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From Landscaping To Pizza

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  • From Landscaping To Pizza

    How often have you thought about getting into a business other than Landscaping? Once in a while we will hear from LCOs how they wished they had started this type or that type of company. How landscaping is just so competitive. In our latest business article we had the wonderful opportunity to talk with someone who once ran his own lawn care operation and has since started a pizzeria. As most of you can imagine, running a pizzeria is tough but it can be done. The Pizza Pizza business was started, at least conceptually, two years ago when Mike and Todd started talking about how to create their own business and stop working for somebody else. It was started by Todd, Mike and Mike's wife. The business got off the ground five weeks ago. Let's have a look inside this pizzeria called Pizza Pizza and see how it works.

    We sat down at a booth with Mike and Todd of Pizza Pizza and asked the following:

    In the past Mike you had been a landscaper, was that your first business?
    "Yes. That's easy to get into, again with the startup costs. A lawn mower and some power equipment is a lot cheaper than many other businesses." Mike

    Why did you stop landscaping?
    "It's an extremely competitive field and as far as getting the jobs and maintaining the jobs, they go to the bigger companies. They have a lot more equipment, a lot larger staff, they can do the job for a lot cheaper. The little guy is hard pressed to find any kind of business that they can compete in without having that equipment and having that personnel and having the money and the trucks and the trailers and all the equipment that goes along with it. So that was, it's a lot higher of a startup cost to get that kind of business going. It was easy to get into but to be competitive it takes a lot more than a one person operation." Mike

    Moving on to the pizzeria, why did you start the company?
    "We started the company so we wouldn't always be working for somebody else we needed a stepping stone to move into his (Mike) future and my future and this was the opportunity that presented itself" Todd

    What type of initial startup cost did you have?
    "Our initial startup cost was zero. The opportunities that came our way, the opportunities present before us allowed us to start with zero money. Pretty much zero money. We started with small credit cards and what ever money we had in our pockets, which was a couple of hundred dollars. A couple of paychecks and a lot of generosity by the owner of the building and the owner of the business." Todd

    If someone wanted to create this business from scratch, how much would they have to have in start up fees?
    "Scratch from an empty building, I would say they would need $100,000.00, for equipment, for design, advertising, ranges, and food." Todd

    What are the major expenses?
    "The major expenses would first be equipment. Food, plates, stoves, fryers, grills. Those are going to be your major expenses." Todd
    "We have about $60,000.00 in equipment, at least. The pizza ovens are almost $20,000.00 a piece." Mike
    The booths, coolers, lighting, the televisions, you are looking at at least $60,000.00 in what you can see." Todd

    Why did you choose this industry?
    "Our further goals, our next step beyond this is in close relation to it. The food industry portion we want to get into, the full scale restaurant. A pizzeria is pretty much the smallest scale restaurant that you can get. Its a good way to start yourself into the business if you want to get into the full scale restaurant and climb from there." Todd

    What are your future goals?
    "Our future goals are to get the full scale restaurant and start franchising, developing multiple units that is the next step in the process. Once we get that accomplished I think is when Mike is going to follow further goals of his own and I am going to follow further goals of my own. I don't know about Mike but mine are outside the restaurant industry but I need a good base to start to accomplish those goals." Todd

    Do you want to tell us more about what you want to do in the future?
    "I'd like to go into politics." Todd

    What would you like to do in politics?
    "Get elected governor and one day president." Todd

    And what about you Mike?
    "The whole purpose of this interview is so that people know you can start with little or nothing and find an opportunity that suits you. We kinda fell into this deal but there's opportunities out there if you look. The hardest part is getting started and we've been told many times we are accomplishing something now that most people dream about and this is our stepping stone into a future in the culinary industries. We both have strong culinary backgrounds and it was easy to do anything related to the industry. The opportunity presented itself and we choose to take it and now we are going to run with it." Mike

    "One thing we'd like to tell people is before coming into this, we had a few other places that we were looking at. They fell through, we couldn't get them. Don't be discouraged and don't stop at your first one. If there is no way to get it, don't be discouraged. At some point you gotta let it go cause for some reason your not supposed to be there but keep pursuing your dreams." Todd

    "The possibilities are endless. There is no limit to what you can do if you set your mind to it and you have a goal just run with it, just go." Mike

    How did you find this opportunity?
    "This was actually an ad in a newspaper for a business for sale. Upon talking to the owners of the business we were able to work out a deal where we operate and manage the business rather than we didn't have to buy it outright from the start, so our start up costs were very minimal as opposed to going in loans and leasing equipment and things of that nature, everything was here already." Mike

    "There was no savings, there was no loans. Now that we're in it, we have been open five weeks. We have a good ground to stand on and start looking for loans. We've proved that we can do it. The owner of the establishment has also offered for us to buy it now or to buy into it 50%. So we can start looking into loans now so that we can be co-owners with him, instead of just running the place for him we can be running it on our own. It will be a whole package deal." Todd

    Did you have any jobs in the past that led you up to this. If so, what were they and how did they prepare you?
    "I think you (Todd) went to culinary school and had several different jobs in kitchens working for somebody else. We finally got fed up making somebody else rich and decided to go out on our own and share the profits ourselves." Mike

    "I know myself as he mentioned has gone to culinary school, I've worked with food for approximately 20 years now, Mike has worked with food for 12-15 years and our third partner Sabrina (Mike's wife) has worked with food for 20 or more as well. So we have a good backing in the restaurant industry." Todd

    Do you have a favorite entrepreneur?
    "Col. Sanders. He started off with nothing and at 65 years old he started KFC. Where most people are starting to give up at life at 65." Todd
    "I like Donald Trump. Because he puts his name on everything, because he can." Mike

    Do you have any favorite business books?
    "Anything that I would recommend would be by Anthony Robbins. He motivates you to follow your dreams. Be who you should be, be who you want to be. Don't let the world get in your way." Todd
    "That's true. Follow your dreams, definitely follow your dreams." Mike
    "Don't let the past rule your future." Todd

    If you could start all over again, what would you do differently?
    "Personally I wish I would have come to the understanding that I wanted to be in government when I was in high school. Instead I waited until I was in my late 20's before doing that or else I would haven't gotten into the food business. If I had made correct decisions back in high school. I wouldn't do anything different with the business. With coming into it with zero capital, there's not much we could have done different. We are doing everything we possibly can to keep the business running and be a potential winner. Without the capital behind us it's tough. I'm not going to lie to you. It's tough on a daily basis, on a weekly basis, and definitely on a monthly basis, it's tough. Not having the money to start out with, not having the loans, you know, it makes your gut hurt and makes your wallet hurt. Your bills are going to suffer but you know what I wouldn't change it because it feels so much better than working for someone else. I'm proud coming into work, I'm happy coming into work, you know, half the time I don't leave work until 2:00 in the morning because I am still here working because I love doing what I do." Todd

    "Right, it's not because you have to, it's because you want to." Mike

    If you could have started in any other field, what would it have been?
    "I think our dreams and ambitions were for a full scale restaurant and not that we settled but we found a niche in the pizza industry. We found certain opportunities presented themselves to us and we choose to take the opportunities." Mike

    "When we came into this place, the main thing I got into Mike and Sabrina's head is, don't think of this as a pizzeria, don't regret not going into a full scale restaurant. This is our test kitchen. If we went into a full scale restaurant, we had the possible to do a lot worse. Not necessarily saying fail but it would have been a lot tougher on us doing a full scale restaurant. Hiring, getting the paper work, getting it all together. And this is definitely a test kitchen for us so that we can know what we are going to need when we do get to that point. When we progress to where we want to be." Todd

    Do either of you have family working with you now?
    "My wife. My wife is a one third partner." Mike

    Do you have any suggestions working with family?
    "If you have a strong family background you don't have to worry about it, everything falls into place." Mike

    What was best advice that you were ever given or the worst?
    "The worst my mother usually gives. Don't do it, don't do it, you might fail. Well we've learned that if you don't take the chance, you can't win either, you can't fail but you win. And what's better? Trying and failing or not trying and not winning. The past does not equal the future. You can lose your whole life, you win once and you stand proud. It doesn't matter how many times." Todd

    "I think the best advice I've ever been given was follow your dreams and don't give up. Keep pushing. What ever happens, happens. It happens for a reason you get up and move on, you continue, you push forward. You never give up." Mike

    "Do what ever it takes, thats our motto." Todd

    What do you like most about being in business and what do you like least.
    "Least I would have to say it would be the stress of money matter. What do I like the best? Would be the money matters." Todd

    "Least I would have to say the unknown. There's always an unknown element, if you are going to have enough business, if you are going to have enough money, if you are going to have enough food to do what you want to do. The best would probably be I would have to say being self sufficient. Not relying on a paycheck from someone else and being able to write your own paycheck. Being able to create something from your mind through your hands and actually have somebody enjoy it. It's a great feeling. Food is art, it's a creation. Everybody has their own personal touch that they put into it and we've come up with some really wonderful and unique food. People enjoy it. It's a great feeling to have somebody satisfied with what you have made." Mike

    How long do you predict it will take for you to make a profit?
    "Profit? Six months to a year." Todd

    What was your biggest surprise so far in starting this business?
    "Actually starting it. With no money in our pockets. That was a big surprise to be given that chance. Beyond that, would be the amount of happiness we feel doing it. The accomplishments we've gotten just by being here." Todd
    "There's two things, it's I would say the two surprises would be how hard it is and how easy it is at the same time. It's was easy for us to find the opportunity once we started opening our minds and looking for it. You always think something is easier until you actually get into it. If anybody tells you it's easy to start your own business, they're lying. It's not easy by any means. It's a lot of fun but it's a lot of hard work." Mike
    "It's hard work. It's alot of effort, it's a lot of time. You gotta be willing to sacrifice yourself to see that business come to fruition and if your not willing to put in that time and effort then your definitely not going to succeed to receive the rewards." Todd
    "We've been doing this for what five weeks now and the most amazing thing was calling up food suppliers and having food delivered. Opening up the door and having a truckload of food for you to make. That, it just it didn't seem real until that came through the door. That was another instance where we were supposed to have money up front but we didn't have any money to pay him. We actually started off the business with a post dated check to a food supplier. Now that's amazing, that's absolutely amazing we're in business and all of a sudden we're here and that's it." Mike

    Could we write about your story? Please visit this post and respond via email or PM.

    Reprint permission granted in part or whole when the following credit appears: "Reprinted with permission from (2004 Ditech 888-606-5150)."

    end of part 1
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  • #2
    Here are some screen shots from the interview, which will appear on the Gopherpreneur TV show. The show's goal is to educate and promote business. It's not often your average person is able to get a behind the scenes glimpse of what it takes to run a business. This show hopes to change that.

    Would you like to be interviewed for our TV show? Please contact us.
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    • #3
      What were you least prepared for?
      "I guess we were least prepared for the amount of stress that it takes on us and how we deal with the partners. Coming into it with good friendships and good reliable people puts a lot of stress and strain on that to where it really makes the elastic stretch." Todd
      "I don't think there was anything you could possibly be least prepared for. The entire experience is quite overwhelming once you get caught up into it. There's no specific part of it that you could be more prepared for. The entire experience is a big whirlwind. You start doing it, you get caught up in it and you just have to run with it." Mike

      What did you spend too much time, money or energy on?
      "We spent way too much energy worrying about things that we shouldn't have to worry about." Mike
      "Time and energy.
      Money, we probably spent too much money on food to start with, where we could have wisely spent that elsewhere. But it's a learning experience like Mike had said to me this afternoon, you live and learn. Ok so we bought too much of one thing, you know, you learned now for the next time." Todd
      "We came into the business not knowing how many of each specific item we were going to sell. So of course you are going to over buy cause you don't want to get caught without something. Then to over adjust and over compensate for not having enough you over buy again on different items. It's a roller coaster. It goes up and down. But for the most part, things are pretty smooth. Definetly I would say." Mike

      What didn't you spend enough time money or energy on?
      "Being prepared. The old cub scout motto, be prepared. It holds true in business as well as everyday life. We didn't know what to expect. We had no idea what to expect. We jumped into a business with both feet. All six feet, with the three of us and it's baptism by fire." Mike
      "And this is three people who have worked in the food industry for a long time and still jumping into it on our own. More work than we all believed." Todd
      "A lot more than anyone could have ever expected. It's still fun. It's the most enjoyable thing you can possibly do. But at the same token it was not something we expected to be easy but we thought it would be easier than it actually is and it takes a lot more work than any us us could have imagined. We've seen other people do it, we've done a little bit of it ourselves and it's just overwhelming. Completely overwhelming." Mike

      How do the different seasons effect your business?
      "They haven't yet. We're looking forward to the winter coming up. People not wanting to go out. We opened right after the summer ended. We're in fall right now. It's still nice out. Some days it's cold out, so we are getting a mixture of days on and off. Hopefully we are believing and hoping the colder it gets the more people are going to call up for deliveries and such. So we can't say how the seasons have effected us yet." Todd
      "We are definetly not a seasonal based business. Where we are in the community that we are in, it's a constant 24,000 people. There is a residence build up here. It's a community of approximately 24,000 people who are full year residence. About four or five miles down the road it starts to get to seasonal residencies that fluctuate anywhere from 100,000 people to 20,000 people. It doesn't really effect us. The same people are here every single day." Mike

      What type of licenses or permits are needed for your business?
      "You have to have a health department inspection certificate. You have to have a fire protection certificate and a sales and use tax certificate for the state." Mike

      Do you plan to expand to expand or stay the same size and why?
      "This place I would say is going to be the same size. The food, menu and quality will probably expand the longer we are in here. I don't see the actual pizzeria expanding. I don't think any of us have plans to go into a second one. Our next step up is a full scale restuarant. So that would be our expansion." Todd
      "Unless this goes better than we hoped. We can always have another one. You never know what's down the road. You never can tell. We learn how to run this as well as we possibly can and get it going." Mike

      How many hours a week do you put into running the business?
      "How many hours are there in a week? We eat, sleep and breathe this place." Mike
      "I'm probably in here over 70, easily over 70. Mike and Sabrina anywhere between 50 - 60. Matt's around 30." Todd
      "So it's a lot of hours put together." Mike

      How much vacation time do you allow yourselves each year?
      (Laughter from both)
      "Vacation? What's vacation? We put a lawn chair out back, just to get some sun. We throw water on each other thinking it's the ocean." Todd
      "We don't have vacation." Mike

      When was the last time you had a vacation?
      "When we worked for somebody else. You don't get vacations when you work for yourself. Especially not in the first 3 years." Mike

      When do you think your next vacation will be and where will do you want to go?
      "My vacations usually end up in Florida since that's where I am from. I'd like to go check out Arizona." Todd

      What was the best decision you ever made and what was the worst?
      "The best decision was to start this business. Definitely by far. To get into it, to actually do it. To not think about it anymore. I don't know what the worst decision could possibly be. The same thing? Probably the same thing. It puts stress on the person. It puts stress on everybody's relationships, friendships, partnerships. Your body, your mind. It is definitely not for everybody but I wouldn't have it any other way." Mike

      What would you say is your business motto?
      "What ever it takes." Todd
      "What ever it takes. Do it, just do it like Nike. Don't think about it. Do it." Mike

      What is your greatest business decision and worst business regret?
      "My greatest business regret was not getting started earlier on my own. Working for somebody and thinking that was all there was to it." Mike
      "I think my biggest regret is not coming into it with the correct capital, to set us up to succeed the way that we should be succeeding. That is my biggest regret. But I don't regret doing it. I just regret doing it without the capital. I am happy. I would be happy either way." Todd

      What makes your company stand out?
      "The food. The quality and the flavor of the food. I think we stand highest with that, just above customer satisfaction and knowing the customers." Todd
      "Knowing the customers. Knowing what they want." Mike

      Why do you feel most new businesses fail?
      "Most new businesses fail due to the fact that the people that start the businesses up, don't have the proper mentality, the proper capital, the proper funding What we did is something very untraditional, by starting off with nothing. Most business should have at least one years worth of capital. Working capital behind them before they even open the door. We came in here on a wing and a prayer and a promise and sometimes we pay for that. Most of the time the benefits out weigh any costs." Mike
      "With everything you've heard, we're not saying don't do it, don't chase your dreams. There is good and bad that you are hearing and that you have heard, but no matter what. WHat ever it takes. Follow your dreams. Chase them. Achieve them and make higher ones." Todd
      "Reach beyond your dreams." Mike

      What do you think are the most important business lessons you have ever learned?
      "If you're not willing to sacrifice for your business then you're just not giving yourself enough credit to actually make it. There's got to be sacrifices. Whether it's your time, your money, partially your family, your friends, your self. There's compromises to be made and sacrifices to be made. Everybody including yourself, your friends, your family and mainly your self have to realize this. We gave up cable television right now because the money can go elsewhere." Todd

      What are your top ten business rules that you follow?
      "Smile. Work hard. Put out the best product that you can. Be efficient. Cleanliness." Todd

      If you could talk to someone just starting a new business, what advice would you give them?
      "Pretty everything that we have been saying on this interview. Just do the best you can." Todd
      "If you want to do it, you can achieve it. There's no limit to the possibilities." Mike

      Finish this sentence. My dream is to....?
      "Become president of the United States." Todd
      "Be more successful than I already am. Just to continue." Mike

      How much capital would someone need to start a business similar to this one?
      "To do it the right way, um at least $150,000.00. For a turnkey operation, you talking closer to $300,00.00. If we didn't have the equipment and the building and the name and all those things available to us, it would have taken a lot more than we actually had. Or could possibly come up with." Mike

      When you are describing a turnkey operation how do you define that?
      "A turnkey operation would be to actually purchase a business outright and have everything ready for you. You're talking for a pizzeria in this area, in this state, anywhere from $85,000.00 to $125,000.00 for the business itself. That's not including any of the food any of the utility hook up any of your normal costs." Mike

      What are your major expenses?
      "For a pizzeria, cheese. Cheese is white gold. Chees is the most expensive part of the pizza. If you don't have cheese, you don't have a business. Plain and simple. Food costs we try to keep it at around 30%. There's so many different variables."Mike

      When you are saying 30%, you are saying 30% of?
      "All of the money you bring in, 30% of it goes to food." Todd

      What sort of gross income range could one expect from running a pizzeria?
      "To begin with, don't expect a paycheck anytime soon. Numbers for the bottom line, it varies. You won't be making the money you think you are going to make in the first month, 3 months, 6 months. You might start seeing a profit after a year. But you won't be seeing the numbers you think you are going to see for a while." Todd
      "The first 6 months are the hardest. If you can get through the first 6 months, you get over the first hurdle and then worry about the rest of it from there." Mike

      How long do you think it would take until a person could pay themselves if they started a pizzeria?
      "Don't expect it for the first year." Mike
      "At least the first year." Todd
      "If you're not willing to put your heart and soul and every cent you have into the business then don't bother going into it." Mike

      What type of range should one expect to pay in expenses when running a pizzeria each month?
      "$7,000 to $12,000 a month. There's gas, electric, sewer, water etc." Mike

      What would you say to people considering a sole proprietorship versus a partnership?
      "Well we can start off by saying, one of our partners tried to pursue a sole proprietorship and found out that he didn't want to do it by himself. He didn't want to get stuck doing all the work. Spending the 23 hours a day doing everything. With a partnership, everyone brings something different to the table. And having three partners is fantastic because everybody brings something different. Everybody has their good points and their bad points. And it's a blend." Mike
      "A sole proprietorship is not going to think of so many options when trouble comes or when the good times come or when there is just a need for change. When you have other people to bounce things off of, good and bad. You get a better blend." Todd

      What are your 1, 5 and 10 year goals?
      "The first year I would like to at least break even. Make a slight profit. 5 years, I would like to have my full service restuarant up and running. Basically the pizzeria is a test kitchen. We would like to get a full service resteraunt which includes a liquor license. There would be a small bar. Different entrees, prime rib, steak, seafood, Things of that nature. Rather than the fast food type we are serving here. With that in mind, in 10 years, I would like to have it franchised. And that's what I am shooting for." Mike
      "One year goal is to get this place running where we have a profit and we can begin to or already have begun our full scale resturant. 5 year goal is to have multiple full scale resturants. Be through college and running for an election. 10 year goals I've would have already wanted to be elected to an office. Be looking towards a higher office and have any stocks or claims in a restuarant be my cushion to see myself through my other goals, my main goals." Todd

      Any final words that you would like to offer?
      "The way that we are sitting here talking, the way that we are laughing and joking and you probably didn't hear half the stuff that was said because it was cut out, but we have fun at work. This is our place. This is our business. When somebody opens their own business, have fun with it. Don't be serious all the time. There's plenty of time that is going to make you serious." Todd
      "If you can't have fun with it, it's not worth it. It's not worth being here. It's not worth going through all the trouble, the heartache the sacrifice, if you can't have fun. Have fun, be yourself, enjoy what you are doing. You only go around once, you might as well live it to the fullest. " Mike

      Could we write about your story? Please visit this post and respond via email or PM.

      Reprint permission granted in part or whole when the following credit appears: "Reprinted with permission from (2004 Ditech 888-606-5150)."

      end of part 2 of 2
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