Brianna Cowan of Wooden Paddle Pizza

How did you get into the pizza business? Is this where you always saw yourself or did pizza take you by surprise?
Quite literally woke up one day and found myself working in a pizzeria alongside my husband. When we got married, I had one toe in college, and one toe out. Eventually, “helping Jon” with the restaurant evolved into running the place right alongside him.

I n-e-v-e-r saw myself owning a restaurant. In fact, when I was in high school, and had to work all those night and weekend shifts, I promised myself that one day, I’d have a career where I’d never work a weekend again. Ah, the naïveté. Cute, right?

As an owner, you must wear many hats. What are your favorite roles/tasks in running the biz?
I’m definitely a nerd, so creating checklists and systems behind the scenes is kinda my jam. However, when we’re exceptionally busy, I like to jump into the dough stretching position on the line, to see if I’ve “still got it.” (I do.)

What has been the most exciting part of running a pizzeria?
The realization that eventually, someone else can!

Restaurants are one of the most difficult businesses to run. There are so many moving parts, it regularly makes my head spin. Sure, there’s a very low barrier to entry; anyone with a dream, some retirement savings, and a broken risk meter can open one. But to get a restaurant right right is no joke. The upside to all of this is, you can eventually be replaced. Lawyers will always practice law. Dentists will always practice dentistry. Restaurant owners, on the other hand, can eventually remove themselves from the day to day. My barometer for success isn’t money, it’s time. Jon and I both sacrificed a good portion of our 20s to build a business that affords us the time to do what we’d like to do. And now, we’re really starting to enjoy the fruits of our labor. That’s exciting!

Is your experience in the pizza business today the same as when you got started? How is it the same or how has it changed?
Oh my God, no. Things are so different! Like many restaurant owners, I used to be a hero and work every day, all day.  Then, we bought our first mobile, wood-fired oven, and everything changed. A Friday night without us at the shop seemed impossible, until it was necessary. And guess what? Everything was fine. A catering without us seemed impossible, until we had someone else run a catering without us there, and behold! That was fine too. This, coupled with a massive lot of reading in the self-improvement space, totally shifted my paradigm. Sure, my employees may not do things as well as I do. But, there’s a possibility that they may do it better. My stressed-out, overworked, thinking-about-everything-else-while-I-should-be-making-pizza-sauce self was NOT the best person to be running a shift. So, I fired myself. And things got so much better from there.

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What’s the first thing you do when you get to work?
We recently-ish bought a building that’s currently being built out, so our restaurant is on hiatus right now. Day-to-day is very atypical. Yesterday, I tiled a bathroom floor. The day before, I overhauled our website’s call-to-action. Ha! But once we open, we’re going to start that night’s service with a staff meal. The only reason we have employees that have stuck with us through multiple construction delays, irregular hours, and irregular paychecks is because we value them, and intentionally build camaraderie. Starting the workday with a staff meal will only continue that.

What’s next on your to-do list at the pizzeria today?
Well, it’s certainly not answering these questions! 😉 But next on the list is putting up some new Facebook ads for our catering.

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*This post is part of a month-long series featuring women in the pizza industry in honor of Women’s History Month!

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