Featured recently in Huffpost, our fearless leader Andrew Ryan sits down with Danielle Sabrino to talk about The Protein Pizzas story;
How This Entrepreneur Found Success by Combining 2 Loves: Pizza and Fitness
Andrew Ryan is a 30-year-old entrepreneur and the founder of Innovative Protein Nutrition, the company behind The Protein Pizza. Ryan found his calling when he combined two of his favorite things — fitness and pizza. He is proof that an idea fueled by passion and hard work can be brought to life.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Ryan, where we discussed his entrepreneurial journey, and what contributed to the success of his company.
Give our readers a little background information about yourself.
Ryan: Back in 2015 I was working as a personal trainer and also doing custom workouts and meal plans for online clients. I was offered positions at some high-end gym chains in Miami and New York but the offers weren’t appealing to me. I wanted full control of my schedule and income.
The money was good, but I was getting bored. I always felt I could do something impactful in the fitness industry and I used my competitive-side to help fuel my entrepreneurial journey.
How did you become interested in fitness initially?
Ryan: I have always been an athlete, playing baseball, basketball and football in high school. I then played college football, but never advanced past that level. Being an athlete, my transition into personal training was natural.
Where did the idea of creating a protein pizza stem from?
Ryan: I really enjoyed working one-on-one with clients and watching them make drastic changes. It was through those sessions that the idea for my company came about. One of the common questions I received was about protein shakes. Several clients were asking for different options for their protein, as they couldn’t stomach the taste of chalky protein powder and bars.
Being from New York, I grew up on Italian food, and authentic New York pizza is my all-time favorite. I felt like the supplement industry had gotten stale, so I started to research alternative protein products. In my mind, if I could create a protein pizza it would sell.
When did you take the leap and decide to go all-in?
Ryan: I quit my job as a personal trainer not too long after the idea came to me. I had enough savings to last me a year of no income, so I told myself I was going to give this my all for a year, and if nothing came of it I would go back to training or get a nine-to-five job. I truly wanted to create an amazing product that people loved and provided a benefit. I also had ideas for additional healthy products.
What were some of the obstacles you faced in the beginning?
Ryan: I was wrong about the timeframe to bring a product from concept to production. I assumed it would be a three-month process, but I was wrong. Four months in and all I faced was rejection. The food industry is difficult for several reasons. It’s difficult to find a quality manufacturer, and one that is willing to bet on a smaller startup with an idea that hasn’t been proven.
When did you realize that this was a viable business?
Ryan: I finally found a company in New York that would entertain my proposal. I had to bring in a third-party supplement company to provide our patented heat-stable whey isolate protein powder, but the first protein infused crust arrived in dry ice at my house shortly after. We nailed it. It tasted like regular pizza, with none of the protein taste that the powders and bars contain.
Is there anything that really surprised you in the beginning?
Ryan: Shipping perishables isn’t cheap, which is the reason a product like this hadn’t previously been made. I had to get some samples out to influencers in the beginning, but because I wasn’t doing bulk sales yet, which is about 300% cheaper to ship, I had to ship on my own dime. Some shipments were costing me $300 to get out to the West Coast.
What personal sacrifices did you make in order to help bring this dream to reality?
Ryan: I sold my car and apartment and then moved myself and my girlfriend in with my family. This was the only way I was going to be able to make it work in the beginning, and I did it without hesitation because I knew I was going to make it. I refused to let the thought of failure enter my mind.
How did you get your initial traction?
Ryan: I spent my days shipping pizza and documenting my progress on my personal Facebook profile. Momentum started to pick up and eventually I got the product in the hands of some of the biggest names in the fitness industry and they loved it. A few pictures got out with them and the product and that was the beginning of the snowball effect. I had about 400 Instagram followers in the beginning and now we’re now at about 25,000, just three months into selling to the public.
As a young company, what are some of the highlights that you have experienced thus far?
Ryan: It’s been an incredible journey so far with so many highlights, including ending up on set with Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston, having lunch with a childhood icon of mine, Deion Sanders, and I was invited into NFL Pro Bowler DeAngelo Hall’s house.
We also signed first round draft pick and college defensive player of the year Jonathan Allen as an influencer, who is also now part owner. We sponsored NFL quarterback Deshaun Watson’s youth camp and built a network that includes Bryce Harper and Aaron Rodgers’ agent. I also got a meeting with Conor McGregor’s manager in Las Vegas and brought on fitness icon and Reebok athlete Ashley Horner as an investor. It’s been a wild ride so far.
What are you excited about in the coming year?
We have several new products coming out under the Innovative Protein Nutrition brand that have nothing to do with pizza. Expanding beyond pizza is very exciting for me, and I am excited about building this brand and bringing the fitness industry food products that are healthy, clean and packed full of protein.