I’m not writing about business today — not much, anyway.
Instead, this is a post about death and life and words and memories. It’s about a guy named Mike Perillo, whom I never met, and his widow, Jennifer, who wrote a tribute I can’t forget.
Mike died of a heart attack on Sunday, Aug. 7. He was a young guy with a kind face and deep laugh lines; you can see his picture here. He and Jennie had been together 16 years. They had two young daughters.
Jennie dealt with her loss, as any writer would, by putting it down in words. She wrote about Mike’s wedding ring, his busy schedule, and his favorite pie. For several weeks, Jennie had planned to make that pie for him “tomorrow,” and now the chance had passed. But there was still time for others:
For those asking what they can do to help my healing process, make a peanut butter pie this Friday and share it with someone you love. Then hug them like there’s no tomorrow because today is the only guarantee we can count on.
Twitter and Facebook lit up with the challenge. Within a matter of hours, more than 300 food bloggers responded with recipes and photos and, presumably, lots of hugs. “I’m not sure there have ever been this many variations of one recipe in the history of food blogging,” wrote Phyllis Grant on her blog. “Or maybe in the history of time.”
That’s an amazing tribute to Mike Perillo and to the power of social media.
But if you go back a little further, it’s also a tribute to entrepreneurship and priorities and the pursuit of a dream.
The rest of the story
In 1999, while the two were still dating, Mike handed Jennie a Newsweek article about becoming a personal chef. Jennie had just lost her father to a heart attack at age 49, so “I figured it was time to get cracking on my dreams since there’s no guarantee of tomorrow,” she recalls.
That same year, Jennie started Time to Eat, a Brooklyn-based catering service that garnered a good bit of local press coverage. Her successful catering gig launched her into the New York restaurant scene, working with top chefs like Tom Colicchio and Alain Ducasse.
Then came her daughters — and decision time.
“After working long hours in the restaurant business I decided it was time to focus on motherhood — after all they’re only kids once,” she writes.
Jennie made the choice to work from home, setting up a test kitchen in Brooklyn where she develops recipes for Cuisinart and Working Mother magazine. She also launched an award-winning blog, attracting a slew of advertisers as well as mentions at Oprah.com, Time.com and more.
In other words, she chose to do what she loves, surrounded by the people she loves — a classic lifestyle business.
The disciples of growth would argue that her choice didn’t make economic sense. After all, she could have made a lot more money and created more jobs by opening her own restaurant, maybe even a chain of restaurants.
Over the years, as she read about the hot new spot in Manhattan or watched the latest celebrity chef on the Food Network, there may have been moments of doubt in Jennie’s own mind. It’s human nature to second-guess, to wonder what if?
I’m sure any such doubts have now been laid to rest last. Several weeks ago, when Mike got a day off work, Jennie’s lifestyle business allowed her to make time for what would be their final date:
The moment I heard he was taking off, I cleared my work schedule. Deadlines were the least of my priorities. We finally had the chance to walk, hand-in-hand, during daylight hours—the fact that it reached 102ºF didn’t matter to me.
Too many business owners live every moment of their life pursuing a bigger slice of the pie. Jennie Perillo decided to pursue something else. Now, when it matters most, she has hundreds of pies — and years of sweet memories — to show for it.
Photo credit: matthileo via flickr CC