MyLife with Rolf Wilkin

Date: March 17, 2014

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

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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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