CEO Stories: The Ripple Effect of Doing Good

Scott and Ally Svenson
CEOs of MOD Pizza

Scott and Ally Svenson’s most recent company, MOD Pizza, may turn out to be legendary. Ask the many employees with special needs, as well as the former offenders, who’ve been given a second chance by the company. As social entrepreneurs, they believe the world doesn’t need another soulless pizza chain.

A graphic with a microphone icon and text that says CEO Stories - Scott Svenson

London Calling

The path to MOD Pizza began with coffee. Scott and Ally Svenson had been living in London while Scott served as a healthcare executive. Ally noticed the U.K. lacked Seattle-style shops so popular in the U.S. They decided to open some. Marketing consultants suggested they use the obvious name: Seattle Coffee Company.

Special Blend

During the next three years the chain opened dozens of shops across the U.K., in the Middle East, South Africa and Southeast Asia. They eventually accepted an offer from Starbucks, with the South Africa unit of Seattle Coffee Company remaining independent. When their entrepreneurial appetite resurfaced, they wanted to take something that worked well abroad and apply it to the U.S.

The “Mod Era”

This turned out to be customized, artisanal pizza restaurants. The Svensons were fond of the 1950s and 1960s “mod era” in the U.K., and wanted to infuse their new venture, MOD Pizza, with that spirit. The name can refer to the mod era, or can be interpreted to mean modernization, or even allowing customers to modify pizzas.

Fresh Starts

Now the chain has more than 230 shops and employs nearly 5,800 people. But it’s people who set MOD Pizza apart. The Svensons hire people with tough backgrounds, whether from legal violations or simply needing a lucky break. MOD Pizza is so committed to doing good while doing well that the couple’s sons have been managed by these workers. It’s changed their children’s perspectives on work and community.

About the Series: Featured stories from the intersection of the free market and entrepreneurial success. Here we speak with leading CEOs, academics, philanthropists and up and comers on their contributions and perspectives on the American economy.

About Ray Hoffman: Ray Hoffman, a veteran business journalist, is highly-regarded for his news and analysis features and insightful CEO interviews. Representing BusinessWeek on air for twenty-one years, Mr. Hoffman was the morning business news voice on the ABC Radio Networks from 1995 to 2006. Mr. Hoffman also represented The Wall Street Journal, on air, for eleven years. His daily WCBS CEO Radio feature was recognized by the New York Press Club as best radio business news report in both 2012 and 2015. In this podcast, Mr. Hoffman invites some of America’s most dynamic CEOs to share their stories as business builders and perspectives on free enterprise.