Caroline D'Amore is a woman in high demand. She's a wife and mother. She's an international DJ (playing with DIPLO, Steve Aoki and more) and actress (you've seen her in movies like Sorority Row). And, she's head chef and co-owner of one of Los Angeles' most famous pizza joints—D'Amores Pizza—which was founded by her family.
Born out of a true love and respect for her grandmother's sauce recipe and her father's dedication to amazing pizza, D'Amores Pizza now boasts eight locations—with a sauce line called Pizza Girl—on the way. So, how does D'Amore find success with so much to balance? Family is her unwavering priority. “When your family feels love, you will feel even more powerful and be able to take on a busy lifestyle," she says. “Schedule sex [with your partner] if you have to—but make it a priority. My husband and I are going on ten blissful years together and making time for each other is key. We don't look at our phones on dates and just tune out the world as a family. I wake up to a million where the "F" are your emails and calls— but it's worth it."
So, it's no surprise that wanting to keep D'Amore's Pizza successful was born out of the devotion to her family legacy. D'Amore grew up in the restaurant business but like every rebellious teen, resisted following in those footsteps—at first.
“My childhood was spent in our restaurants or on-site catering of big events and film sets. So, when I became a teenager—I wanted nothing to do with pizza. I found music and DJing as my way out."
That rebellion showed D'Amore that she actually did have a knack for DJing and before long she was an international sensation, signed to one of the biggest DJ booking firms.
Photo Courtesy of USA Today
“The road, however, got lonely and I'd find myself seeking out Italian restaurants all over the world just to feel that sense of home and family," D'Amore explains. She met her husband Bobby Alt and they decided to open up their own location of D'Amore's Pizza at the same time that she discovered she was pregnant. “It was insane. Even growing up in the business I never really knew how hard it was to own and operate my own location. I remember many days being so stressed out and crying that a cook didn't show up. I either had to get back there and cook or we closed for the day."
That's when D'Amore realized being the boss meant she had to learn the ins and outs of every facet of the business. She taught herself to make everything on the menu, finding a love for cooking in the process. “I'd cook all day then come home and cook again for my husband and daughter. I grew obsessed with testing out different recipes in my own kitchen and then working with my team to implement them," D'Amore recalls. “Seeing the response each recipe got from my customers was such a satisfying feeling."
Connecting to customers is one of D'Amore's biggest drivers. “We're a real family business. You learn about our family when you dine with us and we love to hear about yours," she says. When their rent recently doubled, D'Amore's first priority was to her customers. She couldn't let them down with higher prices or worse yet, shutting down. D'Amore's business brain took over and she came up with a plan—add a catering division—which took off like a rocket. “We've been doing all the hottest events from Jessica Alba's Honest party to Seth Rogan's Hilarity for Charity event at the Hollywood Palladium," she says. In addition to that, she's releasing her own sauce line called Pizza Girl this summer. “It's a combination of my great grandmother's recipes and D'Amore's Pizza recipes—all have been locally sourced and are all organic."
Photo Courtesy of Caroline D'Amore
You'd think with the restaurant exploding into more divisions that one of D'Amore's projects would take a back seat. But no, she's still going full force as DJ. She recently opened for Diplo at Sundance, did a Today Show residency and played a party at Coachella. “It's all connecting because people in the crowd scream 'Pizza Girl!'—which I love!" she says. “I'm able to keep it all going by planning ahead and exercising time management."
And, rule one? No matter how busy D'amore gets, family always comes first. It's non-negotiable. “My daughter Isabella Viking Alt has traveled to many of my gigs. We make sure she doesn't feel left behind," D'Amore explains. “She's an amazing traveler and loves being at the restaurants just like I did as a kid." D'amore also doesn't have a nanny—something she knows is not possible for every working family— but, acknowledges that yes, sometimes her business suffers as a result—but those are sacrifices that are worth it.
With unwavering focus, D'Amore doesn't plan to slow down. She hopes to empower other entrepreneurs out there to stay the course and never give up. Her advice? Never act like you know everything.
Photo Courtesy of Caroline D'Amore
“It hurts you and your business," she explains. “Ask your employees questions and ask for their opinions. Empower them to feel ownership," she says. “When they love what they do and how they're treated—you'll see results. I like working with people that can teach me something that benefits the business. People willing to do more than just what's required to get the job done."
D'Amore says even with her family history, she never set out to be a restaurateur. It was a career path that found her. “I didn't have to make any crazy leaps, I just did what was organic in my life. I've always been being in the restaurant food industry—however, the cooking aspect took some time and education to get me to where I am now," she explains. “I've always loved feeding people—that's just the Italian woman in me."
That's not to say following that path has been easy. With any business comes rejection—and that's something that D'Amore is still learning how to handle. “I cry when I'm rejected because I'm always trying my absolute hardest so when I fail it hurts," she explains. “But then I snap out of it. Fail once, learn from it and do better next time and you will be fine. Continuing to fail means it's time to look at what you're doing and why. There's no reason to keep failing if you're trying your hardest and are studying your craft inside and out."
D'Amore knows she's where she's meant to be as she has no regrets! There's nothing she knows now that she wishes when she first opened up her own D'Amore's Pizza location. “I actually don't wish I knew what I know now when I first started in the restaurant world. If I did, I wouldn't have jumped in the way I did and who knows if I'd be here now?" she says. “But my advice is to love what you do. It's tough and if you don't really love what you're doing, it's a nightmare!"
"Steal the mesh underwear you get from the hospital," a friend said upon learning I was pregnant with my first daughter.
It was the single best piece of advice I received before giving birth in December 2013. My best friend delivered her daughter eight months previously, and she was the first to pass along this shared code among new moms: you'll need mesh underwear for your at-home postpartum recovery, and you can't find them anywhere for purchase. End result: steal them. And tell your friends.
My delivery and subsequent recovery were not easy. To my unexpected surprise, after almost 24 hours of labor, I had an emergency C-section. Thankfully, my daughter was healthy; however, my recovery was quite a journey. The shock to my system caused my bloated and swollen body to need weeks of recovery time. Luckily, I had trusted my friend and followed her instructions: I had stolen some mesh underwear from the hospital to bring home with me.
Unfortunately, I needed those disposable underwear for much longer than I anticipated and quickly ran out. As I still wasn't quite mobile, my mother went to the store to find more underwear for me. Unfortunately, she couldn't find them anywhere and ended up buying me oversized granny panties. Sure, they were big enough, but I had to cut the waistband for comfort.
I eventually recovered from my C-section, survived those first few sleepless months, and returned to work. At the time, I was working for a Fortune 100 company and happily contributing to the corporate world. But becoming a new mom brought with it an internal struggle and search for something “more" out of my life--a desire to have a bigger impact. A flashback to my friend's golden piece of advice got me thinking: Why aren't mesh underwear readily available for women in recovery? What if I could make the magical mesh underwear available to new moms everywhere? Did I know much about designing, selling, or marketing clothing? Not really. But I also didn't know much about motherhood when I started that journey, either, and that seemed to be working out well. And so, Brief Transitions was born.
My quest began. With my manufacturing and engineering background I naively thought, It's one product. How hard could it be? While it may not have been “hard," it definitely took a lot of work. I slowly started to do some research on the possibilities. What would it take to start a company and bring these underwear to market? How are they made and what type of manufacturer do I need? With each step forward I learned a little more--I spoke with suppliers, researched materials, and experimented with packaging. I started to really believe that I was meant to bring these underwear to other moms in need.
Then I realized that I needed to learn more about the online business and ecommerce world as well. Google was my new best friend. On my one hour commute (each way), I listened to a lot of podcasts to learn about topics I wasn't familiar with--how to setup a website, social media platforms, email marketing, etc. I worked in the evenings and inbetween business trips to plan what I called Execution Phase. In 2016, I had a website with a Shopify cart up and running. I also delivered my second daughter via C-section (and handily also supplied myself with all the mesh underwear I needed).
They say, “If you build it, they will come." But I've learned that the saying should really go more like this: “If you build it, and tell everyone about it, they might come." I had a 3-month-old, an almost 3 year old and my business was up and running. I had an occasional sale; however, my processes were extremely manual and having a day job while trying to ship product out proved to be challenging. I was manually processing and filling orders and then going to the post office on Saturday mornings to ship to customers. I eventually decided to go where the moms shop...hello, Amazon Prime! I started to research what I needed to do to list products with Amazon and the benefits of Amazon fulfillment (hint: they take care of it for you).
Fast forward to 2018...
While I started to build this side business and saw a potential for it to grow way beyond my expectations, my corporate job became more demanding with respect to travel and time away from home. I was on the road 70% of the time during first quarter 2018. My normally “go with the flow" 4-year-old started to cry every time I left for a trip and asked why I wasn't home for bedtime. That was a low point for me and even though bedtime with young kids has its own challenges, I realized I didn't want to miss out on this time in their lives. My desire for more scheduling flexibility and less corporate travel time pushed me to work the nights and weekends needed to build and scale my side hustle to a full-time business. If anyone tries to tell you it's “easy" to build “passive" income, don't believe them. Starting and building a business takes a lot of grit, hustle and hard work. After months of agonizing, changing my mind, and wondering if I should really leave my job (and a steady paycheck!), I ultimately left my corporate job in April 2018 to pursue Brief Transitions full-time.
In building Brief Transitions, I reached out to like-minded women to see if they were experiencing similar challenges to my own--balancing creating and building a business while raising children--and I realized that many women are on the quest for flexible, meaningful work. I realized that we can advance the movement of female entrepreneurs by leveraging community to inspire, empower, and connect these trailblazers. For that reason, I recently launched a new project, The Transitions Collective, a platform for connecting community-driven women entrepreneurs.
As is the case with many entrepreneurs, I find myself working on multiple projects at a time. I am now working on a members-only community for The Transitions Collective that will provide access to experts and resources for women who want to leave corporate and work in their business full-time. Connecting and supporting women in this movement makes us a force in the future of work. At the same time, I had my most profitable sales quarter to date and best of all, I am able to drop my daughter off at school in the morning.
Mesh underwear started me on a journey much bigger than I ever imagined. They sparked an idea, ignited a passion, and drove me to find fulfillment in a different type of work. That stolen underwear was just the beginning.