Week 28 – The Gourmet Angel

Serving more intimate gatherings from dinner for two to an elegant affair for twenty-five, Chef Shelley Everett will draw from her years of event planning and culinary experience to realize your vision right in your home, office, or space of your desire.

Blog Post (Day 1)
The last time I saw a place like where we met yesterday it was in Joe Pesci’s final scene in GoodFellas.  You entered an old building through an offset driveway on Banks Street in Mid-City NOLA.  Inside:  a place of work where one finds old things that were lost decades ago.  Plywood and paint on the wall that hasn’t been refreshed in 2 generations.  I kept thinking “I am gonna get whacked here.”  No need for the accoutrement of downtown.  No distractions.  Just this deep steady baritone belying the youth of its deliverer saying “it’s time to go to work, and we believe in you.  It’s a perfect setting to get down to the nitty gritty of launching a business in the city of New Orleans.
So how do you pack the Yale School of Management into a week?  One item at a time.  The current dynamic between teacher and student seems a little different with our involvement.  It would seem to me that the 52 Businesses program has been millenial working with millenial to bring an idea to fruition.  Chef Shelley and myself are generation X:  young enough to embrace technology, and old enough to remember the old school and going with what works.  It’s what’s been working for us in the 2 plus decades since first entering the labor pool.  It has created a very vibrant environment for all of us to do a full on “brain dump” as Colin calls it, and bridge the gap between the two generations to adapt the best of all our ideas into a successful business strategy.
We started with the shape of a cone on a piece of paper.  This shape is, in effect, a funnel through which everything sifts.  At its widest point:  About us.  So many human beings go through this life without knowing who we are.  We live… we die… driven by survival, convention, and obligation throughout that life because we need those external pressures to survive.  The most successful human being is the one who is very clearly self-defined and directed from within.  And so it is with a business.  Self-awareness is the key to direction.   Before we can figure out how to do it, we have to know precisely who we are.
From this self-identification we can derive the second item in our funnel, our mission.  What is our service?  What is our role in the marketplace?  How do we crystallize these ideas into a statement around which we can rally?  What number and type of words will become our flag as we march forth into the marketplace?  Whatever it is, it cannot be a mission: impossible.  Otherwise we will never get off the ground.  The mission has to be attainable, has to be ambitious, has to identify a niche we can serve and serve well.
Filtering down to the bottom of the funnel is the tag line.  If you watch Mad Men, there is nothing like a scene of Don Draper making a pitch to a potential client.  At the end of the presentation, the signoff is the tag.  Again, a series of words that create an image, that roll off the tongue, that take you from point A to point B, B being the consumer’s agreement that the service offered is the best one for them.  The tagline is the bow around the package.  We currently have one which is really nice.  However, it has generated concern among the 52 businesses crew for a possible perception of elitism.  It brought home a point I learned long ago when I first started coming to New Orleans:  What works everywhere else does not necessarily work here.
Anything we do has to be true to this city’s spirit.  The people of NOLA must hang together, or we will certainly hang separately.  Much of the city’s charm is in the acceptance it gives to those who come here.  The flip side is a provincialism that says ‘This is our culture.  We are proud of it.  We aren’t going to be dictated to by any who think they are better coming from somewhere else.  The best of everything is found here, because we make it with love.’  Anyone coming from the outside has to prove themselves as loving this area and wanting to make it better.  It’s the one thing that binds those who stayed through or returned after Katrina, and those like myself who arrived with visions of the gold in them thar hills that is attracting so much brain gain over the last 5 or 6 years.
The other main takeaway from Day One is it is a great era to be an entrepreneur.  There are so many free and low cost web-based resources out there to assist anyone in the entrepreneurial cycle short on the two most precious commodities:  Time and Money.
All organizational tasks and assignments can be placed on something called Basecamp.com!  Far more attractive than a ratty notebook with a to-do list.   That was the way I worked.  It is indeed a great day to be an entrepreneur.  There is far more help out there at your fingertips than one can possibly imagine.
Out of the mouths of relative babes will we listen, for they shall lead the way.  Colin, Terry, and Drew are very focused, forthright, and forthcoming in their experiences as both residents and entrepreneurs in The Crescent City.  They are respectful of our own experiences and knowledge while still challenging them with a new paradigm that allows us to build further.  These guys rock, and we look forward to our own journey down the yellow brick road with 52 Businesses as our NOLA wizard.