Who knew that being a fan of Friday pizza night would lead Graham to become the owner of a wood-fired pizza joint, The Firehouse? Today, four years down the line, Graham treats us to his secret recipe to success. Read on to get a slice of the action before it gets any cheesier!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your business?
I’m Graham from The Firehouse. I’ve been the owner of The Firehouse for four years now. We’re a small pizza joint on Florida Road, and we make wood-fired artisanal pizzas.
Why did you decide to start your own business?
I’m a qualified chef. The cheffing game becomes a bit tricky with your personal life, social life and certain things. I’ve managed to find an equilibrium with starting a small space. Why I started a pizza joint specifically? When I was younger, Friday night was pizza night. As you get older, people forget about pizzas. I didn’t have enough experience to build my own business, so I thought: Let’s start small. At the end of the day, it was a market that needed to be captured in Durban.
What challenges have you faced in starting your own business?
There are many things, but I think the biggest one has been my age. People don’t necessarily respect you. When you are starting your own business, no matter what age you are, there’s always going to be things that hit you straight on and square in the nose, and you’ve got to be the bigger person. You have to understand, and you have to be strong.
Who has helped you along the way?
My business partner has helped me with the final decision-making. He has experience with financials. I lost my father, so he probably would never know but he is like a father figure to me. Other than that, no one really. I did my own research, and I took on a lot. That’s why I think it’s been so hard, because I learnt the hard way. People will say we’re not this massive company but to me we massive from where we started.
What’s the best thing about being an entrepreneur?
I have a beautiful daughter. She’s almost two years old. I have that freedom of leaving the shop for three days if I need to – it’s phenomenal. That’s why I’ve worked so hard. We’ve also created a space that’s not only about pizza. It’s a safe environment for people to feel that they can do whatever they want. It’s something that I’m proud of.
What was your inspiration?
If you look at our menu, people call it ‘exotic’ sometimes. It’s is a bit weird for me, but it’s because of my cheffing background and where I’ve worked. I’ve sponged all this experience from different dishes and put it onto pizzas.
What are your customers’ favourite things?
The rustic bacon, hands down! We call it the OG because it’s been on the menu from the beginning. We started with four pizzas, and one of them was the rustic bacon. Purely because it’s bacon, avo and feta. We just add our little peppadew spice to make it a little different.
How did you find managing the challenges of Covid 19 and lockdown?
COVID has obviously affected everyone in some form or another. With us, we’re in the right place at the right time. My business model from the beginning was to do 100% turnover on delivery. Three years down the line, COVID came along and for two months flat, you could only do delivery, so our business turnover increased! But now there are more places doing delivery, so you have to change your business in some way or another. So, we launched frozen pizzas. It was something that we never wanted to do, but it helped. We landed SPAR, and that exposure and income got us through the next month. It was quite hectic, but you’ve got to think on your toes.
What are any tips or tricks that you would give somebody that was starting their own business?
Don’t be scared. If you have a full-time job and there are certain negative things affecting you, is it affecting you enough to hold you back from starting a business? Is that risk big enough to overcome that? It’s all about you at the end of the day. People will tell you that you’re doing it wrong. I felt it first-hand. People are saying: “You’re too small” or “Your pizzas are weird” or “Put pastas on the menu”. People are always going to be in your face and tell you what you should and shouldn’t do, but what do you really want?
What card machine do you use?
The iKhokha Shaker Solo, with the built-in SIM card.
Why did you choose iKhokha?
I’m a stubborn person. I like to back the underdogs because that’s what I thought iKhokha was! But in reality, they actually have a better product than most of the guys in the game.
What do you enjoy about using the machine?
If we have load shedding, I can use iKhokha because it will tap into the sim card. So, if we don’t have electricity, we can still cook pizzas and do card transactions.
Any exciting news?
Next, we’re going to be focusing on sit-down dining on weekends where people can enjoy a no judge zone and be themselves. We have people from all walks of life coming through. At the end of the day, we’re just here to have a chat and speak to people. That’s been my life calling; to bring people together. You don’t even have to have a pizza! You can come here and talk to us for an hour and that’s kiff.
If you are also considering starting a pizza night tradition or just in the mood for some tasty wood-fired pizza, drop-in or connect with The Firehouse on their socials:
Don’t forget, you can also find their frozen pizza range at SPAR!