Who has not heard of Rose Totino? She is the woman whose recipe for the crisp crust turned Totino’s Pizza into the top-selling frozen pizza in the US in the 1970s.
She launched a pizza takeout restaurant somewhere in Minnesota and was able to realize financial business success. Although there were huge obstacles blocking her way, Rose Totino did not let these deter her from her goal of succeeding.
Rose Totino and Her Pizza Idea
Rose Totino’s story is not one that has “rags to riches” written over it. Rather, it is a classic example of what people can do with raw talent and a bit of hard work when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds. When confronted with adversity, Rose Totino stepped up and overcame the odds.
Totino was one of seven kids born to two Italian immigrants. She ditched school at 16 and started work cleaning houses at a measly $2.50 a week to help with the household expenses of the family.
Later, Rose Totino together with her husband Jim opened a pizza takeout operation place. Having little money, Totino used her car as collateral to secure a loan worth $1,500 and launch a pizza takeout restaurant in the Minnesota area.
Since the pizza idea was relatively new back then, Totino had to bring samples of her products to the loan committee approving her application in order to secure the initial financing.
Their takeout operation soon grew into a restaurant. On February 7, 1951, the Totino couple opened the doors of Totino’s Italian Kitchen.
Their original plan was to sell all items on a takeout basis. However, customers wanted someplace to sit and eat their pizzas on-site so Totino added chairs and tables and bought rooms for the people to dine in.
About ten years after starting the business, Totino got the idea of making frozen pizzas that customers could bake at home. Rose Totino set up a frozen pizza business in 1962, right about the same time frozen foods were gaining wide acceptance and popularity.
By the 1970s, the Totino’s pizza frozen pizza to-go was the top-selling frozen pizza in America. The product was sold under the label Totino’s Pizza. Totino’s dough that was specially designed for frozen pizza, was patented sometime in 1979.
Then, after years of working 18- to 20-hour days making over 500 pizzas, Rose Totino decided to sell Totino’s Italian Kitchen to her eldest grandson, Steve Elwell. He bought the restaurant and still owns it today.
Pillsbury offered to acquire Totino’s Pizza in 1981. Having a particularly keen business sense, Rose Totino shot down the initial offer of $16 million.
She managed to get Pillsbury to cough up more, closing the deal at a cool $20 million. Totino was retained by Pillsbury, becoming the firm’s first-ever woman vice president. Rose Totino died in 1994. She was 79.
The Rose Totino Quick Bio
Full name: Rose Totino
Company: Totino’s Pizza
Industry: Food and Tobacco
Key success traits: diligence, strong determination to succeed and high level of motivation
Rose Totino was a philanthropist, donating millions to charity and educational institutions like the Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minnesota. A Frozen Food and Minnesota Business hall-of-famer, Totino was also the recipient of numerous awards, including those for Outstanding Business Leadership and the National Food Brokers Award for Outstanding Service.