Entrepreneurs / Small Business  April 17, 2015

Fire Within owners seek upper crust

An ambitious Colorado company has a name with two distinct meanings.

Fire Within LLC makes 13 different models of wood-fired pizza ovens and puts them on trailers.  The resulting boutique food truck can be used as a stand-alone restaurant or addition to a space-challenged brewpub, or used at farmers’ markets, parties, weddings and festivals. The vermiculite-masonry ovens can cook an 8-inch pizza in 90 seconds when fully heated to nearly 900 degrees.

But the little inferno inside the mobile oven isn’t the only fire within. The name also refers to the entrepreneurial spirit.

The company runs three-day workshops five times a year that teach potential buyers the culinary side of things as well as how to write a business plan, start their own companies and, in the process, become financially independent.

Besides learning how to cook pizza, said Ajith Dharma, 52, owner and president of Fire Within, participants learn how to use the ovens to prepare appetizers, breakfast sandwiches, poultry, meat and bread. Once their businesses are established, Dharma said, the buyers become facilitators for the workshops.

“Fire Within pizza-oven owners have become a community of ‘foodie’ entrepreneurs who love to share their best practices, review lessons learned from past mistakes and show off their recipes to one another,” Dharma said.

The ovens themselves are manufactured by Forno Bravo Inc. in Salinas Calif., and the masonry is added in Fort Collins, where the ovens are mounted on trailers at MGS Inc. That Pennsylvania-based trailer manufacturer merged in September with Maxey Cos. Inc., which had been a staple of the Fort Collins business community since 1969.

Although his father owned boutique food stores in his native Sri Lanka, Dharma had no food-industry background other than being an investor in Boulder Brands’ Udi’s Foods before buying the company from founder Joseph Pergollizzi in October.

In the process, Dharma learned some business lessons of his own.

“I found out that to sell a trailer in Colorado, you have to be an automobile dealer,” Dharma said. “I finally got my license last week. I had to become an auto dealer like John Elway.”

An ambitious Colorado company has a name with two distinct meanings.

Fire Within LLC makes 13 different models of wood-fired pizza ovens and puts them on trailers.  The resulting boutique food truck can be used as a stand-alone restaurant or addition to a space-challenged brewpub, or used at farmers’ markets, parties, weddings and festivals. The vermiculite-masonry ovens can cook an 8-inch pizza in 90 seconds when fully heated to nearly 900 degrees.

But the little inferno inside the mobile oven isn’t the only fire within. The name also refers to the entrepreneurial spirit.

The company…

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Dallas Heltzell

Staff writer

Dallas Heltzell
Dallas has been with BizWest since 2012 and in Colorado since 1979, having worked at the Longmont Times-Call, Colorado Springs Gazette, Denver Post and Public News Service. A Missouri native and Mizzou School of Journalism grad, Dallas started as a sports writer and outdoor columnist at the St. Charles (Mo.) Banner-News, then went to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch before fleeing the heat and humidity for the Rockies. He's a proud St. Louis Cardinals and Missouri Tigers fan and Longmonter who loves the outdoors, good restaurants, our Northern Colorado mountain communities, his big backyard and living in a region that's the country's most exciting place to be a business reporter.

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