From friends to founders, Luke and Benson have been through thick and thin together. But out of their friendship, fiery passion for food and business came Durban-based Fired Up pizzeria! Today, they let us in on the key ingredients to their success – from what sparked the idea for Fired Up to how they keep their passion burning. Let’s dig in!
Share with us, a bit about yourself and your business.
Benson: We are Luke and Benson from Fired Up, a pizza restaurant in Durban. We’re both from the restaurant industry and worked for other people before this. Both of us have always wanted to own our own business, then lockdown came and pushed us in the right direction. We were basically forced to step into something that we have always wanted to do.
Luke: Our business is very much catered towards the current climate with COVID. Starting up during COVID, those are the conditions we planned to experience.
Take us back to when you were younger. What’d you see yourself doing career-wise?
Luke: I wanted to be an actuary. I remember when I drove to primary school and a guy was dropping off his son in a Porsche. The dad looked very young, he looked about 25 and he was driving a Porsche. So, I asked my dad: “How do you do that?” to which he said, “Study Actuarial Science.” And that made my decision.
Benson: I started with the standard of wanting to be a policeman, and a doctor and a this and a that. But that was when I was super young. Then I wanted to build houses. I think I’ll still do that, one day. Why not?!
Benson: That’s a really good question. Neither of us had a lot of experience in pizza. Why we chose pizza was for the love of pizza and its versatility.
Luke: You can put any toppings on a pizza. It gives us an opportunity to play around with the many variants that we have on our pizzas. If you look at our menu, you’ll find a lot of pizzas that I don’t think you have seen before. So, it was an outlet to express our creativity with our food. Like Benson said, “We worked in the industry, we’re both very much foodies.” We were able to start with that solid foundation and give it our best.
What made you decide to start your own business?
Luke: For me, it’s always been my dream to be a business owner and COVID was a deciding factor. It pushed us into taking that big step.
What are some challenges you have faced in starting a business?
Benson: The easiest thing of it all was coming up with the idea, and then every step from there was challenging. We faced your standard challenges like finances and building the menu and usual things of starting a business. Personally, having that self-discipline and accountability because being your own boss means you have more pressure, and you can’t hold anyone else accountable other than yourself.
Luke: There were other subtle business processes that you don’t expect when you first open. For instance, having a partner. It’s a relationship, and there are skills you need to develop, like being able to communicate. Especially here where it’s a small kitchen, a small business. It’s just the two of us.
Any tips that you would give somebody who is starting their own business?
Benson: Start with planning. And test your concepts. If you think you’ve got a good idea, start. Take it one day and one step at a time. Also, make use of your network and as many of your resources as possible.
Luke: Whatever amount of effort you think it’s going to take, triple that. A lot of people glamourise the whole process when, in reality, it’s a lifestyle and one that doesn’t fit everyone. So, you have to make that personal decision because it’s more than a full-time job.
Becoming an entrepreneur is scary. How did you get past the fear and self-doubt?
Benson: Taking it day by day. Just one step forward and keeping a positive mindset. And having support from the people around you.
Luke: It’s an emotional journey. You have moments where you want to give up and you’ve got to keep your head up and focus on the end goal.
What’s the best thing about being an entrepreneur?
Luke: Working for more than just a salary and watching something grow, especially starting from scratch.
Benson: It is so nice being your own boss. It’s freedom. Not in the sense that you can do whatever you want, but you have the intellectual freedom to make decisions and take leaps you feel are right.
What characteristics do you think make a good entrepreneur?
Luke: There are moments where you’ll doubt yourself. Being able to face adversity with your head up is one. Being open and ready to learn is another. There were so many things that we thought we had figured out. And if you’re in a partnership like Benson and me, you need to learn how to deal with someone in a business relationship. Luckily, we were really good friends and colleagues before all of this.
Benson: You have to look at the big picture, not to take it all in at once but to break it down to actionable and achievable goals – it will be a compass to point you in the right direction. And be super open-minded because 90% of the time, things aren’t always going to be as you planned or as you anticipated. Keep a positive mindset anyway.
We heard you blew up on Tik Tok! How did that happen?
Luke: Well, I’m fully in love with Tik Tok. I think the incredible thing about Tik Tok is the ability to go viral without followers. So, when you look at our first video, it’s on 460K views now, I think. And we started with no followers, likes and posts. And on the first day, we got 20K views.
We portrayed the story of our small business, which we thought was quite a good storyline to follow. Especially during COVID and these difficult times, it’s not something you see often. It’s quite an inspirational journey.
How would you describe ‘Fired Up’ in 3 words?
Benson: Quality, affordable and…something with style but also won’t burn a hole in your pocket.
Luke: If I had to give a word for our pizza, I would say ‘artisanal’.
What are your customers’ favourite toppings?
Benson: Definitely Feta, Avo and Bacon. What people have said is that our feta is chunky, and we don’t just use bacon bits – we use actual streaky bacon. Just good quality ingredients.
What do you enjoy about iKhokha?
Benson: The fact that it didn’t cost much to buy. And that it doesn’t crash. We’ve never actually ever had it down.
Luke: We haven’t had any issues in terms of the payment service being down. So, that’s been a definite positive. Obviously, the low transaction rates and the fact that you only pay when you transact, on the days you transact. The biggest buying point from us was the cost-saving aspect and then once reaching out to iKhokha, the support we’ve received from the sales team and those we have spoken to.
How did you find out about iKhokha?
Benson: We have only heard good things from people that have used the card machines. We know quite a few people that are small vendors and they have never had issues. I had used it a couple of times at coffee shops and things like that and found it to be quite seamless and easy to use.
So, the next time your pizza cravings strike, drop by for some grate, cheesy pizza or connect with Fired Up on their socials:
196 Gordon Road. Windermere, Berea.
Facebook: @Fired Up Pizzeria