Pizza parlor is not business as usual

Galactic Pizza’s owner spoke to Carlson School students Thursday.

by Jared Roddy

There’s one man in Uptown who has no problem going to work in the morning; he actually enjoys it.

Students from the Carlson School of Management listened to the owner of Uptown’s Galactic Pizza, Pete Bonahoom, on Thursday as he encouraged them to look at more than just the bottom line when starting a business.

“I feel excited to be here, ready to work,” Bonahoom said. “I’m doing something for a good cause.”

Bonahoom, 27, spoke to students from professor Steve Spruth’s Management 4008 class Wednesday and Thursday at his restaurant.

Galactic Pizza, on Lyndale Avenue South, offers dine-in, take-out and delivery to nearby areas. But that’s not why Spruth’s class was there.

“He makes every part of his business both fun and socially responsible,” Spruth said.

As for fun, Bonahoom and his delivery drivers whisk pizzas to their customers dressed in spandex tights, capes and silver boots. The superheroes get from place to place in three-wheeled electric cars that go up to 40 mph.

“They’re fun. It feels like you’re flying a helicopter or something,” Bonahoom said. He also said drivers sometimes run out of batteries on the road.

Galactic pizzas are made with local ingredients when possible and organic foods when affordable. The restaurant – and thus the cars plugged into it – purchases only wind power and donates $1 to the food shelf for every pizza ordered.

Bonahoom described to the class how, after graduating from the University of Wisconsin- Madison in 2000, he took a job with Piper Jaffray. He said he was disturbed by the “misplaced” values of mainstream society.

He said to the class that several books he read – philosophical ones, such as those by the Dalai Lama – led him to quit his job and ask himself:

“When you are dead and you look back on your life, how do you want your life to be?”

Books on a theory called “values-led business” spurned ideas for his pizza parlor to contribute to society and be earth-friendly, Bonahoom said.

Students said they were impressed with Bonahoom’s commitment to looking at more than just profit.

Finance senior and class member Sam Hinton said he could identify with Bonahoom’s desire for something different from his experience working at an internship for Merrill-Lynch.

“All these guys at the office were looking up to me and my situation when it was supposed to be the other way around,” Hinton said.

After the presentation, Hinton and Bonahoom talked about how a person can serve more than his or her own interests in a job.

Another way Galactic Pizza does this is by not advertising, Bonahoom said. He said he doesn’t want to have to convince people to come into his store.

He said word of mouth alone has him on track to make the $400,000 in his first year that he estimated in his business plan.

“But that’s just luck,” he said. “Because I completely guessed.”

Entrepreneurial studies senior Chris Doi owns an entertainment business and said he got some ideas for it from Bonahoom’s presentation.

“This is something we will try to do,” Doi said. “We can incorporate some of the (values-led business) ideas and play for kids or charities.”

That, Bonahoom said, is what he’s hoping for. Although it’s frustrating for him to see other businesses focus on profits and not give back to the community, he said, he didn’t have to sit back and be frustrated.

“I feel, eventually, I can influence other businesses,” Bonahoom said. “I can make people expect that this is how you do business.”