Turn Your Passion into Income: Think Pizza

"It seemed obvious,” Scott Lynch says with a grin when asked why he and his family started La Fortuna Pizza, a mobile wood-fired pizza business based in Madison, Wis., that features local ingredients. But Scott’s not trying to be coy: "We have a passion for local food, love to cook and find a deep satisfaction in making people happy. Pizza brings these all together.”

by John D. IvankoFebruary 8, 2012
La Fortuna Pizza
Courtesy John Ivanko
La Fortuna Pizza is the result of blending farmstead passion into a food-related business.

“It seemed obvious,” Scott Lynch says with a grin when asked why he and his family started La Fortuna Pizza, a mobile wood-fired pizza business based in Madison, Wis., that features local ingredients. But Scott’s not trying to be coy: “We have a passion for local food, love to cook and find a deep satisfaction in making people happy. Pizza brings these all together.”

La Fortuna Pizza—a mom, pop and daughter operation—showcases a core philosophy we write about in our book ECOpreneuring: Follow your heart, stay committed to your beliefs, and keep fun in whatever enterprise you create. In the Lynch’s case, pizza enables them to cook up a livelihood, blending their passions for local food, family and that often overlooked “happy factor.”

They Lynch’s business features Neapolitan-pizzas with flavorful toppings atop thin crusts, cooked in a wood-fired oven that can reach 900 degrees F. Their whole operation is designed to be portable, enabling them to vend at area events and farmers’ markets as well as cater weddings and private functions.

“We built our business around pizza because, frankly, everybody loves pizza; it’s an accessible food,” Scott explains. “We can also use pizza as a means to educate folks about the importance of knowing our farmers and where our food comes from. We can tell folks exactly where each ingredient comes from.”

Increasing numbers of people, like the Lynch family, are creating their own entrepreneurships that connect to their soul—and the soil!—instead of simply earning them a paycheck. By keeping things lean and green, sustainability can happen on our farms, in our kitchens and through a viable livelihood that gets us excited to pop out of bed every morning. From the Champagne family sharing their love of local produce and food preservation through Happy Girl Kitchen to our own family serving up garden produce through our bed-and-breakfast, Inn Serendipity, there is an array of inspiration to blend your farmstead-chef soul with your own food-related business.

The Lynch family shared three slices of advice for aspiring food entrepreneurs:

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1. Connect your values.
“The business enables my family and I to connect the important dots in our lives, which stem around our love of good food, from working with area farmers we know well to providing healthy, yummy food options at community events and parties,” explains Jen, Scott’s wife and business partner. “By running our own business, we can research and control all the inputs and ingredients, from the tomatoes to the cheese, and can share these stories with our customers.”

La Fortuna prioritizes local right to their chalkboard menu, naming pizzas after the small, rural Wisconsin towns where the farmers live and from where they source their artisan ingredients, like Argyle and LaFarge.

“For us, we’re all about local food,” adds Scott. “La Fortuna now enables us to directly connect with and support our area farmers. We see our venture very much as a collaboration with our local farmer and food artisan friends.”

2. Involve those you love.
The Lynches built La Fortuna with the intent that it would be something both Scott and Jen could do together with their daughter, Evie. Rather than both commuting to jobs and cramming family time in on weekends, the Lynch family shares the majority of their daily routine together, including homeschooling Evie.

“I love the fact that my family and I can do this side by side, making and serving pizza together,” Jen says. “Evie received a crash course in entrepreneurship during our startup year and we all developed La Fortuna together.”

3. Take the leap.
“The No. 1 question we get asked by customers at our booth when we’re selling pizza is ‘How did you get the confidence to do this?” Scott shares. “My answer is always the truth: We just jumped.”

But this wasn’t a random leap. The Lynches had developed their business plan, researching everything from sales venues to navigating state health-department regulations. Ultimately, it boiled down to taking a calculated risk and giving it a try.

“I think as a society we’ve lost our ability to accurately assess risk,” Jen observes. “We simply thought through and assessed the worst case scenarios if La Fortuna did not succeed as a business. The consequences were not that severe, especially if we avoided debt and kept as lean as possible. We could live with that. Today, we feel more financially secure than we did when we lived on Scott’s paycheck; we’re in control now and can always take on more events and business if we need more cash flow.”

“I think we all have a mission in our lives, the key is to identify it and then find a way to do this for the majority of your days,” Scott sums up. “For me, personally, I like to make people happy. Making delicious pizza with ingredients from farmers I know by name does exactly that for me.”

Try brainstorming your farmstead-chef business ideas with some La Fortuna inspiration over a homespun version of a La Fortuna pizza (minus that 900-degree-F oven):

Recipe: La Fortuna-style Pizza

Preheat your oven as hot as your home oven will go (a minimum of 500 degrees F). If using a pizza stone, preheat for at least 1 hour.

Yield: 2 14-inch pizzas

3½ cup bread flour

  • 1/4 tsp. instant yeast
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1½ cups lukewarm water
  • 1 cup sauce
  • 1/2 cup cheese of choice
  • pizza toppings of your choice

Mix together flour, yeast, salt and water. Knead until ingredients are well combined. Dough does not need to be smooth and elastic. Divide into two equal-sized balls.

Round balls and place on a lightly floured counter. Place each ball under an inverted bowl. Allow to rise approximately 5 to 6 hours.

Take dough ball and press down to flatten. Pick dough up and work around the edge, pulling and letting the weight of the dough stretch the whole thing out until it reaches the size you are looking for. It doesn’t matter if it is round; a pizza can be any shape.

Pizza Assembly
 “Less is more” is the La Fortuna pizza mantra. “Focus on smaller amounts of high-quality ingredients,” Jen advises. “Too often, people glob on tomato sauce and cheese without thinking. Try pairing interesting, flavorful combos together. Remember, you taste proportion, not amount.”

Here are some of La Fortuna’s favorite topping combinations:

  • Tomato sauce with fresh mozzarella and fresh basil
  • Tomato sauce, sausage, sliced provolone and shaved parmesan cheeses
  • Roasted onions, roasted tomatoes, shaved parmesan
  • Swiss chard sautéed with garlic and red pepper flakes with goat cheese

For each 14-inch pizza, use slightly less than a 1/2 cup sauce and around 1/4 cup cheese. If you can’t see the dough beneath the sauce in patches, you have too much sauce.

“The pizza should not be evenly blanketed with ingredients, each bite should be different,” Jen sum up. “Pizza is a bread product enhanced by toppings.”

Bake until edges begin to darken and center is bubbly—depending on oven temperature, around 5 minutes.

Savoring the good life,

John and Lisa's Signatures

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