fiddle leaf photography
Feb 20, 2018
As I’ve grown my business I’ve come to know so many dynamo women business owners in Edmonton who are the most beautiful mix of grit and grace. Do they have it all figured out? NO. Do any of us? They are working their way through, one day at a time, trying to make life what they want it to be. And on top of it all, they are raising their own kids, who are watching them forge a path that isn’t always easy but is full of reward. I’m fascinated by these women and want to learn more, which is why I asked if they’d sit down and chat with me. This is the fourth entry in the Grit + Grace series. You can catch past Grit + Grace entries here.
There are a few things I really love in life and recently 2 of those things were lucky enough to collide on one day for me – pizza and a conversation with a really inspiring woman. Does it get any better? Not in my world. Add in the fact that this inspiring woman actually let me take photos of her making pizza, and well, call me done.
If you haven’t had the chance to meet Braede Harris, one half of the husband and wife team behind LOVEPIZZA, then you’re really missing out. She’s warm and inviting while also managing to exude such confidence and gusto that it’s really hard to not instantly like her. I sat down with Braede at LOVEPIZZA‘s downtown location one winter morning before the restaurant opened. Even though it wasn’t technically open for business yet that day, LOVEPIZZA was hopping on a Tuesday morning with catering orders. Braede and I chatted for a bit, and then she put her hair up and jumped in behind the counter making pizzas to help get the orders out. It’s so easy to see that Braede is a really thoughtful leader who isn’t above digging in and doing whatever needs to get done.
We’re closing in on 2 years. (Note: Braede and I did this interview in December before LOVEPIZZA celebrated their 2nd birthday in January 2018.)
Does it feel like longer or shorter than 2 years?
Depends on the day!
Tell me a little bit about the journey to LOVEPIZZA.
My husband Gavin started Press’d The Sandwich Co. about 8 years ago. He was a Chartered Accountant before, and he left that world and went into business with a guy he played basketball with at U of A and his brother. So that was our first taste of quick serve restaurants.
I was still in my corporate job (scheduling natural gas pipelines) at that time but I was involved a bit with Press’d helping with catering orders or doing marketing, etc. Like any family business, it comes home with you, so our family went through growing with that for quite a few years.
I was pregnant with our son and we were thinking about what our next steps for our family would be and we’d already tossed around the idea of a pizza restaurant of some sort, although we weren’t sure what form it was going take. We then started to sit down and talk seriously about it and while I was on mat leave we really laid out the plans. We wanted to build a place that reflected Edmonton, us, and our values. We wanted to hire staff that were friendly and not robotic, and we really wanted people to be able to come in and feel like they were in their own restaurant.
Quick service pizza wasn’t a thing here at the time. There’s obviously some brands that have come in from the States and some other people who are trying it now, but at the time it was something new for Edmonton.
So you opened while you were on mat leave? You had a baby, opened a restaurant, and quit your job all at the same time?
Yes! Yes, I told my job that I wasn’t coming back after my mat leave. In the back of my mind there was always the thought that if I wasn’t enjoying this or it didn’t work out that I could go back, but now there’s no way. It was a great job, a great company, and I worked with great people, but once I started doing this and got my heart into it, there’s no way that I could leave it.
It sounds like it was a bit of a crazy time.
Yes, it was. We’d take Branson, our son, to design meetings with our interior designer and he came out to the test kitchen we had in Spruce Grove. Branson would come in his car seat and he’d have a snooze or be looking around and was probably thinking, “where the heck am I?”. But, he’s literally be involved in our business since day one.
If you had to pick one thing, what’s your favourite part of owning LOVEPIZZA?
I love the food! I’ve also really enjoyed getting to know our customers. I think if you asked my husband what I really enjoy, that for sure would be the first thing that comes to his mind too. I do all of our social media and our marketing and I can’t tell you how many people who have eaten our pizza have become our friends. Getting to know other business and customers who have their own business has also been really great. I love when people bring their kids in and they’re excited to eat the pizza, or they bring their Grandma in for pizza. It’s really cool to see families and relationships evolve. There are people we see every week and we know their order and that’s pretty special to me.
What is the hardest part of Momming and having your own company?
Sitting down and taking time for myself. I think most moms would say that. I really like going to the gym, not to lose weight or change my body, but I’ve always been an athlete so that activity is something that my body craves and responds to. If I don’t have time to workout, I notice it, my husband notices it, and my kid notices it. So it’s something I have to really make sure I do. There are some weeks because of stuff that’s going on, if we have a bunch of events, or catering or Branson is sick, that I can’t get there, but I try my best to make it a priority.
Where do you hope your business will be in 5 years.
I hope that we have a couple more restaurants within the city and I also really hope that the community around our business keeps growing. We’ve become involved with a lot of different charities and business and that’s a really big part of our business. It’s amazing to do things that make our hearts sing, so I want to keep growing that part of our business. It’s nice to help organizations that might not have that big of a spotlight on them.
Do you have a piece of business advice that you’ve been given that you value?
This is business slash life advice from my Dad. I’m an only child and so I spent a lot of time with my parents and their coworkers and their friends. I can remember from when I was even teeny tiny, my Dad always made sure that I spoke for myself. When I shook someone’s hand he always told me to make sure I gave a really firm handshake. I was 6 or 7 and was just this tiny little thing, but he reinforced that it was important to represent myself well. And even now, when I get a weak handshake from somebody I get turned off like nobody’s business, whether it’s a man or a woman. And I feel like as a smaller woman, a lot of men don’t give me a good firm handshake and that drives me so bonkers. I still hear my Dad’s voice in the back of my head whenever I shake hands and I truly believe that a handshake can be such a big relationship builder.
Have you ever been given any Mom advice that has stuck in your mind?
Gavin and I have decided that we only want one child. I’m an only child, and Gavin has 2 brothers. When I was growing up it was an anomaly to be an only child and even though it’s becoming more common, we still get questioned a lot. My Mom has always told me to just do me. Do what works for me and what works for us. We have certain things we want to do in our lives and goals, and my mom has always encouraged me to stick to my guns and not worry what other people have to say about it or let it bother me. I think every mom goes through it at some point where people question their choices but you have to trust in yourself.
Do you have a favourite kid product that you can’t live without?
I’m a really big fan of the Sleep Sheep – the one that has the rain sounds. We still use it for Branson every night and he now asks for it to be turned on. I’ve joked with Gavin that when Branson is completely done with it I’m going to hook it to the bed in our room so that I can have a Sleep Sheep.
Do you have a song you put on when you just need to dance it out?
My son really loves music and I’ve tried to put many different types of music on for him. I really like jazz and blues. We have a record player in our living room and I have a Sammy Davis Jr. Live From The Coconut Grove record that Branson loves. He requests Sammy Davis Jr. regularly. He’s also really into Purple Rain, which is a fun one to dance to. It’s really cool watching Branson enjoy music that I grew up listening to. We love dancing around before he goes to bed and before we sit down and get back to work.
Decaf latte. I can’t drink caffeine as it makes me sick, but I still really like coffee.
Is there an app on your phone you couldn’t live without?
Probably Instagram because of work and I really just like looking at different people’s photos. I don’t have a lot of apps on my phone though.
Have you read any books recently you’d recommend?
I honestly haven’t been reading a lot lately. I bought Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and I’ve been enjoying picking away at that. Other than that though, I read a lot of kids books – a lot of Curious George (like 8 of them a night!), and I also read business articles for the restaurant.
Early mornings or late nights?
Since I had Branson, I prefer nights for most things. My creativity is better at night, but if I want to do stuff around the house or run errands then I prefer to do that in the morning. I used to be a morning person and I’d go to bed early, but lately that has shifted.
High heels or flats?
Flats now! I used to wear heels and still have a lot of really beautiful shoes but I don’t get to wear them very often. You can see my shoes right now are covered in flour! I usually wear my black Timberland boots in here, but with a 2 year old and a restaurant, I’m not in heels very often.
Do you think it’s easier or harder being a mom now or when you were growing up?
That’s a hard question! I think it depends. With all the technology and expectations and scheduling, I think it’s probably harder now. But, every generation of mom had something going on – whether it was a global thing or something within their house.
I’ve never been involved in any formal mom groups at all – physically or online – but I feel like I have my own mom group. It’s not a scheduled thing, but if I have a question or need advice or just need to talk to somebody then I know I can reach out to those people and I don’t think my mom had that. And also, now there’s so many more working moms and it feels more widely accepted. My mom went back to work at 5 months and I’m sure she faced criticism for it.
Do you feel like you have this whole mom thing figured out?
No! I screw up everyday, and I also do something really awesome everyday. Branson has good days and I have good days and we both have bad days. Sometimes those days collide and I don’t really know how to deal with that. So no, I don’t have it figured out at all. I tend not to give advice to other moms and also tend not to ask too many questions because everyone has their own stuff going on and to each her own.
Thank you Braede for hanging out with me for the morning! Want to read more inspiring stories? Catch up on past Grit + Grace stories here.