All of the blog posts and stories are generally the short versions so it’s not too much to read, please contact me if you want the whole story, I’m always happy to talk.
For those that don’t know me and have stumbled across this site or eaten at Revival Chili, this is the beginning of the story. My name is Jordan Robarge, I grew up in Falls Church, Virginia for my entire life then went to the University of Virginia. I studied Systems Engineering and over my four years, found I definitely wanted to do startups. I was lucky enough to find a program called Venture For America (VFA) during my fourth year. I am so grateful I was able to get into VFA and that led me down the path I am on now. I also started to play ultimate frisbee in college after 14 years of soccer and fell in love. I currently play very competitively so if I reference frisbee in the blogs that’s probably what I’m doing.
Venture for America places recent grads at startups in developing communities to help with revitalization of those communities. I was placed at an incubator in Pittsburgh that incubates very early-stage companies. We also run an up-and-coming innovation and music festival, Thrival, as the revenue driver. I arrived in August five weeks before Thrival 2015 was happening and was immediately put on the Thrival team to help get shit done. I stayed on the Thrival team for my entire duration with the company. Thrival 2015 was a huge success and set us up very well for 2016. We got a stellar lineup, a great new venue and things were really coming together.
I worked independently and created projects for myself in order to make Thrival better. I taught myself swift in Xcode and java in Android Studio then made an iOS and Android app for Thrival. I also started a brand ambassador program to raise awareness at colleges in the area. I hired an intern to help with this and with him, got about 20 ambassadors at 8 different colleges. I was also in charge of running all small events we put on to promote Thrival: small block parties, promoting us at other festivals, cook-outs, small panel events, etc. Those were the three biggest things I did but I also filled in a lot of smaller gaps: all social media for Thrill Mill, restocking our kitchen, deciding/ordering Thrival swag, running the Thrill Mill and Thrival websites, etc. I am so grateful for my time with Thrival because I would not be where I am not if it wasn’t for that. I made all the relationships I have used to start Revival Chili and gained many valuable skills that I will continue to use.
I had started working on the idea for Revival Chili as far back as the summer of 2015. I catered a few events with the chili and continued making chili throughout the year. It was in the spring of 2016 that I started realizing I wasn't very happy at my job and started working a little more on the chili business. I had a few meetings in May about it and applied to an incubator in Silicon Valley with the idea. I got into the incubator but did not accept because of money and moving and also, through the meetings, I knew I should stay in Pittsburgh if I was going to do it.
For all of the things I did, I was suddenly let go on June 3rd, 2016 with no explanation. When I asked why, the answer was “I don’t think this is the right time to discuss that, we just don’t think you’re a good fit.” It all made me feel pretty shitty but I’ll go into that in the next post. And that’s pretty much the reason why I’m diving into the chili bowl, Revival Chili!