Even as freezing rain fell steadily and the temperature dropped to 35 degrees, the smile never left Sam Eder’s face during the Dyngus Day Parade.
Eder, who moved to Buffalo from Austin, Texas in January after his company Big Wheelbarrow won the 43North startup competition, was experiencing his very first Dyngus day. He had never heard of the traditional Buffalo feast before.
Bundled up in a gray fur-hooded coat and waterproof pants, the CEO walked alongside the Buffalo Distilling Co. float, waving to the cheering crowd. He even got tickled with a few willows and got stuck in crossfire from squirt guns.
“Buffalo knows how to have a good time,” Eder said after the parade, sipping a cocktail made with krupnik, a sweet Polish liqueur, at Buffalo Distilling Co. The distillery is owned by Eder’s friend Andy Wegrzyn, whom he met when they both lived in Austin.
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Big Wheelbarrow – a supply chain software platform that connects local growers with supermarkets to sell their wares – won a 43North prize of $500,000 last year.
As a condition of the cash prize, all winning companies that are not from Western New York must relocate their headquarters to the city for a year, which may mean disrupting the lives of the founders and their families. Including Big Wheelbarrow, five of 43North’s last eight winners have moved to Buffalo.
Stipulating that winning companies relocate to Buffalo for a year is an important aspect of 43North’s mission to attract high-growth businesses to the region.
The idea behind the competition is not just to bring winning startups to Buffalo for a year, but to convince them to stay by showing founders that the area has everything a business needs to thrive – like a community. support, access to talent and a high quality of life.
“The 43North team is here on the pitch,” Eder said. “We find out we’re winning and they’re like, ‘Don’t make any decisions in the dark. We’re here to help you.'”
So Eder moved to western New York with his wife, Julie Amaon, and their dog, Ella. Big Wheelbarrow’s chief technology officer, Evan Alter, has also moved to Buffalo, while the company’s other two co-founders – Ben McConnell and Christina Wing – remain in Texas.
Eder and Amaon seem to have settled in quite well in Buffalo: they’ve joined Josh Allen’s fan club, found their favorite bakeries and bars, and explored the area’s many pizzerias and chicken wings.
“People here are so nice and so open,” Eder said. “I really feel like it shortened our integration at Buffalo.”
The two-decade relationship between Eder and Amaon has taken them from Virginia to Texas and Minnesota and now to Buffalo.
The couple both attended the University of Virginia but didn’t meet until after graduation when they were both traveling in Lima, Peru with their families. They started dating in 1999 and got married in 2012.
Amaon is a family doctor with an online practice and she works out of the couple’s apartment. Thus, she was able to move with her husband while keeping her job.
“We moved so many times and I dragged him to Minnesota for my residency,” Amaon said. “I feel like I’m up for a new city. I always like to explore new places. I can’t say I was super excited about moving in January because I’m a bit a big baby when it comes to cold, but we really enjoyed exploring the surroundings.”
Big Wheelbarrow found out they would be part of 43North’s seventh cohort of startups at the 43North finale in late October. So Eder and Amaon had about two months to pack their bags, find a place to live, and travel the 1,500 miles from Austin to Buffalo.
This week, excitement was in the air as eight companies moved into offices on the 24th floor of the Seneca One tower, kicking off the year-long commitment to Buffalo that is a condition of the award. in silver.
Selections for rentals in Buffalo in January were thin, but 43North staff were able to help the couple find an open-concept, three-bedroom apartment in the downtown Seneca One tower. Eder’s apartment is just a short elevator ride from Big Wheelbarrow’s office on the 24th floor of the building, considered Buffalo’s technology and startup hub.
The couple decided to sell most of their possessions and start from scratch in Buffalo. They bought their giant sectional sofa from a guy in Lancaster and furnished much of their apartment from finds on Facebook Marketplace and an Amazon returns center in Tonawanda.
With demanding jobs, the couple spend most nights of the week together at home, where Eder relaxes by preparing dinner with local produce and Amaon prepares the accompanying cocktails.
But they took advantage of the weekends to explore. They recently visited Niagara Falls and rode the Maid of the Mist while Amaon’s parents were visiting. They traveled to Canandaigua to explore the Finger Lakes.
Amaon enjoyed the “cool old architecture” and “tons of great food” in Western New York. The 43North staff made them and other out-of-town businesses feel at home, planning lots of fun outings and happy hours. Eder attended a Sabers game for the first time and started racing sailboats on Lake Erie with a neighbor.
The couple have had no shortage of recommendations from locals since arriving in Buffalo. Everyone from Lyft drivers to restaurant servers shared their favorite shops, restaurants, places to go and things to do in Western New York.
“People are really proud of their city and they want to tell us where to go,” Amaon said.
“Yeah,” Eder agreed. “It’s really great, especially during the winter and Covid where you feel like you’re already locked in, having people just wanting to share their favorite things is really cool. I feel like we’ve taken a good start. We got into the city so much faster.”
And with summer approaching – arguably Western New York’s best and busiest season – Eder and Amaon look forward to checking out all the different festivals, exploring local farmers markets and maybe to catch a buffalo game across the street at Sahlen Field.
“I’m so excited to be here this summer,” said Amaon. “I heard there were so many things.”
Photos: Big Wheelbarrow’s Sam Eder and Julie Amaon spend a weeknight at home