Marin SBDC

Vignette Pizzeria

“I’m where I’m at now because of [SBDC Advisor] Robert Toering. Not only did he help me understand the financials and projections for my business, but he helped me get the physical location.”

All Client Stories

With a family tree rooted in Italy, it was only natural that Chef Mark Hopper would be drawn to the simplicity and elegance of authentic Neapolitan pizza. Mark had a vision about his future restaurant, but he needed a location, funding, and to understand the financial analysis of a pizzeria. The SBDC helped Mark develop a solid foundation for his successful restaurant.


Vignette Pizzeria is a scene in the life of Chef Mark Hopper.  His career in the kitchen spans some 30 years, during which time he has worked alongside some of the most esteemed chefs in some of the world’s most renowned kitchens.

With a family tree rooted in Italy, it was only natural that Chef Hopper would be drawn to the simplicity and elegance of authentic Neapolitan pizza. Inspired by his childhood memories of pizza nights, spending time in his grandparents’ garden, and watching his grandfather make homemade pasta and wine, Hopper decided to open an eatery that would honor that heritage. 

Mark believes that “nobody is picked to do this kind of business – you are born to do.”


Mark had a vision about his future restaurant and a plan, but he needed a location, funding and to understand the financial analysis of a pizzeria. He knew the industry as he had been working in restaurants practically his whole life, but he wanted to make sure he could do the best and that his restaurant was set up properly. Mark learned humbleness and patience from the practice of making pizza which gave him the understanding to not rush into this business until he had a good foundation.

Game Plan

He came to the SBDC to get help with his financial projections and review his plan and start working with Advisor Robert Toering. Mark says, “Robert is honest, directly answers my questions, and tells me how it is. He gave me important insights and helped me see things I could not see.” Robert helped Mark layout his projections and fine-tune details in his plan. Robert also introduced Mark to The Barlow which ended up becoming the location for his restaurant. As Mark worked out the deal with the new location, Robert helped him with the negotiations and getting set up properly. 

SBDC Advisor, Robert was a trusted friend and mentor who was not going to be satisfied until I succeeded; and I am succeeding so I think Robert is happy now.”

mark hopper, owner, vignette

Since Mark was well prepared, he was able to get his restaurant up and running only a few months after securing the location, and that included the build-out of the space with a brick oven, new lighting, and other features. He was creative and resourceful in finding furniture that matched the theme of the place (i.e. tables made from wine barrels, solid wood chairs, and fixtures that added ambiance to the place). 

Mark trained his staff on understanding the finances of the business and what constitutes success. Therefore, they work together as a team to build the business and get the numbers they want to reach their future goal of 100 pizzas a day.

Looking back on what he learned, his recommendation for other business owners is to make sure they know the numbers, open when it makes sense, and pay attention to upfront costs.  


  • Opened restaurant in 2014
  • Hired 4 full time employees and 8 part-time employees
  • Received 6-figure investments into his business
  • Developed great relationship with landlord who helps promote his business
  • Implemented new procedures and systems to save costs and make the processes more efficient
  • Partnered with other local businesses to do events and bring in more clients (creative marketing techniques)
  • Creating a plan to host events at his place where people rent out the restaurant for a night

Learn More about Vignette Pizzeria