These two photos do have a story behind them, lest you think they are just random. I was given these wonderful bottles of delicious, superior quality extra virgin olive oil from Apulia in Italy by the owner of said groves as a thank you for having helped out at the Fancy Food Show in New York earlier this week. It was a great experience and really gave my Italian language skills a fantastic workout.
Mr. Cazzetta, like many of the vendors at the trade fair, is looking for a way to introduce his product into the U.S. market. Having seen this process first-hand, I realized how unbelievably competitive it seems to be to try to knock on the doors to get buyers to even look at your wares, not to mention trying to get a deal done to get into the shops where we, the consumer, would actually consider purchasing some of them. After a while, all the sauces, cheeses, oils, mustards, pastas, jams, jellies, and sweet things on display seemed to blend together. It was, however, also interesting to see new items from the well-established brands that I recognized.
How did I end up there, at the end of the day on Monday, sipping wine and sampling the wonderful and unique olive grappa that Mr. Cazzetta also makes? Right now, I'm networking for another job and trying to see if I can use this blog to launch myself into a different career area, much like I'd discussed very early when I started this project. The fates have intervened, and I was let go from my position in banking at the end of March. A couple of months of consulting work later, and I find that now I'm searching for the opening that will let me combine my passion for food with the dire need for a steady paycheck and benefits.
Along those lines, I've been trying to network almost everyone I know about entrepreneurial opportunities, how to make a business work, opinions about continuing in financial services, etc. The people who get to sample my results are all firmly in the category of those who say that I should be pursing something culinary-related. I'm grateful for their support (and willingness to eat my products), but I'm still a bit gun-shy about how it can turn into a viable enterprise.
One of the groups of contacts to which I've turned has been my graduate school colleagues, many of whom have started their own businesses. On Monday, bright and early, but after I'd already had coffee, I met up with one of them at a diner in my neighborhood. Susannah Gold has been running her own communications company for several years and was kind enough to let me buy her breakfast and pick her brain about the concept of my going on my own.
As part of her client development, she was going to attend the Fancy Food Show at the Javits Center over on the far west side of town. She kindly asked me if I would be interested in accompanying her as a guest. I jumped at the chance to get some firsthand experience at how this market works. As I mentioned above, it was pretty eye-opening. The New York Times did a breakdown of the show here. So, we made our base at the booth of Mr. Cazzetta to help him with his promotions, and that was how I ended up with the olive oil. Not a bad way to end an eventful and enlightening day!