Tuesday, August 31, 2010

An egg-cellent cause

This recently ran in the University of Memphis paper, The Daily Helmsman and refers to the Fried an egg on the streets of Memphis Facebook page. For each "like" the page gets up to 1000, they will donate $1 to MLGW. As of this posting, 990 people like the page.

Students carry online joke to philanthropic heights
Mike Mueller

Four weeks ago, during one of the summer's scorching heat waves, University of Memphis student and alumnus Jared Bulluck and Evan Nicholson brought a figure of speech to reality - they fried an egg on the sidewalk. Thanks to a popular Facebook page, that egg became a social media star, one that's giving back to the people of Memphis.

The "Fried an Egg on the Streets of Memphis" Facebook page is donating up to $1,000 to Memphis Light Gas and Water's "Gift of Comfort" program, courtesy of Nicholson's father, Tim, and his small business Bigfish. The program allows individuals to pay others' utility bills.

The Egg, who posts pun-laden musings in first person, pledged to donate $1 for every person who liked the page, up to $1,000. Currently, 964 people like the Egg's page.

This social media saga began at the urging of another Nicholson, Trent, Tim's son and

Evan's older brother, who lives in Nashville.

"He asked if it was hot enough outside to fry an egg," said Nicholson, a jazz studies graduate assistant. "So we went outside and set a pan out."

After thirty minutes of street-side preheating, they cracked an egg in the skillet. Fifteen sizzling minutes and one photo upload later, a local Facebook phenomenon was born.

The page, set up by the elder Nicholson and run by himself, his wife, his son and Bulluck, started as a social media experiment for Bigfish, a company that provides clients with services such as website creation, brand development and social media marketing strategy. But as interest continued to grow, Nicholson, 48, realized the Egg might be able to do more than he originally intended.

The page, highlighted by the Egg's heat tips, witty musings and photos of its day-to-day activities, was mentioned in local blog "I Love Memphis" during its first week. Soon after, the Egg became a symbol of optimism for many Memphians, and its fan base continued growing.

"Somewhere along the way, people kind of caught on to the whole good disposition, trying to be positive," said Nicholson. "Yeah, it's hot, but -- kind of a sunny-side-up outlook."

After two weeks, 395 people had "liked" the Egg's page, but Nicholson thought it had reached "critical mass." However, after reading about heat deaths in Memphis this summer, including one in which the victim had air conditioning but didn't turn it on, Nicholson and Bigfish decided to see if the Egg could help.

"They had air, but they just wouldn't turn it on, and we're going to assume that's because it was too expensive," he said. "We don't know that, but legitimately, that's sad. It's ridiculous. We decided to take a positive initiative."

The Egg posted a status promising to donate $1 to MLGW for every person who "liked" the page up to $500. When likes quickly exceeded 500, the maximum donation was raised to $1,000.

Nicholson said he wants the donation to be "personal" for all of the Egg's fans because people have developed a connection with the Egg.

"I don't just want to put $1,000 in a bucket and say, 'Hey guys, we just gave 1,000 bucks to MLGW,'" he said. "I want them to know they helped somebody who needs it."

Nicholson said the donation will be discreet, but he would enjoy seeing a recipient's reaction.

"I would love to see the look on somebody's face who opens up the little gift receipt that says, "'Fried an Egg on the Streets of Memphis' paid your utility bill for August," he said.

The future for the Egg is scrambled, said Bulluck and the Nicholsons. As for clues on Facebook, one photo shows the Egg dreaming of a white Christmas. Unfortunately, the Egg might not last that long, they said.

"Haven't you heard about the salmonella outbreak?" said the younger Nicholson, 22, who received a bachelor's degree from The U of M in May.

"Oh, I forgot about that," said Bulluck, a 21-year-old senior business management major.

"The Egg might have to be recalled."
© Copyright 2010 Daily Helmsman

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