a part of our interview series called “Women Of The C-Suite,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Caroline D’Amore, CEO and Founder of Pizza Girl.
Pizza Girl™ is founded by entrepreneur, model, DJ, mom and chef, Caroline D’Amore. Pizza Girl™ Pasta Sauces are a line of USDA certified-organic, locally-sourced and ethically-bottled Marinara, Arrabbiata and Vodka sauces. Pizza Girl is Caroline’s childhood nickname which has become her persona to this day. All Pizza Girl sauces are non-GMO, USDA certified organic, locally sourced, ethically bottled, and shipped with eco-friendly packaging in 24-oz glass jars for $10.99. Pizza Girl is now available in 65 Whole Foods locations across Southern California as of September 2021, Bristol Farms, and Gelson’s Markets and E-commerce nationwide shipping, with new eco-friendly packaging. Find more information for Pizza Girl online at www.pizzagirl.com and on IG @PizzaGirlOfficial.
Pizza Girl, Caroline’s childhood nickname which has become her persona to this day, accelerated fast into early 2020 and after initially selling out all inventory, Caroline was faced with multiple factors that made it difficult to continue to meet demand. As with many businesses, the COVID-19 shut-down put pressure on her company early on, which led D’Amore to make the difficult decision to pause and regroup. Coupled with becoming a newly divorced single mother, this led her on a journey of major soul searching. She picked herself up and started all over again with a new outlook on life and business, and used the downtime to restructure the company. Pizza Girl™ is now ready for a relaunch with a stronger foundation than before, ready to meet the demand for her sauces. Caroline has had time to properly align her production and farm locations, and work with suppliers and partners who will strengthen her vision.
Pizza Girl seeks to bring the freshest, healthiest, and most delicious pasta sauces to households nationwide for friends and families to enjoy together. D’Amore continues to grow her family’s legacy, having already opened her own successful D’Amore’s Pizza restaurant location in West Hollywood several years prior. “
Being a socially-conscious company with integrity is the backbone of Pizza Girl, and so important with what is going on globally. As a result, Pizza Girl will continue donating 5% of profits from every jar sold to charities close to her heart. To learn more visit www.pizzagirl.com to see how they are helping give back to causes through donations of money and time.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Big things can go wrong and it can feel impossible to come back from them. When I first started out, I was cooking up my sauces at a small factory in Santa Paula, CA. It was an extremely small operation, and I was there jarring the jars myself along with 3 other people. My first batch was the most incredible tasting thing I’ve ever experienced out of a jar. Organic, homemade and delicious. I walked it into Erewhon and asked to speak with the manager. After they explained that “This wasn’t how these things are done” they allowed me to wait in the upstairs waiting room and I somehow got my sauce accepted into all 5 locations. I also immediately got into Bristol farms. Then I took the good news back to my factory and I gathered all the funds I had, $17,000 dollars to be exact, for new ingredients and labor to make the next batch needed to fulfill these orders. I trusted this batch would taste and look the exact same. It did not! The factory got overwhelmed and rather than cook the sauce with the cooking time my recipe calls for, they just poured all the ingredients into the kettle, heated it up to the necessary degree to make the FDA approval and jarred it. The taste, to say the least, was nothing like my first batch and before I had realized it the sauce was being delivered to all the markets. I was in full panic mode and had a full melt down, crying on the floor of the factory while screaming at the factory staff. They took a job they couldn’t handle, and I trusted too easily that they could. Taking responsibility for my own part in it, I really didn’t do enough research to realize they couldn’t handle the business. At that moment I could either shut down and let go of my dream right then and there or suck it up and do something about it. I had no choice but to rush into these stores and buy up every single jar before anyone else did and my reputation was destroyed. This was a very expensive mistake and now I was in big financial trouble, but I kept going. And what I realized was you have to not only love what you do but you have to learn to roll with the punches and find a way to pivot. Also, I never allow a batch to be made when I’m not there tasting it now. I’m over protective of my product, as I should be. It’s all a learning tool to get where you need to be. No one can teach you how to be an entrepreneur, you will figure it out as you go. And you have to say goodbye to sleep for a while.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Pizza Girl stands out among the overly saturated market because of well, the Girl part for one. Females are the main buyers of pasta sauce and so I was surprised by the lack of feminine presence on the shelves. Every sauce was a Raos, Daves, or Newmans and if there was a female presence it was that of great grandma in the kitchen and I just felt there was something missing. A major gap in the market if you will. Where was the mom using this every week? Where was her presence? She’s the one that’s concerned about what’s on the labels and how it will taste for the whole family. So, Pizza Girl is from a millennial mom for the millennial mom, and everyone else who loves truly delicious kettle cooked organic pasta sauces.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Right now, being the full time CEO of Pizza Girl and being a full time mom is all I have time for. But I have so many dreams about how I will be helping others with new ideas once I can come up for air. The startup days are all in. Any successful entrepreneur will tell you that.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
It’s hard to be a leader when you are stressed out all the time. No one wants to take orders or even ideas from the scared stressed-out chick. Finding a balance in your life is the most important thing. I’m still trying to find more time to take care of my mind and physical health. If you are strong mentally and physically you can lead with a clear mind. Oh, and don’t be a bitch when you are scared. Being a boss doesn’t mean you have to be a bitch. A major misconception accumulated over years of women working in a “man’s world” You don’t have to be mean or aggressive to be taken seriously. Your team will do better if you lift them up not tear them down.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Ask me in a few more years. Right now it’s just the 3 of us making Pizza Girl what it is. All hands on deck as they say.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I have a manager and best friend who will do just about anything for me. His name is Tom Hamilton. He’s often under-appreciated by clients, and he is much more famous and successful than me. From hand painting Pizza Girl on a million t-shirts for hours until our hands hurt, to getting me pitch meetings for my own Pizza Girl TV show, he’s always there with incredible ideas to take over the world. And, what I love most about him is that he likes his job too. He’s pretty darn special and I’m incredibly lucky to have him by my side. When you find a good one, keep them, and let them know you appreciate them.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I like people and I like helping. A lot of my friends call me the connector. I like to bring people together to find ways in which they can help each other. I’m using my platform to spread awareness on topics I feel could help others. I have so many plans to continue to spread love and inclusiveness in everything I do. I’m doing my best and that I know for sure.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Listen a hell of a lot more than speak. I was always so eager to be heard. Ready to cut someone off to say my piece. But if you are always cutting people off, are you really listening? Your ideas will get farther if you fully absorb what everyone else is saying first. Then your beautiful mind will quickly take those ideas into consideration when you spout out yours.
- Know when someone has a better idea than you do. It’s ok not to be the one to come up with the great idea, logo design, or plan but know a good idea when you hear one. To shoot a great idea down because it’s not yours is to shoot yourself in the foot. What’s best for the company is ultimately best for you. Someone who can’t allow others to have a great idea just hurts themselves in the long run. Hear a great idea and your action should be to help give it life with all your might.
- Trust in your gut and make that decision in a timely manner. It’s easy to second guess yourself and think of all the ways this decision could be wrong but in the meantime, you are wasting precious time. You have to be willing to make risky decisions and trust in that decision. If the decision didn’t end up having the results you hoped for, it is okay, it’s now a learning tool. It’s the information download you need to make an even better decision next time around.
- Every failure is a blessing. It took me 37 years to learn to love my failures. I’m so incredibly grateful for them. Without these failures I would have never learned how to finally succeed. Applaud your failures, good for you, you tried. Take that newfound knowledge and you are one step closer to your ultimate success.
- Empower your team and trust them. Being a CEO is not about being the best at everything. It’s about knowing your strengths and the strengths of your team, empowering those who are better than you are in a certain field to kick butt in that field. Give them the tools they need to do their absolute best.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
As incredibly obvious as this is, we all know it’s not being done even close to the amount needed to create change. Teach your children from the moment they are born that love is love. Dads need to help at home and moms need to run corporations or the other way around. Men can wear pink and women can play basketball. Men can love men and women can marry women. Gender is not how you are born but it’s how you feel. All households need to adjust these gender roles that have been embedded into our heads for generations. Men can be feminine and sensitive and women can be masculine. There is a beautiful place in the middle where we feel free to dance to our favorite song or shout like hell and chug a beer at the Superbowl. If no one judged, could you imagine how free you would be? Getting to that place starts with accepting our babies and whatever they may gravitate towards. Don’t tell your son he can’t wear a tutu and shame him for playing with barbies. Don’t tell your daughter she needs to wear a dress. Allow more freedom in these areas and just watch how healthy and loving our society will become. Feeling accepted by your parents is the most important thing. Not to mention the thousands of dollars your child will save on therapy bills later in life. I feel so badly for men in our society. Yup, I said it! The men need some sympathy here. The number of men that I have met that are truly miserable and scared to be themselves due to years of suppression and being told not to cry and to never feel sensitive is overwhelming. And you wonder why there is so much violence and hate. They are tortured souls from day one being shamed and embarrassed for being a wimp or a sissy. It’s the unaware parents causing this mess. Well, now you are aware. It’s on you to invoke change and re-write the course of your child’s life. Babies are born loving and accepting, we teach them hate and shame through years of conditioning. We can change the world one baby at a time. I know it. I am doing it.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It’s simple, don’t be an asshole and you will find there are so many beautiful souls out there that want to help you out.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
Easy! Oprah Winfrey. Just look at what she has done with her life and all the countless people she has been able to help along the way. My dream would be to chat business and then find a way to invoke change together in even the simplest of ways through that business. I bet she’d have a million ideas and I’d absorb them all like a sponge.
How can our readers reach you on social media?
I’m on Instagram @Carolinedamore my company is @pizzagirlofficial or you can text me (323)622–7649.