Jodi Aufdencamp’s résumé reads like a compilation of the best in Columbus dining. She and husband Jeff met 25 years ago while working at One Nation, and also worked for esteemed Chef Hartmut Handke, the Doody family (Sue, of Lindey’s fame, and her sons, Chris and Rick, at Bravo) and Kyle Katz, who owned Barcelona and Magnolia.
But when the Aufdencamp children, Gabrielle (now 17) and Kohl (now 14) were 18 months and “five-ish,” the couple realized something had to change. Jodi worked 12-hour days as a restaurant manager, while Jeff watched the kids during the day and managed restaurant-bars at night.
“We never saw each other, and I didn’t really see enough of the kids,” Aufdencamp says. So in 1999, they opened Mama Mimi’s Take ’N Bake Pizza on Henderson Road, figuring the concept was simple enough to teach others and relaxed enough that they could bring their children to work.
The Aufdencamps have since opened four corporate stores in Central Ohio and four franchise locations. The Dayton franchise later closed, leaving one in Powell and two in Aufdencamp’s home state of Iowa.
Mama Mimi’s, where Jodi is president and Jeff is vice president, is known for pizzas prepared on-site with fresh ingredients as well as innovations such as whole-wheat crusts, gluten-free crusts (from a Connecticut supplier) and low-fat, low-calorie “spa” pizzas.
In December, following two years of treatment for breast cancer, Aufdencamp, 46, was ruled cancer-free. In February, Mama Mimi’s celebrated its 12th birthday.
What’s the best part of your job? Making people’s lives easier, says Aufdencamp. “I don’t want to sound cheesy, or cliché, but when busy moms come in … they can go home with a great meal. It’s healthy, it’s made from scratch, it doesn’t contain any fillers, artificial colors, MSG; there’s no crazy chemicals that make the dough.”
What’s your biggest challenge? Aufdencamp says it can be hard to teach younger staffers, accustomed to communicating online or through texting, the importance of customer service—“a huge component to our success.”
How do you maintain a work-life balance? The Aufdencamps involve their children in the business (Gabrielle works at the Hilliard location) and “are very open and honest with our kids about everything.” To foster quality time, they make a habit of turning off their cellphones and email when on vacation.
What strengths do women bring to the workplace? “I think women bring patience, but I also think they bring passion and motivation.”
Who or what has been your biggest inspiration? Sue Doody has been an inspiration as a restaurateur, Aufdencamp says, creating “a place where people go to have a great time Downtown and eat great food.”
What are your goals for the next five years? In addition to a Gabrielle-led effort to source olive oil from a small Oregon grove, “I want every franchise to be very strong, and I would like to double our sales in our current locations. I’d like to improve our marketing so that we can get the word out about all the great things we offer. And I would like to double our sales in the corporate stores, because I think we have the ability to,” Aufdencamp says.
How can employers ensure that more women achieve high-ranking positions? Aufdencamp says she’d like to see corporations listen to women. “I think they would be very surprised at the impact women could have.”
Michelle Davey is an editorial assistant and Jennifer Wray is a staff writer for Columbus C.E.O.
Reprinted from the May 2012 issue of Columbus C.E.O. Copyright © Columbus C.E.O.