A Wild Idea with Lots of Heart
Ariane Jimison, co-owner of Pizza Carrello, eats, sleeps, and breaths all things pizza. Her love began in kindergarten when she had her first bite of pizza, a pepperoni pizza to be exact. Today, pepperoni pizza is still her go-to comfort food though mushrooms are her favorite topping.
Ariane grew up in eastern Montana before her family relocated to Gillette. Her dad worked on the coal trains. Her grandparents, entrepreneurs in their own right, owned a butcher shop and gardening business that was known as “chemical free” then, or organic by today’s standards. She describes her grandpa as a visionary and her grandma as the one who made those visions work.
Ariane’s heart has always leaned toward craft processes. As a professional potter for 17 years, she became obsessed with kiln ovens. Ariane was at the height of her artistry when the economic crash hit Gillette and in 2011 her focus shifted to bread making.
Having a humble background, Ariane knew it was cheaper to make bread than to buy it. She became great at it. For Christmas one year, she and a friend split the cost of an expensive French bread book. Her friend later gave her the book when the process proved too difficult. Ariane kept at it.
She had previously received compliments on the bread she made for her own art receptions. So, the idea had her making 36 homemade loaves daily came around the same time as the idea of constructing a wood-fired oven came to her. Ariane was selling her last batch of pottery at an art festival when inspiration struck her upon seeing a hot dog trailer.
While the business concept caught her attention, it was more than that – the hot dog gentleman was enjoying what he was doing, who he was spending time with, and he wasn’t going hungry. For Ariane, it has never been about the money, it’s about the craft. At the same art festival, she sketched her first pizza oven, which she still keeps at her home.
Ariane said she had a “wild idea and lots of heart.” The end of one era was birthing the next. Several days later, Ariane went to lunch with a friend who had an MBA and drew her oven concept, using ketchup as ink.
“That’s really all I needed, was for someone that I thought was smarter than me to tell me that they thought it was a good idea,” said Ariane. “And I went, ‘Okay, I’m done. That’s it. I’m going to do this.’”
She began her new business the same day with a $400 budget and published necessary paperwork a few days later.
That was nine years ago. She learned to weld and began building her pizza cart from left-over art supplies and scrap metal. Upon opening, she ran out of pizza dough the first three days in a row. Those first two years in the pizza business, Ariane learned a great deal about the time and cost factors of running a business.
During the next part of her pizza journey, Ariane operated out of a brewery parking lot where she and the team did what they had to do to make it work. They painted warm-weather gear to match their chef clothing so they “looked like fancy coal miners and made pizza in the snow.” The next winter, and for the next three years, they moved into a closet in the same location.
After the rent spiked, Ariane operated as a take-out hub in a small building, which worked well for the next phase, though she dreamed bigger. She wanted a shot in a different local brewery building that had closed down.
The long process to open and transform the former brewery into what it is today came through sheer grit. Ariane signed personal guarantees, received a loan from the Small Business Administration, which she had been told there was only a 10 percent chance of receiving, and made major repairs and built out to pass inspections, as the building had been left to ruin. Even the grease traps had back flowed into the interior drains.
Her hard work paid off, as Ariane will be celebrating Pizza Carrello’s sixth anniversary this Black Friday. On opening day at the current location, the line wrapped all the way around the building. What she thought was a week’s worth of prep, sold out on the first day causing them to shut down the second day to prepare for the third.
“We have a different formula for success,” said Ariane. “Caring a lot, trying really hard, and never giving up.”
With years of hard work and family support, the entrepreneur turned her love for craft and all things pizza into a success that earned her the Wyoming Council for Women’s Woman Entrepreneur Award.
When asked what she believes the recipe for a successful entrepreneur is, Ariane quickly commented that the main ingredient is integrity.
“You really have to do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it, no matter what,” Ariane firmly said. “You have to build amazing amounts of trust between the people who are working together and your clientele – and that comes from integrity.”
Ariane credits “being underestimated” as part of both her challenges and successes. She said in the beginning of her entrepreneurial days she wishes she would have “known to better value herself and her ideas.” Her advice for new entrepreneurs is to have confidence and know that it is “okay to screw up.”
“I’m a recovering perfectionist,” she said. ”Perfectionism tells you that nothing is good enough. Loving yourself tells you that everything is good enough.”
Successful entrepreneurship, to Ariane, is about having the right mindset. She urges entrepreneurs to view things that go wrong as “challenges like mountains that you can overcome, instead of as pits where you fall into the ground.”
“If you can make that switch in your head, then no matter how many naysayers you have, no matter how many horrible days in sales you have, these things all become challenges instead of defeats,” Ariane added.
The now budding entrepreneur still goes back to her roots for her grandma’s insights.
“She was my hero. She is my hero,” said Ariane, who still calls and sometimes makes the drive for her grandma’s butchering expertise to ensure the meat toppings are of finest quality. She enjoys sharing all of that knowledge with her staff to ultimately pass the flavor on to her customers.
Ariane compares her wife and co-owner of Pizza Carrello, Rachel Kalenberg, to her grandma, calling her another one of her heroes that makes all things work.
Receiving the WCW’s Woman Entrepreneur Award is a huge accomplishment for Ariane, and she is grateful.
“It’s like getting a good report card, and a hug from your grandma, and having a bunch of women who you really respect telling you that you have done good, I don’t know what is better than that,” Ariane said. She is also thankful to Laurel Vicklund for the nomination.