Path to Aimless Began with Failure
I think it's safe to say I am an eccentric person. I am honest,
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
paid more than $9 an hour. Well, that's just not acceptable anymore
I'm worth more than that and, like everyone, I don't like being ripped
So I'm not going to let it happen anymore.
Yeah, we've been here before. Like when I turned 30.
At age 30 I decided to turn my pizza-making hobby into a pizza-selling
I don't expect you to just take my word for this, but I make the best
you can get anywhere. And no one taught me anything about
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
memorable enough to earn me an appearance in Michael Dorian's
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
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
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
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.
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).