Episode description:
On episode 11 of the Entrepreneurship@DU Podcast, we chat with Ryan Mclean, co-owner of Mountain Crust. This fast-growing food truck business is redefining the “pizza party” by providing full catering services for events such as weddings, graduations, and more. The Mountain Crust brand has become synonymous for both great service and a fun, laid-back atmosphere where employees party alongside the guests.


Kevin Douglas (00:06):

Today on the Entrepreneurship@DU podcast,

Ryan Mclean (00:11):

We knew that there was a gap in the full service catering world and the food truck world. And so the food trucks weren’t getting in a lot of traction within that private event space. But we will do anything.

Kevin Douglas (00:23):

A DU alum redefines the pizza party, catering large scale events, and bringing a unique personality to his trucks and venues.

Ryan Mclean (00:33):

Our audience and the people who find us, are more of the people who just understand that we want to have fun too. Why can’t the catering company join the dance floor? Who made that a rule? I truly believe the more fun that you have at work, the harder you’re going to work.

Kevin Douglas (00:47):

Today we’re chatting with Ryan Mclean, co-owner of Mountain Crust. I’m Kevin Douglas, and this is the Entrepreneurship@DU Podcast.


Welcome to the Entrepreneurship@DU podcast. Today we have Ryan Mclean, co-owner of Mountain Crust Ryan graduated from DU in 2016 with a degree in finance. Ryan started his pizza party business in the summer 2014, between sophomore and junior year at DU. What started at home in Minnesota was brought to Colorado where it has reached new heights with multiple pizza trucks and their own event venue. Mountain Crust has made a name for itself, catering and hosting events of all kinds, including weddings, graduations, and holiday parties. Thanks for coming to the studio, Ryan.

Ryan Mclean (01:37):

Thanks for having me, Kev.

Kevin Douglas (01:38):

So you started this business, you said sophomore year of college, but I saw on your website you’ve been throwing pizza parties since 2006. So I’d love to hear where you got this interest and how you gained these skills, how that eventually evolved into a business venture.

Ryan Mclean (01:55):

Yeah, totally. I mean, when I was 12 years old, it was really the big beginning of this whole story. My mom decided to renovate our whole kitchen and put a woodfire pizza oven it in it. And why she decided to do that, I have no idea. It was her dream to have that, and she never would’ve thought that it would’ve turned into this Denver Pizza Empire. But here we are. I started just messing around with it in middle school and high school a ton just, I loved fire. I loved cooking. I loved hosting people. I loved throwing parties. So we started doing that as kids. All my friends and I, we would just hang out and cook food and all my mom’s clients and aDUlts from the neighborhood would come over and we would throw them parties, and it was a blast. You’re just hanging out with all your friends in one place and serving people and making ’em happy. And I think, you know what I always like to relate it to is sports teams. I was always a big sports guy. And having your team in the kitchen or your team on catering events is the exact same thing. You’re just a big team. Everybody’s fighting for that same purpose. And so that’s how I kind of relate my childhood experience of these pizza parties coming into my now full blown career of just always having that team spirit around everything. And I think that’s what really got me going on it

Kevin Douglas (03:30):

Did. Thinking about the sports team analogy, did you and the friends and family you were doing this with take on different positions, and were you more of the cook versus the greeter, or did you find yourself rotating all over the place with your team?

Ryan Mclean (03:48):

Yeah, I think we all wanted to do a little bit of everything, especially when I was doing it back when I was doing it with all my friends, K, everyone kind of wanted to be the person in charge cause we all wanted to be that person. But obviously it was my brainchild, it was my house, so I had to ultimately be the person in charge of it all. But I think the best thing about the team sport is that everybody can play every position. We still preach that today. We do a lot of cross-training within within Mountain Crust currently, because it’s important if a player on the soccer team gets hurt, you want to need to be able to have somebody else play that position. If somebody is sick or unable to work, you have somebody else play that position. So it totally, it relates a lot to that sports world in that way. And we have a lot of people who can do pretty much everything.

Kevin Douglas (04:43):

That makes a lot of sense, especially with how dynamic the, I guess, catering or mobile food truck inDUstry must be. Yeah. Sometimes on the fly, if last minute something happens, you got to have someone who can fill in. So that makes a lot of sense. Totally. I want to hear about how when this became an actual business, we brought it to Colorado and got your brand started. How did you identify, well, first of all, who’s your market? Who are you appealing to with this venture and how’d you identify them and how do you set yourself apart to that audience?

Ryan Mclean (05:17):

Yeah, it’s a really good question. I didn’t necessarily know who exactly my audience was going to be, but I knew from the beginning that with this food truck concept that we were only going to do private events. We weren’t going to set up a breweries and potentially sell 10 pizzas or a hundred pizzas and have those question marks on our books. I was always from junior year when I really started getting serious about this idea, I tell this story I would just sit at for Metro, which was the pretty crappy brewery by DU. That failed pretty quickly. Yeah, yeah. Never even heard of that. Yeah, exactly. It was a short project over there, but they had a lot of really weird beers. They’d always have a food truck outside. And I would sit there and obviously have a beer and just watch how many people would go up and order food.


And that was my first sort of research and development into what the heck is a food truck? And that’s where I really began realizing, okay, no, no, no, this is not going to work. We’re not going to be a sustainable business if we’re just setting up shop outside of a brewery and hoping that people are coming to the brewery hungry because people don’t go to a brewery looking for food. They go to a brewery looking for beer, and if there happens to be food, maybe they’ll get it. It’s a very much a secondary thought for folks. So that became very apparent early on that I was not going to follow that model. I was going to follow the private party model, and that’s when I started reaching out to, I pretended to be married in college. I would just reach out to catering companies all the time through their websites and I would say, Hey, I’m getting married in a few months.


I need to get some quotes on this. And I’d get wedding quotes, I’d call, I’d pretend to be a company and get company quotes for catered events and just start getting pricing on all of those type of things. And that’s kind of how we came up with our first pricing structure for Mountain Crust was just me gathering a bunch of that stuff and realizing what do people charge for? How much do they charge for these private events? And so our market, obviously now 85% of our business is weddings. That’s pretty much what we do predominantly, I didn’t know at the time that I would never have been able to predict that. So realizing how that all came into play was we really just started meeting a lot of wedding planners and folks who own wedding venues, and they said they loved our concept and we started doing stuff for them at their venues and getting into this wedding scene a little bit, and it just kind of took off on it.


It sort of went that direction on its own. I knew it would be private events. I didn’t know exactly which ones, but I was like, yeah, we’ll do some weddings, we’ll do some house parties, we’ll do this. But the really big point for us was we knew that there was a gap in the full service catering world and the food truck world because all of these wedding venues are pretty high end. They require the caterer to do full service, set up all the tables and chairs, pour water glasses, do everything you need to do, and then they also require you to stay and clean everything up at the end of the night. And none of the food trucks want to do that. The food trucks want to show up, make the food, put it out of the window and say, food’s here, take it. And we’re gone.


And so the food trucks weren’t getting a lot of traction within that private event. And so I said, okay, well that’s obviously is a big gap there because we are technically a food truck, but we will do anything. I don’t care what it is, mop floors. Yeah, I’ll take out the bathroom trash, I don’t care. Tell me what we need to do. And that ultimately started opening the door for all of these wedding venues who said, our couples really want food trucks, but they didn’t allow them because the food trucks didn’t do everything they needed to do. So that actually opened up a massive window of opportunity for Mountain Crust and allowed us to gross pretty quickly in that space.

Kevin Douglas (09:28):

I love that you to get the prices you called and imitated and Oh yeah. That’s just something I’ve never heard of, but it’s really smart. And I think

Ryan Mclean (09:35):

Hopefully, hey, I don’t play by a lot of rule books. I kind of make my own rule book, which I think a lot of entrepreneurs probably do. But yeah, I mean, I didn’t know where to start with it, so yeah,

Kevin Douglas (09:49):

It’s got you this far. Speaking of plan by your own rules, when I was was going on your website to look at your role and the other people on your team, I saw everyone has a very unique title instead of head of cooking or Head of Customer Experience and Relations, we have you as the Michael Scott of the pizza world instead of ceo, someone else with a v I p P, a very important pizza person. I just love all the, it’s very unique. It’s brimming with personality. I’m curious where that came from, the decision to make that part of your established brand and who you think you’ve reached with that branding.

Ryan Mclean (10:32):

Yeah, for sure. Colorado’s a very laid back state. I think a lot of people here are, they’re not looking for that hoy, tody. The caterers are all dressed in black, and then they have a napkin on their left arm and they pour the wine elegantly. And I’m more of our audience and the people who find us our clientele are more of the people who just understand that we want to have fun too. And that comes into everything that we do throughout our whole company, whether it’s titles or because we don’t care about titles. No, I’m not ceo, I’m not the owner any, I’m, I’m just a DUde. I like pizza and beer and I like hanging out with my friends. And that’s how everyone else in our, we have obviously have people who are in charge of sales and in charge of marketing and in charge of the kitchen stuff, but they don’t see it as a title either. They know that it’s their job, but it’s just a big team. And we know that if we all do our jobs well then it, we’re going to help each other indiviDUally. Everything is going to grow organically if everyone’s doing that. So I think the personality thing is huge. I mean, when I started this business, we would do parties early on where, you know, don’t have a catering typically that shows up and is partying as hard as the guests are. Right. I never

Kevin Douglas (12:00):

Heard of that.

Ryan Mclean (12:01):

Yeah, no, the catering company comes, they set up the linens, they do their thing, they’re very professional and they leave. There were so many parties early on that we would just leave the truck at because we’d be like, wow, we’ve had way, we’ve had too much to drink. We’re having a blast. This has been awesome. We might have our aprons on or whatever. And people know we’re with the pizza truck, but it doesn’t feel like that. And that’s kind of where our personality goes into our business is that we don’t, why can’t the catering company join the dance floor? Who made that a rule? Who made the rule that the catering company can’t be shaking their booties as hard as everybody else? We like to dance. Why can’t we dance? So that’s kind of how this has all transpired from the days of, we just had one truck and we don’t party as hard as we used to.


We can, we’re too busy now. It’s just been become a Goliath of a business. And obviously we’re fortunate for that, but it does take away from some of that. We get invited to after parties all the time. We get in party. People want to party with us because we like partying. But it’s gotten, over the years, it’s been less of a priority for that side of the personality. Although it doesn’t take away from when we’re at the event, we’re still having a blast. I’m not afraid to take a piece of pizza off of a plate and shove it into the bride’s mom’s mouth and say, get her going if obviously.

Kevin Douglas (13:29):

Is that a true example? Oh yeah,

Ryan Mclean (13:30):

Of course it does a hundred times. But that’s how we loosen the atmosphere, right? It’s the stigmatism is the bride’s mom is always the most uptight person at the wedding. And so if we can get her to loosen up and just relax and enjoy it and not be thinking, oh my God, is the catering company going to handle this? Is the wedding planner thinking about this? Is the DJ going to announce the song? Just relax, enjoy this. All your favorite people are here for your daughter, please just relax. And so we do our best to really make them feel they’re just at home. They’re just hanging out with their friends, don’t, it’s not this big uptight thing. And obviously there’s plenty of examples where that doesn’t work at all. And the mom of the bride is very, very uptight. And we just work around that. You know

Kevin Douglas (14:25):

How to read the room. Oh

Ryan Mclean (14:26):

Yeah, you got to read the room. We have some hilarious stories of us getting a little too involved at parties.

Kevin Douglas (14:33):

So it’s kind of a double-edged sword, I guess, because that it’s that personable, unique experience that got the word of mouth going, I’m sure. Exactly. And now it’s gotten you so big that you don’t get to do that every time. Yeah, I’m sure that’s bittersweet in some ways. Yeah.

Ryan Mclean (14:47):

Yeah. It’s definitely something that we think about. I mean, we do have a really time over there, but we’re not staying later anymore. If we used to have parties where we were contracted till 8:00 PM and suddenly it’s 1130 at night, and we’re still having a blast with everybody because we didn’t necessarily that busy. But now it’s like, well, no, we have to do this all over again tomorrow and the next day and the next day and the next day. So we got to save ourselves. We have to have fun when we can, but obviously be a little bit smarter about it for sure.

Kevin Douglas (15:18):

I want to pivot and ask you about, just from the business side of things, what challenges you’ve encountered, and I’m sure with this very, very unique personality, I’m sure you’ve encountered some situations where maybe people, I’m sure people have booked you not knowing what to expect, or maybe they wanted the napkin over the arm, but where have you encountered some bumps in the robe with acquiring your trucks, establishing these relationships, maybe even getting your venue? Cause I know you somewhat recently got this event venue, right? Yeah.

Ryan Mclean (15:56):

Mean there is no such thing as a smooth road in the small business world. It is super bumpy every day. Literally every day there’s something that comes up. So yeah, I think, I guess, trying to think of a few examples of some rough row. But I mean, going to the customer relation part, we have wedding planners that recommend us all over the place. It’s really, it’s awesome. We’re really grateful for them. We also have wedding planners who’ve never really worked with us before. And when we show up and we’re having a beer at the truck or something’s happening, they’re like, what is going on with the catering company? This is insane. And either myself or a manager, whoever’s on site, has to kind of debrief them into like, Hey, we’re undress.

Kevin Douglas (16:45):

This is what we do.

Ryan Mclean (16:46):

This is what we do. This is who we are. And we’ve definitely had some of those tough conversations and been a part of what we believe to be the change that we think the inDUstry should have, which is just working with your heart and not just showing up for a paycheck and trying to fake a smile or anything like that. And so I think the biggest, that’s been a interesting barrier to breakdown throughout the inDUstry. And I think for those who have worked with us closely, they would probably agree that we kind of push the limits a little bit and to what is acceptable and what is not. And yeah, I am okay with it. I think it’s awesome. Who made these rules? Why do we have to listen to these rules? What does that mean? And I have been an advocate for, I don’t typically get into it with somebody at the event, but we’ll always if we need to have a follow up on why it’s okay or why it’s not okay or who made that rule. I am with sticking to our guns now, especially after this is going to be our seventh year business. So I’m pretty confident in our business model. Yeah, it’s working. So I don’t necessarily have to, I don’t know what the word is, but I don’t necessarily have to give in to those outward pressures all the time. I can kind of say, well, this is who we are.

Kevin Douglas (18:31):

You have enough momentum that you don’t feel the need to change just for one or two.

Ryan Mclean (18:37):

Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I mean, the thing is that most people in the inDUstry know who we are at this point. And they know that we’re coming to have a good time. They know that we also do a really good job. We care deeply about our work. It doesn’t, just because we’re goofing around and spanking the groom on the butt and doing all that stuff doesn’t mean we’re not working hard. Or I truly believe the more fun that you have at work, the harder you’re going to work. I don’t know if there’s any science to back that up, but that’s what I think feels true. That’s what I think. If you’re having fun at work, you’re probably going to work harder. So that’s sort of the motto of working for Mountain Crust is if you can have fun at work, then it doesn’t really feel like work.


It kind of feels more like you’re hanging out with a bunch of people that you’re enjoying hanging out with. But that was a long, long sidetrack. To your actual question, what some other boundaries, some other barriers we’ve hit? This has been the hardest year of, in my life with the business. It’s been super difficult. We purchased a property 14 months ago. It was two different lots. One of the lots was a small event center with a backyard, and the other lot was a big dirt parking lot. And the vision was, we are essentially in numerous different places. Right now with our business, we have a big kitchen that we rent a big warehouse, that we rent a garage, that we still use the University of Denver for dishes at night, which is, everyone always hears that. And they’re like, what? Use the University of Denver for dishes. And so we have a lot of things in a lot of different places. And so the goal of this new project is to bring every one of those pieces under one roof and have one headquarters for everything. And obviously it’s been a long time coming. It’s a very expensive project.


We’re about 13 months into it right now, and we’re hopefully going to be done by July with it. But essentially that dirt parking lot, half of that lot becomes the catering kitchen and the truck storage. So then we now have, on our main headquarters, we have the catering kitchen with all the trucks. They all run out of there. We have a parking lot for the event center. And then we have an event center that’s full service. We have our own alcohol license. We have our old Blue, which is our original food truck, is retired in the backyard over there. So he’s had a lot of mechanical problems over the years. And so we said, you know what? We got to pop his tires. And so he’s in the backyard. And so we can do these full service events there with food, booze, tables, chairs, venue, everything you need for a pretty affordable price compared to a lot of other spots.


And I think it, it’s going to open us up to a new market of clientele. People who similar, they have similar vibe of, we don’t necessarily care about the fancy things cause we’re not, we’re by no means a fancy place, but they can have their nice wedding without putting down a full down payment on a house. Because the wedding inDUstry these days is, your budgets are probably 30 to $60,000 at the low, and then even higher than 60 for some people. But we’re trying to get couples to have that under 20 kind of budget, to be able to have a big party with all your family and friends and have everything you need, all you can drink, all you can eat everything under one roof. And so the barrier and the troubles have been with permitting and building and working with general contractors and all of the different things that go into a brand new building because we’re building from the ground up. So, wow. Yeah, it’s a lot different process than buying a building and renovating it. We are building from scratch, so there’s a ton more costs involved. There’s a ton more research and

Kevin Douglas (22:38):

A lot regulation. You have to go through

Ryan Mclean (22:40):

Coding, zoning, architecture stuff. It’s truly a nonstop battle. I mean, every single day I feel like we have something come up over there that we need to adjust the plan to, or we’re several months behind right now. And that’s normal. Every person in the construction world will always say, yep, yep. That’s how it goes. That’s how it goes. And I’m not used to that. So it’s a new thing for me, a new beast to tackle. And it’s been super, super draining for the team. But we’re really excited to get it over with. It’s going to be a very cool home for Mountain Crest.

Kevin Douglas (23:16):

Yeah. It’ll provide a lot of stability, I’m sure, just to have that one headquarters you can go to rather than all this hodgepodge of resources you’re using. Right. I’d love to ask about, specifically DUring the pandemic, did that change your business model significantly because there weren’t events to cater, and how did Mountain navigate that journey?

Ryan Mclean (23:39):

Yeah, for sure. It’s a common question these days. How the heck did you guys survive? We were super lucky. We had a really awesome team going into the pandemic. Everybody was gungho on Mountain Crust. We had a really, really amazing group of people working for us. And we basically all banded together and said, okay, look, team, we’re either going to fold this up and try to start back up eventually. And we lost a ton of money, probably at that time, 1.2 million bucks, which I was a 25 year old, 26 year old. And I was like, wow, this is crazy to lose this much money at this age. But we basically said, Hey, look you guys, we can fold this all up and start over again, maybe someday, or we can fight right now and come up with a way to get through this and try to keep all of you paid and keep everybody on board.


And so what we did was we came up with a plan to attack neighborhoods for basically neighborhood pizza parties, COVID parties, where we would essentially contact our favorite customers from the past and say, Hey, Jayla, can you notify your whole neighborhood and tell them that we’re coming on Wednesday night and we’re going to serve pizza for four hours and they can place their orders online, they can place ’em ahead of time and we’ll feed the whole neighborhood. And then the messages is, Hey, we’re trying to save a small business here and also give you guys something fun and different to do in Covid, get you out of your house, maybe into your front yard. And it wasn’t anything like that. But we started throwing these neighborhood parties and it turned into this big movement of, I can remember when we did over Observatory Park, and I’m not kidding, I think there was probably three to 400 people on the street.


It was like this. Oh wow. Straight up carnival. And it was in the middle of Covid, lockdown, COVID. Everybody masked up, huge party. And of course the police came. It was this big thing. And then everybody, high schoolers running from the cops, all the parents, everyone disperses into their houses and there’s all these mini parties and all the backyards just waiting for the parties. Kept going. They kept going, they kept going, but we were there waiting for their food. So we’re trying to catch up on orders and all this stuff. But we were fighting for, and I think we would do four popups a week. And they were super, they’re a lot harder than our normal business model. We’re taking indiviDUal orders, we’re boxing everything up, we’re trying to keep everything hot for people to pick up. We’re trying to get their payments, indiviDUal payments, all this stuff that we weren’t used to.


But that’s how we had to fight to do it. We used to sit in my house till 12 1 2 in the morning and have pizza box racing full on races to full pizza boxes. Cause we needed thousands and thousands of pizza boxes to keep up with us. And so we would sit in my dining room, the whole team, and we would do relay races, we would do tournaments and who could fold the most pizza boxes of fastest and just have competitions. And it was among the most fun team bonding experiences. Cause we would just drink wine, have a blast, and see who’s the fastest pizza box racer. And we would do it for hours and then we’d have a thousand pizza boxes folded and we’d keep ’em in my garage and wait to go out and serve a big neighborhood. And then we’d do it all over again, fold the pizza boxes, do it again. And we did that for months to just basically keep us afloat and get us through. That.

Kevin Douglas (27:08):

I think mean it’s brilliant just because DUring that time, both the general public and your team, everyone just needed something to latch onto. Just something to do to

Ryan Mclean (27:18):

Something to give ’em hope.

Kevin Douglas (27:20):

Yeah. Something new and different than just the same old every day. Yeah. I mean that’s why we all loved Tiger King, right? Because it was new. And now we look back, we’re like, why was that the one? Yeah, it’s because it was new. It

Ryan Mclean (27:29):

Was perfect timing for Tiger King.

Kevin Douglas (27:32):

Yeah. So you guys, I don’t want to say you’re the, because you’re still doing well, unlike

Ryan Mclean (27:36):

Tiger King, tiger King, we are the tiger king of full service catering. I love it.

Kevin Douglas (27:42):

A new good slogan for you.

Ryan Mclean (27:43):

Yeah, we, we’ll put that on the website. I like that.

Kevin Douglas (27:46):

If you could go back in time to your college age self, when you’re first starting this out and before graduation, before you’ve really gone all in on this. Yeah. What advice would you give that version of yourself?

Ryan Mclean (27:59):

Wow. Ooh, that’s a tough question, man. My first inclination is I wish I could have started this sooner. I’d be a lot further by now because I wanted to start this before going to college. I think my best advice to give myself is that, and I give this same advice to a lot of my college employees and a lot of my younger employees too, is that just because someone’s older or presumed to be wiser than you or whatever, doesn’t mean that they’re correct. We’re all just humans. We’re all trying to figure it out every day. It doesn’t matter what if a professor comes up to a student and says, this is how this is done. That doesn’t mean that that’s the only way that that’s done. That doesn’t mean that’s the best way to do it. That doesn’t mean it’s the correct way to do it.


Seeing through that and being confident in yourself to realize, I mean, had so many people tell me that this is a DUmb idea, that is never going to work. Really. People in my family, friends who are like, what the heck are you doing this day? People are like, what the heck did you do? You know all of that. And so just having confidence and knowing that if you see a vision, don’t let anyone get in your way for it. It’s, there’s no person in this world that knows it all. And I tell a lot of my employees that, Hey, is this the best job in the world to work for mre? Absolutely not. Can you make a lot more money anywhere, somewhere else, or do you know, whatever? Of course, I’m very upfront about that. But the fact is, at Mountain Crust, we’re in this mode of growing this business every year. We grow, we grow, we grow. And there’s a lot to learn within something like that. And there’s also a lot of fun to be had. So the people who work for me generally have a little bit more, there’s like two things that you want in a job. You want to make money, but you want to have fun. And the people who work for me usually want to have fun more than they want to make a lot of money. I mean, miss a pizza truck business,

Kevin Douglas (30:15):

It’s like enDUring a miserable job for a better paycheck, but then you’re spending all these hours not doing something you love. So it’s kind of a balances out,

Ryan Mclean (30:23):

Right? And I’m very lucky to have found people who are with me on that mission because everyone thinks that entrepreneurs make a butt ton of money. And the truth is, you don’t want, as a business owner, you don’t want to pay yourself a lot of money, a lot of taxes and a lot of stuff. You got to, as far as actual paychecks go for a business owner, you try to keep ’em small. You don’t want need big paychecks. I want to put every single dime I can into the business, right? Because that’s how the business grows. So advice I would give myself looking back would be, I think I followed my own advice. Get ’em out just because I am, I pretty stubborn. But to just know that you are correct, you don’t need to listen to everybody. You need to choose the feedback and the advice that you’re given and know what you’re going to listen to and what you’re not going to listen to.


Because there’s a lot of 19, 20 and 21 year olds and 22 year olds who if any successful person or a professor or parent or anyone gets in front of them and says, oh, I think this, and they’re, they’re going to latch onto that, they’re not going to see around it and realize it. No, no, no, no. That doesn’t mean that person’s, right. Yeah, I know plenty of very DUmb 50 year olds, six year old, whatever age that I’m just like, I’m really, I’m never listening to you, and I’m sorry I’m in my twenties still, but I know that that’s not right. So I think just making people realize younger folks, especially that times are changing. Every culture is changing, business is changing, and our generation is a generation that gets to help move those movements forward. And we get to make those choices as humans. So I pitch it, I pretty hard to mile out of my younger employees that they don’t have to do that. They don’t have to fall into the trap.

Kevin Douglas (32:37):

I mean, it’s the best time to self-teach these things rather than the intimidation of getting advice from those very successful and feeling like you have to follow the beaten path already. We have computers living in our pockets with all the information and ways to connect and ways to get exactly what you need, rather than flipping through a phone book to call and fake pretending to get married so you can get the rate. You can just look it up on Google so much faster. There’s all these ways. I think that’s really good advice for any young entrepreneur. Absolutely.

Ryan Mclean (33:10):

Yeah. There’s no perfect playbook. Make your own playbook. Yeah,

Kevin Douglas (33:15):


Ryan Mclean (33:16):

And you’re going to make mistakes. I’ve made a ton. Hundreds and thousands of mistakes. I made tons. But

Kevin Douglas (33:22):

Yeah, you always learn from ’em, right?

Ryan Mclean (33:24):

It’s you got to, yeah. Make mistakes.

Kevin Douglas (33:27):

We always wrap up with a couple rapid fire questions, so just short answers to get a little peek behind the curtain. Okay. How do you define success?

Ryan Mclean (33:38):

Ooh. I’ve been trying to redefine that for myself lately, because I feel a little lost in that word. I think the rapid fire not happening success I think is happiness and happiness is achieved by feeling value in what you do. For me, I feel the happiest when I have felt valuable and when I have felt like I’ve made someone else’s day or I’ve helped somebody significantly solve a problem or whatever it might be. But helping others and knowing that this business might just be a full service catering business, and then we cook a bunch of pizza and that’s all we do. But when we are a part of quite literally what people call it, the most important day of their lives every single day, it’s not the most important day of our lives, but be able to continually show up and make the people feel that way and do a very good job at it. I think that is my happiest state of mind, which to me makes me feel successful.

Kevin Douglas (34:58):

Seeing that positive impact, especially with your business being so personable. Yeah. You see how happy people are when they get what you’re providing For sure. It’s

Ryan Mclean (35:07):

Amazing. It’s direct, it’s immediate. It’s not like in three weeks we’re like, I hope they liked it. It’s like, right, yeah. They’re going to come up to us. They’re going to give us all hugs. They’re going to tell us how amazing it was. Great. And the whole team, not just me or any of my managers there for the night, it’s everybody. They tell my staff over and over again. I think that’s a big thing for my staff too. I think they feel super good leaving our events because they’re like, wow, we did an amazing job.

Kevin Douglas (35:35):

Mean, especially hospitality jobs can be so grueling. So it feels like you put in all this work and no one sees it, or no one recognizes and appreciates it, so, right. That’s awesome. You guys get all that for the whole staff. And then one more rapid question, what is the best or worst piece of advice you’ve gotten from someone?

Ryan Mclean (35:54):

Best or worst piece of advice I’ve gotten, and

Kevin Douglas (35:58):

This could be business related or just personally

Ryan Mclean (36:01):

Or life. I like the piece of advice. I got a piece of advice recently that was higher for culture and train for skill. We’re doing a ton of hiring right now. We’re in a massive hiring spree. We’ve been on it for a month now, and sorting through the first year ever, where we’ve had legitimately way too many people apply to work for us. And it’s great. It’s a good feeling. But sorting through all that’s really tough. And so I think for me, I don’t look at resumes. I don’t look at what you’ve done. I look at who you are, and I want to meet with you. I want to feel your energy. I want to get to know you. I want to walk around the park and just keep it casual and see who you are. Because I know at the end of the day, if you’re a good person and you fit our values and you’re going to show up to work as a great teammate to others, then the rest is going to fall.


I can teach you how to work the oven. I can teach you how to do all the appetizers. I can teach you how to bartend. I can teach you whatever it is that we need to teach you. If you are in the right head space and you have the right mind of fitting into the culture, you’re going to want to learn it anyway. You’re going to want to be a part of the team. So building that team in a culture oriented way, not necessarily a skill oriented way, is bringing it back to sports. Like Team USA was way worse than you know who in the big game in the 1980s. But

Kevin Douglas (37:43):

Go ahead. Sorry. So we’re talking about basketball?

Ryan Mclean (37:46):

No, we’re talking about hockey. Oh gosh. You’re talking about hockey. Do you believe in miracles? Do

Kevin Douglas (37:50):

You know that? Oh, okay. Yeah, yeah.

Ryan Mclean (37:51):

You know, you know what I’m talking about.

Kevin Douglas (37:52):

I know the movie Miracle there. Yeah. Okay. Yeah.

Ryan Mclean (37:55):

But Team A at heart, they had all the culture they had, they had the culture. They didn’t have necessarily the skillful players to take down Russia in that game. And so that, bringing it back to sports, that’s how I feel. We are definitely the culture team. We’re not coming in with the most talented chefs in the world. They’re great. They’re amazing. They’re so good at cooking, but they’re cool, they’re fun people. We all get along very well together, and that helps us bring that energy to parties. So yeah, best advice I have right now, especially for anyone who’s an entrepreneur and needs to hire, is hire for culture, train for skill.

Kevin Douglas (38:31):

Yeah, that’s great advice too. Especially such a grassroots organization. Yeah. And I guess that makes you the Kurt Russell of Mountain Cross.

Ryan Mclean (38:40):

There you go. I’ll take a Kurt Russell,

Kevin Douglas (38:41):

The Kurt Russell of Kurt Russell, the Tiger King of Pizza Catering.

Ryan Mclean (38:45):

There we go. I got a new time for the website. I’m no longer Michael Scott. I, I’m the Tiger King Kurt Russell of pizza. I like that. Incredible.

Kevin Douglas (38:55):

Well, Ryan, thank you so much for coming in. We really appreciate your time, and we wish you the best of luck with Mountain Crust.

Ryan Mclean (39:01):

Thanks, Kevin, appreciate it. We’ll see you soon.

Kevin Douglas (39:07):

The Entrepreneurship@DU podcast was recorded in Marjorie Reed Hall on the University of Denver campus. You can find us on Instagram at DU Entrepreneur, on Twitter, at underscore entrepreneur, and on Facebook at Entrepreneurship@DU entrepreneurship. At DU is part of the Daniels College of Business, which has its own podcast. By the way. Check out Voices of Experience available wherever you get your podcasts.