear is just a bump on the road to great learning.

4.) Carry an inspiration with you. When I’m really frightened, I remind myself of two very inspiring passages about moving through fear. The ideas behind them always help me walk through my uh-oh moments:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light more than our darkness which scares us. We ask ourselves – who are we to be brilliant, beautiful, talented, and fabulous? But honestly, who are you to not be so? ~ Marianne Williamson

Many of us have lived desert lives: very small on the surface, and enormous underground. Because of this, so often we feel we live in an empty space where there is just one cactus with one brilliant red flower on it, and then in every direction, 500 miles of nothing. But for those of us who will go 501 miles, there is something more. Don’t be a fool. Go back and stand under that one red flower and walk straight ahead for that last hard mile. Crawl through the window of your dream. ~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes

I want you to keep moving along the exact path you want to be on. You will have moments of fear, hesitation, and doubt. You may feel like a fraud, and on the surface this feeling may seem insurmountable. I assure you it is not; it is just part of the journey.

Fear is an obstacle placed in your way only so that you can realize how much strength and conviction you really have. You have every right to have exactly the life you want, to do the work you really want to do, to help the people you want to help with your own gifts and talents. Push through.

– Christa Avampato

Christa Avampato is a yoga teacher who learns from her students every day, a product developer who loves the possibilities of new technology, and a writer who believes that hope and creativity are the most powerful duo on Earth. She travels with a purpose and regularly practices the high art of people-watching in New York City, a place she is proud to call home. Find her online at http://christainnewyork.com and http://www.twitter.com/christanyc.

Not the Same Old Yoga

Meet Christa Avampato, a renaissance woman who, most recently, founded her own not-for-profit organization named Compass Yoga.  Compass Yoga is an organization dedicated to promoting the therapeutic healing powers of yoga for individuals with specific healthcare needs.

Christa has an eclectic employment history.  “I always wanted to have the opportunity to try new things, experiment, see where things lead.”  Significantly, Christa also did not compromise.  “I never took a terrible job just to make ends meet.  I didn’t realize that this was rare.”

She worked through college at the University of Pennsylvania and, upon graduation, was employed in the theatre industry for several years.  She left the theatre industry to pursue not-for-profit fundraising and then returned to school in pursuit of her MBA at the Darden Graduate School of Business at the University of Virginia.  Although she intended to return to not-for-profit work after graduate school, Christa moved from Virginia to New York to be near a sick family member and soon realized that salaries in the not-for-profit world were insufficient to support life in New York.  She found employment in new product development at a large company.

“I feel like I’ve been a new product developer my whole career – always developing something new that helps people fulfill a need that they have.”

In 2007 and 2008, Christa found herself in New York City working as a new product developer and watching the economy fall apart.  “I’ve had a front row seat to the recession.  They were dark days in 2008.  It was a pretty scary place to be.”  At one point, two thirds of her business school class were unemployed.  “These were very smart, very qualified people being turned out by their companies.”

Observing these events unfold, Christa started to consider how she could take her future into her own hands.  She realized she could not expect another company to create her own future for her and contemplated becoming an entrepreneur.  “The thought was very scary.  I never thought that I would own my own company or organization.  I was really scared and I had to talk to other people who had done it and get some courage and confidence to do it myself.”

Christa pitched an idea for a column about entrepreneurship to Examiner.com.  She wanted to interview successful entrepreneurs and gain courage and confidence from their stories.  Over the course of 15 months in 2009 and 2010, she interviewed over one hundred entrepreneurs.  Christa turned twenty-seven of these interviews into a book entitled Hope in Progress: 27 Entrepreneurs Who Inspired Me During the Great RecessionHope in Progress is available online and through Kindle.  Now that Christa had the courage and determination, she needed her idea.

Compass Yoga became the focus of Christa’s newfound entrepreneuring spirit.  She always had a passion for teaching and had developed a passion for yoga as well.  These dual passions prompted her to train as a yoga instructor.  As she progressed through training, she discovered that the traditional studio business model for yoga left much to be desired.  “It seemed ridiculous to me that there wasn’t a way for yoga teachers to make a living wage.  With my business, finance and yoga background, there had to be a better way to get paid to do this.”  Christa determined to find a way to make yoga financially viable.

Christa’s training inspired a strong belief in the healing powers of yoga.  “The more I saw articles in The Times about people struggling with diabetes and heart diseases – I knew yoga and meditation could help with that.  Wow!  There is a lot of opportunity there.”  An advocate for the healing power of yoga and meditation, and recognizing the weaknesses in our current healthcare system, Christa envisions a way to blend yoga and meditation with western medicine to offer preventative, holistic medical care.

“We would look at a patient from a 360 degree view.  Someone could come to us no matter what the ailment, information could be shared across therapists and doctors to provide true holistic care to a client.”

The unique skill set developed during Christa’s eclectic employment history, her education, her passions, her front row seat to the recession, all contributed to the May 2010 founding of Compass Yoga.  Christa gathered and diverse collection of colleagues and friends to form a Board of Directors, all believing in the power of people healing themselves through alternative methods.

Christa invested her own savings, earned through her new product development work.  “My work in business and finance fuels the not-for-profit work I am passionate about.”  More importantly, using her own funds gave her control over Compass Yoga’s mission.  “I want to bring in grant money and donor money but, at the very beginning, I wanted to clearly define what we are doing.  I wanted us to shape the mission, not a fundraiser.”

Approximately one and a half years after its founding, Compass Yoga will soon have 501(c)(3) status.  Once its status is established, it will begin fundraising efforts targeting the public and private sectors.  Christa currently teaches yoga classes at Compass Yoga, as well as, hospitals, universities and other institutions in New York City.  Compass Yoga is already serving the needs of populations facing specific healthcare challenges, including veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.   Although Christa continues to work full-time, she plans for Compass Yoga to become her full time job.

Christa is proud of her accomplishments and happy to tell her story.  In addition to the Examiner.com article and other freelance writing projects, she maintains an inspirational blog called Christa in New York.

Sourtosweet is very excited that Christa has agreed to contribute a post here.  Stay tuned next week for an original Christa Avampato post designed to inspire.

“With enough will and determination your life can turn out the way you want it to turn out. – Christa Avampato

In the meantime, Christa, best wishes on continued career satisfaction and success!

If you are, or someone you know is, pursuing a passion despite this tough economy, please contact me here.

© sourtosweet