Sara Polon gave up the spotlight to open a charmingly cheeky soup shop—and she's still getting laughs.
Seven years ago, Sara Polon, then 27, toiled for a government contractor by day and worked the Manhattan comedy club circuit by night. "The sound of a crowd laughing was soul-warming," says Polon. But comedy was exhausting. "One night a set would bring down the house; the next it might bomb," she says. After four grueling years, she realized she'd had enough—of New York and stand-up—the night a rat skittered over her feet as she stood outside a club.

Polon returned to her hometown of Washington, D.C., to regroup, but "I got so depressed," she recalls. "I was really struggling with what I want to be when I grow up." Polon, a health nut who had recently become a vegan, happened to pick up The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan's best-seller about where our food comes from. Inspired, she thought of her mother, Marilyn, an amazing home cook with a reputation among friends for her tasty soups. "She'd always been ahead of her time, cooking healthfully and with whole grains," says Polon. So she decided to lure her mother out of retirement to help her launch a vegan soup delivery business.

By 2008 the Polons had drummed up 500 e-mail addresses for a humorous newsletter that advertised each week's soups; customers could order pints or quarts to be delivered to their door. Under the pen name "Soupergirl," a hero who brings fresh, locally sourced soup to the masses, Polon described whimsical concoctions like the Back-to-School Blues Black Bean and Corn Soup her mother cooked for her as a child ("By Sunday night, I'd be wandering around the house wearing a cocktail dress, singing Nina Simone songs, holding a martini glass full of apple juice," she wrote). The more she hammed it up, the more her audience grew; to date, she has nearly 4,000 readers, hundreds of whom order soup weekly via the Soupergirl Web site.

Last September the Polons opened their first brick-and-mortar soup shop, in Washington, D.C. "There's an absurdity to owning a business, like when someone calls up to demand a refund on croutons," says Polon. "You have to laugh through the chaos. That would be harder had I not spent so much time in stand-up." —Kelly Dinardo

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