Oasis Foods: Not Your Average Start Up

The following blog post was originally published by the Simon Business School Admissions Blog on June 29, 2016

What do you think of when you hear the word “entrepreneur”?

A young man in a hoodie hunched over a computer, perhaps? A graying–but young at heart–millionaire venture capitalist, maybe?

Whatever you envision, I bet you didn’t picture three young women from Simon Business School trying to end food deserts in upstate New York. We’re not your average entrepreneurs; we’re social entrepreneurs.

Trying to solve social problems through business is tough. Launching a start up is difficult even if profit is your main motivator, but when you add in a mission for social impact, the challenge becomes that much trickier. This is compounded with skepticism from many sides: those who believe that companies have no business trying to do more than increase shareholder return and those who are hesitant to trust for-profit businesses to handle today’s most pressing issues.

Kat Cook, Fahria Omar, and Sarah Spoto celebrate their Finger Lakes Regional win of the New York Business Plan Competition.

at Cook, Fahria Omar, and Sarah Spoto celebrate their Finger Lakes Regional win of the New York Business Plan Competition.

Fahria Omar, Kat Cook, and myself launched Oasis Foods as part of Professor Michael Wohl’s Urban Entrepreneurship class. For the class, we were given this daunting task: end food deserts in Rochester, New York. Soon we had an idea for a frozen pre-prepared meal company that served its healthy products straight to consumers via vending machines. We want to give people access to healthy food where there are very few choices besides convenience stores and fast food. After six weeks of work that extended far beyond spreadsheets and formulas (think: cold calls, food pantry tours, and chats with City representatives), we presented our final project.

The course might have concluded, but it was only the beginning for Oasis Foods. We applied for our first business plan competition. And failed. So we tried again. And again. We eventually got the break we were looking for: a chance to present at the Finger Lakes Regional Contest of the New York Business Plan Competition in Geneseo. There have only been a few other times in my life when I was as nervous as I felt while we were waiting for our results from that competition.

Oasis Foods won $10,000 in seed money for taking 1st place in the Social Entrepreneurship/ Non Profit track of the New York Business Plan Competition.

Oasis Foods won $10,000 in seed money for taking 1st place in the Social Entrepreneurship/ Non Profit track of the New York Business Plan Competition.

Ultimately, the hard work paid off, and we made it to the final round of the New York Business Plan Competition in Syracuse. That was a whole new ball game. We worked feverishly to prepare, including one marathon 12-hour meeting, which took place after I had literally run a half marathon that morning. We couldn’t pull off those long nights if our team wasn’t a good fit. Fahria is creative, innovative, and the best relationship manager of the group. Kat is all about the operations and logistics, not to mention keeping us all sane with her humor. Launching a start-up is like no other experience. You can’t accomplish it simply by going to class. You need to step out into the world and solve a problem that really matters.

When Oasis Foods was announced as the winner of the Social Entrepreneurship category in Syracuse, I knew that it was only the first happy step in a long road filled with challenges, failures, and wrong turns. But I also knew we were committed, focused, and bold enough to try to make a positive impact through social entrepreneurship. I know our team won’t stop until we’ve done just that.

Cheers!

Sarah

www.OasisFrozenFoods.com

Learn more about Oasis Foods and experiential learning at Simon in WHAM 1180’s Eyes on the Future podcast from June 25, 2016, featuring Prof. Michael Wohl, Associate Dean David Tilson, Kat Cook, and Fahria Omar.

old torino fiat factory + museo nazionale dell’automobile

Turin, Italy is often described as having a rich industrial history. A visit to the 1920s Fiat Factory (with a test track on the roof!) and the National Automobile Museum proves that description true twice over.

Surprisingly, details on where to find and access both the old Fiat Factory as well its impressive rooftop track were fairly elusive. But a couple conversations in broken Italian and lots of hand signals later, my sister and I rode the Il Lingotto elevator up to the fourth floor to experience Fiat’s (free and tourist-free) rooftop test track.

If you’re planning a trip to Turin and have stumbled upon this post, here’s some quick advice on visiting (and finding) the track: take a taxi to Il Lingotto on Via Nizza. Enter through the escalators into what is now a mall– but once was considered one of the most avant-garde factories for its time. Take the elevators up to the fourth floor where you find a the Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli art gallery as well as free access to the rooftop track. The gallery bookstore also sells postcards with images of the old factory in use.

The Museo Nazionale Dell’Automobile is about a fifteen minute leisurely walk from Il Lingotto and is impressive in its own right. The large museum, which boasts an unbelievably expansive collection of classic and modern cars, is absolutely worth a visit for car enthusiasts and lovers of Italian design.

A presto!

Sarah

This post is #45 of the #The100DayProject. For more updates on my progress, be sure to follow me on Instagram and look for the hashtage, #100DaysofMiaPrima.

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genova, italia

Day three of our Memorial Day travels included a train ride from Torino to Genova– a charming seaside port town that boasts rich economic history, the absolute best pesto, and the most Italian palazzi (palaces) I’ve ever seen in one place.

When we were initially planning the trip, my sister wanted to visit Cinqueterre, but it was logistically too difficult to manage with a visit to Torino already confirmed. Instead, we visited the seaside village of Boccedasse, just outside of Genova. As in Cinqueterre, the colorful houses of Boccedasse hug a blue Ligurian shore and pesto foccaccia is in no short supply (and an absolute must).

The stay was a quick one, as we set off for Pisa to catch our flight back to Holland just the following morning. But we departed with no rejects on how much pesto we consumed and a desire to visit Genova again– maybe next time for a longer stay with a seaside view.

Fino a prossima volta, Genova!

Sarah

This post is #44 of the #The100DayProject. For more updates on my progress, be sure to follow me on Instagram and look for the hashtage, #100DaysofMiaPrima.

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pleats + pearls gift guide

I’m happy to share that a very talented friend of mine has featured my vintage clothing Etsy shop, The Gibbson Girl, on her fashion blog, Pleats & Pearls, today. She gives you her vintage picks for the holiday season (because, yes, it’s approaching fast!).
Vintage Jewelry at The Gibbson Girl https://www.etsy.com/shop/thegibbsongirl Vintage Jewelry at The Gibbson Girl https://www.etsy.com/shop/thegibbsongirlVintage Ugly Cow Sweater at The Gibbson Girl https://www.etsy.com/shop/thegibbsongirl

To see more, check out the piece here. 

Cheers!

Sarah

why we still need women’s equality day

You’ve probably heard that it’s #NationalDogDay. And, trust, me I love dogs. But did you know it’s also Women’s Equality Day?

#WomensEqualityDay

That’s because on August 26th, 1920 American women earned the right to vote.

If I wasn’t mentally exhausted from (my first business school!) mid-terms, I’d have a lot more to say about the value of Women’s Equality Day. But, I’ll just let this infographic do the talking. And take a look at the president’s proclamation about this important day if you’re itching for more.

#WomensEqualityDay Facts and Figures

photo credit // time

Cheers!

Sarah

This post is #89 of the #The100DayProject. For more updates on my progress, be sure to follow me on Instagram and look for the hashtage, #100DaysofMiaPrima

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breathe

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Just Breathe

Nothing could be more appropriate.

Sarah

This post is #88 of the #The100DayProject. For more updates on my progress, be sure to follow me on Instagram and look for the hashtage, #100DaysofMiaPrima

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(actually good) financial advice for 20-somethings

Actually Good Financial Advice for 20-Somethings gibbsongirl.com If you’re a young person today (Millennial, Gen Y, whatever you decide to call it), you’ve probably received your fair share of (awful) financial advice. Whether it was too vague (“Save more), too optimistic (“Just do what you love.”), or too darn accusatory (“Why don’t you kids move out of your parents’ basements, get a real job, and buy a house?!” Well…two words: student debt), we’ve seen ’em all. So it was a breath of fresh air to read a decent article on financial and life advice for people in our generation. To be fair, the article, posted by Time, is a tad bit vague and bit “inspirational,” but the advice is more valuable coming from folks who have actually proven their way financially and professionally. Here are some of my favorite quotations from the piece (read the whole thing here).

“Almost nothing you’re worried about today will define your tomorrow.”

-George Stephanopoulos

“There has never been an easier time to start a business…just start, and if you fail you can always go and get a normal job, but you will learn so much along the way it will be a great experience.”

-Hermione Way

“If only I knew then, as I know now, that there is wisdom in uncertainty — it opens a door to the unknown, and only from the unknown can life be renewed constantly,”

-Deepak Chopra

“Arianna, your performance will actually improve if you can commit to not only working hard but also unplugging, recharging, and renewing yourself.”

-Arianna Huffington

When a hiring manager turns the tables at the end of an interview and asks, “do you have any questions for me?” David Melancon, CEO of btr. says these three questions are important for you ask:

The questions are:

1. What qualities will a person in this role need to be successful in your company culture — as an individual and as a worker?

2. What’s the company’s position on education and development, including student-loan reimbursement and tuition assistance?

3. How does the company keep employees excited, innovative, and motivated?

-David Melancon

What’s the most valuable financial or career advice you’ve ever received?

Cheers,

Sarah

This post is #88 of the #The100DayProject. For more updates on my progress, be sure to follow me on Instagram and look for the hashtage, #100DaysofMiaPrima

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waffles, beer, + chocolate: antwerp, belgium

Yesterday I wrote about my favorite Dutch foods (stroopwafels and cookie butter included). So today, here’s a look at some of the delicacies I enjoyed on a recent trip to Antwerp, Belgium. The day trip into Belgium was one of the last trips I took in Europe this summer, so I knew from the start I wanted to savor it. Thankfully, Belgian chocolate, beer, and waffles made the savoring very easy.

Waffles with Cherries in Antwerp, Belgium #100DaysofMiaPrima Waffles in Antwer, Belgium #100DaysofMiaPrimaBelgian Waffles. 

Mas Museum in Antwerp, Belgium #100DaysofMiaPrimaView of the Mas Museum

Frites with Curry Sauce in Antwerp, Belgium #100DaysofMiaPrimaFrites with mayo, curry sauce, and onions. 

Coffee in Antwerp, Belgium #100DaysofMiaPrimaAntwerp, Belgium Street View #100DaysofMiaPrimaThe beautiful Belgian city of Antwerp.

Coffee in Antwerp, Belgium  #100DaysofMiaPrimaAntwerp, Belgium Coffee Shop #100DaysofMiaPrimaCoffee in the city.

Chocolate Hedgehog Candy in Antwerp, Belgium x#100DaysofMiaPrimaThe Belgian server: “It’s filled with alcohol. Is that okay”

Me: “Um, yes, totally.”

Server: “Because most people do not expect a hedgehog to be filled with alcohol.”

True enough.

Beer in Antwerp, Belgium #100DaysofMiaPrimaBelgian beer, of course.


Antwerp, Belgium Skyline #100DaysofMiaPrimaPanoramic views from the Mas Museum.


Antwerp, Belgium Candies #100DaysofMiaPrimaBelgian cuberdon. Sweet cones filled with gushy deliciousness. 

Antwerp, Belgium Bike Sign #100DaysofMiaPrimaMaybe cycling is just a way to burn off all the Belgian calorie goodness…

One day, I’ll be back in Belgium to enjoy theses delicious treats again. Until then, I’ll have to make due savoring the stroopwafels I brought back with me from Holland.

au revoir!

Sarah

This post is #87 of the #The100DayProject. For more updates on my progress, be sure to follow me on Instagram and look for the hashtage, #100DaysofMiaPrima

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eat like the dutch

The Best Dutch Foods EVER GibbsonGirl.com

When you think of the Dutch, what type of food comes to mind? Gouda probably. And maybe herring.

I’m admit it, The Netherlands isn’t my number one choice for cuisine, but the Dutch do have some really tasty dishes. Here are my favorites:

Dutch Cheese Sandwich #100DaysofMiaprimaDutch Cheese Sandwich w: Avocado #100DaysofMiaprima

Cheese sandwiches. But not just cheese sandwiches. Super delicious varieties with mayo, mustard, avocado, and more.

Dutch Coffee #100DaysofMiaPrima

Dutch coffee. Neither an espresso nor an Americano, Dutch coffee is somewhere perfectly in between. And it always comes with a cookies, so there’s that too.

Dutch Kibbeling #100DaysofMiaPrima

Kibbeling. Cheap and delicious.

Dutch Cookie Butter #100DaysofMiaPrima

Cookie butter. Obviously this is one of the best things to ever come out of the Netherlands. Add some hagelslag on top and your mind will be blown.

Dutch Puffed Pancakes #100DaysofMiaPrima

Poffertjes Tiny puffed pancakes. So yeah, they’re awesome.

Dutch Apple Pie #100DaysofMiaPrima

Apple pie tart. Why is this so much better than any apple pie I’ve eaten in America?!

Dutch Stroopwafel Cookies #100DaysofMiaPrima

No words can describe the majesty of the stroopwafel. (By the way, it’s not a real waffle…it’s 1000x better than that)

Yummy Dutch Gummies #100DaysofMiaprimaDutch Gummies #100daysofmiaprima

Gummies. So. Many. Gummies.

Dutch White Asparagus #100DaysofMiaprima

White asparagus. Okay, yes, it looks…weird. But trust me– it’s delicious!

Belgian Beer #100daysofmiaprima

Belgian beer. Okay, not it’s Dutch per se…but Belgium is so close that their beer in incredibly easy to come by in the Netherlands.

Frites with Curry Sauce in Antwerp, Belgium #100DaysofMiaPrima

Frites. Technically also Belgian. But these deliciously cheap fries (complete with Dutch mayo) are everywhere.

Do you have a Dutch favorite that I missed?

tot ziens!

Sarah

This post is #86 of the #The100DayProject. For more updates on my progress, be sure to follow me on Instagram and look for the hashtage, #100DaysofMiaPrima

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