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Week 35: John Sarvay

Dear Batter Up friends, meet John Sarvay—Richmond community member extraordinaire!

John is one of those people that is a little hard to write about because he has done, is doing, and will continue to do SO MUCH for the Richmond community. Knowing that I needed help pin-pointing some of the things I should cover about him, I reached out to one of his employees, Caroline Moyer, who has been a big fan and supporter of Batter Up. She put together some great talking points for me. Thanks Caroline!

John is a Richmond native—he grew up here, went to VCU, and immediately dove into the world of PR and publications as a writer and editor. His early career includes stints with VCU and Circuit City as well as tons of freelance work with publications such as Wired, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Richmond Magazine, Rand McNally—the list goes on and on. He eventually took a position with Luck Stone in the communications department but continued to keep his fingers in writing with side projects like Buttermilk and Molasses and North Richmond News—both popular and award-winning Richmond based weblogs.

Working his way through Luck Stone over the years he eventually found himself earning an Executive Certificate in Organizational Development from Georgetown University and became the Leadership Development Team Leader within the company. This transition into organizational development seems to have been a natural fit for John because in November of 2008 he opened Floricane and, as if he hadn’t been doing enough already, sunk his teeth into making Richmond an awesome place to live, work, and play. Taken directly from Caroline’s email, “Floricane is a small consulting firm that helps organizations, communities, and individuals be better at what they do. Our services include strategic planning, facilitating retreats or difficult conversations, helping with culture changes, and small group coaching for managers and teams…[Non-profits] are about 50% of our business.” And if you want to see what they’re all about for yourself, you can always attend one of their insights workshops, personal reflections workshops, or one of the many other offerings they provide to the community at incredibly reasonable costs throughout the year.

Foricane, however, is only one element of how John is helping build a better Richmond. He serves as a member of the board for the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce and has started two events in Richmond—TEDxGrace Street and Tilted. Many of you have heard about TEDx conferences and know that the first TEDxRVA happened in Richmond last spring. (The second is actually coming up in a few weeks.) While TEDxRVA brings in speakers from all over, TEDxGraceStreet was implemented to celebrate the people within the Richmond community who are working tirelessly behind the scenes to build leadership and shape the city. TEDxGraceStreet brought many of those people to the stage in order to give them the recognition they deserve and allow their voice to be heard.

The Tilted Small Business Unconference (as opposed to a conference) is another John Sarvay brain-child. Tilted was designed to challenge the traditional conference and provide a hands-on forum for small business owners and employees from any industry to come together and learn, share, and connect in an open-forum. There are very few rules and the break-out sessions are set-up to be conversational in order to maximize connections and ideas. The second annual Tilted Unconference just happened last weekend and that is where I battered John. After checking with Caroline to see if it would be ok and getting the go ahead from her, I arrived extra early and presented the cake to John before most people showed up. He seemed a little shocked and confused, but he had a lot on his plate (no pun intended). He did, afterall, have about 100 people about to walk through the door.

As I said before, John is a hard person to write about in a short little blog post. He does SO MUCH. As Caroline put it, “If there’s any gathering or meeting that concerns the future of the Richmond community, John is usually involved…I personally think John is awesome because he took a chance and hired a recent college grad with no professional experience (that’s me!) and has taught me everything I know about the professional world and the Richmond community.” Cheers to you John—keep on keeping on!

And now for this week’s cake! This week was a Butter Brownie cake from the blog Rasa Malaysia (recipe found here.) I have to say that I really struggled with this cake. The picture on the blog looked sooooo good and I loved the layered effect. But the recipe did not render the same results for my test cake that I was seeing on screen. It was flat, ugly, boring, and lacking that beautiful golden brown color on top. For the delivery cake I made some adjustments and it came out (looking) just right. For those of you that want to try it, I did one and a half times the recipe except for the eggs in the brownie layer, which I doubled. I also added in another extra 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder to the butter layer. You’re also going to want to watch your baking time. I ended up baking it almost twice as long as I should have, based on the recipe’s instructions. Of course, the changes made it look a lot better, but I have no idea how it tasted. This was a nail-biting blind faith delivery. However, Caroline emailed me and said that she and her girlfriend tried some and it was awesome. Considering her girlfriend is a professional baker, I’ll take it! (Even if she was just trying to be nice.)