CINspirational People is a feature of Good Things Going Around profiling diverse people of Greater Cincinnati, what inspires them, and what is inspiring about them. You can read more profiles by clicking on the link at the top of the blog. Do you know someone to suggest? Please reach out. Thanks!
It’s really not very likely if you have lived in Cincinnati long, that you are unfamiliar with the name LaRosa’s. LaRosa’s Pizzerias have been part of our local community since Buddy LaRosa opened his first location in 1954. They have been a part of education, work, and celebration parties. They have given to charities and schools. They are where families congregate, and where neighborhoods gather. And now they are in the Great American Ballpark. LaRosa’s Pizzerias are no doubt one of the traditions you think of when you think about our great city.
Of the business he founded, Buddy told Fox 19’s Tricia Macke,”You have the zest and the energy to do something you love. And it’s not work. It’s passion, and I always tell kids and I told my kids, try many things until you find something in life that you have passion and a zeal for and then go for it. Give it 110%. Then it’s really not work, everything you do adds to that love, and the love just gets deeper. Just like relationships with the family, your love just gets deeper then you have family, the family gets bigger and then they have grandkids, and that’s what my business is.”
Wow, wouldn’t that be wonderful if all of us were doing work that is our passion?
I met Michael LaRosa, one of Buddy’s children who is now CEO of LaRosa’s Pizzerias, years back (actually on several occasions) when I was working on the Inclusion Leadership Awards Event and we were honoring the company for how they welcomed diverse employees with differing abilities.
Michael and I spoke again the other day for a CINspirational People profile. Mike very much personifies the generous and inspirational nature we have come to know and love about his family.
Lisa: Your family is very involved in our local schools. Why is that important to the LaRosa’s?
Michael: When my dad grew up in a broken home and those early experiences with positive adult role models in his schools really shaped him. What he got outside of the house between his teachers, coaches and others at school is what made him the caring man he is; and so we always wanted to support early schools. Our focus is to support in our community wherever children are being developed.
We have a Pizza Achievement program that any local teacher teaching grades K to 8 can enroll in, and we provide them with award certifications to give to their students for whatever the teachers want to recognize.
Lisa: What is the best advice you have ever received?
Michael: I have had a journal for more than 15 years, where anytime I am somewhere and impressed or influenced by someone, I will write a permanent reminder. I keep it near me, as there are times when I am looking for inspirational and it will always be there.
There is a quote in my journal that I had found somewhere in 1984 that says:
“Welcome every day with a smile! View today as a gift from God filled with golden opportunities. Be a self-starter and let your first hour awake set the theme for a successful day with your positive mindset. Today will never happen again, so go make the most of it!”
The idea is that today is never going to happen again so let’s make the most of it.
Lisa: What has been one of your greatest challenges that you have overcome?
Michael: My older sister was born with a heart defect in the 1950’s and I was very responsible early in life for keeping her in a good place. If she got overly excited, her condition caused her blood pressure to elevate to the point of causing her to be unconscious. My parents told me that whatever my sister wanted to do, that I needed to support her, and prevent her from getting overly excited.
From six years old and up, I was at her beck and call. If her situation was concerning, she would get purple lips. That reality changed when she was about 13 and a doctor at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center was one of first to do open heart surgery on little kids. They did a repair on her that changed her life dramatically.
As a child, that had a huge impact on me. It taught me to value life. Nothing is ever guaranteed because things can happen in a moment and it is gone. That lesson I learned because of my relationship with my sister. She is doing wonderful now.
Lisa: What are three things for which you are grateful?
Michael: Firstly is my relationship with Jesus. I was raised in a faithful family and that is for whom I am most grateful.
I am grateful for my parents and grandparents and anyone who influenced me, their guidance and leadership. I love all the people who have had a hand in making me who I am. I appreciate all of that and they make me want to do that for others. My grandparents came from Europe as immigrants. They worked hard and took risks.
And, I am grateful for Coach Bill, my junior and senior high school football and wrestling coach, and teacher. I was an introvert who was unsure of myself and anxious in situations. He taught me to believe in myself and be confident. I try to do that in my role today with other people because it is so important.