By Jamie Bogert | BerkeleyBeacon.com
James DiSabatino always dreamed of grilled cheese sandwiches with everything from Vermont cheddar to braised short ribs dripping down the sides of warm slices of bread.
After graduating from Emerson in 2009 with a degree in marketing communication, and having completed a business minor known as E3 (The Emerson Experience in Entrepreneurship), DiSabatino started the engine of Roxy’s Grilled Cheese food truck.
The roving vendor has taken Boston by storm, and had a glimpse of fame on the Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race. After placing third on the show, DiSabatino returned to his alma mater to share his experiences with an intimate group of Emerson students in the Walker building last night.
“I’d rather just make this a total conversation that everyone is involved in,” DiSabatino said to the audience of about 10 people. “Is everyone cool with that?”
Everyone was. And so, the event titled on Facebook as “Speaking Event: James DiSabatino of Roxy’s Grilled Cheese food truck!” hosted by Emerson PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America) with a promised Q-and-A at the end, became an engaged discussion.
Attendees did not hesitate to ask him how his original E3 idea, an eco-friendly limo company, developed into a food truck dishing out grilled cheese sandwiches with names like Green Muenster Melt.
Through the E3 program, students build and launch their own businesses through the completion of two semesters of coursework and gain experience in the world of entrepreneurship with help from professors and industry maestros.
Before DiSabatino took the wheel of his truck to hot-spots around Boston including Copley Square, Boston University’s west campus, and Cleveland Circle, he was just out of college and off to an interview wearing a stuffy suit with a tie he couldn’t master, he said.
“I was sweating so bad, not because I was nervous,” DiSabatino said, “but because the suit was just so uncomfortable.”
After nailing two interviews with the same company and receiving a phone call offering him a job, DiSabatino realized that corporate life wasn’t for him.
“I’ve always been an angry, pissed-off kind of kid and I didn’t want to be led in a certain direction, so I started my company just because I would go crazy if I didn’t,” DiSabatino said. “I’ve been thinking about this since I was ten years old, I’ve just always been mad, in a good way.”
From there, madness turned into progress and his hopes of starting his own company quickly became reality. With a lot of self-funding and maxed out credit cards, DiSabatino along with close friends and family, started Roxy’s Grilled Cheese food truck.
“As soon as you start the actual process, it gets really scary,” DiSabatino said. He proceeded to make things as simple as possible when describing the grueling development of a company, while he continuously asked if he was boring the audience made up of mostly marketing communication majors.
The simplicity of starting his own business is not nearly as straightforward as how he chose to market his company. When a participant in the discussion asked what core values drove DiSabatino, he said Roxy’s way of handling social media.
“We have pictures of employees, pictures of us cooking things to create complete transparency,” DiSabatino said. “We want people to feel like they’re a part of it.”
Senior Stephanie Miceli, a marketing communication major and president of PRSSA said the group’s goal for this year is to focus on speakers from all industries and identify specific interests.
“The powerpoint, clicker, technology thing doesn’t necessarily work for everyone and I think speaking events are more organic when people do what’s comfortable for them,” Miceli said. “This was really a niche event for people interested in starting their own businesses.”