[Aimless Header]
Meet Ryan
Hey everyone. My name is Ryan Powell and I have a vision--a spectacular idea. Unlike the many other spectacular ideas I've had previously in life, I intend to follow through with this one because it is right this time. Not that my other ideas were wrong or anything. It's just that this time I can make it happen without the impossible job of convincing someone to trust me with a couple hundred thousand dollars. Oh I still have to rely on people--that's built into the rules I've imposed on myself--but it's a different kind of reliance.

I do not intend to tell my life's story here; I'm just going to tell you some things about me that relate closely to Aimless. I probably won't even tell you about myself so much as I'll tell you things that reveal a lot about me. So here goes...

[Ryan standing outside]

The Path to Aimless Began with Failure
I think it's safe to say I am an eccentric person. I am honest, intelligent, creative, analytical, and I work as hard as anyone, which should be evident within the pages of this web site. It seems like those qualities ought to count for something in the job market, but for some reason I have never been able to find a remotely decent job or even an entry-level job that could open the door to a decent job.

Currently 33 years old, my most recent regular job paid $7 an hour, and I've never been paid more than $9 an hour. Well, that's just not acceptable anymore because I'm worth more than that and, like everyone, I don't like being ripped off. So I'm not going to let it happen anymore.

Yeah, we've been here before. Like when I turned 30.

The Pizza Dream
At age 30 I decided to turn my pizza-making hobby into a pizza-selling business.

I don't expect you to just take my word for this, but I make the best pizza you can get anywhere. And no one taught me anything about pizza, either; I taught myself. I began by using recipes from pizza books written by so-called experts, but it wasn't long before I knew a lot more about pizza dough than all the pizza book authors and celebrity chefs.

After making at least one pizza literally every day for years, I knew pizza dough inside and out. I can replicate the chain stores' pizzas, the local pizzeria's pizza, real New York style pizza, or just about any other kind of pizza that's ever been made. But I can also make styles of pizza that no one else has even thought of before. And they're not just different; they're good. I wouldn't have it any other way.

[Split image with a pic of Ryan stretching dough and a pic of him tossing dough]

But getting back to 30...

My 30th birthday was December 29, 2003. The big Three Zero flipped some kind of switch that told me it's time to start doing something with my life instead of delivering Toyota parts for $8.50 an hour. So I started thinking about turning my hobby--my passion--into a moneymaker.

In early 2004 I figured out what equipment I would need for a pizzeria, then I started figuring out how much the equipment would cost. I already had a pretty clear mental picture of the pizzeria, so I started asking myself how I would get people to come to my pizzeria instead of their usual pizza joint.

Shortly thereafter I was turned on to Pizza Marketing Quarterly Magazine, at which point I realized there is a name for all the stuff I'd been thinking about: Marketing. It turns out that I already knew a lot about marketing; I just never thought of it as marketing. (You don't have to know the name of something in order to understand it. I have a friend who cannot make sense of the most simple guitar chord diagram, but he can play guitar as good as anyone on this planet.)

By the spring of 2004, knowing approximately how much it would cost to equip a pizzeria, I became obsessed with the marketing aspects of operating a pizzeria. I read my PMQs and spent a lot of time thinking about marketing. I began writing a business plan and messing around with PhotoShop, creating prospective pizzeria logos and templates for marketing materials. And you know what? I got pretty good at it, even though I had no experience in either graphic design or marketing. I didn't become an expert graphic designer or anything, but my stuff looks a lot better than the work of many so-called expert graphic designers.

I Volunteered to Put Up or Shut Up... It Didn't Work
Beginning in the summer of 2004, because I had no capital to open my own pizzeria, I searched for outlets in which I could utilize my pizza knowledge and talents. I offered to work for failing independent pizzeria owners for almost nothing if they'd just give me the chance to make them money by implementing my marketing ideas. I told them if I failed to help them DOUBLE their sales figures within one month, I expected them to fire me. I devoted at least a couple hundred hours designing some materials to present one owner, but he didn't bite. And I didn't know it then, but that was a sign of things to come.

You may ask why I've offered to work for failing pizzerias instead of successful ones. Here's why: I was looking for the opportunity to prove myself and possibly to find a place where I could become an integral part of the operation. Failing pizzerias have a demand for what I offer, regardless of whether the owners realize it. Conversely, successful pizzerias don't need me, and I don't need them. However, as I have learned again and again since 2004, owners of struggling and failing pizzerias (there's no shortage of them) are not exactly the brightest folks.

It's no accident that these people don't make money owning a business. They have huge egos that overpower the reasoning parts of their brains. They refuse to put money into the things that make money, like effective marketing strategies and reasonable wages for great workers. And instead of giving their few customers good reasons to return, they give customers good reasons not to return. They are takers, and only givers succeed as independent pizzeria operators. They have proven to me again and again that they would prefer to lose thousands of dollars each month than listen to some "long hair" who offers to start for almost nothing, guarantees to make them a lot of money, and demands to be fired if he fails to help them double their sales within a month.

So what do you do?

Here's what you do: You try to expose your talents by competing in the US Pizza Team trials in New York City.

[Stretching dough to see how ridiculously thin I can make it without ripping it]

A Day of Heartbreak and Consolation
On November 2, 2004 I competed in the Largest Dough Stretch division of the US Pizza Team trials in New York City, realistically expecting nothing less than first place and a spot on the US Pizza Team. My plan, if I won, was to use the publicity to attract investors to help me open a pizzeria.

Well, I didn't win. In fact, I was disqualified because I ended up with two large holes in my stretched dough. But my performance was the most dramatic and  memorable moment of the whole competition. Dramatic and memorable enough to earn me an appearance in Michael Dorian's documentary about pizza, Pizza! The Movie.

My performance was memorable because I used a technique unlike anything anyone had ever seen (or even considered) before that day. According to what people have told me, early on in my 5-minute performance all the competitors and spectators thought I was some kind of idiot, due to my unorthodox technique. But three or four minutes into my stretch, they realized I wasn't such an idiot because my dough was paper-thin and HUGE!!!

Although I appeared to be headed for victory, everything went wrong. With about 30 seconds left, I flopped my dough out onto the floor to prepare it for the official measurement (kind of like what I'm doing in the picture above). Unfortunately, the dough was a lot more elastic than I expected, so it shrank a whole bunch when it hit the floor. By then I only had about 15 or 20 seconds left to try to make the dough stick to the floor, and I panicked. I put my knees down on one edge of the dough and reached out across the dough, stretching it and slapping it to make it stick to the floor.

Even at this point it looked like I might win. But then my time was up, and I jumped up off the floor. Before I even got to my feet, I saw them: the two holes my knees had ripped in the dough. As I stood up, there was a collective groan from the crowd of a couple hundred people because they knew it was over for me. So I just jumped off the stage and looked for some kind of hole to crawl into.

Ironically, as soon as I was off the stage, a US Pizza Team veteran, Joe Carlucci (now a member of the World Pizza Champions), told me how awesome he thought my performance was. I already knew who Joe was because I'd seen him on one or two Food Network shows, and I thought it was cool that he was impressed, but I just wanted some water and a cigarette. And I wanted to cry.

Before the day was over, no less than 30 people said something to me about my performance. Spectators and competitors alike, including most of the guys I'd seen on TV. Some said they thought I was going to win until my disaster occurred. Others told me how their impression of me changed dramatically during a minute or two of my performance. And several competitors were especially impressed when they found out I had absolutely no experience in the pizza industry (except as a driver). The one comment I remember the most, though, came from a fellow competitor from Homer, Alaska. (I can't remember his name.) He's the one who told me that what made my performance so great was that I used a technique no one had ever seen before. It just blew everyone away.

I have more to say about that, but that story is long enough already.

Another Couple Years of Pizza Stagnation
From 2004 to 2006 I searched for my pizza opportunity, but it never came and it's never going to come.

So again, what do you do?

Here's what you do: You take your life into your own hands. You come up with an idea that no one has ever had before. Then you go out and do it. And you don't give up until it's done. That where I am right now (as of January 2007).

That's Aimless.
Aimless needs your help!
If you like what you've seen here, I humbly request that you send an e-mail to a friend, inviting him or her to Aimless. That's all I ask of you. You may not believe such a small favor can make much of a difference, but I know your cooperation could spark an intense snowball effect. I sincerely appreciate your assistance. Thank you.

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