I come from a sort of wierd, back door, ecclectic, perspective. I started working with dough mainly in bakery settings as a toddler growing up in the NJ/NYC area. My mother's family came from Italy and brought the ways with them. Everything was scratch made and the natural thing was to put the kids to it asap. I have no formal training. It all has come via great cooks, pizza makers, bakers. I have worked in a dozen or so places that dough was my job. I did music full time for 20 years and the dough always was there for me when I needed extra $
With that said I never dealt with the day to day stuff of running or owning a shop. But 2 years ago I was able to have a commercial baking space built at the high school I work at as a special education teacher. A new high school was being built and I now occupy a brand new state of the art baking/pizza space. The district had no money to fund this project other than build the space to code. So we have to be self sufficent. This has thrust me full tilt into running a business. If we don't turn a profit we are done. We are doing fine financially and I have learned much about running a business. It isn't much different then when I ran my band/owned a record lablel. So with this in mind I will answer the questions. Walter
This is the most important part of any endeavor. Feel and see the vision of it all working beautifully. This is something to grab hold of when times get scary. Most people don't have visions and when they get scared see doom and gloom. This keeps most people from blindly following their dreams.
Follow your dreams. Don't let anyone or yourself derail them. Life is too short not to dream big. Too many people analyze instead of allowing themselves to be guided. The universe has a perfect plan if we will follow it blindly. I have been living this way for over half a century and it just keeps getting better with each new chapter. The first thing is make the pizza you love and have to stop yourself from eating 3xday seven days a week. Forget what others say will or won't sell. You can crunch numbers till you die and never get off the ground. Yes you have to do some up front figuring but that is not that big a deal. The dream is. Figure out how big you want to be and what style/other if any items you want to make. Next figure what ovens, how much space for eatin if any, what mixer, fridge, figure how many hours you want to work a day/week.
Location is important depending on where you are located. In a major city with food lovers it isn't as important as in the rural areas of america where location becomes more important. I feel like Yogi Berra here with talking in circles but the location is not near as important as the product and vibe of the place. Most people overthink things and make an average product at best so they have to work those angles to max to survive. I prefer to let this all unfold and keep the faith that people will come no matter where I open up. Making things with love creates a special environment. People regularly tell us they love our pizza but they also love coming in and being a part of the culture. We are a happy place. That added with good food means nothing but good vibes. I know this all sounds hippy (I was one) and California karma, and such, but it is the key to having a good life. I am out here in central Ohio where people think little cesars is good pizza. Yet they continue to come and buy our stuff. It is a major shift in their food palate but it is working. My next journey will be owning a small building that my wife and I will live in and the shop will be on the ground floor. I see this vision coming and just have to be patient and enjoy the journey. I am in a great spot right now and am in no hurry to rush things.
For me, the small ma/pa set up is the only way to go. The more employees the more headaches. You lose control of the product and will have constant problems. After 20 years in the baking industry I have observed the average employee is marginal at best. Also the more size /varieties ofpies you make, the more toppings, the more other food items you sell, the more work there is. Again you have to figure how many people you want as employees. A friend here opened a full tilt Italian deli about a year ago with about 20 homemade items a day. She is making it all herself. It is too much and I doubt she will make 2 years before burning out. I will always keep it simple with a very small place, seating for no more that a dozen or 2, no advertising, no buy one get one deals, etc. This is not a plan for making swimming pools and vacation homes. It is a model for small artisan, family run.
- Where did you waste money?
I haven't yet.
- Where did you waste time?
worrying it wouldn't work but that didn't ever last too long because the vision of success kept shinning bright.
- What frustrated you?
people struggling with wrapping their heads around the fact that world class NY style pizza can be made in a public high school by special needs students. It is all proving I wasted my time. We are running at capacity and with the newspaper article that came out on us Saturday, pizza orders are doubling.
- Hired the wrong people, how?
I don't get to hire. My students are assigned. The passion shines so bright in the good ones it is simple to see who I would hire and not hire.
- Trusted the wrong people, who and why?
Hasn't happened. Most of the time this happens is when we project what we want to see. That is always going to be a disapointment. Take people for who they are and it makes life a lot easier.
- What would you do differently looking back?
Nothing because everything that happened had to happen to make today what it is today. Keep the faith that it all is destined to succeed and all one has to do is follow the passion blindly.