Passion’s Place in Business, plus a Jalapeno, Chorizo, and Queso Fresco pi!

There is a joy in starting your own small business, as anyone that’s done so can attest to.  You likely have the type of personality where you like to be in charge, have a want/need to create something of value, and enjoy the challenges and busyness that come with.  (It sounds a little narcissistic, right?)  The romantic view of  pouring your passion into something that you love or truly believe has created many small businesses out there, and feeds the idea that anyone who’s truly passionate about something can make their dream come true and be successful.

But what if you don’t have that passion? If not, then it becomes more of a chore, and the rewards must be far higher to receive the level of satisfaction for to help drive your focus on the venture.  Without the passion, the drive is far harder to muster within yourself to push forward with business!

As we get closer to our first market, everything in my own schedule get’s busier.  While I”m lucky enough to have the opportunity to work from home up to two days a week (thus saving me 3 hours each day I work from home), my time after work is now filled with check lists of what’s in place, what’s not, training volunteers, contacting folks, and just aligning everything to ensure our target date of our market open on June 1st is ready.  Is it tough schedule wise?  There is far less “relaxation” time, far less time to enjoy TV, or date nights, or going out to movies as now I essentially have two jobs at the same time now.  Am I enjoying it?  Absolutely… the idea that we’ll be selling pizzas at the market in under a mere two weeks fills me with all sorts of emotions .. excitement leading off, angst that we don’t have all our equipment yet and agreements in place yet, nervousness that anything that could go wrong WILL go wrong, etc.

But it helps to look at what’s gone right so far:  We’ve had a successful kickstarter translating into family, friends, and strangers that believe in our vision.  We’ve practiced, and practiced, and practiced some more to get a technique down with opening the pie (which I”m trying to teach to my partners and volunteers for when I’m not at the market) along with a recipe that we believe people will love, the county health department has given us the okay to proceed (which was far less painful of a process than I thought, perhaps because I had done my research on food safety pretty in depth), etc.

It’s the little goal achievement that help continue to drive me forward and push me to focus on the next task.  Goal achievement, as well as the fun I have shopping for equipment for our business.  Nothing like more toys and tools to play with, like the arrival of our oven paddles, equipment, etc.


I guess what I’m saying is, if you don’t have a passion for the business you’re considering getting into, you’re probably better off just NOT going into the business… It will show.  Who here watches Shark Tank?  It’s a great show where people with business ideas are able to pitch it to five “shark” investors to see if they’re willing to partner with them from a money and business standpoint to help make the proposer’s business take off.  A recent episode of Shark Tank (which I’ve begun watching in the mornings on my DVR while I make the dough), one the sharks rejected partnering with a proposal because through the whole pitch, the two owners never conveyed their love for their project, but focused solely on the infrastructure and potential income generation they believed would be great.  (It was a pretty weak infrastructure to be honest, and very untested).  It’s easy to tell when someone isn’t passionate about their job or business… it doesn’t mean you can’t necessarily be good at it without the passion, but you’re definitely a lot less likely to make the sacrifices and put in the extra time to make it great.  It comes out in your body language as you do “tasks” associated, in the way you talk about your business, in your excitement or there lack of when you execute.  And I firmly believe that your customer/audience can feel it, see it, and will be turned off by it.

At a recent market I went to, you could tell who was truly excited about their business, believed in their product, and wanted to engage you by telling you more and more.  And you could also tell who was burnt out, no longer wanted to be there at the market, and was ready to toss it all in, but probably kept at it just to make a bit of extra cash or hope that somehow, they’d get lucky and hit it big with someone wanting to place a big order with them.  And in the same fashion, it was easy to see which tents were filled with people ready to interact, talk, and learn more while other tents were just empty of customers, with the vendor standing there looking like they were ready to go home.

As the new tagline of one of my favorite companies, Baking Steel, says:  “Start Doing Things You Love”

It’s such a simple belief and thought that just doesn’t seem to translate in nearly enough people.  On a semi-related note, I feel like I should get another Baking Steel just for that quote!  Perhaps when I’ve made some profit from our business first though… =)

Now while I believe you need passion to drive the business, passion should not get in the way of making good business decisions for your business either.  All too many stories have been told of the passion and frenzy of a business owner not making good decisions for the business, and going down with the sinking ship because they were too passionate/obstinate to see things any other way.  There’s a place for that passion, and there’s a place for good decision making processes to ensure you’re taking your business the right way.  More on this in a future post…

Finally, I’d like to leave you with a new pi that we’ve been toying with that our taste testers (see family and friends) seems to have latched onto:


Oh yes… that’s jalapenos…. and chorizo… and queso fresco!  And it was delicious… While I personally think it needs some more tang (cholula maybe?)  this particular pie has been requested multiple times after we made it during one of test sessions.  Look for this to become one of our rotating specials.


Mobile Oven Selection and Next Steps for Registering Your Business

So let’s talk ovens.  When we first decided to make this a mobile business (so that we could go to Farmers Markets, move the oven into storage when we’re not using it for long periods, and delve into catering), I started researching into both into turn key operations (the oven arrives mounted and built already) as well as self build option.  For those who do a topical search for mobile ovens, the first oven’s you’ll likely see are the Forno Bravo ovens.  I’m not sure if this is because they’ve marketed well, if they have a dominant share of the market, or some combination of the two, but it’s easily the first thing that comes up in any search engine.  I’m probably not the first to tell you that if you plan to do serious research, Google really only lets you scratch the surface when you don’t fully understand what your searching for.  My initial search resulted in 4-5 ovens options, which gave us a lot of pause in pursuing the mobile since the set ups were running $12-20K.  I even called a few places, and they told me that a mobile oven set up would easily be $15K and up.

As I continued to dig deeper, check out forums focused on making great pizza, and mobile catering forums, I found that there were faaaaar more ovens than what my initial Google search turned up.  At the end of my searches, here’s what I turned up:

Round Boy Oven
Breadstone Ovens (FGM)
Los Angeles Oven Works
Raul’s Ovens
Bel Forno Pizza Ovens
Maine Wood Heat (Le Panyol)
Forno Classico
Outdoor Pizza Oven (Batali 750)
Earthstone Model 90 PA or 90 PAGW
Rocky Mountain Woodfired Oven (with Trailer)
FornoBravo Tailgater
Woodstone Portables – Trailered Oven
Solo Pizza Cart
Mugnaini Mobile Oven
Marra Forni Oven

And these are just the ones that could potentially be mobile!  So after talking to all these vendors, looking into their websites for UL and NSF certification, and reviewing oven designs, we started to narrow it down as a balance between cost and focus of the oven.  If anyone is ever looking for an oven, mobile or not, and would like to talk more about what I learned from each of these places, drop a note!  I’d be happy to share more info!

Here’s the thing:  Ovens aren’t designed equally.  Wood fired ovens (WFOs) can be build with larger openings for ease of putting in larger objects (whole turkeys!), have higher ceilings to hang stuff off of (smoking sausage, standing up turkeys to roast or even suckling pigs!), and are made of different materials (piece by piece bricks, cast cement, copper, etc.)  So what were we looking for?

Here’s what helped us simplify the list – We needed the oven to be cast, as with the travel we were going to do over roads, highways, etc. having a bunch of smaller brick pieces would result in many small pieces that would be vibrating creating potential for the oven to break apart more easily.  Our oven was going to be focused 90% of the time solely on making a great pizza, so we wanted a low dome (to keep the high heat close to the top of the pizza) for a more balanced cook.  We also wanted a smaller opening in general so that less heat would escape from the front of the oven, which would be open pretty regularly since we would be operating at the farmers market over 4-6 hours of time.  It needed to have UL/NSF certification so that it would pass health inspection.  We also wanted someone with great customer service pre-purchase as well as post-purchase, since this was new territory for us.  And, we wanted to keep the price low enough that we could afford to invest in it ourselves, so that mobilizing, permits, equipment, etc. could be covered mostly by the kickstarter.

Ultimately, we chose the Four Grand Mere (FGM), a French company that has expanded into the US and renamed Breadstone Ovens.  It met the requirements we were looking for, the owner was very active on forums, and they had great reputation from previous purchasers.  And that’s the new toy that’s been in my garage since last Tuesday!


Note the low dome, small entry way, and cast pieces instead of brick.


Let me tell you, the oven did not come so prettily arranged… it took my wife and I about 2.5 hours to unpack, and then move the pieces into place for this shot.  The oven is 700 lbs, and while it’s spread across 5 pieces (3 dome, 2 floor), the awkwardness of attempting to grip the pieces in a small space between the two of us was VERY challenging.  But for now, it’s set up and sitting in my garage, getting initial stages of curing thanks to a halogen lamp, until we can mount it and start some real fires.  Rest assured, you’ll see more pics as we build out the oven, whether you want to or not.  =)

So for those that are looking to this blog to learn more about setting up your business, even if it’s not food related, we’ve taken you through the process of becoming an S-Corp or LLC for your new venture.  The next step now is to establish your federal employer identification number (FEIN) so that you’re registered at the federal level.

First off, unlike registered your company with state, setting up an FEIN is FREE.  If you’re using a service or a website that is charging you for setting up the FEIN, you’re getting ripped off.  It’s an easy process, and you can do it online in just a few minutes here:

The site is only available from 7 AM to 10 PM EST, Mon-Fri (odd since it’s a website) so don’t plan on doing this over a weekend.  Since you’ve completed your S-Corp/LLC registration, the FEIN is actually breezy compared to what you had to do before… you’ve got your name in place, you’ve decided on your owners, picked an address, etc.  Just click through and fill out the info!  The only hiccup I noticed between the state of Illinois and federal level was that I was able to use any characters easily producible by the keyboard with State of Illinois, while at the Federal site doesn’t allow you to use non-letter/number characters.  So I can’t use commas, periods, dashes, etc.

Trust me, even with the hiccup, this was a fairly easy process.

Once you receive your FEIN, the next step in Illinois for our business was to register our business.  Confusing at first, as we’ve already registered our LLC, right?  Technically, the LLC/S-Corp is just the structure of your controllers for your business.  It basically tells the state you’ve set up a group of folks or have the intent to do business.  Now you actually have to REGISTER your business for the purposes of understanding what type of business you’re doing, and what type of tax they should be collecting from you.  I’m guessing this is true of all other states as well.

Here’s the website you need for registering your business in Illinois:

Again, a fairly simple process where they ask for your FEIN, LLC/S-Corp name, officer names and addresses, etc.  Then they have a string of very business specific questions (do you sell tires?  vending machine sales?  cigarettes?  are you renting a vehicle or hotel room for the business? etc.)  Our process was simple, yours may be less so depending on what your business is.

So as a recap, here’s what you’ve done to start your business:

1.  Set up your LLC/S-Corp with officers, paperwork, etc.

2.  Apply for your FEIN.

3.  After receiving your FEIN, register your business with the state.

There will be a few more steps for a food retailer that we’ll cover later, but for now, most generic businesses are set for a bit!  Congrats on being registered to do business in your state!

Alright, I’m off to the city for some meetings, to do some ingredient and equipment shopping, and then back home.  Tonight, I”ll be teaching one of my partners (Gambit) the intricacies of opening the dough, and then having him create 10 pizzas for practice so that we’ll have multiple folks that are capable of opening the dough!  Looking forward to a great pizza night!