Ordering Toppers on any given
night is an ordinary occurrence for
many students, but for two alumni,
Toppers Pizza turned into a lifestyle.
During their time at the
University Wisconsin-Stevens Point,
Joe Kirschling and Aaron Johnson,
two college friends and roommates
who graduated in 2001 and 2003,
respectively, lived off of Toppers.
“Every weekend and often during
the week we would order Toppers,”
Johnson said. “You knew you were
having a good time when Toppers
was there because Toppers brought
the party. Usually good things happen
when you’re having Toppers.”
When they weren’t eating pizza,
they worked their way through
UWSP’s business administration
and economics programs and had
multiple conversations about
becoming business partners in the
After graduation, the duo parted
ways but remained friends and spoke
Late one night while the pair were
talking on the telephone, Kirschling
had ordered a pizza from Toppers.
Conversation erupted and
memories began to flood from eating
Toppers back in college, and that’s
when it hit them; why not open a
Toppers of their own?
Little did they know, a silly late
night phone call for a pizza would
lead to the first steps of opening
Toppers Pizza in Appleton, which
they did in February 2008.
Soon after, they expanded to their
two locations in Green Bay and are
currently in the process of opening
a store in DePere in the beginning of
The two commented on how their
experiences at UWSP helped lead
them to their success today.
“I had a professor, Gary Mullins,
who teaches from real world situations
and I appreciated that because I didn’t
have many other professors that did
that,” Kirschling said.
Mullins, the Associate Dean and
Head of the School of Business and
Economics, bases his classes on his
own experiences from working in the
business industry for 15 years.
“I looked at my own experiences
and said ‘what things had I wished
I’d known when I’d graduated’ and
incorporated that into my classes,”
Although many students prefer
reading the textbook and getting
straight forward answers, Mullins
leaves many of his questions open-
“Business is tough; the real world
is tough; so I teach off of experiences
I’ve experienced in real life,” Mullins
said. “Good students will remember
things from their courses, but great
students will learn how to apply
those things to real life.”
As two former UWSP students,
their idea of entrepreneurship wasn’t
an oddity. Approximately 100
students graduate from the business
administration program each year,
many of whom aspire to own their
“Everybody seems to think they
want to be in business, but many
people are not cut out to be a self-
starter and quite frankly you end up
working harder because you can’t
just punch out at five o’clock if there
are things to do,” Kirschling said.
“It’s not a cakewalk,” Johnson
said. “When we first opened we were
there 70-80 plus hours a week. It’s a
lot of work and dedication.”
They both agree, however, that
the hard work pays off and that the
rewards are certainly worth it.
“It’s exciting, it’s fun and it’s a
lot of hard work, but it’s really nice
to know that you’re out there doing
something that you love to do and
enjoy doing,” Johnson said.
Kirschling’s biggest piece of
advice for students looking into
entrepreneurship is to talk to other
people who are successful.
“Wherever you are and whatever
situation you are in, try to talk to
someone who has been there. It’s not
necessarily what they did right, but
what they did wrong and try to learn
from their mistakes,” Kirschling said.
The two also emphasized being
prepared for the unexpected.
“Take account of everything that
is going on around you,” Johnson said.
“You never know when something
will come in handy that you picked
up along the way.
With a strong business model in
hand, they look to the future and how
they can expand their business.
“Our plan is to open five stores
total, we currently have three and
one is under the works. Hopefully
the fifth one by the summer of 2015,”