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IC Wrestler Rolls into New Business

Key Points

  • Nick Velez started rolling sushi as a way to eat healthier during wrestling season
  •  Teammates wanted to try his sushi, and now it has become a small business

Eating healthy can be a challenge for many people. Factor in being a college student-athlete who has to be a certain weight to compete, and the challenge gets exponentially harder.

Ithaca College senior wrestler Nick Velez tackled this dilemma in a unique way: he started rolling sushi.

“It changed my diet. I became more excited to eat vegetables and baked chicken. It was exciting to eat,” explained Velez, an exercise science major.

Starting to Roll

Halfway into his last collegiate wrestling season, the 165-pound captain was struggling to find inexpensive yet healthy ways to eat in a college setting on a consistent basis. An idea came to mind as he ordered one of his go-to foods of the season, sushi. Nick Velez wrestling in the NCAA DIII Championships. Photo by: D3 Wrestling

“To someone who loves sushi as much as me, the price for rolls can get expensive. So I looked up how to roll your own sushi. After watching a few videos, I went to Wegmans, got the bamboo mat, fish, rice and even the chopsticks,” explained Velez.

While preparing sushi for the first time, Velez realized that he was saving a significant amount of money.

Building the Business

As the season continued, Velez’s teammates noticed that he always had sushi. Upon revealing to them that he had been recently rolling his own sushi, they wanted to try some. After finishing second in the nation and becoming a two-time All American, Velez had gotten requests from some of his friends to make them sushi.

“I realized I could make 10 rolls with only two cups of rice. The rice only costs 10 bucks,” Velez said. “This could be a business right here.”

Velez decided if he were going to sell the sushi on a normal basis, he would need to improve the quality of his product. He visited different sushi restaurants to observe how the chefs prepared sushi.

After picking up a few tips and tricks, Velez formed his style of rolling sushi. His side business took off from there, as he used social media to get out the word about his new undertaking.

After posting Snapchats of him making the sushi, Velez fielded questions from those who were curious about what he was sharing. He would explain that he makes the sushi, and then more people wanted to try his rolls.

Orders Come Rolling In

As Velez continued to get requests for more sushi, he had to increase how often and how much sushi he makes. Initially, Velez would make sushi two or three days a week, depending on his weight and how many of his teammates he shared rolls with. Currently, he makes at least 10 to 20 sushi rolls per day.

With a semi-established small business, Velez now has regular customers who buy sushi from him on daily basis.A chicken avocado roll made by Nick Velez. Photo by: Kenneth Bradley

“I have my own group of customers so I make sushi everyday. I will let them know what kind of sushi I am making that day and they will give me their order,” explained Velez.

He now even takes special orders and has been expanding his menu.

“Chicken avocado is the most requested roll. I have a good deal on it,” Velez added. “The most expensive is the chicken salmon roll at 10 dollars but a lot of people ask for shrimp tempura so I am getting a fryer which will add more options.”

Velez sees his business as a win-win situation because even when people don’t buy his rolls, he gets to eat more sushi.

“Usually people buy it, but even if they don’t I just eat it because I’m still saving money.”

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