This summer we are thrilled to feature some local moms who are thinking outside the box and making a difference in our community through the businesses they own, organizations they are involved with, and work they do. Check out the rest of the series and read profiles from previous years here.
Gwen Page is the President and Co-Founder of Fong’s Pizza. She is a single mom to two boys who inspire her daily to work hard, treat their guests and team with kindness, and embrace as many opportunities as possible in the community to make a difference while sharing joy with others.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family
I’m a Des Moines native and single mother raising two amazing boys; Dylan (7) and Preston (5), along with an ornery 15-year-old puggle named Riley.
I’m also a keyboardist and vocalist, performing with various groups in town. I am very proud that my son Dylan is following in my footsteps by learning piano through taking lessons at Central Iowa Music Lab. We love spending time outdoors playing sports, hiking, swimming, and visiting with our family, most of which whom also live in the greater Des Moines area.
What do you consider the biggest challenge of motherhood to be? Biggest joy?
My biggest challenge is the fear of not giving 100% of myself to my boys while trying to balance the stress of owning businesses that can be very unpredictable and demanding of my time. I’m still strapped with the challenge of turning work off when I have a day away from the shop with my boys. There’s always something to do for the business.
The biggest joy is to see the boys be inspired to do kind things for others and watching their personalities blossom as we enjoy new experiences together. We have so much fun reading books together, being creative through art and our imaginations, exploring in nature, and finding as many ways as possible to laugh.
Our latest favorite thing we do is write in our gratitude journal when we have a meal at the table together. I find it will be a beautiful journal to reflect upon as the years pass and the things we are grateful for change as we grow older.
What inspired you to start your own business? Was it something you always wanted to do?
I grew up working in restaurants with my first job bussing tables at the 5th Street Cafe in Valley Junction while in high school at Hoover High. I’ve always loved working with people and have a true servant’s heart. I attended Iowa State University for HRIM with a Music minor; and while working at Great Plains Sauce & Dough Company, I was inspired to open my own pizza place. It’s been a dream of mine 10 years in the making since opening Fong’s back in 2009.
What’s the best part about your job?
The best part by far is the opportunity to connect with guests and our team in addition to the honor of being a part of so many special celebrations and milestones. As my mother has always said, she loves to “feed her people” and having the opportunity to feed so many people is a joy I live each day with great passion.
What’s the hardest part about your job?
The hardest part of my job is trying to please everyone. Over time, I have learned that you can’t please everyone. We all make mistakes, but we should support each other and embrace mistakes as learning opportunities. If you are carrying kindness in your heart and always doing the right thing with honesty you can’t blame yourself when an experience doesn’t go the way you had hoped.
What advice do you have for moms who want to chase a dream?
Make sure you have plenty of support for your children so they can still be active in participating in your dream, but still live their lives as children without being distracted by your work obligations. Owning a business is an amazing achievement, but one that doesn’t come without a lot of hard work and sacrifice. A huge piece of advice would be when you’re choosing business partners; make sure they share the same values of honesty, work ethic, kindness, and common goals. Make sure you surround yourself with people where you are celebrated, not just tolerated.
How are you involved in the community?
I created a marketing initiative through Fong’s Pizza called the ‘Pizza Ninja’; where we enjoy treating local businesses and organizations to meals so we can honor their contributions to the community.
When the pandemic hit; I immediately started reaching out to local businesses and shelters to provide meals to them while they were all being our community heroes on the front lines during the pandemic. Through the generosity of a fundraiser encouraged by the community, we were able to provide over 3,000 meals.
A huge highlight of that kindness mission was when I wanted to treat the DMFD and instead; the DSM Professional Firefighters IAFF Local 4 brought their fire engine on two separate occasions to help us deliver pizzas to over 400 healthcare heroes at UnityPoint and Mercy hospitals. In a beautiful pay it forward moment of kindness; the UnityPoint EMS coordinator, Katy Thornton, donned the ninja suit and delivered pizzas to all of the EMS heroes during EMS Week that the following week.
Around Des Moines
Favorite spot to go for a drink Bellhop, Juniper Moon, or the Bartender’s Handshake.
Best place to take kids in Des Moines This is tough to narrow down to one between Blank Park Zoo, Principal Park, Science Center, Downtown Farmers Market, Grays Lake, Walnut Woods, Saylorville, or Adventureland. We love to stay active and are always looking for new places to explore.
How/where do you relax? A massage at East Village Spa, meditation at home, or a run around Gray’s Lake. Most may find this humorous for relaxation, but running is a form of meditation for me.
What’s your favorite book, show, or podcast? I don’t find much time for shows or podcasts as my very little solo free time is spent playing music; but my favorite book as of late is “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz
What are 3 words to describe you? kind, passionate, creative
If your life had a hashtag, what would it be? #kindnessiscontagious
Know a Des Moines mom we should feature? Let us know! Email [email protected] with details and we will be in touch.