Austin Food Trailer Crawl

The Mighty Cone

I was lucky to recently spend some time in sunny Austin, Texas for SXSW interactive festival. It was my first trip to the city and I definitely enjoyed it. When I asked people for travel tips before leaving many recommendations seemed to focus on food. Austin has tons of great restaurants and bars as well as a very interesting “food cart” or food trailer culture. These carts serve everything from tacos and wraps to crepes and cake balls. They are scattered throughout the city and while some are stationary, others move locations. The question is how you navigate these local spots and what trailers are worth the visit?

I went on an un-official food trailer crawl with my friend and travel writer Andy Hayes and Beth Krauss from the Austin CVB. We set out to try some unique and delicious foods and see how many carts we could visit before calling it quits.

hot and crunchy chicken cone

First stop was The Mighty Cone in South Congress. I tried the hot and crunchy chicken cone. Which is served wrapped in a tortilla and served in a paper snow cone. Overall it was very good, although I had to remind myself not to get carried away. We still had several spots to see.

Next we headed over to the South Austin Trailer Park & Eatery. It’s a location with several carts and outdoor seating. We wanted to try Torchy’s Tacos which has a reputation for having both delicious food and unique taco combinations. One that we tried was the “The Democrat,” which had shredded beef barbacoa and onions topped off with fresh avocado, queso fresco, cilantro and a lime wedge served on a corn tortilla with green salsa. After tacos we went next door to Holy Cacao for dessert. This trailer describes itself as a “gourmet dessert trailer offering unusual items such as Cake Balls, S‘mores and Frozen Hot Chocolate at affordable prices.” We went for the cake balls, and they were amazing and not what you would expect to be served from that tiny trailer.

waiting @ Torchy's Tacos

Our final and third trailer location was Gourdough’s for doughnuts. Like Tourchy’s this food cart has some unique combinations on their menu. We shared the Mother Clucker. Check out this short video to see this crazy doughnut and for quick reviews from Andy and Beth.

Overall I think our mission was a success. The food carts are a fun and unique part of the Austin food scene. Sitting outside on a sunny day eating at a picnic table was a plus to the experience. Somehow I don’t think food carts of this nature would do well with the Ohio weather.  I look forward to my next visit to Austin. After all, there are still several more food carts I must try.

My World Upside Down: SXSWi Recap

cc license, Sektormedia

I’ve been struggling on how to even begin describing my first SXSW interactive experience from this past week. It’s important for me to blog because I believe in the power of sharing good ideas and exchanging knowledge, so I’ll try my best.  I had an amazing time and it’s hard to fully convey the reasons I know this was an extremely valuable trip. It pieced together a lot of things for me and the timing (my senior year of college) couldn’t have been any better.

Despite knowing a handful of people going to Austin for SXSWi this was a trip I took alone. I made plans to stay with a friend of a friend who I had never met before and got permission from my professors to leave early before finals. This was my not only my first SXSWi but also my first visit to Austin. I had a vague idea of what to expect but overall decided to stick with a “go with the flow” attitude. I described my game plan to some friends as “organized chaos.”

I tried to do my homework before I went. I talked to people who had attended SXSW in previous years, emailed some online tweeps I wanted to meet, picked out the sessions that looked interesting and ordered my personal business cards. When the time came to leave I was still anxious but feeling more confident I knew what to do and could rock out SXSWi.

My first three days flew by. I seriously couldn’t even tell you what happened when, who I met what we did (no not because I was drinking too much). It was intense. Since I was traveling alone I was constantly being forced to meet new people. I loved it every moment of it. I bounced from group to group and made a ton of new friends. Also taking time to meet people I had only ever communicated with online.

hanging out w/ new friend @vero

Several people told me it’s the people you meet not the sessions or speakers that really make your time in Austin worthwhile. While I attended some great sessions, I would still have to agree. I’m walking away with the feeling that some of the people I met will become lifelong friends (thank goodness for social media keeping us connected). It sounds cliché but it’s true. I valued the feeling of being surrounded by people who want to go out and change the world. I think that was another key piece of this trip; the opportunity to meet a group of people who understood the importance of looking ahead the future.

I plan on blogging more of my thoughts from the trip soon. I did write up a post for The Next Great Generation called Embracing Your Gen Y Status: SXSWi Edition if you want to check that out. Visit here again soon for more updates.

Networking, So Classic.

cc license, turboalieno

I struggle at times to explain to my parents and some [ahem] older friends the world of social networking. Yes, there are such things as tweet-ups and yes, I do meet with people in person that I first met online. If you an avid user of these online tools this may seem very normal. If you are my father who doesn’t even have an email account, it’s not only foreign but also perhaps a bit frightening. There is a certain amount of distrust for him with the internet. Stories of children being abducted by people they met in chat rooms comes to mind. I realize that not everyone sees these online networks the same way I do.

It has been my experience that social networking is really not that different from traditional networking. It’s an old game but the tools and platform are just evolving. We meet people in the places we hang out, work, spend time, etc. So instead of hanging out at a local coffee shop, I’m spending my time on Twitter. There is etiquette to interacting with people. The rules of networking are still there. You meet people and build trust gradually.

So many of the people that I first meet online I’ve later met in person. I never feel as though I’m meeting a “stranger” for coffee or lunch. These are people that exist in my network already. Perhaps my friend has met them before or I’ve seen them at an event. I don’t want you to think that I don’t value meeting people in “real life.” In fact, I find it’s very important and part of what makes social media a great tool to assist in meeting new contacts in person.

It’s not just people like my parents who get confused on how social networking sites work. Students also get a mixed message. They are told they should be participating in social media because there are job offers, chances to meet professionals and other opportunities. This is true, however no one seems to follow up with the second part of that message. The rewards of social media are not for just being a member or participant of x, y, z site. You must be engaged and understand how the system works. The classic staples of networking still apply online. Focusing on relationships over time is so important.

What are your thoughts? Do you view more traditional networking the same way you view social networking sites? Is this typically a generational phenomenon in your opinion?

Seeking Creativity

cc license, h.koppdelaney

Can you learn to be more creative? Or perhaps creativity is not learned but just buried and we need to practice it. In either case, I’ve recently been attempting to search for these answers and “exercise my creativity.” I want to seek inspiration from others by putting myself in creative environments and learning from passionate people.

I went to my first Pecha Kucha night in Columbus this week. Basically the speaker has 20 slides that rotate every 20 seconds for a 6 minute, 40 second presentation. I’m not sure how the selection process works but anyone is welcome to submit an idea online before the event. This Peacha Kucha was held at the OSU Urban Arts Space featuring 10 presenters.

The talks ranged from topics including drawing comic books and creating a font to questions asked at the Columbus library and Ohio wines. A new friend Rhoda Lazo gave a wonderful presentation on starting her non-profit, Little and LOUD. She focused on her personal journey and what it means to search for your life purpose. Check out the video here.

Another creative hub you may be familiar with is TED. I had watched many of the online videos before but I confess that it wasn’t until this past fall I was introduced to TEDx (independently organized TED talks). Columbus hosted a TEDx in October with some great speakers. I’m also going to TEDx Cleveland in a couple weeks. I love the combination of creativity and big picture thinking so many of the speakers express.

I was really blown away by the creativity and passion from the speakers and organizers at the Alleviating Poverty Through Entrepreneurship (APTE) Summit last Friday, hosted by the OSU Fisher College of Business. If you want to meet a group of driven individuals look no further. I felt like I had stumbled upon some best kept secret in Columbus. It made me question some of my own personal career goals, wondering if I have a calling to social entrepreneurship myself.

I was very interested in particular by an organization called Ashoka (something new to me at this conference). It’s a global organization that assists social entrepreneurs in their endeavors. According to their site, since 1981 Ashoka has elected more than 2,000 fellows. They provide these social entrepreneurs with living stipends, professional support and access to a global network of peers in over 60 countries.

All of these events were amazing but I don’t want to give you the impression that I think you can acquire creativity by standing next to someone. However, there is definitely something important about surrounding yourself with creative thinkers. Sharing ideas out loud and starting conversations can help develop your own thoughts.

How do you seek creativity?

4 Quick Tips for a PR Undergrad

cc license, jeremy.wilburn

Last week was our Otterbein Cardinal Career Luncheon. It’s a networking lunch that alumni relations and career services sponsor each year for junior and seniors. I had a chance to sit and talk with public relations and marketing pro Crystal Olig from Oxiem. She is an excellent role model and has some great insights on our generation.  I wanted to share some of the advice I gathered from our talk.

1. Try to be honest when you run into with someone. The nature of business is that you may have to see former clients, or perhaps a potential client that didn’t sign with your agency. Smile and be courteous, but also be honest. Don’t be silly and pretend you don’t remember them. Wish them the best of luck in their future business and remain genuine.

2. Ask for business card from everyone. This was Crystal’s advice especially for large networking events and conferences. Even if someone is about to turn their shoulder and exit the conversation, ask for that business card before they go. You will surprise people when you follow up later, because not everyone takes that extra step.

3. Never turn down an invitation to a networking event when you are new somewhere. Crystal relocated to Columbus earlier last year and worked to make connections and start meeting locals. Unless you are unavailable that night make an effort to take all invites to network and get out. She joked that you should take invites from boring people too because they might have really fun friends you can meet.

4. Find some newsletter publications that relate to your career field or goals. I subscribe to blogs and follow articles shared on by my network on Twitter, but I don’t currently subscribe to any newsletters. I thought this was a smart tip for students looking to learn and a good way to stay current on trends from a reliable source.

You can learn more about Crystal by following her on Twitter or check out her site whY genY.  This post is my version of a Gen Y thank you note to her.

Seeking a Student: Social Media 101

cc license, UBC Library Graphics

I need your help to find a student in Columbus.

This quarter I’m taking a psychology course (part of my Deaf studies minor). Everyone in the class is designing a project using operant conditioning to teach something new. For my project I would like to teach someone how to use a social networking site such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.

I realize that many of these sites require more training than just the basic “how to” steps of creating and using an account. For my project specifically I need to work on the basics, but I would be happy to fill in the missing steps as well so both parties can benefit. The complexities of online etiquette and relationship building would come second.

My ideal candidate is…

  1. Completely unfamiliar with the chosen site. They have never been on it before or created an account previously. This will be something completely foreign to them.
  2. It should not be a digital native. I don’t want to say I want someone “old” for this experiment, but I also don’t want a younger person overly familiar with computers.
  3. I need this to be someone in Columbus who is willing to meet up with me for a couple hours during the next 5-6 weeks. I can be flexible in choosing a meeting location.
  4. It would be great if I found someone who really wants to learn. I chose this project because of its real life application. I know there is a demand for this knowledge and I want to help someone learn who in return is helping me.

Do you know someone who fits these qualifications? Please let me know so I can set something up with them and feel free to pass this information along to a friend. Thanks!

What’s Up Columbus?

Sandbox Speed Networking
Tuesday, January 26
Sandbox Columbus, 851 N. Pearl St.
5:30-8 p.m.

This networking event is part of a series being held at Sandbox Columbus. It’s a coworking space in the short north (which I adore). It has a laid back environment and lots of cool peeps so I believe this series will reflect that. Visit eventbrite to pre-register and see who else is signed up.

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Wonderland Columbus Pre-Launch
Friday, January 29
Juncitonview Studios, 889 Williams Ave.
6:30-9:30 p.m.

Unfortunately I think I’ll be out of town for this one, but I still wanted to give a shout out for the Wonderland Columbus pre-launch event. The former 65,000 square foot factory of Wonder Bread is being transformed into shared studio space (combination of artist studios, music studios, shared office space, and retail space). This is the first meeting for those interested in this project.

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Alleviating Poverty through Entrepreneurship (APTE) Summit
Friday, February 5
Wexner Center Film Theater
8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business will bring together students, professionals, and community members to connect with each other and learn about market-based approaches to solving poverty. Visit the site to see the lineup of speakers for the day. This is a FREE event, but you need to register online. I’m really looking forward to hearing everyone share!

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Sports Spotlight Event
Monday, February 22
Otterbein College, Roush Hall
7-8:30 p.m.

This is an event being put on by our Otterbein PRSSA chapter. The panel consists of communications, marketing and broadcast professionals who work in sports. There will be a short presentation with Q&A time followed by table discussion and open networking. This event is free and open to all Otterbein students but if someone else is interested in attending just send me a message for details (we should have some extra seats).

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These are some local upcoming happenings on my radar. Please leave a comment and let me know what else is on your list. I hope to see you around soon.

Columbus Hope for Haiti

cc license, U.S. Coast Guard
cc license, U.S. Coast Guard

You may have heard of the efforts in Columbus help victims of the Haiti earthquake. Today Mayor Michael B. Coleman, the American Red Cross of Greater Columbus and Central Ohio media outlets are hosting a special one-day fundraiser. They will be at the Ohio Historical Society parking lot from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. accepting donations.

I know that I’m a new blogger and that my words might not reach a huge audience but I still felt it was important to share this message. I was asked by Heather (@prtini) along with other Central Ohio bloggers to “donate” my online space today. I was more than happy to do that and now I ask YOU to please find a way to donate.

How The Online Community Can Help

  • Blog about the event on Wednesday and/or Thursday, sharing how people can donate
  • Fan the Facebook page and ask your friends to join as well
  • Tweet using the #Cbus4Haiti hashtag
  • Share the content with your other social networks
  • Email your Columbus friends and family, asking them to support the event

To Donate to the Red Cross

  • Call 1-800-HELP NOW or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish)
  • Make a secure online contribution by visiting http://www.redcross.org. You can choose to designate your contribution to the International Response Fund or for the Haiti response specifically
  • Text “Haiti” to 90999 to make a $10 donation to the Red Cross
  • Drop off a check or cash donation on Thursday, January 21 to the Ohio Historical Center

No effort is too small or meaningless. If one person made a donation, or simply took time to reflect on the larger issues of our world, then this post was well worth my time. Keep up the awesome work Columbus!

Distracted by my Own Breath

cc license, Ame Otoko

Last Friday I had the opportunity to hear Artie Isaac give a presentation at The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business. It was a talk on leading with your heart for a group of first year MBA students. Obviously, I’m not part of that group but there were some extra seats so I quickly took the opportunity to jump in and learn. I was left with a lot to think about, but I wanted to share just a few points in this post on how I want to start living.

How do you feel?

I want start taking time to pause and evaluate how I’m feeling. Not on an emotional or mental level, just physically how I’m feeling at a particular moment. Is my body relaxed, tense, hot or cold? What types of situations make me feel uncomfortable and stressed? There are some days I practically run through my routine. I rarely stop and think about how I feel, but perhaps this would help me feel more in control.

We are humans doing, not humans being.

Another thing I plan on trying is more self-reflection. Artie recommended sitting for a half hour every day in self-reflection. This does not mean writing another “to do” list or just relaxing with a good book that makes you think. This is a deeper examination of oneself. It’s a terrifying thought actually, because we are constantly doing. I am very guilty of this. I feel most alive when my schedule is the most crowded. I want to stop doing so I can start being and focus on my life.

Become selfish.

We must sometimes become selfish to be more helpful to others. I must tell people ‘no’ at times so I can become more powerful and make a difference. It’s an interesting approach, since we are told that being selfish is a negative attribute. Remember, taking time for ourselves in not a bad idea. I hope to find a balance between being a gracious volunteer and friend but also learning when I should say ‘no’ and avoid becoming overwhelmed.

If you haven’t met Artie yet and would like to hear him speak, I definitely recommend it. Take him up on his invitation to sit in on an upcoming lecture at CCAD. I also pull inspiration and new ideas from his blog on creativity and ethics. Now go spread the good word.

My Digital Essay

cc license, brtsergio

This quarter I’m taking a class from the English department called “Digital Essay.” It is focused on the art of digital storytelling. We write essays, record our voices and then pair it with video, pictures, music and sounds. I know that the digital storytelling is often associated with non-profits because it a powerful yet low budget communication tool. In our case we don’t necessarily have to tell a story. Our digital essays can be on any topic. We create three pieces throughout the quarter and then a final edited video to share in a public viewing.

As a communications major I was attracted to this class for obvious reasons. It is a new way to showcase my work and I can use social media to share that work with my friends and network. However, I’ve also been quite anxious about the class. While I do enjoy writing I don’t usually identify as a writer the same way many English majors or poets might. I don’t typically write in self-reflection or share too much of my personal life in my public writing. I would consider that to be unprofessional and unwise as a soon-to-be PR graduate. However, I think this class will challenge me to dig a little deeper than just showing a few pretty photographs and sharing a short story from my childhood.

I want my first essay to be about travel and how that changed my outlook on the world. A bit cliché but it is still a meaningful topic to me. I look forward to sharing my work here. If you’ve ever made your own digital story or essay, please leave a comment with a link.

If you are still scratching your head trying to figure out what a digital story is, visit the Center for Digital Storytelling and watch a few. I’m sharing Untitled by Nancy Palate tomorrow because I found it especially beautiful.