Today we’d like to introduce you to Rifko Meier.
Rifko, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I was born and raised in Amsterdam. At 17, I went abroad to be an exchange student at Canyon High School in Anaheim Hills (Orange County). I even made it into the Football team, which was an amazing experience since I had never played American Football before. I loved everything about Southern California. I fell in love with America.
My host parents offered me to stay and they wanted to help me through college. I needed to go home to be with my mother after my graduation since my brother had passed in a car accident. I did not just lose my brother, I also lost the opportunity to go to college in the USA and to create a life in America. At least I could give back to my mom what she gave me.
In 2008 I left Amsterdam to open my own art gallery in New York City. I supported emerging artists from all over the world. Four days after the opening of the gallery the worldwide financial crisis happened. Art would never be the same. I struggled for 4 years until the bottom of my wallet was showing. I needed to find something else to do. Quick.
A friend of mine called me one day in May 2012. I was sitting in the gallery and she asked me to take care of some oysters for her party. I laughed, asked her why on earth she would call me since I had no past experience with oysters except eating them with the greatest pleasure.
This was when I got the idea of creating the Oyster Girls of New York. Something we did at home in Holland already for several years. This just needed to be New York Style. I created the outfit, thought myself how to shuck oysters and placed an ad on Craigslist.
The ad was written in my basic knowledge of the English language and read something like “Oyster Girls wanted for high-end catering jobs, high pay, Exclusive events in NYC” The Girls applying for the job thought that this could be either the best or the worst job in the world. It ended to be the best because those girls are still working as Oyster Girls today.
Now I had the outfit, the technique, the best girls in the world, but no clients or events to cater yet. I created a press release” Oyster Girls Shuck New York. I read the last 2 years of culinary reviews in the New York Times and chose to send one email with the press release to one Florence Fabricant. I loved her writing but didn’t have a clue who she was. I sent her the press release and she called me 20 minutes later, while I was in a taxi to the Whole Foods. She asked me who else I sent this press release to. I answered her that I only sent it to her. She couldn’t believe that and told me that she would find out if that was not true. I remember her rhetorical question: “who would send a press release to just one journalist?” And I was thinking, you just have to send it to one person if you do your homework right. She asked me to not talk to anyone. Which was easy because who was going to call me anyway, and she wrote about Oysters XO in the New York Times.
That was for me the beginning of the homecoming since I left California in 1990. 3 years later, 25 years after I left, I opened Oysters XO Los Angeles. I cried my eyes out when I arrived at LAX. Home.
This is summer of 2012 and I just started Oysters XO in New York. My best friend worked at The Plaza and he called me a day before he had an event with the top 50 wedding planners and designers of the nation. Too late to get 2 Oyster Girls for the event, I decided to work the event with my right hand in sales, the second Oyster Girl of the USA and now my best friend in the world.
This event would turn the world upside down. I was invited to work the biggest Gala for the Top of the Wedding Industry. It all happened because my Cali host parents thought me the best lesson ever; live your life by the rule of what comes around, goes around.
The article in the New York Times let to an interview in the New Yorker. I didn’t feel I had something interesting to say, so I asked the journalist of the New Yorker to follow my first Oyster Girl. You should look it up online, it’s such a funny story.
Today I look back and we worked the most epic, iconic and amazing events. Celebrity Weddings, Super Bowls, White House Correspondence, Film Premieres, Galas, 3-star Michelin Chefs, Charities. We still are going strong, this year opening more cities, but above all, we are going to teach America how to shuck. Is there anything better than surprising your wife, boyfriend, girlfriends with the freshest oysters and a glass of champagne? We are going to make that happen. Everybody needs to learn how to open oysters. We can teach you.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I have the best “kids” working with me. That makes every challenge a new adventure.
First, there were no events. No calls with inquiries. Doubts about our service. We only had 12 events in the first year. One a month. Mind you, we work one-hour cocktail receptions, so we were working every day of the week and the result was 1-hour of work a month. Haha, you need a lot of patience and you better dream hard that one day it will all be different. I remember encouraging Sage, my right-hand in sales, “one day, people will call us to inquire about our service”. Sage and I laughed at each other and both thought “Yeah right!”
I came back to the USA. I landed in NYC. You know that it’s the toughest city to make it, so you’re going to have obstacles. Just fix them one at a time, dream, work, enjoy, help, ask, love, jump, duck every day and you’ll find out that the American dream is still alive. I am living it.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Oysters XO story. Tell us more about the business.
Oyster Girls & Oyster Guys move among the party guests, while they shuck and serve tasty, high-quality oysters. Oysters XO is an innovative culinary experience that spices up any event and offers something unique and unexpected. The attraction lies in the presentation and the interactive experience between guests and the Oyster Girls/Guys. It’s all about the way they turn on their charm, as they serve these succulent ocean delicacies at Private Parties, Weddings, Corporate Events, and Non-for-Profit & Celebrations. Oyster Girls & Oyster Guys dress in tailored-to-the-event outfits and mingle with the guests, shucking and serving tasty oysters from the buckets around their waist.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
The level of luck is equal to the sum of the positive energy you put in everything.
It’s super simple. The more people you meet, the more people you know. The more you help, the more support you get. Honesty is key. Say hello and good morning and they will greet you back. Admit your mistakes; apologize. Listen. You create your own luck.
My bad luck in life is that I lost my brother and mom already. My good luck is that they both were the most amazing persons ever. They inspired me to who I am today. I am the luckiest guy in the world having them as my family.
My bad luck in business was the financial crisis of 2008. My good luck in business is the same crises forced me to find a new business. Oysters XO is the best adventure ever.
You need a fresh look on life? Just call me and I inspire the heck out of you.
- Address: New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Washington DC, Charleston, Chicago, Seattle, Philadelphia, Toronto (CAN), Monterrey (MX)
- Website: http://oystersxo.com
- Phone: 917 297 5929
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/oystersxo
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OystersXO
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/oystersxo
Christian Oth Studio (portait photo of me with 3 girls).