Pedicabs and pizza− they don’t seem to have much in common.
I say this to Mike Sorboro when I interview him about his thriving businesses, E.C.T. Pedicab and Mikey’s Late Night Slice.
“I prefer to think we’re not in the transportation or pizza businesses, though,” he replies. “I like to think we’re in the ‘late night services’ business.”
When he puts it that way, it all makes perfect sense. One night in the Short North and you’re bound to see nightlife revelers spilling out of bars and into Sorboro’s pedicabs or lining up for a slice (or two) of his pizza available in four signature flavors: cheese, plain-ass pepperoni, spicy-ass pepperoni, and mushroom.
To learn what prompted Sorboro to launch those particular businesses, who has helped him realize his entrepreneurial dreams, and which markets he’s looking to break into next, read the rest of my interview with the 30-year old Akron native.
Melanie McIntyre: When did you launch E.C.T. Pedicab and when did you launch Late Night Slice?
Mike Sorboro: E.C.T. Pedicab was launched in April of 2008 after a trip to San Diego. Living in Las Vegas at the time, I took a vacation from my vacation and the Gas Lamp District of SD had all these really cool bike cabs. I thought they’d do really well in the Short North. So after much research and planning, I bought five cabs and E.C.T. Pedicab was born.
After a year of pedicabbing, I began to hear a common question from the intoxicated masses, which I was driving: “Where’s the pizza by the slice in this city?” I began to think, “Where is the pizza by the slice in this city?”
After personally converting a former used car office shack into what would become the smallest full-service kitchen in Columbus, Late Night Slice was launched July 4th of 2009.
MM: What inspired you to launch E.C.T. Pedicab?
MS: The idea that these bikes would be embraced in the Short North was what initially inspired me to start E.C.T. Pedicab. The benefits of the cabs being 100 percent human-powered, 100 percent environmentally friendly, and that they basically leave no carbon footprint are what convinced me to buy and start the business.
MM: With Late Night Slice, you started out in the shack near Bodega, then added food trucks, and now you have a Clintonville store. Tell me a bit about the new store and how all the other components helped you get there. Or maybe they didn’t?
MS: Soon after our shack was up and running, we began to see the potential in our little project. Our first idea was to convert an old Airstream trailer to a pizza buggy and tow it around to all the festivals and events in the area. After we found out all the work and time it would require to do this, we began to look at trucks and trailers. We found our current “PizzAssult Truck” on Ebay about an hour south of Columbus, already set up and ready to go for pizza.
Our Woodlands Tavern, or Grandview, location was opened in August of 2010 after finding out the current owners of the former Thirsty Ear had an available kitchen. Next, and most recently, came our Clintonville LNS, located behind Ledo’s on East Duncan Street. We’re into our second month there and, minus a few aesthetic improvements we’re initiating soon, things are going great there! Now that we have our business model in place, it’s been pretty easy to apply it to our new locations.
MM: You’re currently using the space at 1038 N. High St. next to the shack as a dining space for Late Night Slice/space for 83 Gallery. What led to that partnership and how do you think the businesses benefit each other?
MS: The space at 1038 came available recently and it was something we had to jump on. We wanted to grow into that space in steps, so we were left with an area of frontage and a big back room area. The partnership began with the guys from the former ReFind Design space. They needed a workshop and gallery, we needed a tenant. 83 Gallery came in a month or two later and have been great partners ever since.
MM: I hear you want to add a bar to that space in the future. Anything you want to share about that?
MS: Ah, yes, the future! We do have eventual plans for turning that entire space into a bar at some point, but those plans are way off as we focus on Late Night Slice’s growth. As far as concepts for the space, we have a couple of really fun and unique ideas to compliment Bodega and help create a new destination area. Stay tuned!
MM: What resources −books, websites, organizations, etc.− have been most helpful to you when starting your businesses?
MS: Wow, how useful is YouTube?! Having never rode or worked on pedicabs and having never made a pizza in my life untill I had a pizza restaurant, YouTube has been remarkably helpful. It truly is a great reference tool. Also, just talking to the various business owners in the area has been immensely helpful. Insight from people who have been through some of the issues you face is invaluable.
MM: Who have you turned to for advice and input?
MS: The School of Hard Knocks! Tripping, stumbling, and crawling each day since we’ve opened has been, I think, the biggest lesson and best learning experience so far. I also couldn’t have done this without my partners Jason Biundo and Bryce Ungerott.
Jason is my right-hand-man in both E.C.T. and LNS. He excels spectacularly at almost everything I don’t. The safe, responsible, and trustworthy reputation of E.C.T. Pedicab and the sassy and irreverent personality of Late Night Slice are very much his.
Bryce started his own custom elearning software company soon after the infamous WorldCom crash where he had been employed. He has since watched it grow into a multi-million dollar company, which has just been named the 21st fastest growing company in Central Ohio by Columbus Business First. His input on pertinent business issues, such as payroll and staffing, has also been invaluable.
MM: What’s the biggest challenge to owning multiple businesses and how do you address it?
MS: Time management! When you decide to go into business for yourself, you’re deciding that you, and your partners, are going to be the only people responsible for your own survival. No one else. You can’t call in sick and you can’t leave work at work. It’s all up to you.
It’s a lot different than having a job that you go to for eight hours, get off, and that’s it until the next day. With your own business, work is with you every day, 24 hours a day. You even dream about it, with an occasional nightmare thrown in for good measure. I think it’s essential to find people who you like and trust to help you with your project.
MM: What’s the most rewarding aspect to owning your own business?
MS: I love the freedom this has afforded me− personal and creative. Now that’s not saying we all don’t work hard! With the pedicabs getting ready to start their fourth season and four Late Night Slices opening up within 18 months, I dare you to find guys busier than Jason, Bryce, and I! Somehow, though, we all still find time to make it to our home-away-from-home −Key West− a couple times a year!
MM: What would you like to accomplish professionally in the year ahead?
MS: Within the next year I’d like to focus on making all the LNS locations run smoothly and look nice. It’s kinda like all of the sudden someone gave us this big puppy; now we’ve just got to train him to pee outside!
MM: Is there anything else you think I should know?
MS: We’re planning only about one more LNS location in Columbus. After that it looks like Athens or Akron might be our next markets. We’re also not looking to franchise any time soon.
To learn more about E.C.T. Pedicab, visit Facebook.com/ectpedicab.
To learn more about Mikey’s Late Night Slice, visit Facebook.com/latenightslice.