Around the Table with Karl Crudup

Welcome to Around the Table, a regular series where we talk to people in our network and share the incredible work they are doing in their industry. Pull up a chair and join us for conversation and connection.

Name: Karl Crudup

Company: Sacramento Kings (Director of Event Sales and Production)

Where to Find You: LinkedIn

What drew you to the world of events and entertainment?

Gosh! It all started in college in a communications program at Old Dominion University (ODU). During my time at ODU, it was helpful for me to be a part of student activities; student council, WODU radio station, chair for homecoming, all those things combined really helped me figure out that I want to live, be, and work in the space of events and experiences. Even as a child, I was more interested in how they were produced, the behind the scenes, and people’s reactions to moments. That’s what drew me to now, my career and all the steps I’ve taken… My college experience really set me up well to be interested and get basic knowledge.

What do you think is the biggest challenge the events industry is facing today?

Time is a challenge in terms of meeting the world where it is now. We’ve been able to survive and thrive in some areas during this time. It has been a challenge to figure out what’s on the opposite end of COVID and returning to in-person events and experiences. How does that shape how we are connecting to our fans, members, and partners? What are we doing to set us up for success, as far as engagement on the other side of COVID and coming into this next season? If you’re in events, supply chain issues are also a concern. Things like paper, cardboard, and helium, all those things affect us too and can be challenging for us. We don’t have big planning windows, so we’re always trying to pivot and anticipate future needs as much as possible.

What’s the best advice you’ve received in your career?

The best advice I’ve received is, “If I’m not continuing to learn and grow, and be challenged in a role, it’s time to move to something different.” That’s been my guiding light for trying to figure out how do I move on and especially when do I move onto something different. In my career I haven’t had a traditional path. But every experience along my path has really guided me and I’ve taken the experiences from every one of my roles and applied it to get where I am today. Knowing when to take a leap and move on to different challenges has worked out well for me.

You want to stay challenged in a role. I want to know, “Am I providing guidance and support for my team in a way that allows them to grow?” I look at [that advice] in a lot of different ways. I am doing it for myself, but I am continuing to be someone my team can lean on to give them resources to grow their careers too.

What is some advice you would give to younger people who want to go into this career field?

Be patient and willing to learn all facets of the industry. Most of the time the only way to do that is to gain experience. I often think that some people like to skip over crucial experiences. My path in events and entertainment, especially in sports, has been a building block of experience. I’ve had some work experience that wasn’t so great—a job or industry that I didn’t see myself in. But what I took from those experiences set me up for getting where I am today. It’s simple things like, “Hey I don’t enjoy this role, but I want to master managing people and relationships,” and that can apply to anything. So earlier in my career, I focused on those types of experiences because those would help me grow and challenge me in a way. I didn’t see the big picture at that time, but I knew what I wanted to get out of those experiences.

What motivated you to become an advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community?

Working in sports especially, I haven’t always felt seen or included…I didn’t see a lot of people that looked like me and that’s intimidating in any industry. I was excited to be there, but I couldn’t see myself emulated in the leadership that was around me, so it was difficult for me to navigate. My work with the Kings Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) council, being an advocate, and working in the LGBTQAI+ employee resource group has meant the world to me.

It’s a top-down effort and it allowed me to thrive in ways I haven’t been able to in the past.  For me and others in the organization, that means a lot. Whenever I can I advocate for DEI in the workplace environment because I know what it means for me, and I know how much visibility matters. I appreciate the NBA league and our team’s initiatives, that’s what inspired me. It’s a priority for me and now for all these work sets I’m a part of. It’s a direct reflection of Sacramento and the community we serve. That’s what drives me for our journey working toward a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive society.

My work here with the team and DEI council has led me to be more active in my own community. I was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Sacramento LGBT center, a non-profit that supports the health and wellness of the most marginalized, advocates for equality and justice, and works to build a culturally rich LGBTQ+ community.

When you are not working, what do you like to do?

I love to travel. I’m a beach bum so if there’s a beach involved, I’m all over it. I’m a foodie. I love health and wellness. Now that I’m in California, I’ve embraced the outdoors and hiking. I consider myself a novice hiker, but I really enjoy the outdoors being able to disconnect and embrace nature. That’s what I gravitate to when I get some downtime. And my dog! I have a 15-year-old miniature pinscher who’s my world.

If we were literally “around the table” right now, what food would you have brought to share?

I may have brought smoothies. Also, açai bowls! On campus we have Jamba Juice, and they make some really good bowls. So, I would’ve brought that.

Around the Table with Rodney Gaines

Welcome to Around the Table, a regular series where we talk to people in our network and share the incredible work they are doing in their industry. Pull up a chair and join us for conversation and connection.

Name:  Rodney Gaines

Company:  Virginia Community Voice

Where to Find You: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn

You’re an incredible advocate for your community. How did you get started in advocacy and what inspired you to be a leader in this space?

Well, I met Lea Gibson, our (Virginia Community Voice’s) former executive director back when she was a coordinator in 2017. I was attending a civic meeting at Davy Gardens and her and Nelson Reevely came through to talk to the community. I didn’t think anything of it because groups come through all the time and talk about what they can do, but a question they asked stood out to me. That question was, “What would you like to see be done in your community?” Just giving that option was strange to me as opposed to other groups that would come in and tell us what they were going to do. Immediately after asking the question, hands flew up including mine and we just told them as a community what we would like to see done. She then stated that we wanted done would be done and I didn’t believe her at first. Following that, we had two or three more meetings and different events were held, such as cleanups.

One day, they asked for volunteers for a cleanup taking place on Richmond Highway Corridor and I thought it would be cool experience to take part in. I thought it would be nice for my kids and grandkids to see what I did and how I helped out. Ever since then, I haven’t stopped volunteering.

You’ve brought many new voices to the table to help build a greener, more inclusive and sustainable future in the Richmond region. What are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve gathered through this work?

I’ve learned to definitely be open minded and patient. If you’re dealing with a specific community or the public in general, you need to be able to feed off of other ideas. You should try to be transparent because you are all working for one goal in the end. The goal that you are trying to reach may not be reached on that day, but if you keep pursuing it you will reach it. So, I would just say try to be open minded and positive in this line of work, especially if it’s something you like to do. Make sure you focus on your events and plans and definitely incorporate fun into it.

When I volunteered to do my first cleanup, I didn’t know there would be so much participation. When I saw our different communities coming together for one common goal, I believed that we could actually do it and make a change. The typical mentality in my community is that people don’t want to help if it doesn’t benefit them, but we came together, and everyone was open minded to achieve the same goal. When volunteering, everyone’s goal is to network. You want to meet new people and build connections to help with future events or endeavors in a positive manner. At that first cleanup, there were five communities working together. To me, that’s the definition of being positive and open minded.

What do you think is the biggest challenge organizations and government agencies face when trying to engage with the communities they serve?

 Trust and participation are big issues and probably the biggest obstacles when engaging with different communities. Those are two things you’re going to have to deal with when trying to help in any community. You are going into communities and telling people your plans and what you’re going to do to the area in which they live. A lot of times, these communities don’t believe organizations and think there is a hidden motive. That being said, if you want to be successful in any community, you must have those two things in check.

What’s the best advice you’ve received in your career?

I’ve had a couple careers in my lifetime. Obviously, I liked them, because I didn’t keep switching, but I started off with UPS and the Department of Information Technology. I liked those jobs, but my advice is to find a job that you love. The job that I have now is the job that I love. I love getting in the community. I love taking something from nothing, like an empty lot and beautifying it. That’s the ultimate goal. I love working with people in the community and seeing the smiles, thankfulness, and gratefulness. So, I would say do something that you like very much, but if you love it, definitely pursue it.

I’ve done things that I really like. I’ve run my own cleaning company, a recycling company, and I have partially owned a barbershop. Although, I liked those jobs, nothing compares to what I am doing now because I love my job.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?

When I do get the time, I love spending time with my son and three grandkids. I also love grilling and cooking, so I spend a lot of my free time doing that. I have two fur babies and my son has pit bull puppies and he loves to leave them with me on the weekends. Those are the main things I love to do, but I also love gardening and have two gardens (a personal garden and a community garden) that I love to get into. Oh, and I have a small business that I’ve been running for four years, and it’s called Mobile Kuts. It’s basically a traveling licensed barber that gives cuts to older individuals.

If we were literally around the table right now, what food would you have brought to share?

You know I would be like an old grandma and bring everything to the table, but I would keep it light for everyone because that’s what I do when organizing or cooking for people. There are so many choices, but I love vegetables. I would put carrots, brussels sprouts, white potatoes, turnips, and broccoli on a cookie sheet with some seasonings and oil and stick it in the oven. For the protein, I’ll probably do a smoked salmon and I would bring another protein like turkey wings and gravy mushroom sauce. I think those are things everyone would like.

Finding Room to Make Mistakes and Let Go of Perfection

It would be an understatement to say that I was nervous as a spring intern for Avid Core on my first day. I logged onto my computer and hesitated to open Microsoft Teams for my first meeting of the semester. My palms were sweating, my voice was cracking, and I spent 45 minutes picking out my outfit (yes, an outfit for a virtual meeting). Finally, after mustering up the courage to join the team meeting, I felt almost embarrassed. Why was I freaking out so bad? Why did I try on my whole closet? And why was I imagining every possible bad scenario?

On that first day, there was really very little I could mess up. But what I wish I could go back and tell myself now is that it is okay to mess up, as long as I learn from it. After all, internships are learning experiences designed to prep us for our professional journey after graduation. Mistakes are inevitable throughout your professional journey and getting caught up in “perfection” can be damaging. 

Image by Trinity Gray

I’ve had my fair share of internship and professional experiences during my time in college. All were different, but they typically operated in the same way. I would get assigned something and be expected to complete it within a certain timeframe. Usually, I didn’t run into any issues and didn’t ask many questions. I just did what I was assigned and turned it in. Avid Core was a little different. With Avid Core, I was doing real work. I wasn’t doing the “busy work” that companies normally give interns, like making copies or grabbing lunches. I was being assigned real tasks and working directly with clients. I loved it, but it did raise some challenges.

This was the first internship where I got real feedback on my assignments. Tasks would come and I would complete them, but when I got feedback on the assignments, I was initially overwhelmed. The skills I thought I already had needed improvement, which was a bit of a shock.  

One of the biggest challenges came in the form of my capstone project. At Avid Core, interns are given a capstone project where they have complete ownership of the process and are responsible for moving it forward all semester long. For mine, I was tasked with streamlining the company’s proposal writing process and creating a functional and easily referenced content bank that would allow the whole team to have access. I didn’t know where to begin and initially, I turned inward, letting my focus on perfection get in the way of progress. 

There were multiple times when I needed to ask for clarification or advice when working through the project, which pushed me out of my comfort zone. But after asking the questions, I felt more confident in completing the work assigned and prouder of the work that I submitted. 

Another challenge that I ran into during this project was time management. In order to complete the project, I had to make sure I was setting aside enough time to make progress weekly while also completing other assignments and schoolwork. There were times when I felt like I wouldn’t finish and sometimes I felt as though I was failing miserably. But I learned how crucial it is to communicate clearly throughout the process, especially with remote work. These feelings of being overwhelmed could have been mitigated if I had reached out. 

In the end, I completed the project and couldn’t be prouder of my work. Not only did I contribute something to the team that they will use for years to come, but I also unlocked something within myself that I wasn’t aware existed — resilience. 

I don’t think we talk enough about the struggles we all have along the way. Everyone talks about successes and the great professional experience you will gain but there are other things to take into consideration. College students are thrown into the professional arena. They are expected to excel when the only skills they previously acquired were from classrooms or internships that felt like personal assistant gigs. 

Looking back, I wish I would have realized this sooner. I think students place a lot of pressure on themselves to look perfect to their supervisors and co-workers. I’m here to tell you that being perfect is unrealistic and impossible. 

Struggling every once in a while doesn’t define you in your job and it certainly doesn’t define you as a person.  Overcoming challenges makes you a better professional and there’s no fun in being perfect!

Trinity Gray is a 2022 graduate of Ithaca College, where she concentrated on Integrated Marketing Communications and Live Event Management and Design. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Planning a Sustainable Future with Maryland Transportation Projects: Avid Core Receives DBE and SBE Certifications 

Avid Core is officially a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) and Small Business Enterprise (SBE) firm as certified by the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT).

Our new certifications will expand our reach and grow our partnerships within the Mid-Atlantic region, allowing our firm to better provide award-winning services to agencies in Maryland who want to redesign the transportation planning and public involvement process.

Maryland’s Minority Business Enterprise Program, which oversees the DBE and SBE programs, is thought to be the oldest in the country and it was established to help level the playing field for small, minority- and women-owned firms. By working with Avid Core, Maryland agencies and contractors can work toward the state’s ambitious goals for working with disadvantaged businesses.

Avid Core’s list of small business certifications and accomplishments continues to grow. We joined the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) 8(a) Business Development certification program, which allows agencies to award sole source contracts directly to certified businesses, and our work developing an inclusive Community Engagement Strategy for a regional metropolitan planning organization was internationally recognized.

 

Want to discuss partnerships or new opportunities? Connect with Virginia Quiambao Arroyo at varroyo@avid-core.com or Amanda Roberts at aroberts@avid-core.com

Around the Table with Emily Coccia

Welcome to Around the Table, a regular series where we talk to people in our network and share the incredible work they are doing in their industry. Pull up a chair and join us for conversation and connection.

Name:  Emily Coccia

Company: WEConnect International

Where to Find You: LinkedInEmail

What drew you to WEConnect International and working with women-owned businesses?

I’ve always considered myself a “utility player” meaning my career path has not been linear or traditional and therefore my experience and skills can be applied to a number of things I’m passionate about. When reading about WEConnect International’s mission, it was such an interesting combination of my previous work experience – specifically combining my knowledge and interest in supply chains (from my previous work in product philanthropy – moving excess inventory from large corporations to nonprofits who could use it) and my passion for advancing women’s economic empowerment. I never pictured these two things connecting within one role, so it felt serendipitous.

In digging in and learning more about this connection, I also learned it fits my core values. I’ve always viewed nonprofit work as a bridge between the public and private sectors and the best way to increase impact and opportunities for vulnerable communities. Seeing how WEConnect International supports business – both large corporations and women-owned businesses – by providing opportunities for business connections to increase revenue and drive innovation while ultimately supporting international development and the global community is the ultimate win-win-win situation.

Not to mention – I just love being surrounded by smart and creative people with diverse perspectives, so working with a network of more than 11,000 women business owners around the world, really does guarantee that.

You are the Vice President of Special Projects. What does that title mean and how does your work support WEConnect International’s mission? 

Within my role at WEConnect International, I work to design and implement custom, global programs. I help identify new funding opportunities, work with corporate partners and government entities to design projects that reach their objectives and address the needs of women business owners, and I then ensure the organization has the right talent and resources to implement these projects across the globe. Additionally, in my role I support organizational strategy by identifying market trends, creating and monitoring organizational goals, and identifying areas within the organization where we can increase efficiency and expand and enhance programming.

WEConnect International works with people all over the world. How do you manage and build these global relationships with the physical distance, language and cultural differences, and different political environments?

Most days I would say that the absolute hardest part of my job is scheduling meetings across multiple time zones and my most common Google search starts with “what time is it in…”. That said, managing global relationships has been my greatest learning at WEConnect International, and the thing that brings me the most joy.

At the beginning of 2020, I was set to visit 13 countries – which for me, was bravery I had to build. When COVID-19 hit, as an organization we had to quickly pivot to move all in-person events to be virtual and what I found in doing so was that on a daily basis I was now able to enter the homes of each of my partners, colleagues, and the women business owners in those countries instead. I believe this is a silver lining of the pandemic in that business was humanized to a greater extent. For example, at 7 a.m. I would enter a home in Bangladesh and hear a baby crying in the background or see floral artwork hanging on the wall or the household pet enter the screen, which is the same thing I would see in Brazil two hours later and Nigeria five hours later and Singapore 12 hours after that. This allowed me to really begin every conversation from a place of common understanding. And from there, it’s about listening and making adjustments each time you learn something new.

For example, for projects in some Southeast Asian countries, it’s important to understand that the weekend starts on Friday. In Australia and many European countries, do not plan on scheduling any events in the month of August because the summer holiday sees many people out of the office. And in all cases, it is important to understand that not everyone understands the nuance of the English language (and there is a huge difference between English in the US and that in the UK). Although these things may seem small and logistical in nature, they remind us of how important it is to be culturally sensitive to the more important things – like, keeping time for prayer during events or adjusting meetings around fasting, or starting an event with an acknowledgment to the Indigenous Peoples of the region – all the way through to adjusting how one presents business concepts in countries where women’s economic empowerment is starting first from the place of making sure women are protected from violence or provided adequate education or basic human rights. 

What I find most in my work is that a woman business owner in one country is pretty similar to that in another – they are independent, creative thinkers and the hardest working people you’ll ever meet. They can accomplish more in one hour (with a baby on their lap and dinner in the oven) than many can accomplish in a week. They see a problem, and instead of talking about it, they come up with a solution and build a successful business around it. Although I claim to support women business owners as part of my role at WEConnect International, what I really do is help provide a space for these individuals to share best practices, challenges, and solutions with each other and watch as they find new ways to positively impact the global community. 

What’s the best advice you’ve received in your career?

Changing the perspective of a “corporate ladder” to a “jungle gym” metaphor really resonated with me. Growth in one’s career does not necessarily mean a higher-ranking title or even a larger paycheck. It’s about growing your skillset and increasing your knowledge and ultimately measuring your success by your own standards. My goal has always been to learn as much as I can and to make the world a better place, so my measurement of success and the path to get there is ultimately going to be different than someone with a different set of career goals.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?

I love to do what I like to call “villaging.” Everyone needs a village, and I like to be that village for friends and family – helping wherever I’m needed. I am also proud to be on the board of directors for Child and Family Network Centers and advocate for universal Pre-K and other causes important to me. I also love starting new hobbies – currently, I’m cross-stitching and (re)learning how to roller skate.

If we were literally around the table right now, what food would you have brought to share?

Easy! I would have brought pizzelles. These Italian cookies have been around every table of mine since I was born, and I love sharing a bit of home with new friends.

Avid Core’s Champignon Approach: The 4L Process

Flickr Creative Commons/Ann Althouse

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of morel mushroom hunting. During the height of the pandemic, I was struggling to figure out things to do to keep my small children entertained. At that time, officials were telling us not to go to the playground because of all the shared surfaces and equipment and not be inside anywhere in public. But we needed to get out of the house, so we started going on these nature walks.

On one of these walks, my daughter pointed to something on the ground and asked what it was. I told her it was a mushroom and had a preconceived notion that it was “yuck.”

When I got home, I thought we should find out for sure, so I Googled “Northern Virginia mushrooms.” And I found out that it was not just any mushroom, it was a morel!

I also realized that the way we approach all our client work mirrors the way I started my morel obsession. So, here’s my fungi-de to Avid Core’s 4L Process.

Graphic with purple icons representing the steps in Avid Core's 4L process -- listen, learn, leverage, and love.


Created to deliver quality work while keeping our clients at the forefront of projects, we utilize this workflow to maintain effective, efficient, high caliber solutions to project needs.

To ensure we fully understand our clients’ needs, first we listen to our clients and their stakeholders. I listened to my daughter’s curious questions and comments and to the experts who told me about how rare morels are.

Second, we learn, by conducting assessments, review background materials and conducting interviews we establish best communication methods, processes, practices to establish quality work. I conducted a ton of research on morels, reading everything I could about how to spot them, how to harvest them, and how to cook them.

Third, using the information we have foraged, we leverage that information into an actionable strategy. I leveraged those found morels into an incredible meal! Morels have a great umami flavor that can’t be easily replicated. At first my daughter didn’t like mushrooms, but they grew on her.

Finally, we do what we do with passion! We love what we do and bring fun and enthusiasm to our projects. If I’m this passionate about wild mushrooms, imagine what I’m like when it comes to doing impactful work!

Transforming Federal Government Communications: Avid Core Receives 8(a) Certification

Contracting with Avid Core just got easier! Avid Core recently received the 8(a) certification through the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA). This allows federal agencies to easily sole-source contracts to Avid Core, providing access to our award-winning communications, public outreach, and project management services

Growth and providing outstanding customer service are our top priorities. We are always looking for new opportunities to share our expertise to help our clients and partners successfully implement inclusive and effective strategies.  

We hope to expand our project management and support offerings with this new certification. Our strong project management capabilities, including Project Management Professional (PMP)-certified staff, have contributed to our success in our first two years. We have consistently seen our rigor to scope, schedule, and budget lead to major outreach and communications wins for our clients. 

The 8(a) certification is another steppingstone in our company’s development path, and we envision playing a critical role in transforming the federal government’s outreach and communication processes. 

We are committed to collaborating with our clients and our dedicated partners to better serve our communities. Let’s make an impact together.   

Want to discuss partnerships or new opportunities? Connect with Virginia Quiambao Arroyo at varroyo@avid-core.com or Amanda Roberts at aroberts@avid-core.com.   

Avid Fans of: Mom and Pop Businesses

Avid (adjective) – having or showing a keen interest in or enthusiasm for something. It’s more than just our company’s namesake. Passion for our work and for the things we love is part of our core values. In this recurring series, we’ll share some of the things we’re Avid Fans of with you.  

Here at Avid Core, we love supporting small businesses and keeping it local as much as possible! As a small business ourselves, we understand the importance of support from the community around you and want to celebrate some of our team’s favorite mom and pop businesses. March 29 is National Mom and Pop Business Day so check these businesses out, visit them if you are local, or see if they have a way to order online! 

Ashley – Old Town Books 

I’ve been obsessed with Old Town Books since the owner, Ally Kirkpatrick, visited my book club back in 2018 and told a group of passionate readers her idea for creating a bookish community in Alexandria, Virginia. Since Old Town Books officially launched I have attended countless incredible author events and writing workshops they’ve hosted, participated in several read-a-thons, and never miss a chance to stop in, pick up a book, and say hi to Scout, the bookstore dog! Old Town Books has helped me be more connected to my community and introduced me to some incredible people. They also offer shipping so no matter where you are I hope you check them out!  

Ashley and her book club pose in front of the Old Town Books mural in Alexandria, Virginia.  

Steph – Child’s Play 

Whenever we want to feel like kids, we take a trip to Child’s Play. Yes, the name says it all. It’s a local toy store that has everything! You instantly want to play with the marble runs, the Magnatiles, and spend the entire day in the book section. Child’s Play is the perfect place to go if you need to buy something special for a celebration. Their knowledgeable staff can give you the best recommendations based on age, interests, and price range. What’s even more impressive is that they can wrap a gift in 30 seconds. I was very appreciative when they offered concierge shopping and delivery for those emergency puzzle requests. Kids of all ages find something they love there. 

(Alt text: A picture of a child kneeling in front of a bookshelf. The child is wearing a striped rainbow jacket and is in front of a white bookshelf filled with dolls.)
The doll corner is where Stephanie’s daughter spends most of her time at Child’s Play in Chevy Chase, DC.

Sarah – Holland Cox Private Sewing Lessons 

Founded in 2004, Holland Cox is a wonderful, woman- and Black-owned, local business started by owner/designer Valerie Williams as a side gig. She grew the business into a full-time job, designing and selling original, limited edition, handmade accessories. Bragging on the accessories is easy—they are affordable and last forever. I have about 15 items, ranging from handbags to my wallet to my favorite sleeping mask. Oh, and they all can be machine washed! Lately, Valerie has turned her attention toward sharing her passion for creating lovely things out of fabric by offering one-on-one sewing lessons (virtual for now). She meets clients at whatever skill and interest levels they arrive with. I’m a slow learner, but she’s always ready to help me relearn how to properly hem my pants and get my machine to fill a bobbin. For more advanced students, she can help you select fabrics, refine your skills, and design your own patterns. If you’re interested in taking lessons or buying them as a gift for someone else, contact Valerie for details. After five minutes of chatting with her, you’ll see how much she loves the craft and wants to share that feeling! 

“The only thing I love as much as sewing is helping other people love it, too. Whether you are a brand-new beginner, are stuck in the middle of a project, or have a very specific sewing goal, I’m confident I can help you!” — Valerie Williams 

A fun and maybe the most intimidating part of sewing lessons is fabric selection. There are so many gorgeous patterns out there!

Tremayne – Oscar’s Burritos Fiesta  

I first had a meal from Oscar’s Burritos Fiesta in Flagstaff, AZ in 2018, and it quickly became my favorite local restaurant. Their steak tacos are super delicious and filling. Another one of my favorites is their made-in-house chips and salsa. I was so happy to have found a perfect place for lunch! During my second visit, I met Oscar, the store owner, taking orders at the counter, and he was very friendly. When the pandemic hit, we would chat about how things were going back home on the Navajo Nation reservation. I would respond with not-so-great news, but he remained very positive. I would ask him how his business was going, and he shared his concerns about how slow it had become. To help, I visited Oscar’s more often than chain restaurants, hoping that my business would help sustain him through the struggle of the pandemic. Each visit, he would greet me and tell me how much he appreciated my business. Today, I am greeted with a smile and an occasional complimentary Pepsi when I visit Oscar’s, and I look forward to continuing to support a local entrepreneur. 

Menu options at Oscar’s Burrito Fiesta. Photo from Yelp.

Virginia – Brake Time Bobs  

Shameless plug alert! My husband took a leap of faith and started a small business. After 20 years of supporting our military and their families, he decided it was time to return to one of his passions and favorite past times, working on cars. He teaches our daughters how to change oil and flat tires, among other practical skills, and looks forward to doing the same with our baby boy! Our family and friends often turn to him when they need car repairs, and he always stops when he sees someone dealing with car troubles on the side of the road, in a parking lot, etc. Appalled at car shop mark-ups, specifically on replacing brakes, he will do it at a fraction of the cost and will even come to you! He’s scheduling appointments for April, May, and June and will consider tight turnaround/emergency requests if available. Call or text 703-596-5104 or email bob@braketimebobs.com to schedule an assessment and estimate.  

Selena (Virginia’s daughter) looks on as daddy changes the oil on all our cars.

Trinity- Mother Cupboard 

We have all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day for our entire lives. Although cooking breakfast is not my specialty, this tiny diner satisfies all breakfast needs.  Mother Cupboard’s is a well-known restaurant in my hometown of Syracuse, NY. The diner has been featured on many Food Network shows for their generous portions and delicious entrees.  My parents grew up going to this diner and took my sister and I for the first time when I was in middle school. Personally, my favorite thing to get is pancakes. That may sound boring, but these aren’t your normal pancakes. You will be advised by the staff to start off with one pancake, because they are ginormous and bigger than your plate. Personally, I have never finished more than one and I’ve been going for 8+ years. This diner is the definition of a hidden gem. It’s a tiny building hidden off a busy road that only accepts cash, but if you want a table you must wake up super early before the line gets too long outside. Not only do I love the food, but I love the energy and welcoming environment you get to experience while visiting. If you’re ever in Syracuse, NY be sure to check this spot out!

A photo outside Mother’s Cupboard in Syracuse, NY.

Amanda- OCha Thai Kitchen 

I am a huge fan of Asian cuisine and OCha Thai Kitchen is an excellent place for Thai fare in Centreville, VA. I order from this place at least a couple of times a month. In addition to having great food, they also have a great selection of beverages including sweet and exotic drinks. I highly recommend this cute spot if you’re ever in Northern Virginia!  

Image from Yelp

Accessibility in Color

Welcome to our series of posts about accessibility in communications. Accessibility is the practice of making information, activities, and/or environments sensible, meaningful, and usable for as many people as possible. This is super-important because persons within your audience all have different needs. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 15 percent of people around the world—that’s over 1 billion—live with a disability. Imagine how many people would never get your message if you didn’t make accessibility a priority!

Accessibility compliance is essential for organizations required to abide by Section 508 and related policies. More importantly, actively pursuing compliance is part of social responsibility and best communications practices. At Avid Core, we are committed to providing equal access and opportunity to people of all abilities and helping our clients and colleagues do the same.


I don’t post on my personal Facebook very often. I like Facebook, but there’s not much there that compels me to alert the 269 characters who make up my “Friends.” But, every once in a while, I see something so critical and so provocative that it must be shared.

Last time this happened, I was still in my 30s, a seasoned graphic designer who thought about color day and night. When I saw that dress—clearly white and gold—being call blue and black by some (including my husband), I knew I had to do something deep and meaningful for my “Friends” and posted the image and question immediately. My post spurred 28 comments, confirming I helped propel “The Dress that Broke the Internet” into our collective consciousness. 

I stayed excited about this for way too long. I asked everyone at work, got into arguments with extended family, and presented this internet sensation to my parents, who never look at their Facebook accounts. My mom agreed the dress was white and gold and my dad said the dress was pink and purple—a combo no one else had come up with—when I realized he was guessing. 

My dad is a person with color blindness. He sees red and green like this:

He has some mix of protanopia (red-blindness), protanomaly (red-weakness), deuteranopia (green-blindness), and deuteranomaly (green-weakness). Not ideal for Christmas, but he’s never complained.

I was taught in college that tone variation and patterns help viewers distinguish difference and to avoid having similar colors next to each other, so I worked with the aim of not confusing someone like my dad with mistakes like pie charts made entirely of cherry and lime slices. 

I looked to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and other resources for further guidance. Still, the best practices were vague—or at least I had trouble understanding them—until an overhaul in early 2017, when the U.S. Access Board published a final rule for accessibility requirements for information and communication technology (ICT) covered by Section 508. People in my position now had to abide by the updated WCAG Level A Requirements for Use of Color. (Section 508 and WCAG aren’t the same thing, but this Section 508 update harmonized the two accessibility standardization systems.)

The updated WCAG Level A Requirements for Use of Color lay out the requirements for Contrast Ratio, which is enough difference in colors next to each other for most people—even those with color blindness, color insensitivity, and other visual impairments—to distinguish text and objects from the background. 

Here’s an example of low or poor Contrast Ratio: 

And an example of high or good Contrast Ratio:

You can see one is clearer than the other, especially if you stand back a bit.­­ The ratio even holds when the image is viewed in black and white. 

No one expects you to eyeball this correctly—that’s why a mathematical ratio was established. In fact, even if you’re not a person with color blindness or visual impairment, it doesn’t mean you see color the same way anyone else does. (DO NOT tell my husband who thinks he’s better at seeing color than I am, but I don’t see subtle blues very well. Most people see navy, but I see a handsome dark gray.)

My favorite free Contrast Finder lives here and my favorite free Color Blind Simulator lives here. If you subscribe to Adobe Creative Suite, you can use Adobe Color’s very beautiful and very helpful Accessibility Tools.

So that brings us back to the dress. Let’s inspect the colors in the dress using Adobe Color:

Below are the actual colors. It is interesting to note that what a person with red/green colorblindness sees is pretty close to what the rest of us see. (The top line is what a non-color-blind person would see and the three bottom lines are what persons with the most common types of color blindness would see.)

My guess is my dad thought swamp brown and dingy purple couldn’t possibly be the color combo in this dress. For who would buy it?! More likely he gave his best guess that he was looking at reds and purples indistinguishable to him. For example, if he was looking at the top line below, it would appear to him somewhere between the deuteranopia and protanopia lines.

While I’m not excited that this has been a life-long guessing game for my dad and people like him, I am jazzed to have a tool that allows me to see close to what my dad sees. It makes a difference to many of the people viewing what I produce and helps me work to ensure accessibility for all. 

Sarah Cox is Avid Core’s Senior Communications Specialist. Connect with her on LinkedIn.