Brianna Pirro never envisioned herself as an entrepreneur, but now, growing the business she started with her late father is her biggest goal.
Pirro is continuing a family legacy by running the company she and her father founded, selling jarred pasta and pizza sauces under the Pirro’s name at grocery stores throughout the region.
Pirro’s Restaurante operated on Route 47 and Main Street in Woodstock for 16 years. What started with customers asking to take home a pint of marinara sauce at the restaurant eventually turned into a separate company. The restaurant closed in 2012, shortly after the Pirros introduced their product line.
Pirro, 26, who was in school studying psychology at the time things got started, began the business with the help of her father, Terry Pirro. Keeping focused on growing the business often lost priority to Terry Pirro’s ongoing battle with cancer, as he underwent several surgeries, chemotherapy and clinical trials. He lost his four-year battle with cancer in May 2016.
Brianna and Terry had different views on how to run and grow the business, but she valued his advice and business experience.
“He knew how to run a business. Him not being here to ask questions about margins or taxes, it’s been hard, but I’ve been able to figure it out,” Brianna Pirro said.
Since her father died, Pirro has channelled her focus on the business, and she said it has paid off with increased growth over the past year. She currently runs the business out of her home office. Products are packed at a nearby manufacturing facility and warehouse.
“After we started it was really small,” Pirro said. “Then we started growing it together, but he was re-diagnosed [with cancer], and we put it on the back burner. This year we have been able to grow a lot more because I’ve been able to focus more on it.”
Pirro’s offers six tomato-based sauces: bolognese, puttanesca, marinara, rustic vodka, pesto pomodoro and pizza sauce. The rustic vodka and marinara are the two biggest sellers, according to Pirro. The products are currently sold in Whole Foods Market and various other grocery stores across the northern Illinois region. In Woodstock, they are available for purchase at Read Between the Lynes.
The products are all gluten-free, and Pirro is currently working to get certified as both gluten-free and non-GMO. All of the ingredients are sourced locally if possible, including herbs from several Illinois farms. Pirro hopes to double sales in the next year and gain more brand recognition in the Midwest.
“Since he passed away, I don’t have the choice to fail with it. It means so much to myself and my family, and our product is amazing,” Pirro said.
“I wish he was here to see it. I know he would be proud.”