Meet Papa Murphy’s Idaho Franchise Owner Nathan Ball
From employee to owner, Nathan Ball knows every angle of a successful pizza franchise
Nathan Ball began making pizzas back in 1994, and almost 30 years later he’s still at it — and enjoying every minute. His Papa Murphy’s pizza franchise story began in Idaho Falls, when he became an employee at a local store, and then took him to different states, and different roles, before a return to Idaho and multi-unit ownership. Here’s his story.
What has your Papa Murphy’s journey been?
I went to work at the Idaho Falls store and became an assistant manager. Then I managed a location in Blackfoot, and then one in Pocatello.
Eventually, I supervised six stores for a franchise owner, and when they began opening stores in Iowa, I went to supervise those. After that, I had the opportunity to move to Nashville, where our organization opened 20 stores over several years. My next adventure took me to the Orlando, FL market, where I helped to open four stores in that new market. I then came back to Idaho to work for an owner here, and that led to managing eight stores. I finally bought my first store in Mountain Home about two years ago, and then added two more, in Twin Falls and Burley, a few months after that.
Why did you want to pursue ownership after all those years helping others get their stores going?
I know this business from the ground up, and I love the pizza. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. And it was time to own my own business instead of working for other people. I certainly knew what it took to successfully open a store!
You mentioned opening stores in a new market. How do you build brand awareness?
We learned about ways to get the word out, through social media and things like that.
I also really believe in community partnerships. I got involved with schools, some YMCAs, groups like that. We have built a trailer and we take coupons to events, and also pizzas, and that shows people who we are and lets them taste the product. Those people value us because we are a true partner. We don’t just show up with some coupons or bookmarks. We get involved.
What has that partnership looked like?
At one school, we did so much volunteer work, we got their “partner in education of the year” award! We would come to all their events — carnivals, sports events, book fairs — and sell pizza by the slice. We also would donate a percentage of our sales — not profits, total sales — back to the school. That was extra money for them, and it showed how much we also valued that partnership.
What’s your trailer like? How much does it help business?
It’s basically a food truck, you just can’t drive it. It has three propane gas ovens, and we can take it most anywhere and cook up pizza for people. Samples are great, because we can showcase different things. Any school event will have pepperoni pizza, which kids say is great, but we can also offer up adult fare like our chicken, vegetarian, or herb chicken Mediterranean pizzas, on a thin crust, and feed the parents too.
What has your approach to social media been?
I’ve seen a lot of different markets try different things. We create Facebook campaigns that are targeted to our area, and we also rely on the team at Papa Murphy’s because they do a lot of great, national campaigns. We have also built a community of brand ambassadors, so they take our message and amplify it in their own channels, and that’s great. We always make sure we post live from events and do a lot of tagging.
How closely do you work with the corporate team?
I know if I reach out for anything, they’ll help me make it happen. That can be around marketing or advertising, or anything else. I could never afford the marketing that they provide for franchise owners, and it’s great. I’ve been really pleased with the loyalty programs and other tools that help create loyalty and repeat business. And in the last few years, the brand has gotten a lot more creative, like the “bake outside the lines” campaign,” which was a lot of fun. If we just try to promote things in-store, it won’t go a long way. They do such a good job on all those different angles that build awareness and business.
You’ve got some outside signage that gets a lot of attention, too. What’s that all about?
I put a lot of social media content, or trends, on that marquee sign. I have a reader board that I pretty much dedicate to TikTok trends that has brought us a lot of attention. Here are some things we’ve had out there:
- Our Pizza be Bussin
- Tell me you want pizza without telling me you want pizza
- Our pizza is just built different
- Are you new here? $12 Tuesday
- Our pizza is the best, no cap
- No money for candles, but always money for pizza
- Come get a $9 lg pepperoni, or don’t (AS)
- Our pizzas are ready for hot grill summer
- Why buy Twitter when you can buy pizza
- Get in loser, we’re going to Papa Murphy’s
These are just a few of the trends that we have used. Most of the time it is the employees that come up with them, but it always makes people laugh. The first one I put up was the “Bussin” one, and before I could even get a picture of it, someone had already pulled up in their car to take a picture. The next day, the manager of the coffee place across the street called to ask if they could do something similar. They have a smaller board, so theirs just said, “And our coffee is Bussin.”
Papa Murphy’s take and bake pizza franchises is a low-cost investment opportunity, offering high growth potential. Join this dynamic brand as we expand our footprint across the United States. Initial investment costs range from $308,469 to $557,879, depending on numerous factors, including geographic areas, condition of the premises, and construction costs. We have grown to more than 1,200 locations thanks to a business model built for entrepreneurs who are passionate about quality, service, integrity, and most of all — pizza.