Updated: Aug 11, 2022
Today we talk with Andris Lagsdin, Founder of BakingSteel.com, and The OriginalBaking Steel® that cooks the perfect airy, crispy pizza crust in half the time! From an unbelievable Kickstarter campaign to 10 years in the game, Andris shares with us the most important values he’s kept throughout his journey that have taken his company to the level of success it is today. This is an entertaining interview that will give you key insight into how to improve your marketing efforts and stay motivated and inspired.
In today’s episode of the Harvest Growth Podcast, we’ll cover:
How to grow your business with word-of-mouth marketing.
How to turn a successful Kickstarter launch into a thriving business that continues to grow after 10 years.
Find the right mentor and other resources that fit your needs.
And so much more!
You can listen to the full interview on your desktop or wherever you choose to listen to your podcasts.
Or, click to watch the full video interview here!
Visit BakingSteel.com to learn more about these innovative baking products and use code “harvestgrowth” at checkout for a 15% discount off any product.
Do you have a brand that you’d like to launch or grow? Do you want help from a partner that has successfully launched hundreds of brands that now total over $2 billion in revenues? Set up a free consultation with us today!
Prefer reading instead of listening? Read the full transcript here!
Jon LaClare: What happens to a Kickstarter product 10 years later? When you have a great product and keep marketing to maintain momentum, your business can be hugely successful, just like our guests today. This is an entertaining interview that will give you insights on how to improve your word-of-mouth marketing efforts, and how to find the right mentors and resources to keep you motivated and inspired all along the way.
Voice Over: Are you looking for new ways to make your sales grow? You've tried other podcasts, but they don't seem to know. Harvest the growth potential of your product or service as we share stories and strategies that'll make your competitors nervous. Now here's the host of The Harvest Growth podcast, Jon LaClare.
Jon: Today I'm really excited to be speaking with Andris Lagsdin. He's the founder of bakingsteel.com. If you are a chef of any variety, you're going to love this product. Whether it's occasional at home, or professional, he's got a line of products that are really impressive to help baking pizzas, muffins, breads, et cetera. We'll jump into his product. He can explain it much better than I can. I'm really excited, Andris, to have you on the show today. Thanks for joining us.
Andris Lagsdin: Hey, thanks, Jon. Love to be here. Super pumped.
Jon: Tell us a little bit about Baking Steel. First of all for the reference of our audience, if they haven't heard of your product before, what are steel-based baking products?
Andris: That's a great question. Thanks. I don't know if you have a lot of foodies in your audience here, but I've been a foodie my entire life, and I've broken a lot of pizza stones. Basically, it's a pizza stone made out of ultra conductive steel, goes into your oven, never breaks, but it's a thermal battery that goes inside. Basically, once it gets hot, it stays hot. That translates into just incredible cooking at home and, particularly, pizza. One good example, anyway.
Jon: Why does it work better than a pizza--? I think a lot of people are familiar with pizza stones, and maybe less so with using steel for that same purpose. You talked about conductivity. What is maybe the big difference between that and a pizza stone?
Andris: That's another great question. I grew up with pizza stones. I'd use them professionally. Personally, at home, I made all my pizzas on a pizza stone. I broke a few, but that's wood-fired ovens that have a brick floor. Essentially, you have a stone that goes in your oven. One, they're very light and very porous, so they don't seem to work that great and take a long time to cook. What the steel does is, essentially, once it gets hot, this is the main difference, they both will get to 500°F in a home oven, but once it gets hot, it stays hot. That translates into incredible cooking at home. That's really it in a nutshell. The quick answer, anyway.
Jon: You talk about staying hot. For example, if I throw in, whether it's a regular oven or a home pizza oven or whatever, you throw a slab of cold dough on top of it, does that cool the surface of a regular pizza stone?
Andris: It does. Correct. Another thing that happens when you open the oven up, all that hot air escapes out. You open your oven up, you put your room temperature or cold dough on your stone, and it goes from 500°F to 400°F very, very fast. When you close the door, it takes another five minutes just to get back up to temperature, and then the stone's got to get back up to temperature. What we realized is that the steel, once you open your door up, not so much heat is escaping out of the steel.
When you put your dough on top of the steel, again, not a lot of heat escapes, so when you close the door, it bounces back. That's like, we call it the recovery time, super fast, and especially in a home environment where if I'm going to make pizzas here today for you, Jon, I'm going to make pizzas in like four or five minutes, maybe three. I could do a longer New York style for like seven minutes, but essentially, it's half the time of a pizza stone, which again, doing multiple pizzas, it's not even close as far as timing-wise.
You're going to save a lot of time, but then let's talk about the quality of the pies. Completely different. When you're doing that long bake, on a pizza stone, the first one might be okay, but the second and third pizzas-- If you've made pizza at home, you realize the first one might take 10 minutes, then it goes 12, 13. It reduces each time. The steel, it's four minutes, four minutes, four minutes. It's always just bouncing back. Huge difference.
Jon: I'll recommend to the audience. You can learn more about the product at bakingsteel.com or look for them on Facebook or Instagram at baking with a space between, so two words, baking steel, and you'll see some of these photos and videos of-- I got to tell you, I've been salivating as I've been prepping for this interview this morning, seeing the videos and photos you've done of not just pizzas, but breads, and muffins, and other things. It looks phenomenal. We'll talk more about Facebook and marketing you're doing. I want to jump back into history a little bit. One of the first things you did to really kick off or kickstart the business, no pun intended, was a Kickstarter campaign about 10 years ago. Back in 2012 it was very successful. I think you mentioned you achieved your goal in the first 24 hours. Is that right?
Andris: We did. Yes. It's interesting. First of all, I was 44 years old, I'm almost 54 now, when I created this product. It was a life worth of experiences that I had. I grew up in restaurants, and all different capacities, management, food, cooking, you name it, and ultimately ended up on Todd English's culinary team back in-- Gosh, and this goes back like 20 years ago. I am working with Todd but doing pizzas of all things. I'm a culinary guy. I went to culinary school, and here I am at Figs in Charlestown making pizzas. I'm like, "What the heck happened here?" but I wanted to work with Todd. That was my goal.
I got an introduction to Todd and started working the next week slinging pies. It was there that I fell in love with pizza. We all do. We all love pizza, but as a culinary person, the way Todd would produce his pizzas at Figs, like these big Roman styles with incredible toppings, we fired them off in a brick oven, and I just fell in love with it, with dough and pizza, you name it, everything. I worked with Todd for a couple of years. I left his business and I was burned out in restaurants.
This is in the '90s. If you imagine, it's the grind of a restaurant, and the margins, and all that, so I just took a break. My dad's an entrepreneur. I had a lunch meeting with my father, and I said, "Hey--" I grew up in his business now by the way. As a 10-year-old till that time I was 20 working with dad, but in different-- He's an entrepreneur, but he has got a steel shop that makes really cool products for Caterpillar, John Deere, the big guys.
I was always intrigued by it, but never thought that I'd be working there as an adult, but there I was. My brother was there, we had 20 other guys, 30 other guys. I joined his team, but more as a marketer. I had some life experience now, and I thought I could help grow his business. I'd been doing that for 10, 15 years, working with CAT and Deere in the construction industry, if you will. It was fun, but wasn't my passion. Actually, this is in 2008, 2009, ironically, when we had the recession. I don't know if you remember that one, but that one-
Jon: Yes, sure.
Andris: -hit us really hard. I remember driving home from work, and this is I think RIM phone days, we didn't have the iPhones yet, maybe they were out, but-- I'd be getting all these emails from Caterpillar and just reducing orders, crushing us with orders, and tightening our quality, rejecting parts. I'm like, "What the f is going on here?" A year or two of this basically. It was a grind. I said to myself, "Man--" I enjoyed working with my family, but I had no control over what was going on. Essentially, we had to an $8 million business to a $4 million business inside a year and a half without losing one customer.
You can cut expenses, but that's a tough one. Obviously, we managed. My dad's crafty, too. We fought through it, but I started doing some reading and internal searching. I now at this point I've got a four-year-old at home. I'm like, "Man, that sucked. Life has to be more than this. It's got be more." I didn't want some outside corporation, Caterpillar or whatever, dictating my life, and so I just needed some soul searching, and did a lot of reading, a lot of yoga, and just tried to figure out what can I do? What am I passionate about? 2011 I'm reading The Wall Street Journal and I'm reading about the launch of this new cookbook called The Modernist Cuisine.
The chief technology officer of Microsoft, who retired Microsoft for a few billion reasons, I'm sure listeners can figure that one out, Nathan Myhrvold, he wrote this new cookbook. He's a classically trained French chef. Fascinating. He's launching this new book called The Modernist Cuisine. The Wall Street Journal's just promoting the book. As a foodie, I'm like, "Wow, this is super fascinating." 5 volumes, $600 for a cookbook. Just nuts. Inside of his book, though, because he's a scientist, is just a deep investigation into the physics, the math, and the science of cooking.
I'm reading about him. I'm like, "Ah, this is cool." I'm not going to buy the thing. It's $600, but-- Anyway, they talk about pizza. Remember, I learned about pizza with Todd. I have all of Todd's recipes at home. I recreate them. They were decent in a home environment on a pizza stone, but not nearly what they would be on a wood-fired oven. In any case, the third question that The Wall Street Journal asks Nathan was how to create a Neapolitan-style pizza at home. As you can imagine, my eyeballs are now bulging out. I have the goosebumps. I'm like, "How do you do it, Mr. Scientist?"
He literally said to Google your local steel shop and cut out some steel for a shelf. I'm like, "Holy fuck." It dawned on me. I'm like, "What? That totally makes sense." I ran out to my plant, I grabbed some steel, and I brought it home. I got a five-year old son, four-year old son at the time, and my computer bag, and my steel kind of rusted up. My wife's like, "What are you doing with that piece of steel?" I said, "I'm making pizza this weekend." She said, "I'm not eating it if you're making it on that piece of steel." In any case, fast forward to Sunday, I made pizza. If anybody makes pizza at home, we struggle with the soggy crust.
Well, I time this thing. It was seven minutes, my first pie. It was a Fig style. It was crispy on the bottom. [alarm rings] It's unbelievable. Sorry about that. I don't know why that's going off. Unbelievable. I had a crispy crust pizza in seven minutes. A new product was born. I went back to my plant on Monday morning, told my brother and my father to sit down, "I got a new product." I told them what it was. They told me to just go back to my office, as you can imagine. There you go. That was the birth of the baking steel. I sat on it for a year. I don't know if anybody out there has got ideas. It's tough to bring them to life.
It's so many different things go on in your brain. One, what if no one likes it? I loved it. My first reactions from my family was like, "That's cool, but we make products for Caterpillar, and John Deere, and JCB, and New Holland. What are you thinking? How are you going to sell this thing?" I'm like, "You're right. What am I doing? I'm nuts." I forgot about it for an entire year. Didn't do a thing with it. Horrified. Anyway, cue the Rocky music, I started doing some more reading, and digging, and this idea just wouldn't go away, so I started making some. I started making them, and kept making prototypes, and sending them out to friends.
Say, "Hey, try these things out. Tell me what you think." I was getting incredible feedback. I'm like, "Holy shit. Maybe we got something here." Sorry for the language. In any case, I started getting this feedback, and so I'm like, "Great. Let's sell them." I could sell 50 of these things a month somehow. I can figure that out. There I was, I heard of Kickstarter, I applied, I got accepted. I was trying to raise $3,000, which is diminished, it's small, but once you make your target on Kickstarter, you're on there forever. I knew that, so I was being very modest with my goal. Just figured I could hit $3,000. I could sell 100 units, hit $3,000, and then I'm off to the races. That's how we got to that point.
We hit $3,000 in 24 hours. Fast track to the end of the 30 days, we raised $38,000. We pre-sold about 500 units. I was blown away, and it changed my life. The good news is we're manufacturers. We were able to make those pretty quick in a few months. We hit our target on Kickstarter, which is a big deal. I'm still sitting on some projects that I bought on Kickstarter that I never received. We were able to satisfy that pretty quick because that was our strength, manufacturing, and I had a million dollars worth of equipment that could make this thing that we use for Caterpillar parts and John Deere. There you go. That was the story. The rest is history. That was from day one. You have an idea? Just go for it.
Jon: It's great advice. So often we do sit on ideas. I'd love to probe down a little bit further post Kickstarter because I've interviewed so many people, and worked with so many people over the years that they start that and it's, okay, you have a success on Kickstarter. Some will several hundred thousands of dollars on Kickstarter, but then what's next? Because it's a different beast, but it's a great place to start. What was your first, I guess, successful step outside of Kickstarter? Once you had that successful launch, what was the next thing that really propelled your growth to now? Now it's 10 years later, a super successful business. What was the next step?
Andris: That's a great question. I remember I was horrified going on Kickstarter, by the way. I was petrified. I was like, "What if no one likes this thing? Now I'm like a bozo." Fast track, I got through that. I hit the go button and we made it. Literally, it was like midway through Kickstarter. Now, we had to revamp our website just to put this product on there, more like brochureware at the time. When midway through the Kickstarter and the guy that helped me do that is like, "Hey, guess what? You might have something here. We need to create a website to take orders, pre-orders." This is like two weeks into my Kickstarter. I'm like, "Good idea."
That was the first step because now Kickstarter is over, we have 500 units to fulfill, but there's still some excitement. There's people that want this thing that haven't ordered yet on Kickstarter, so we had to satisfy that pretty quick. We built a website on WordPress together and got that going. That was a story in itself, but that was the first thing. Let's make sure we can satisfy new orders that come in and capture that information. Again, this is 2012 when there's no Shopify, there's no Squarespace, you're on your own trying to do this stuff. That's where we were.
Jon: That's awesome. As I look at your business now, I look at you as I mentioned early on in our interview, salivating over your Facebook ads, et cetera, what's working today? Now we fast forward 10 years. What do you find that drives the most growth or the most revenues for your business?
Andris: That's a great question, again. It's probably the same thing that I did from day one, word-of-mouth. It's changed dramatically over the 10 years I've been doing this. My marketing genius, even during Kickstarter, was-- I'm fortunate, by the way. I had a family business behind me to do this. I was doing a side hustle inside their business. They were supportive of this, by the way. After that initial conversation with them, they were pumped up. They were like, "This is great. We can make these things." The genius there was this giving the product away. That was my intuition.
If, Jon, you had called me and said, "Hey, I'm a foodie. What is this thing?" I would send you one. I was basically doing influencer marketing before it was a thing. I was just handing out product. I got some big names because the pizza world, the home pizza-making world, as we know, has exploded over the years, but it exploded because there's the demand for it. We're trying to solve a riddle. We're trying to solve a problem. Making pizza at home has been a challenge, but now it's amazing what you can create in a home environment. In fact, it's as good as if not better than some wood-fired ovens that you can produce. It's awesome.
Jon: Makes a big difference.
Andris: It's great.
Jon: Technology has certainly changed over the years in a good way.
Andris: Yes, big time.
Jon: Do you have any resources that you recommend? Things like books, or podcasts, or conferences that have been helpful for you in your business growth?
Andris: Man, that's a great question. I do anything and all things Tony Robbins. He's from my mind. I feel like entrepreneurship is a lonely world. The number one thing we got to do is we got to ask ourselves the right questions 24/7. You cannot get down. You always have to be optimistic. You always have to be asking yourself the right questions. The obvious answer, too, Gary Vaynerchuk. I read Crush It! when I first started out, and it gave me the confidence that if you niche down and really get focused on what you're trying to do, you could sell anything.
He talked about smurfs in his book Crush It!, which said, "Oh, if you can sell smurfs, I can sell something that makes pizza at home." Then just educating. My whole sales thing is not sales. It's education and solving the riddle of how to make pizza at home. I feel as though I can help anybody do that. If you're passionate about it, you can make pizza like a rock star in just a few short days. That's a big thing.
Jon: Very true. I ask this question in most of my interviews of resources. I love how you phrased it, "He's for my mind." Tony Robbins, whether it's Gary Vee and-- Not every resource is going to be. It worked for you, it may not work for somebody else. Some people may resonate with Tony Robbins, others won't, but I like how you phrased it. You got to find the connection, whether that's a person, or podcast, or videos, whatever it is, that connects with you, that meets your needs, whatever's going to keep you up, because it is hard. It's hard running a business. You've got to have something that helps you raise up or helps raise yourself up, whatever it might be, mentally in terms of what happens, in down days, and difficult times, et cetera. Finding that connection. He's from my mind, I wrote that down. I like the way you phrase that.
Andris: That's great.
Jon: Is there anything, Andris, that I didn't ask in this interview you think would be helpful for our audience?
Andris: Yes. Number one priority, to be honest, is to take care of yourself first. You've got to take care of your body, your mind. We have it backwards. The education system in our world, in our country, is just backwards. The number one thing is happiness, and being kind, and taking care of yourself. You do those things, and challenge yourself every day, and just keep working hard, and be consistent, amazing things will happen. No doubt.
Jon: Great advice. Well, I want to encourage our audience, please go support Andris and his business by visiting his website, bakingsteel.com. He's been kind enough to share a discount code. If you use harvestgrowth, all one word, he'll give you a 15% discount off of any product on their website. Again, check out their site, bakingsteel.com at a minimum to see the cool recipes, and videos, and photos that they've done. Like I said, you're going to leave that website or their Facebook page salivating for more for sure.
Andris: I hope so. I love it.
Jon: For sure. I do want to mention to our audience as well, please be sure to check out harvestgrowth.com. If you like this episode, you'll see other episodes we've recorded. If you want to learn more about how you can profitably grow your consumer product business, please be sure to subscribe to our show and leave us a review. Hey, Andris. I really appreciate it. Thanks again for your time today.
Andris: Hey, thank you, Jon. Grateful to be here.
[00:22:20] [END OF AUDIO]