Perseverance and fortitude are found by the truckload in people who are very successful! I’d like to share a few of my experiences to normalize what many idea-filled people experience. This picture is of my great grandfather his sons. Great Grandpa Francesco came to America fleeing starvation and seeking opportunity just as those with ideas look to create opportunities for themselves and others. Unfortunately, most innovators are mocked, jeered and put down for the creativity, including, me, Antonio. This post is not for the naysayers for they could never think or innovate on this level, it’s for those who create and are ridiculed.
Early on in my career, I created an internet marketing web site that was light years ahead of bigger corporations who consequently told me the design looked like “a Jamaican Flag” and these words were printed in a renowned magazine’s review. The kicker: it had the longest user session of any website I would ever design in 17 years of creation. I counted cash while they laughed.
In 2012, with the cash I made while others laughed, I bought some land on the other side of town and dreamed of making a drive-thru coffee shop with drinks that had crazy, catchy names featuring the best quality I could find. Those ideas spawned a drink that sold THOUSANDS: “The Chicken Fried Latte”. I was told by people whose businesses had failed that it was “stupid”, “ridiculous”, “would never work”. Well, it worked. Again, I counted cash while they laughed at me. Even being sabotaged by a worker who wouldn’t sell ice cream to people “because it made them fat”, the business succeeded and in that business, the pizza you enjoy today became a hit.
You see, I had another dream: to share with people the pizza I knew as amazing having spent my entire life in and around New York City, so I bought a little oven, cut a pizza stone to fit, bent a pan to fit the little oven, used a rice cooker to make sauce and brown garlic. With these rudimentary tools, I began making pizza to sell to others. Pitiful shapes compared to todays pies, not even close in taste, but I never gave up. People ordered pizza instead of coffee while others laughed.
Then, the location we currently occupy became available. Again, people said “you’re crazy to shut down a working business to pursue pizza”. “Have you lost your mind?”. No, the only times I really lost my mind is when I made the mistake of taking over someone else’s dream. That business failed miserably. Well, when Antonio’s began, something magical happened. Beyond the naysayers “NYP should stand for Next Year’s Yogurt Place instead of New York Pizza” (I know who you are btw), people who longed for a taste of home journeyed 100 miles just to see if we had what they were looking for. For some, we didn’t, for the vast majority, we did. But, we never rested. Crazy idea after idea created unrest in the kitchen through change. In the words of the immortal Scarface “LOOK AT US NOW!”. Without talented people who share my dreams and the support of my one faithful cheerleader – my wife Tracey – you would not be reading this today.
Like each of my Great Grandparents, I have built something viable out of nothing but an idea. My Grandfather and his sons and daughters built some of the finest furniture this country has ever seen. Their work is still in the White House! They stood tall through recessions, strikes, failures, bankruptcies and having a rival family in NJ burn down their factory. They mortgaged their houses several times during these cycles and employed hundreds. Their pictures hang one the wall so they can see that their hard work and ethics live on!
To all those who are ridiculed and made to feel silly when people mock your ideas. Put your middle finger up and your head down in your work. Even if it’s never commercially viable but fulfills a dream you have, DO IT! You hear me? Do it!