New to town: Laney Strange

Roll out the welcome wagon. In this series of folks "New to Town," meet Memphis' newest recruits. Learn what brought them here, what is keeping them happy here and how the city looks through their fresh eyes.

After moving to Memphis from San Francisco last summer, Laney Strange, 36, quickly dived into the city with Memphis Punch. Since her relocation, Strange has worked as a college professor, as an entrepreneur and as a food trucker.

What exactly is Memphis Punch, and why did you and Billy Bicket start it? Memphis Punch is a creative studio that Billy (Bicket) and I launched last year. We built our studio to solve immediate real-world problems getting in the way of our own lives.

Our big project for this year is an event series called Blur, kicking off with a summit in Brooklyn in November. Blur is all about bringing your quirky, warts-and-all self to work, and embracing the creative pursuits that make you your best self both professionally and personally.

What are the different strengths that each of you bring to Memphis Punch? Billy and I have complementary skill sets that play off each other well. He's Zuckerberg, I'm Sandberg.

Billy has deep experience in business development and community building. I have a background as a product lead and engineer.

What other cities did you consider when you were looking to relocate, and why did you two ultimately choose Memphis? We were looking for a diverse, livable, affordable city with a good hustle-and-bustle factor that was also a city on the rise. We considered Detroit, Oklahoma City, Knoxville, Tulsa and Minnesota.

Why did you two decide on the combo of a food truck and a creative studio? We wanted to have some income during the idea-building time, so that we have time and space to really focus on the right idea to develop, rather than chasing the most profitable one, which can be tempting for a start-up.

A food truck was a perfect fit for us as a revenue-generating project that we were able to self-fund and that keeps us afloat while we're working on Blur.

Along with Prodigi Arts, you collaborated on a film called "Memphis Fellows" that highlights five Memphis creatives. How did that come about? The Memphis Fellows project is a lead-up to the Blur Revue Show, a big stage show at the Blur summit. The Revue Show stage will be populated with performers, representing a variety of acts, disciplines and geographies--including a cohort representing Memphis.

The films highlight the talents of these local artists who will be taking the stage at Blur: Alex da Ponte, Hanna Star, Marco Pavé, Mark Edgar Stuart and Josh Campbell.

What has surprised you in Memphis? Memphians have been so friendly and welcoming, it really blows me away. My husband Tom rode his scooter all the way out here from San Francisco, and when he arrived there was a group of 10 scooter-clubbers he had never met, waiting to escort him across the border from Arkansas. They invited him, a stranger, to have dinner and stay over with them; they even helped us move! I've never seen warm hospitality like that in my life.

What has challenged you about Memphis? I think I underestimated how hard it is to start a business in a city where you don't have an existing network. As friendly and welcoming as folks are here, Billy and I don't have reputations or a network of trust for them to rely on.

What unique opportunities exist for you here? We have an opportunity to get in on the early days of the food truck scene, the running scene, and all the opportunities afforded by the recent growth of business and community activities.

Read more articles by Elle Perry.

A native of Memphis, Elle Perry serves as coordinator of the Teen Appeal, the Scripps Howard city-wide high school newspaper program. 
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