How I ended up at the White House
So I went to the White House. I didn’t just go to the White House, I saw the President speak in the Rose Garden, which would’ve been an experience in and of itself, but on top of that, while leaving and walking out, I was one of the people who was close by enough to do a brief meet and greet and shake his hand, which turned into the official POTUS Instagram and Twitter sending a photo of us out that night. They reposted it thrice during Small Business Week, which is why I was in Washington, D.C.
The larger story to the pizza community here is not that I had an interesting experience; the takeaway is that this business can provide these experiences to any of us because I am you. I have been in your position if you have one store or a part of a chain. Owning a small business, especially a pizzeria your town loves, can open a world of possibilities. Experiences like competing internationally, speaking at Pizza Expo and winning large-scale Guinness World Record attempts are all an off-shoot of doing what we all do. The more you do it, the more opportunities present themselves. Whichever ones you decide to take on.
I chose early on to do as many cool things as possible while riding this train. It’s possible when you:
- Create systems and KPIs for your restaurants to function without you for a few days.
- Learn how to mobilize these experiences as marketing efforts so the press runs you receive translate into new customers.
- Last but most important, choosing to say yes.
- Yes, to competing in baking competitions. Yes, to participating in local awards. Yes, to getting out of your comfort zone.
- Everyone can turn this path into a rich life full of unique experiences, whether or not it’s The White House or elsewhere.
So, a little backstory. I applied to be a small business person of the year for the Tulsa Regional Metro Chamber. The chamber leadership encouraged me to do so; I thought, “Oh jeez, I don’t want to fill this thing out.” Even though it was only four pages.
Once I was chosen for Tulsa, the same application was forwarded to the state competition; they thought our story was interesting enough for us to win for the state of Oklahoma. Mind you; I did nothing more at this point. Then, I get invited to D.C. for a national awards conference to announce the national winner.
Upon landing in Washington, I received an e-mail from the White House asking for my social to do a background check because the award winners were invited to a small business press conference at the White House. I was dumbfounded by how far this simple application had gone.
When I was at this fancy and, yes, also schmancy, awards dinner, I noticed the other 49 states had businesses from across the board.
All types of businesses were represented, but most were mom-and-pop organizations. Whether it was steel manufacturing, coffee shops or Ethiopian food, the goal of this SBA-run awards banquet was to show off all walks of life in American small businesses.
And my grand point here is that you don’t know what will come of anything you say yes to, so say yes to all of it, especially in your first few years of business. At some point, it shifts from what I can do to what I should do, but when the investment of time is just filling out an application, you should always do that. You should apply for every award. You should apply for every nomination, no matter what it is.
If you get the win, great. If you don’t win, nothing has changed. But when you try long enough, you will win, and you can consistently market the win, which puts money into your restaurant. That makes it healthier, which helps your staff get more tips, and keeps tax dollars in your community.
If you think to yourself, “I don’t want to be a braggy beaver on some stage,” you need to get over that because you, as the face of your business, represent more than just yourself.
So take it all on, say yes, stand out, and see where it takes you.
Mike Bausch is the owner of Andolini’s Pizzeria in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Instagram: @mikeybausch