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MyLife with Rolf Wilkin

Author: Adam Wren Date: March 17, 2014

Creativity has helped this pizza chain owner’s business thrive.

NFIB Member: Rolf Wilkin

Business: Eureka Pizza, Fayetteville, Ark.

Employees: 200 (at 10 locations)

 

How did you become a small business owner?

I’ve always been an entrepreneur. After college, I was a self-employed advertising salesperson. One day, I stumbled into a pizza place to sell advertising, and the owners said, “We don’t need any advertising because we’re going to close our business.” I said, “You’ve got to be kidding me. You’re right down the street from the largest university in Arkansas.” At the end of the conversation, they said, “Why don’t you buy this pizza place?” I didn’t have much money, but it wasn’t worth much. So we were able to negotiate, and for $8,500, I was suddenly the proud owner of a pizzeria.

What do you love most about running a small business?

I like that every day is a new deal. It’s kind of like a roller coaster. There are really exciting moments, and there are scary moments, but there’s usually not a dull moment.

What is your biggest challenge right now, and how are you dealing with it?

Margins are historically low. In the restaurant business, the cost of food has gone up. It’s been hard to pass that on [to the customers]. We focus on having a high sales volume and one main offer: a $4.99 pizza that’s ready to go.  

What is the best part of your day?

Rolling up my sleeves, making pizzas and chatting with our crew members is the most fun I have. Each store has a different personality. We have a lot of teenage employees, so it’s fun to have young people with energy around you. They’re bubbling with ideas and creativity.

What do you read?

I read The Wall Street Journal and Investor’s Business Daily every day. But I’m really trying to read more books. I’m cracking open my dusty copy of Good to Great by Jim Collins. There’s a great new book I just bought called Built to Sell by John Warrillow.

What does owning a business allow you to do that most people don’t get to enjoy?

It’s the chance to be ultimately creative. For example, I like that I can use my advertising background to come up with an idea for a new ad, execute it and have it out there within a few weeks. My friends who work at big companies have a big chain of command to go through, and so many people have to approve things. It’s fun to be able to make things happen quickly.

What’s been your proudest moment as a small business owner?

When the recession started, there was so much fear and uncertainty in the economy that we had to close several stores and tweak our business model. But we were able to evolve. We added drive-through windows to all of our stores and mastered the concept of drive-through pizza. 

What have you not yet achieved that you would like to?

I still wish we could crack the code on expansion. I’d like to figure out what we need to do to build a new store and mathematically know that it’s going to be awesome.

What is your favorite thing to do off the clock?

Over the past couple years, I’ve rediscovered my bicycle. One great thing about Fayetteville is that there are bicycle trails everywhere. It’s been a lot of fun getting in shape and enjoying the great outdoors.  

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