This is the second of four parts of the interview. You can find Part One here.
The Firestarter Interview series highlights those who share our passion for craft and our commitment to the highest standards possible. Our aim is to celebrate the creativity and dedication of those who strive for perfection, in whatever endeavor that may be.
ERIK JONES: So you’re going to work for your dad. You want to work for your dad, but you have this passion for cooking, this passion for pizza. I’ve read this story before but, in your own words, where did this steel come from? Why the steel?
ANDRIS LAGSDIN: Yeah, so, during the 2008 recession … I had a son now. I was working with my dad. It was a good-paying job. It was not sexy. It wasn’t like … it wasn’t my passion …
ERIK JONES: It wasn’t the dream.
ANDRIS LAGSDIN: Right, and my son was two. He used to ask where I go all day. It was a 9-to-5 job. I did things with tractors. He thought that was cool. Inside, I was killing myself. I can’t even tell him my job. Then, in 2008, the recession came and so our business went from an $8 million-dollar manufacturer to a $2 million dollar manufacturer in one year without losing a customer. If you had told me that in 2006, I would have thought it impossible. What I didn’t like about it is that it was out of my control with my dad’s business. There’s nothing I can do. It wasn’t my fault or anyone’s fault. It was just the numbers. I said to myself, “I don’t ever want this to happen again. I want to be in control of my life.”
One fine afternoon, I went to work like normal and at the end of work, I’m reading the Wall Street Journal and I read about this new book being written called The Modernist Cuisine by Nathan Myhrvold, the Microsoft Guy. In that, the Wall Street Journal started peppering some questions to him and one was how to make pizza at home. And now, I told you about my pizza story at Olive’s and pizza stones broke a bunch. I could recreate them at home pretty good, but they weren’t ever great. Well, the Wall Street Journal is now asking this mad scientist about how to create pizza at home and his answer was to literally Google your local steel shop about steel for a shelf and I literally got goose bumps right away!
I just said, “Holy shit!”
Wait a minute, I’m a steel guy. I’m a pizza guy. I literally ran out to my plant. I grabbed a piece of quarter-inch steel that we use for a Caterpillar component. I just grabbed it, didn’t even clean it up, brought it home. I made dough. My wife said, “What are you doing with that steel?” I said, “I’m making pizza on it this weekend.” She said, “I’m not going to eat it.” It was a beaten-up piece of steel. Long story short, I made pizza. Anybody who ever makes pizza at home … we struggle with the crispy crust … I timed this pizza. It was like, seven minutes. I made the biggest pizza, seven minutes later, in a home oven, I had a crispy crust. I could not believe it. And so, I went back to my office on Monday, super-enthusiastic.
This was 2011, 2012, so we were just coming out of the recession. I told my brother and my father about this new idea I had and they basically looked at me and said, “Go back to your office. There’s no chance you can do this by yourself.” And I believed them. I was like, “You know what. You’re right.” I had this cool thing. I sat on it for 8 to 9 months. I didn’t do anything with it, other than think about it. I kept thinking about it and thinking about it and reading about it and writing about it and then I started making some and sending them out to friends. That’s how I started to feel confident that my idea was not so screwy. It was solid. I got great feedback from people, so I launched. That’s how I launched. I could make 50 units a month, have a side hustle, doing what I love, working with a family, everyone’s happy … we launched. I sold more than 15 in the first month!
ERIK JONES: Is this when you started the crowd fund?
ANDRIS LAGSDIN: Yeah, that was the Kickstarter one.
Part Three coming soon.