This post introduces a new series, “Community Conversations” featuring people responsible for the socialization and communications for their businesses. This post was contributed by Charles Owens aka Superbalanced, the social media manager for Carpe Donut.
When Marijean asked me to write a guest post about what I do at Carpe Donut the first thing I thought was that there would probably be need to be some back story. I grew up in Alexandria, Va. and went college at The New School For Social Research in NYC. I worked as a jazz saxophonist, composer, teacher and performer until 2004. At that point I decided I needed to find a better place for my growing family so we moved to Virginia. I’d always loved Virginia growing up and knew we could have a good life here. We started in Louisa because we have family there but we were of course drawn to Charlottesville.
My first job after leaving NYC was at Best Buy. I started out selling appliances and moved to operations supervisor. After about a year I was recruited away from Best Buy by the wonderful Liza Borches to sell Volvos at her dealership on Ivy road. She and her husband had come in to buy a Dyson vacuum and were impressed with my presentation. I stayed with Volvo of Charlottesville for over a year. Liza Borches is one of the most, intelligent, inspiring, knowledgeable, patient and savvy people I’ve ever met and regret dearly that I don’t work for her anymore. There were other factors that led me to find a different job. Mostly it was the fluctuation in income that affects anyone working on a commission.
I started working for State Farm in 2006. I knew almost nothing about insurance and had never worked in a corporate environment but I aced the screening process and had some great interviews. Landing the job as an underwriter for auto insurance was a huge deal for me at the time and really put me on the path that I’m on today. Without saying too much about my experience there I’ll just say that it started out as a great job. Many things happened over the course of those five years including the recession, “efficiency” experts, and restructuring that made the job into something for which I did not sign up. I left State Farm for the same reason most people leave a corporate job. I felt trapped. I was sitting in a cubicle staring at a computer with a headset strapped to my face for eight hours a day, five days a week. Also my music career was taking a turn for the better and was reaching a point where I needed an employer who was more flexible with the growing amount of music-related work that I was getting. I knew something had to change. But what was my next move?
I had known Matt Rohdie and his lovely wife Jen for a few years and our families were good friends. In the earlier days of Carpe Donut, Matt had approached me about being an investor in the company and that he was preparing to open a retail location. After the meeting I was really excited, but soon realized I couldn’t prudently come up with the money that he needed for the buy in. I kept a close eye on his progress however, and at the time thought how great it would be to work for him. I was dreaming if I thought that could work for Carpe Donut and quit my corporate job right? Yes! Dreaming is good. After reaching out to Jen and Matt in mid September 2011, it turned out that it was about a year after he had opened the Carpe Donut retail location on Allied Lane and things were very busy. This was a classic “right place at the right time” moment because Matt was looking for someone who could manage the shop, employees, and the wholesale business so he could focus on developing the Carpe Donut business plan on a larger scale. He couldn’t pay me nearly what I was making at State Farm but he could guarantee that he’d be more flexible about my ever-growing roster of musical related jobs. He also set up a sweat equity model for me to become a stockholder after a year. This allowed me to reach out even further and generate more music work to take up the slack left by the loss in pay. Also my wonderful wife Vijay has started to watch kids in our small in-home daycare for extra money. Now, three months later we’re doing just as well if not better.
I manage the Carpe Donut store at 1715 Allied Lane in Charlottesville. With that comes managing the schedule and being the primary contact for the employees, and the one who coordinates changes and substitutions. I take care of the money deposits each week. I’m also the person who’d do any of the hiring and firing although neither of those things have happened as of yet. I also am in charge of the coordinating and generating business on the wholesale distribution side. I field the emails and orders from our wholesale customers and make sure there is enough stock to fulfill the orders as well as coordinate with our inventory manager regarding reordering of supplies. Who are our Wholesale customers you ask? Local Food Hub and Relay Foods are our biggest local partners. Others include: Whole Foods Market (Cville and Short Pump) Arganica Market, Atlas Coffee, Calvino Coffee, Urban Farmhouse, Off The Vine Market, Ellwood Thompson, La Taza… The list goes on.
I’m in charge of the social media for Carpe Donut as well. This presented a unique challenge to me as Matt insisted that all updates continue to be in haiku form. Bemused, I carried on and have found that it’s just another way for me to be creative and for that I’m appreciative. Does this mean that I write a haiku and that’s it? Of course not! Most times after I finish the haiku I update with a longer message underneath, and of course pictures and videos of the donuts have proven to be quite effective. I’m also a regular employee of Carpe Donut. That means in addition to all of my managerial duties I’m in charge of running the register, dealing with customers, making the donuts, dough, spice mixes, coffee, hot chocolate, and lemonade, washing the dishes, mopping the floors, and closing up etc.
I honestly love it all. I’m so thrilled that Matt has given me this opportunity to help a really cool local business grow. You really couldn’t ask for a better boss, and I must say he’s been nothing less than thrilled with the job I’ve been doing so far. All I do is make people happy with donuts and music everyday! My outlook on life has improved so much and it seems to improve a little more all the time. I felt so much fear at first. Was I actually going to quit a $50,000 a year job with benefits just so I could be a happier person? Hell yes! All I kept thinking was that famous FDR quote: “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” There were many other clichés too that centered around “It’s never gonna happen unless you take that leap.” A very pivotal moment happened when I read an absolutely stunning quote that my dear wife sent me.
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” – Lao Tzu
I think that quote really sums up what family means to me. I’m so excited about the future of Carpe Donut. Matt should really be commended on what he’s created. Charlottesville is a better place because of it.