At Fire Within, our team is proud supporters of the awesome clients who decide to make the choice of running their wood fired mobile businesses. These oven owners are the reason we love our job. There is nothing more exciting than watching how our various customers utilize their ovens to gain financial freedom and create amazing businesses!
What was your business experience before buying your mobile pizza oven? I am what some might call a serial entrepreneur. For as long as I can remember I was always involved in business enterprising activities. I started my business at the ripe age of 13 building and selling computers. I have always been enamored by the whole concept of business and spent a lot of effort learning, experiencing and absorbing everything I possibly can.
Who do you see as your primary customers and why? Our primary customer is always evolving. What we do is very unique and we are able to provide an incredible experience that virtually everybody can afford and appreciate. Our goal is to make sure everybody is happy and walks away with a newfound affinity for pizza and our brand. Ultimately we want people to think about us and invite us next time their friend is having a birthday, their neighbors are hosting a block party or they are getting married.
What was your journey coming to this decision? Raised in a culturally diverse atmosphere I grew up on the rustic style of northern Mexican cooking, the glorious spices of western Indian cuisine mixed with a bit of traditional American fare. At the ripe age of 18 I joined the Navy and I was fortunate to be afforded the opportunity to travel the world and experience a vast array of cultures. Arriving in Colorado I was destined to get a better understanding of flavor and technique. I immersed myself in food turning my small kitchen into a sort of lab creating cured meats, ground sausages, breads, fresh pastas, cheeses, butter, sauces and countless other culinary creations. What I began to realize was my true passion was cooking with fire. I begun to really appreciate the transformative power that a simple flame could have on people and food.
Why are you in the mobile pizza oven business? Mostly because I am crazy and I love fire. On a more serious note I do it because of it’s simplistic beauty that can take a lifetime to master. Its amazing to know you are a part of something with so many opportunities present from festivals to caterings to using this business as a launch pad for a traditional restaurant.
What do you wish every person should know before becoming an owner of a Fire Within Mobile Pizza Oven? As with any small business it will be a lot of hard work and an incredible learning opportunity. If you decide to become a member of this incredible community make sure you have the passion that true Fire Within, as this is what will get you through the darkest days and make the rewards that much greater. You will make mistakes but learn from them, most importantly learn what not to do again. Above all else you must be flexible and understand the only constant is everything changes.
In high school, I worked in a resort restaurant learning the ins and outs of food service kitchens. As well, I have always had a passion for serving food to those around me. It is very satisfying watching someone in moments of joy eating the food that I have prepared. Many of my friends and family had suggested that I consider a food business. With the success statistics not being favorable, I had always resisted the idea for fear of failure.
With a food business far from my mind, but continuing the idea of entertaining as a hobby, I began large scale backyard project that included a deck, patio, outdoor bar under a pergola, lots of limestone pavers, and the idea of an outdoor kitchen. As I began researching options for the kitchen, I stumbled onto the idea of including a Tuscan-style brick oven that would heat with wood. At this point, I knew nothing about wood-fired cooking and had only experimented with homemade pizza in my kitchen without much success.
The biggest struggle that I had to overcome was me: my fear of failure and all of the excuses I was making to procrastinate getting started. I am very pragmatic. Everything I do has to have an end goal, a process to get there and a plan for execution. There was much to learn and so much that I didn’t know. I went over every detail many times to ensure every “i” dotted and every “t” crossed. If it wasn’t for the persistent encouragement from Ajith making sure that I was keeping my butt in gear on this project, I might still be sitting on the couch thinking about what might have been. I kept reminding myself that people don’t lay on their deathbeds regretting what they have done. They lie they’re regretting what they haven’t done. For all of those considering this endeavor, you have to get off your rump and make it happen. If you follow the book, go to at least one Wood Fired University, and have a passion for what you are doing; you can be successful.
I most enjoy the expression that people give when they eat the food. It is not just a facial expression, they feel it in their whole body. Their shoulders droop, their knees bend, their head tips back and their whole aura glows brighter when they bite into that warm, crisp, chewy dough topped with deliciousness. The texture of the fresh mozzarella layered over creaminess of the sauce soaked into the top of the crust reminding you of a grilled cheese dipped into a hot cup of savory tomato soup. The experience touches their soul, and we get to provide that. I especially love the east coast folks that walk up to our booth determined that we are going to serve them some second-rate commodity pizza. They are let down so often in the Midwest that they are a bit cynical. They become some of our most loyal return customers. We often hear; “this reminds me of back home” or “this is better than Naples.” I have never been to Naples, so I don’t know, and I have a lot of respect for the Neapolitan craft, but we appreciate the compliment, and we love our pizza.
There are so many rewarding things associated with this business. I can only attempt to summarize a few. It is fascinating that we never stop learning and perfecting out craft. Our crew is an impressive group of people with as much passion for the business as I have. I love teaching and leading them to be a part of something that they are proud. Each type of event has its own unique set of learning opportunities. There is a great sense of accomplishment when you knock out a wedding for 160 people, and everyone is happy with how well it went and how delicious the food was. Getting to see familiar faces when you do reoccurring events like our Saturday morning farmer’s market or monthly winery events. I especially like when the wineries that have outdoor patios, and we get to see the people enjoying the food. We immerse into the experience. Of course, the financial benefits are whatever you want them to be. The harder you work, the more events you book, the more money you make. Once you determine your breakeven point, converting on sales is easy. You have to get out there, sling some world-class pies, and collect the cash!
We have a local food truck association that has been wonderful. We meet every other month to discuss the community and events. We have a Facebook group where we share information and a website where we connect with inquiring customers. When someone contacts us as a community through the site, it is posted on in the Facebook group, and we all have an opportunity to work with the event organizers if it is a fit. We share a lot of information in this forum beyond event dates. It is very worthwhile. All of the local businesses that have come to rely on our services are also a great community. Farmer’s market coordinators, winery/brewery owners, and local festival organizers are all great contacts to have. You need them, and they need you, include them in your best friend list.
I started as an H&R Block tax preparer and franchisee while Laura was an H&R Block Office Manager. During the rest of my adventures in employment, Laurabeth was keeping the home fires burning as a stay at home household manager and home schooling mom to three absolutely amazing children; William, Daniel, and Emma Grace. I cut my teeth in the restaurant business at Golden Corral while in high school and college learning everything from dish washing up.
We always wanted a family business where we could work along side each other and our children. To continue their education in a real world laboratory where they could see what it was like getting a business going from scratch and learn skills in a real world environment that they could never acquire in a classroom or college experience. We wanted to teach life skills that would serve them forever no matter what they did and we couldn’t think of a better way then the real heat of customer service and the daily grind of the hospitality industry.
Honestly, we weren’t looking to get into the wood-fired industry but we wanted to start a pizza restaurant and had started branding a concept similar to Blaze, Pizza Rev, and several others utilizing a high temp oven but ultimately ran into trouble with restaurant financing and location selection in a college town so we had to scrap the business plan for that brick and mortar but figure out a way to keep our family dream alive. Pizza was a family favorite and something the rest of the world enjoyed as well. So much so that the college town we were starting in already had 16 different restaurants that were either exclusively pizzerias or served pizza on their menus and that total did not include all of the convenience stores that had pizza available as well.
Fire Within’s mobile wood-fired ovens gave us the opportunity to keep our family dream alive by going mobile. We were able to show our community at large a viable pizza concept that was very different from what they were already used to. We did embrace wood-fired concept identity (the oven we would have used would have been gas) and ultimately realized the far superior nature of the product and made it part of our brand as well. Being wood-fired is really the signature that would separate us from the franchised and mechanized versions of what pizza had become in the US and expose them to a far superior product unlike any they had experienced before locally and the novelty of it being mobile just made it generate that much more buzz when we should set up.
As our business grew and our popularity increased, we had to address the capacity and logistic issues in our commissary and community. As demand grew we had to manage our dough so we could serve all week from a space that we didn’t have full or exclusive control of or space in. We lost a lot of dough our first year from other people’s employees being careless in that shared space, and as our sales and popularity grew we also found it necessary to add a second trailer for all of those special days we needed to be in two places at once. Again, logistically that created a brand new set of struggles with staffing, planning, and prepping. The ultimate fix was us acquiring a property that would be our own that we could also plan for our future.
Today our struggles are very different, we now have our food truck, an exclusive catering trailer, a quick service restaurant and our own commissary kitchen to service it all with dedicated dough makes who sometimes make dough up to 4 days a week! What have I found to be the most rewarding/best part of being a mobile wood-fired oven owner? It’s been two-fold. It’s been the time spent with my family at some amazing events and getting to share those experiences with my family in a way that I could never have otherwise and in getting to know so many wonderful people in our community! I’ve noticed that fire is both primal and communal so it instantly draws people in and they love to watch the process, take pictures, and talk to us and about us. For some of them its even been infectious and addictive but we love to see that kind of excitement in our community! It’s rewarding to know they are rooting for us and our success!
We found support from our families, both emotionally and financially. They are on board with us and have been our best advocates and sounding boards along with loudest cheerleaders! And among our cheerleaders was also our family of faith. They too have also been so encouraging throughout this journey, from the selling of the H&R Block franchise to the ultimate dream fulfillment of opening the restaurant, they have been with us cheering us on every step of the way. No list of support would be complete without the whole Fire Within team. They have been a great resource in times of need and doubt and the online community has been invaluable to bounce ideas off of or to follow their threads. Having a group and community that we know shares the real and eminent struggles with and to just know we’re not alone in our struggles (or insanity) is hugely helpful. Getting to know other food truckers around the state and joining their forums and groups also gives good insight into what is going around and coming down the legislative pipeline.
Today, we are fully immersed in the restaurant and catering experience! We’ve parked the food truck aspect of our business through winter after 2 years of hard charging service. We’ve had it out almost daily and have run it very hard trying to keep up with demand and staying on the positive side of cash flow so it is in dire need of some maintenance and repair. With us having our own commissary and dining room it has added a new dynamic to our family and business. I’ll miss the food trucking during this 4 month break because its a more intimate guest experience and the volume is so different in the restaurant. But we are certainly celebrating the multiple steams of revenue provided between the food truck, the catering, the restaurant, and even the smaller events we cater out of the restaurant that we couldn’t justify taking the trailers out to.
My background is in the theater as a professional singer and actor in musicals for the stage, as well as tech. On top of that, 33 years of television as an Emmy Nominated Editor for top networks; Food Network, Travel Channel , Discovery Channel and HGTV, to name a few.
Diane has a background in graphic design and is an amazing mixed media artist. We are the homeschooling parents of three, and all of them involved with Colorado Pizza Company, which was also started as a homeschool project that got out of hand!
My brother Shawn, a highly successful entrepreneur in aviation, asked if I had seen one of those ovens on a trailer making pizza in 90 seconds. After a quick google search, and some in-depth research,we came across the top company dealing with wood fired ovens…Fire Within.
I dream in color, or so I have been told, so struggles to overcome are better defined as stepping stones of various sizes in no particular order. I think my lack of patience was one thing I had to work on… as a visual and tactile learner,I needed to actually put my eyes and hands on something to fully understand it. From the naming of our company and discovering it’s purpose… to our four day culinary training focusing on the oven and everything a dreamer can do with it… the thrill was in! Seeing how far we could take an idea and grow it without losing touch of the reality that being still and listening before jumping in full speed is nothing short of wisdom. OK… we may have jumped faster than we should have!
Ours is a family business. The hands-on education that our kiddos have and are receiving, building a unique business from scratch and growing it into a thriving, sought-after success story, was as rewarding as it gets. Started as a homeschool project, making artisan pizzas with a mobile oven has now become a good source of income for each of them. It is truly an invaluable experience, and the older two have now branched off with small start-ups of their own. Proud parents we are!
We also find it extremely rewarding to give back to Veterans, Active Military, Police and Fire personnel. These folks are blessed with a free pizza, and their response has often been, “Who does that?” As business grew, the rolling kitchen that pulls our oven blew it’s engine. Literally out of the woodwork came over 75 people who teamed up to get us back on the road to making pizzas. In three weeks! We were totally blessed by that because this business was now our only source of income. Of course, as questions came up having to do with the oven, recipes and the running of the basic wood fire business, Fire Within became our go-to team. From their Wood Fire University, to frequent calls of encouragement from owner Ajith – everyone was out to see us succeed.
We never thought we would be voted Number 1 Food Truck in Parker, Colorado, just three seasons in. Parker is one of the fastest growing communities in the United States, and number one is quite an honor. Our guests are simply awesome. We have followers looking us up online to see where we will be. We have made good friends. We have employed a team. And we miss making pizzas when we take a break!
We are out 3-6 days a week, taking Sunday’s off, with our strong season May-October. Our bread and butter are the fantastic breweries we serve, private catering with all-you-can-eat buffets, and large scaled events where our record is 348 pies in 3 hours using our little tailgate oven! Get good shoes right off the bat. Know that making thousands of pies takes a willingness to step outside of the box, be sore, be confused at times with laws and taxes, and that simplicity is the key to success. Hire great people you WANT to be with and bless, and have amazing family support. Finally a love for creating great food in a unique way will propel you into success. This business is half show, half pizza… so be ready for it.
Do not underprice yourself, or your business model. Let your menu change and adapt as often as your recipes change, and remember that a workman is due his wages. After you get some experience under your belt, know that at any event you participate in or any location you serve – you are not there for the practice. This is a business, albeit a fun and rewarding one. Dream big!