By Gina Cavallo | Photos by David DuPuy
Like most ideas for a new business, they come at the most unusual times, running on the treadmill or in the shower — but for Emily and I, the idea for the EKG Project was over a gluten-free pizza in Atlanta. Emily had quit her job working for a wine and spirits company to go back to school, and was considering a Chiropractic College in Georgia. Needing her best friend’s opinion, I flew down for a quick weekend. Like most folks, we found ourselves complaining about the work we were in, and fantasizing about starting our own company, wearing yoga pants instead of suits, and getting to hang out with your best friend all day, not to mention making a difference in the world, and yes, maybe even killing it a little bit financially. We had this picture of a health and wellness center with the letters E, K, and G — E and G representing Emily and Gina, respectively. At the time, the K was standing in for several friends of mine who were fitness professionals. Every single K fell through, and eventually we tabled our passion project.
Fast forward to last February, Emily and I were walking to a SoulCycle class in the West Village, stopping into Press Tea to grab tea, and met George (the owner) behind the counter. Within a ten-minute conversation about the Paleo and organic lifestyle, we had this intangible moment where we all knew we needed to collaborate. Shortly after, we sat down to brainstorm on how we could utilize our combined professional strengths and personal passions to bring organic and Paleo, yet affordable and healthy options to the world. We knew we were on the right track when we learned George’s last name, Kuan — and the EKG Project was resurrected, as we had serendipitously found our K.
Today, the EKG Project offers Paleo pastries, and clean meals and fitness drinks, with plenty more in the works in the test kitchen. But our first step was to appeal to the existing consumers at Press Tea, by introducing our Paleo pastries as a way to test the NYC market — but also as a gateway for those who are intimidated by the word “Paleo.” The usual myriad of excuses range from “I don’t have time,” to “It’s too expensive,” or “I’d have to give up all my favorite indulgences.” Our line of pastries shatters these excuses. It eases “paleo anxiety” and opens a consumer’s mind to the often-intimidating lifestyle. But why is it scary? It comes down to basic knowledge of the word Paleo, and helping to educate consumers that Paleo can be easy, cost effective, and delicious. Education and distribution of products and knowledge is the mission of our business.
Taking a deeper dive into the Paleo pool — What exactly does Paleo mean, and what is Paleo? Is it just another fad where you buy a ton of cookbooks, invest in cooking gadgets, and in 2 months you are on to the next and latest? To George, Emily and myself, Paleo is not the next trend to capitalize on — it’s the original. It means getting back to the basics; to simplify. It means removing what’s processed, genetically modified, and toxic from our diets. Removing grains, dairy, non-organic GMO fruits, vegetables, and meats, and eating as if we were transported in a DeLorean back to the time of the caveman. It instills always reading the labels, and making sure you can actually identify the ingredients. You are training your eye to look for organic, grass-finished, cage-free, responsibly raised, and other signifying terms that tell you that this product is as close to nature as if you planted the seeds.
When I am not working on the EKG Project with my business partners, I have a full time job in advertising sales, where I am constantly out to lunch, catering in lunch, or planning after-work client entertainment, drinks, and other things that can contribute to falling off the “fit” wagon. So almost once a week, I am asked — But HOW do you stay fit with your crazy lifestyle, and HOW do you know how to always make the right choices when it comes to food? I live under the rule that it is 80% what you put into your body (nutrition), and 20% the effort you put in at the gym. Four years ago, I was 30 lbs. overweight, overworked, and making terrible choices with food. I started eating Paleo, and within 4 months of changing my diet and lifestyle, I achieved my body goals, and gained fitness, health, energy, and confidence.
By knowing how to eat clean within the Paleo lifestyle, I can stay the course when I am out to dinners. I order EKG Project foods when I am catering in working lunches. And on the road, where making it to the gym can be a challenge, keeping the 80/20 rule allows me to maintain all the benefits I have gained from the Paleo lifestyle. I guess you could say, with Paleo — I am a lifer.
Staying ahead of the ever-changing advertising world, native New Yorker Gina Cavallo works for digital sales team Conversant Inc. across strategic accounts and big brands, where she has established herself as the “fit sales rep” within the New York advertising community. Most early mornings Gina is sweat-working — which she has dubbed #convercise — with clients in one (sometimes two!) of the many local boutique fitness studios, and most evenings she is relationship building over organic wine tastings, healthy cooking classes, and exhilarating experiences, such as rock climbing and indoor archery tag. Gina is passionate about health and fitness, often training with some of the world’s best athletes, as well as modeling for several fitness and wellness websites. Combining her knowledge, experience, and passions for health, fitness, sales, and community, Gina is excited to launch EKG Project with Emily and George. “Being able to make such a positive difference not only in New York, but eventually nationwide, is a dream come true. When you feel better and look better, everything is better. I can’t wait to help everyone find the champion within.”