Pam Wolfe loves to cook. So much so that when she first began operating Papa Murphy's Take'N'Bake Pizza franchises 15 years ago you could almost always find her in the company kitchen, kneading, chopping, and shredding the fresh ingredients made daily for the pizzeria, known for its take-and-bake, made-to-order concept.
"It's a great day when you can make pizzas all day long," says Wolfe, 46. "That is the fun part." However, she adds, "Papa Murphy's is very physical. We make our own pizza dough and cookie dough and everything else at the store. It is a labor-intensive business, but sometimes people don't think about that. You can't get into Papa Murphy's and assume someone else will run them and you will make a lot of money."
Wolfe still loves to cook--at home--but these days she has left the pizza-making to others to focus on running the company with her husband Jim. In their first year of business they opened three stores, and today their companies, PJC Corp. and Eflow, Inc. in Savage, Minn., operate 15 units throughout the state, recording annual revenues of more than $8 million.
For Wolfe, the journey working with her husband of 25 years has been a labor of love. When the couple decided to jump into the world of franchising with both feet, and together, they knew exactly which brand and business model they wanted, and what to expect. Wolfe's in-laws had owned two Papa Aldo's Pizza units, and Jim had spent some time managing one of the restaurants.
Papa Murphy's traces its roots back to 1981, when the Papa Aldo's chain was born in Hillsboro, Ore. Papa Aldo's Pizza would later merge with Murphy's Pizza, creating the Papa Murphy's brand in 1995. Currently, Papa Murphy's is the largest take-and-bake pizza company in the world and the fifth-largest pizza chain in the country, based on number of U.S. locations.
Papa Murphy's may be a different restaurant animal than fast food, but Wolfe is no stranger to the sweat equity required. She credits her first job at Burger King at age 16, and a boss that brought out her best, for her strong work ethic and savvy business foundation, which also includes service and management experience at McDonald's.
At Papa Murphy's, she thrives on being in charge of operations and marketing, while Jim, who has a corporate background with a major insurance company, is the risk-taker. Jim, she notes, is skilled in building business relationships and focuses his expertise on the development and financial side of the business.
The couple look for strong character in their employees and believe that honesty and integrity go a long way in running a successful business with happy employees. "We are strong in faith and our church. That is all character and part of who we are, and we try to carry that over into our business," she says. "This focus helps people want to stay here longer, who want to do what is right." She points to two area supervisors who have worked for them for 9 and 10 years as one example.
Looking ahead, the couple hope to have a bigger slice of the pizza market with the addition of three to five more Papa Murphy's. "We don't want to do anything else, and we want to do it well," she says.
Wolfe projects that the bigger they are, the better the financial benefits that will ultimately allow for a comfortable retirement down the road. In the meantime, you can bet the Wolfes, who have a 27-year-old son, will continue to balance work and play (think travel and golf).
"I can't imagine having it any other way," she says. "We love working together. We divide our responsibilities and love being together every day."
Name: Pam Wolfe
Company: PJC Corp., Eflow Inc.
No. of units: 15 Papa Murphy's
Family: Married, with a 27-year-old son
Years in franchising: 15
Years in current position: 15