Erin, John, and Austin go to Russia

02 August 2016

Alena Tikhova

Dodo Pizza partner

Alena Tikhova

You never know when your life will make a sharp turn. Today you apply for a part-time job at a local pizza place in hopes of earning some pocket money, tomorrow you find yourself thinking about opening your own pizza delivery, and the day after, you’re boarding a plane for Russia. I bet three Oxonians—Erin Crockett, John Swinkowski, and Austin Whiteside—didn’t see that coming when they crossed the threshold of Dodo Pizza Oxford a few months ago.

They didn’t have any plans to devote any significant part of their lives to the pizza thing. Erin is studying engineering and mechanics at Ole Miss. John, Austin—no one was thinking that it would go that far. Dodo Pizza was a simple temporary job.

But we converted them (like others converted us) by showing them how exciting and challenging, how fun and fulfilling this pizza job can be if only you take it seriously and aim to make a great product.

They took it seriously. Worked hard. Became among the best members of our crew in Oxford. So after our rough launch, when the dust settled and the summer season gave us a chance to breathe again, we had an idea: what if we took them to our head office?

Of course, they already knew that Dodo Pizza isn’t just a single local pizza place—it’s a fast-growing chain born in Russia built from nothing in a matter of a few years. But we wanted them to see that for themselves and feel the energy that comes from the people working there.

On a practical level, we wanted them to study the opportunities the company provides, because in the US, we’re going down the same road and growing our chain of pizza places as we’ve done in Russia (right now, we have one pizzeria in the US, but that’s just the beginning).

Not only have they never been to Russia—they haven’t crossed the US border in their entire lives. So they loved the idea (true adventurers!).

We helped them get their passports and prepare the visas. We set up an intense program over the course of five days that includes visiting different pizzerias in Moscow and Syktyvkar, the city where Dodo was born, some practice in real Russian pizza shops, lectures, workshops, and meetings with all the key managers, including Dodo Pizza’s CEO, Fyodor Ovchinnikov.

Of course, we’re not that dead serious. We’re going to have some fun. A few tourist destinations will be visited along the way (the Red Square is on the list). And we’re making a movie about our journey, which we’ll share on this blog.

Three Oxonians who have never crossed the ocean are going to Russia to learn how to make a better American pizza. That’s quite a story.

Don’t miss it.

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