SEATTLE – Turning pizza into a movement for good is the goal of the co-founders of MOD Pizza, Scott and Ally Svenson.
The couple, who grew up in Bellevue, set out to create a better pizza experience for families and ended up finding much more.
MOD stands for made on demand. Individual sized pizzas are served in minutes at a set price, a model that’s made MOD one of the fastest growing privately owned companies in the country.
MOD has opened 179 locations in 20 states and the United Kingdom since 2008. It just raised another $42 million and plans to open another 100 stores next year.
Scott and Alley Svenson’s backstory reads more like a love story than a business plan. Their teenage romance spawned at Bellevue High School, and they both went to Boston for college – Scott at Harvard University, Ally at Wellesley College.
They moved to London and got married, and while longing for the coffee found back home in the Seattle area, Scott and Alley opened a café called Seattle Coffee Company.
It grew to 68 locations by 1998, when the Svensons sold to Starbucks for $90 million.
They returned to the Pacific Northwest wondering what’s next.
“That’s when Ally said ‘the last thing the world needs is another pizza chain,'” Scott said. “So if we’re going to do this, it has to have more meaning.”
They found that meaning in their workforce, who they greet with hugs, not handshakes. Almost like proud parents, they boast about their employees, called the MOD Squad.
MOD Pizza is big on providing second chances. Just ask Tony D’Aloia, who because of a criminal record couldn’t find a job during the recession, until he found MOD. He’s gone from dishwasher to district manager in five years.
“They said, just because you made a bad choice, doesn’t make you a bad person. Prove us right for believing in you. Show us what you’ve got and you got all the opportunity in the world,” D’Aloia said.
They also provide opportunities for parents looking to get back into the workforce and people with disabilities.
“It’s not about the pizza. This business can become and is looking to be a platform to make a positive impact,” says Alley Svenson.
Spreading the “MODness,” as they like to call it, takes on special meaning during the week of Thanksgiving. That’s when a dollar from the sale of every pizza goes to a charity selected by the employees at each store.
In 2016, they raised more than $241,000 for 165 plus non-profits around the country.
Scott Svenson says pizza can become a vehicle for change.
“Listen, we sell pizza and milkshakes,” he said. “It’s not like we’re curing cancer. But through that platform, we do think we can change the world in a positive way and that’s what we’re setting out to do.”