After being inspired by many of the women in her life that worked for themselves, Melanie McCready decided to follow in their footsteps by starting her own business, Bowen Island Pizza Co. “I liked the idea of setting my own schedule, working for myself meant I could work as hard as I wanted and then be able to enjoy the fruits of my labour,” she explained. Melanie’s aunt was a freelance journalist, her mom’s best friend ran her own garbage disposal company, and she also worked for a locally owned business herself. Being surrounded by this entrepreneurial mentality and environment growing up, Melanie knew she was going to start her own business one day.
Bowen Island Pizza has been open now for two years and continues to grow steadily in North Vancouver. Melanie describes it as a “hole in the wall” except they only have one wall and are basically an open kitchen that features four pizzas each month (a signature pear and brie, a vegetarian pizza and two meaty options). All their pizzas are thin crust and made with organic local flour, quality cheese and local toppings when available.
Prior to starting Bowen Island Pizza, Melanie was working as at the Canadian Mental Health Association as a parenting coach and for a Sequoia company at a restaurant in Stanley Park. But what made her want to go into the pizza business was growing up with her mom’s pizza nights every Friday, a tradition that Melanie continued throughout university. She even occasionally catered private parties and found herself teaching people how to make pizza. So when the idea came to Melanie to become her own boss, she thought “why not a pizza restaurant?” given that pizza is incredibly versatile and enjoyed by the vast majority of people.
Melanie has had to make a lot of adjustments in her life to make her dream into reality. “Some of them I did or could have predicted, but many I wouldn’t have ever guessed I would have to deal with ever,” she said. Growing her team was one of those challenges she had to face. Today, Bowen Island Pizza employs eight people but to get to the point of building not just a team, but a great team, Melanie had to put in a lot of effort and hours to ensure she got the right fit. With a focus on creating the kind of culture that people want to see and hiring only young people (ages 18-25) with good customer service skills, Melanie was able to build a team that she is proud to be the face of her restaurant. “Every customer that tells us it’s the best pizza they have ever had is a huge win for me,” Melanie shared.
Bowen Island Pizza is a Futurpreneur-supported business and aside from the financial support, Futurpreneur has provided Melanie with an extended network by providing workshops and regular check-ins. “I have also made a number of contacts with other businesses around the city because we discovered we are both connected to Futurpreneur,” she said.
Bowen Island Pizza is an excellent example of what can happen with hard work, determination and passion. Melanie wanted to leave other aspiring foodie entrepreneurs with one piece of advice: “You have to go with what you are good at. The food industry is hard enough, the last thing you need is trying to produce something that is outside of your natural talents or strengths. Keep it as simple as you can. There are enough challenges with becoming an entrepreneur that you will need to deal with along the way—so if you’ve got a good, quality product and friendly staff, the community you open in may take some time to find you, but when they do, it’s the best feeling in the world.”
Written by: Lauren Marinigh, Social Media & Content Specialist, Futurpreneur Canada