Posts Tagged ‘lemonade’

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  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 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


Out with Edison, In with Nimble Jack

Meet Jack D’Alelio, owner of Nimble Jack Enterprises.  Founded in 2009, Nimble Jack Enterprises is devoted to “finding innovative solutions to everyday problems.”  Translation – Nimble Jack invents those consumer products that make you wonder, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Jack’s career began in 1979.  He worked as a chemist for over 10 years in the biotech industry.  Through the course of his career he migrated out of the laboratory and into the office where he played a regulatory role.  His last job, as a Senior Quality Engineer, started in October 2007 and ended in July 2008.  The company experienced difficulties and Jack was laid off in the first of five waves of layoffs.

“My job was to make sure we put out a good quality product.  I really loved that job and getting laid off was a bit of a shock even though we knew there were rumors – but still it came as a surprise, sort of unexpected.”

After being laid off, Jack decided that he had the knowledge and experience to be his own boss.  He wanted to invent a product, develop it, and successfully license it to a company interested in manufacturing and mass marketing it.

Nimble Jack Enterprises was born.  As owner and sole employee of Nimble Jack Enterprises, Jack invented, developed and is in the process of patenting the company’s first product, the Magic Toob Lampshade Leveler.

Jack envisioned and developed the Magic Toob to meet a specific need he discovered during the course of his everyday life.  As a result of federal law passed in 2007, Americans are expected to replace their energy-wasting, incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient spiral fluorescent light bulbs.  The differing shape of the incandescent and fluorescent bulbs creates an unanticipated dilemma.   Individuals with clip-on lampshades manufactured for incandescent light bulbs experience tremendous difficulty fitting such shades over the fluorescent light bulbs.

“I knew these were bulbs coming and knew that it was going to pose a problem,” Jack explains, “I had a few lamps that use clip ons and they don’t fit the new bulbs at all.”

Enthusiastic about his invention, Jack describes, “The product is incredibly simple – high temperature silicone tubing that I am able to wrap around a bulb clip.  It becomes part of a bulb clip.”  With the silicone tubing in place, the lampshade fits securely and levelly around the spiral fluorescent light bulb.

Customers have found alternate uses for the Magic Toob as well.  “A lot of people like the product for keeping their mini-shades straight on chandeliers.”

The Magic Toob first entered the market in 2009 and over 250 have sold.  “Ninety-five percent of people find my product by looking for a way to keep a clip-on lampshade to fit one of those bulbs, they do a google search and find the product on my website.”

Jack also sought to advertise his product by applying for a spot on the ABC show, Shark Tank.  He hoped that the national exposure Shark Tank would provide would attract the attention of someone interested in licensing and manufacturing the Magic Toob.

So far, Jack has succeeded in two of his three goals but he is still seeking the opportunity to license the Magic Toob to a company interested in taking the product to the marketplace.

“I developed this product from an idea to a fully developed, shelf ready product in nine months.  What I would like to do is license the product or sell the rights completely and move on to the next thing.”  Jack’s joy is in the inventing stage of the process, not in manufacturing, advertising or retail.  “I call myself an inventor/entrepreneur – I’m a reluctant entrepreneur.  I would rather just invent.”

Jack is married and he and his wife have a daughter who just began her freshman year in high school.  He credits his ability to operate Nimble Jack to his wife.  She is a teacher and provides the family with a steady income and health benefits while Jack pursues his passion.

“I can honestly say it is the best job that I have ever had.  There have been days when I am working 16 hours a day but it doesn’t feel like work.  When you’re doing something you want to do, something you believe in.”

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

© sourtosweet

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

An Introduction

Welcome to Sour to Sweet!

This blog is for anyone who is has felt the impact of the bad economy on themselves or their loved ones.  Although this “Great Recession” began back in 2007, my family had been fortunate enough to avoid any serious consequences of the economic downturn until this year.  But when it hit, it hit hard.  In the space of weeks, multiple friends and family members found themselves unemployed and fearful for their financial futures.  We’ve probably been luckier than most.  The misfortune and the fear unemployment or financial uncertainty generates inspired me to start this blog.

The name “Sour to Sweet” derives from the familiar adage “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”  What I am looking for are people who found themselves unemployed or suffered a loss of financial stability in recent years and turned their misfortune into an opportunity to follow their passion and achieve financial success.  I know you are out there and I am asking you to share your stories with me so you can inspire others.

I want this blog to inspire.  I want it to give people hope and courage.  I want readers who have been unable to find employment through traditional means to consider thinking outside the box and, maybe, find a way to marry their passions with financial success and security.  Wouldn’t that be a fantastic unintended consequence of our current economic troubles?

© sourtosweet