West Albany High School graduate Lara Herrmann was working towards starting her wood-fired pizza business in her hometown while she was still serving in the Coast Guard in New Hampshire.
By the time she finished her service in August last year, she had already ordered a custom-built wood-fired pizza oven on a trailer and had committed to working at a major event, the Lebanon Brewfest, with the business, Krakelen Wood Fired Pizza.
However, when she arrived in Oregon with her husband Wolf Herrmann, she hadn’t even seen the oven in person yet, since she’d had it shipped to her parents, and the Brewfest was only about a month away.
But Herrmann, who worked pizza jobs while studying entrepreneurship at the University of Portland, said she’d been working on a business plan for the company since 2017 and had been working with a Small Business Administration mentoring program to prepare to hit the ground running when she got back to Oregon. She added that she and Wolf had been working on testing pizza recipes in a backyard wood-fired oven to be prepared to get the business started.
Herrmann said she started hiring people as soon as she got to Oregon and began training them the last weekend in August, less than a month before Brewfest. She said during this time she made so many pizzas for her family to test the process that everyone got tired of pizza. She also served pizzas for free at the American Legion in Albany, whose commercial-grade kitchen she still uses for prep work, as a way to practice making pizzas at volume with her team.
And the prep work paid off — she said Brewfest went smoothly with her team selling about 300 pizzas in eight hours.
“Nobody was stressing,” she said. “It was fine.”
She said the business has continued to go well and she’s now employing six people part-time to work events like local farmers markets and weddings.
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“We’re pretty much booked till September. People love the flavors of the pizza.”
Herrmann said wood-fired ovens are a lot hotter than traditional pizza ovens so the pizzas cook fast and come out with a unique crispy texture.
Herrmann said she’s excited the business is taking off because she has always wanted to work for herself — and pizza was a natural choice.
“The reason I went into pizza is I love it and I’m passionate about it,” she said.
She added that, even though she had a solid plan in place, the process of getting the business fired up brought some unexpected lessons along the way — things like equipment she didn’t know she needed and how the state would license the mobile oven.
And what’s her advice for anyone else thinking of starting a small business?
“Start small," she said. "Plan as much as you can and expect things won’t go according to plan. And just keep pushing.”
Visit www.krakelencatering.com for more information about the company or follow Krakelen on Facebook for information about public events the company attends.