S2 Eats + Awareness Project: Entering New Waters

In the next coming months, I’m going to launch a HUGE project. And I mean HUGE. And it involves food. If you know me, or have gotten to know me, then you shouldn’t be surprised by this at all.

This past Saturday, I found myself in a magical place. It felt like a home actually. It is a shop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, named Archestratus, that is part cookbook and cooking related books book shop and also a cafe/restaurant. They host Blue Plate Dinners every Thursday night and a monthly Cookbook of the Month Club. The owner, Paige, is incredible and so nice. We got to meet her yesterday and talk to her and well, can we say “friends?!” all together?

I told her quickly about this project I’ve been working on and said to her pretty confidently as we continued talking, “when my project is ready, I’m calling you.” She was completely for it. And I now know where most, if not every event I host in NYC for “CIC” will be located.

I should also mention that I was with a friend of mine and a teammate for a project I’ve been working on as part of a program called Do Tank in NYC. Sana is her name and she is a fellow food lover. We talked and walked around the books and carried a ton to a table and shared food while talking to Paige. Sana is going to end up being a much larger part of this project than even I am aware of right now. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t even know yet what her role will be, but she will have a role. It may even be in the form of representing Pakistan.

Anyhow, this idea that I’m vaguely sharing with you now has a ton of moving pieces and a few people, all whom I trust with my life involved. I have a cousin helping with logo and branding design, my brother and his best friend involved in videography, another friend and past roommate willing to help with web design, my mentor as a board and planning member, and my Mom, too – she’s cooking. I’m sure I will bring on many, many more people, both trusted and untrusted. That is how you bring about change, after all.

This project has been in the works since the summer of 2014. That is the summer that Israel and Palestine were at war and the summer of the massive influx of migrants traveling from Central America to the US to get away from heavy gang violence and crime. Those migrants were children, many of them traveling alone, whose parents probably took loans out that they still cannot afford to get their child(ren) across the border to saftey. With both of these instances, for the first time in a long time I looked at the world and thought, “what the fuck is going on?” It may also have been the first time that I truly felt as though I needed to get involved. That my voice needed to be heard in a constructive manner. It was also a point when I realized that no matter what I do in life, my life has to be used to help stop the injustice of others.

Now, I’m not promising to change the world completely. No, that requires collective force. I am, however, proposing to use my stationery company, design skills, and extensive communication background to help shift and shape appreciation, acceptance, and change. This is daunting. It cannot be neatly designed. I am bound to offend many. I hope to impact many more.

To get this started, I’m sharing a collection of photos of foods that I’ve recently created over the past few weeks and months of putting “CIC” together. I have a long road to go, but food is the of the main focal points of this project. From this post onward, one a week will be dedicated to a recipe – some food(s) I’m devouring religiously, experimenting with as I develop and perfect, and/or am inspired by – I cannot promise that these recipes will coincide with exactly what I’m working on, but they will help build connection for when it is ready to be released into the world.  (SOON!)

Saturday night, as I walked around Archestratus, I thought about my life and the wild ride it’s been thus far. I thought about how food has always been a focal point in my life. I carry a lot of weight because of my relationship to food, both good and bad, but this project isn’t about that. No this project is about the nourishment food brings us all, across cultures and countries and religions. My unofficial slogan for this project is: “Even the most immigrant hating Texan eats tacos.” This project is about that element that brings us together even in our fear, differences and hate.

Walking around Archestratus allowed me to remember my abuela Herminia, who was a strong and rebellious female who created change in her own way. I thought about being a three and four year old helping make Honduran tamales with her and my mom. By helping, I really ate most of the ingredients and would annoy her, but my abuelo always had extra as backup. I still help my Mom make tamales every Christmas and the legacy continues. If I ever have children, they will learn and my soon-to-be three year old niece, will learn soon.

This is what life is all about. It is about the changes we make individually as well as collectively. It is about passing down our histories, cultures and family stories. It is about connecting over the pieces that make us all human. I hope you’ll join me for this journey. I hope you’ll help me share these stories and cultures and histories. I hope you’ll help shift your conscious as well as the greater conscious. Most importantly, I hope you’ll enjoy this.

To learn more and stay up to date, you are invited to sign up for our the newsletter on the Awareness page of the S2 Stationery website. (Scroll to the bottom!) You’ll get the good, juicy bits when you do…think of it as the fond at the bottom of a pan of caramelizing onions, or from a roasted chicken. Yum!

Until next week, keep your stomachs a bit empty, your hearts full, and your mind open to expansion and food. And don’t forget to sign up for the newsletter!!

 

 

 

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Acknowleging Your Inner Entrepreneur/Hustler

In talking to my mother the other day I realized I’ve been a hustler my entire life.

I was a bit shocked to be honest. I mean, who is a hustler at the age of 8? Also, who thinks of themselves as a hustler outside of rap singers?

When I think back to those long ago years of my youth, I remember always trying to win the prizes, usually money, for school fundraisers. I think this was more of my Type-A personality than anything else, but I wanted to sell the most candy bars, and I wanted to sell the most of anything and everything if it could make me stand out from my classmates, or win me something, even if it was garbage.   There was the catalog company that I started working for during my Brooklyn days, where I’d send the catalog to my father’s office and have him help me sell things. If I made tons of sales, I’d win awesome prizes, including money.

I think though the best example of my hustling ways takes place in 1989 when my my brother, mother, cousin, aunt, and grandmother took a trip to the homeland, Honduras. I was seven going on eight and I wanted to get my hands on some lempiras.  My idea, with the assistance of my cousin, was to sell mangoes on the street, outside of the house.  My mother totally let me do this. She didn’t attempt to stop me. She didn’t tell me that in La Ceiba, Honduras, the idea of selling mangoes is ludicrous because almost everyone has a mango tree in their backyard. Nope. She let my cousin and I fill up a bucket of mangoes from the backyard and scream “mangoes for sale!” at the top of our lungs.  A woman bought from us and it turns out she did only because she felt bad for us, so my mother says, but she still bought our bucket and my cousin and I made some fast cash. I don’t remember exactly how much we sold them for, or how much we made, but it was such a sweet, sweet victory.

This gave way to many more ideas as I grew older. When we moved to Cleveland Heights, Ohio, I loved selling things in garage sales and would scour the house looking for old things that we didn’t use any more to sell. I even sold my own jacket once by mistake.  Then there was the summer that I visited my family in Brooklyn, NY and we decided to start a bag business. At the time, my Aunt owned a clothing store for women on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, and for a week, we stood outside of the store, my two cousins, myself, and a cousin of theirs from their Mother’s side selling old stuff they didn’t use or want anymore.  We made a ton of money and split it four ways.  As for that bag business, well, we made a few successful bags from a pattern, but then stopped after that summer. I’m not sure why, but it didn’t take off as we had planned. It might have been the distance – me being in Cleveland Heights and them being in Brooklyn. Who knows, but the seeds were planted at an early age!

As a teenager my father after working as a bus driver and a truck driver for other companies, went out on his own. He started “Stroman Trucking” and off he went, doing trips mostly between Ohio or NYC and Florida. I remember as a teenager sitting at the table with my Mom working on balancing his accounts and paying bills. I even remember voicing my opinion on how and where he could save money as a business owner. I was only 16 or 17 at this point.

I put all of that behind me after graduating college. I went out for a real job, and worked several real jobs as a matter of fact to earn money. In other words, even though I was on someone else’s payroll, I was figuring out ways to keep making money. Which leads me to believe I need to understand what money really means to me, but more importantly, years later, in 2009, when I had my dream to start this stationery business, it didn’t seem too far fetched. In fact, it made sense that I took business courses as an undergrad to get me to this point, or what I like to call full-circle, even though I know the circle is not yet complete.

See, every position I’ve held, whether it was as a receptionist at my first job, or collecting items to sell in a garage sale, or to helping a customer select a table at Pottery Barn, has led me to where I am. Even all of my work as a volunteer has brought me to this point. All of these experiences have shaped my business and personal direction.

When I hear the argument that being an entrepreneur can be taught, I disagree. Sure you can teach some of the key aspects of being an entrepreneur, but my experience has shown me that I’ve been piecing together my entrepreneur spirit since I was 8 years old on a family trip to Honduras.  I believe when you really feel it, well you hustle your way into it, from an early age, whether it starts with a lemonade stand or a garage sale or raising money for a good cause.  My entrepreneurship has been rooted deep in my bones and it is why now, I sit at jobs and realize that I won’t ever really be happy until my business is self-sufficient and making a positive impact.  As I get ready to figure out where exactly I am headed (I just moved into an apartment, so I’m getting settled), I am assessing my thoughts on where my business can go, how much money I want to make, and more importantly, how I want/need to get my business into shape to make these things happen.

It’s easy to fall off the wagon. To question things that we do, or don’t do. But this is why the past is so relevant to me, regardless of what anyone else says, we learn from the past, even if we don’t want to. My past is a reminder of what I have to accept and appreciate because without it, I wouldn’t be where I am, bumps, bruises, and creative ideas.  If you haven’t thanked your inner hustler/entrepreneur, do so now. He/she deserves the recognition and to be released from whatever negative stigma you associate it. It is, truly a good thing.