When the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic in March of 2020, Deborah Acio ’07 didn’t know what it would mean for her – or billions of other people around the globe. It seemed to flip the world on its axis. Acio lived in Atlanta, Ga., at the time, working in sales execution for Cricket Wireless. She soon found herself doing the best she could to keep herself and the people around her safe – working from home, socializing via Zoom and closely following the news about the public health emergency. It didn’t take long for her to realize that things would not be going back to “normal,” whatever that now meant, anytime soon. Acio knew she’d have to find a way to fill her non-work hours with something creative, imaginative and life-affirming during an enormously challenging period.
And so, the Le Moyne graduate, who joked that she’d gone from “hopping from country to country” to “hopping from (her) couch to her desk,” began baking pies. First apple. Then strawberry-rhubarb. Then she began experimenting with making a lattice pie crusts. She challenged herself to bake a pie a month. A business administration major who spent much of her career thinking in strategic, concrete terms, she relished the opportunity to unleash her energy in new and unexpected ways. Soon she found herself hitting on another idea: What if she used her experiences in the kitchen as the basis of a children’s book, one that would encourage children to be creative and adventurous, while also introducing them to a critical life skill – cooking? Just like that, Benji’s Berry Berry Pie was born. The story, which was published by IngramSpark in the fall of 2021, chronicles the adventures of the title charac- ter, a child with a passion for inventing things(including pie). The protagonist is based loosely on Acio’s two brothers, an engineer and an engineering student.
Acio now lives in St. Paul, Minn., where she continues to work at Cricket Wireless – and to create new stories for Benji. She credits the business classes that she took at Le Moyne with instilling in her the grit and determination it took to step out her comfort zone and become an author and entrepreneur. Her training in business prepared her to set deadlines, manage her relationship with her editor and illustrator, and navigate the extensive copywriting process. Yes, she acknowledged, taking on something new was at times frightening. Often people who want to make a change are paralyzed by “imposter syndrome,” doubting their own abilities. It is often easier for us to stay where we are. But ultimately, Acio believes that embracing change can make you – and the world – better.
“There are a lot of brilliant ideas that are sheltered in people’s minds and are never released into the world,” she said. “I think that people need to get over the fear that if they try something new they are going to be mocked, and instead listen to what their hearts and minds are telling them. I’m a big believer that if you want to do something, you should go out and do it. You only have one life to live. You might as well live it to the fullest doing what is most meaningful to you.”