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VOL. 128 | NO. 232 | Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Social Lunch Preps for Memphis Launch

By Andy Meek

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A new social lunch event called Lunchbox is preparing to launch in Memphis next month, the product of business partners who left San Francisco this summer to come to Memphis and build a creative venture here.

BICKET

Billy Bicket and Laney Strange relocated here to launch a creative studio, and the first product from the resulting Memphis Punch Studios was launched in September – the Memphis Punch food truck. On Dec. 3, the team is scheduled to roll out its new initiative, with Bicket – the Memphis Punch CEO – describing Lunchbox as a way to strike up new friendships and forge connections over a healthy lunch.

The basic idea behind Lunchbox is that its events will introduce healthy, affordable food choices to small groups of Memphians. Those groups will gather at different locations to enjoy healthy items from different local restaurants.

“Recently, we started taking better care of our health after all those years stuck at a desk behind a computer screen,” Bicket said. “So we started a healthy food truck here in the heart of Barbecue-landia. By offering the same healthy options on our food truck that we use in our own day-to-day diet, we provided an easy way for others to think about integrating smoothies and other healthy food options into their lives.

“As newcomers trying to plug in to Memphis, we’ve found that it’s hard enough to meet people through traditional social gatherings in the evening, at a time when you’re tired from the workday and have things to take care of at home. The Lunchbox is scheduled during break time at the peak of the day, when you yearn to get out of the office and see some fresh faces.”

STRANGE

Bicket previously worked for an organization in San Francisco called TechSoup Global, as did Strange. She also teaches computer science at the University of Memphis.

The first Lunchbox event will be held Downtown at Envision Memphis. The Lunchbox gatherings will be invite-only, and the plan is for them to be hosted at different small businesses around the city.

Bicket said he and Strange relocated to Memphis because they decided the city had the right building blocks for launching a startup. Specifically, Memphis seemed to offer the kind of building blocks that appealed to self-professed contrarians who didn’t want to remain in San Francisco just because it was expected for someone in their field.

Before relocating, they made a list of factors the new place they were looking for should have. They referred to one as the “bustle factor,” referring to a city having enough of a population to create density but not too many people that it’s difficult for a person to make a difference.

They also wanted their new home to have an emerging startup scene, be an affordable place to live, be hospitable to runners like themselves, have a diverse population and have a college or university with a strong presence in the area.

“Our studio is set up to solve immediate real-world problems getting in the way of our own lives, with the assumption that other misfits like ourselves can benefit from our hacks,” Bicket said. “As we move into 2014, we’re looking forward to mashing up our expertise at the intersection of technology, business and community. In particular, we’re introducing a workshop series positioned to help startups, small businesses and nonprofits move the dial in terms of user growth, community engagement, and launching global online services.

“Beyond building out our portfolio of consulting services, we’re busy scouting out retail locations, meeting local designers and other talented people interested in contributing to our vision, and figuring out how we can make a contribution to the arts and digital scene here in Memphis.”

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