Entrepreneur turns ‘Recess’ into a business
MIDDLEBURY — It’s an oft-repeated joke that still gets a chuckle or two: “Did you hear about (place name of butt of joke here)? His favorite subject at school was recess!”
Well, Alex Consalvo’s favorite subject these days is an enterprise called “Recess,” and he and business partner Ward Wolff are hoping to smile all the way to the bank.
Recess is a computerized scheduling system that connects people to various athletic activities and other events in the middle of the workday. Recess coordinates activities for those who have a lunch break for an hour or so, activities hosted in local partner facilities and businesses.
“It’s about doing something in an hour that’s enriching and is an actual break from your workday,” said Consalvo, a 28-year-old Cornwall resident.
Consalvo graduated from Middlebury College in 2009. He enjoyed his time there and played on the Panther soccer team for three years.
He bounced around a little after earning his diploma, dividing his time at various carpentry-related jobs in Vermont and in Austin, Texas, where his family resides. While back in Vermont, Consalvo connected with Andy Rossmeissl, co-founder of Brighter Planet. Formerly based in Middlebury, Brighter Planet developed a “carbon footprint calculator” that allows people to compute how they are individually contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, while prescribing ways they can reduce those emissions. The company also co-developed a “green” credit card that provides resources to environmental causes when it is used for purchases.
Rossmeissl provided a valuable sounding board for Consalvo as he considered his entrepreneurial options.
“He was welcoming while I was figuring out what to do,” Consalvo said.
It was while the two friends were playing pick-up sports together that Consalvo got some inspiration for what would become Recess. They enjoyed playing basketball together but at times were unable to secure a court in the Middlebury area to play.
“We thought, ‘Why is this so hard?’” Consalvo recalled. “We are so interconnected.”
Consalvo, soon joined by fellow Middlebury graduate Ward Wolff, determined they weren’t the only ones caught in a scheduling conundrum for daytime recreation space. They decided to work on a software application, or “app,” for people to see when space might be available.
But the app idea morphed into something bigger, which turned into Recess. Rather than simply taking inventory of available sporting spots, Consalvo and Wolff decided to work with various Vermont businesses to link their employees with healthy and/or enlightening lunch hour diversions.
“We really moved from a group of people wanting to make it easy to play pick-up sports, to a group interested in unlocking spaces and connecting anybody to anything we could in the middle of the day,” Consalvo said. “It was sort of, ‘What could you do with your lunch break if you had a company dedicated to finding cool things for you to do?’”
While Recess’s principals and supporters knew a lot about Middlebury recreation opportunities, they realized they had to first focus on a market with more people, more businesses and more recreation and entertainment centers. So they targeted the Burlington area. They found a willing partner in The Edge Sports & Fitness in Williston and have reached out to other venues, like the Burlington YMCA and Burlington Parks and Recreation Department.
“We asked, ‘Do you have empty space and would you like us to help you fill it?’” Consalvo recalled.
The answer was “yes,” so Recess officials contacted area businesses to see if they would like to extend some lunch break options to their employees. The answer, again, was “yes.”
In the roughly seven months since it got off the ground, Recess has been finding an increasing number of suitors. Among them: Seventh Generation and Dealer.com. A total of 268 people have participated in Recess-coordinated events — including soccer, basketball, rock climbing and “pickleball” (think tennis played with hard paddles and a wiffle ball). Consalvo hopes Recess will have harnessed 10-12 corporate clients and be serving thousands of people by next April.
It’s not going to be just about sports. Organizers also want to line up lunch break opportunities like cooking classes and author readings for those who might be physically limited or unable to do sports.
“Recess wants to be involved in wellness, in general,” Consalvo said. “We want to catalyze activity.”
Each subscribing business will get its own Recess website for employee access to nearby lunchtime activities. Employees are asked to sign up and are then informed if the chosen activity has drawn enough participants to be staged. Participants are sent reminders, including notes on what items or equipment to bring with them.
Consalvo and Wolff are also considering a “pay-per-event” fee system for Recess.
Ultimately, the Recess founders would like to export the services to other communities throughout Vermont and the U.S.
“We are incubating the business in Burlington and figuring out how this scales so we won’t have to do as much heavy lifting in the next place we go,” Consalvo said.
More information about Recess can be found online at the website recess.io and on Facebook.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]
Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series of profiles of the new businesses being developed at the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies incubator in Middlebury.
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