From Corporate Suits to Pizza & Play Couches: Celebrating Entrepreneurial Dads on Father’s Day

Father’s Day is a time to honor the dedication, hard work, and love that dads pour into their families. This year, we are celebrating two extraordinary dads who took a leap of faith, leaving behind their corporate careers to embrace the world of entrepreneurship. Chris Roepe, co-founder of Figgy, and Art Wicklein, owner of Antioch Pizza Shop share their journeys of transforming their professional lives while balancing fatherhood.

Chris and Art’s friendship dates back to their days as engineers, and supply chain experts at the same Fortune 500 company during its peak. But without a proper balance between work and home life as the years went by both began to feel the effects of burnout. They shared long hours, technical challenges, a schedule filled with heavy travel, and eventually dreams of something beyond the confines of their corporate roles. “We were both feeling the grind,” Chris recalls. “The work was stable, but there was a sense that we wanted to create something of our own, something that resonated more deeply with our values and aspirations.”

The Decision to Leap

Both Chris and Art had successful careers in the corporate world but felt a pull towards something more fulfilling, and something that would allow them to spend more time with their families. In 2008 Art took over Antioch Pizza Shop, a beloved local pizzeria in Chicago but kept his corporate job until 2014, he juggled both until he felt fully secure to make the jump. Years later when the pandemic hit Chris had a wake up call and put things into perspective- during his time at home he dove into his aspirations and launched Figgy, a company that creates innovative play couches for children.

Chris reflects on the moment he decided to transition: “I was working long hours and missing out on time with my kids. I wanted to create something meaningful, not just for other families, but for my own as well. The idea of Figgyplay came from watching my kids use their imaginations with simple household items. I realized there was a market for a product that could enhance that creativity.”

Art shares a similar sentiment: “The corporate world was draining, and I felt disconnected from my community and family. Taking over Antioch Pizza Shop allowed me to combine my passion for food with my desire to be more present in my children’s lives. It was a risk, but one that I believed would pay off in ways beyond financial gain.”

Building Dreams and Overcoming Challenges

Entrepreneurship is not without its challenges, but both Chris and Art have navigated these hurdles with determination and optimism. Art recalls a pivotal moment in his journey: “One of our young employees showed potential but was on the verge of being fired due to his carefree attitude. Instead, we mentored him, and he eventually bought his own franchise. Seeing him succeed was incredibly rewarding. It’s about more than just making money; it’s about building a legacy and supporting others along the way.”

Chris highlights the creativity and resilience required to make Figgyplay a success: “We started with a Kickstarter campaign, aiming for $40,000, and hit our target in just eight minutes. That was a huge validation. But every day brings new challenges—whether it’s adjusting our marketing strategy or dealing with supply chain issues. The key is to stay focused on why we started and who we’re doing this for.”

Celebrating Wins and Learning from Setbacks

For Chris and Art, celebrating wins is essential, but so is learning from setbacks. Art speaks candidly about the balance: “As an entrepreneur, it’s tough to celebrate wins because you’re always looking out for the next challenge. My wife helps me see the positives and take a moment to appreciate how far we’ve come. Winning ‘Best Pizza in Chicago’ was a huge milestone, but it also brought new pressures and expectations.”

Chris echoes this: “Last year, we hit a major revenue milestone, and it felt like all the hard work was paying off. But the economic challenges this year remind us that we can’t rest on our laurels. Every win is a step forward, but it’s important to stay agile and ready to adapt.”

The Joy of Fatherhood and Entrepreneurship

Despite the demands of running a business, both dads find immense joy in fatherhood. Chris, whose sons are 8 and 10, shares how his business aligns with his family values: “Creating Figgyplay has been a way to connect with my kids. Our products are designed to spark imagination and keep kids off screens, something I value deeply as a parent. Seeing my children and other kids enjoy what we’ve created is the ultimate reward.”

Art, a father to a 10-year-old daughter and an 8-year-old son, finds that his business allows him to be a role model for his children: “Owning Antioch Pizza Shop means I’m around more often, and my kids see firsthand what it means to work hard and follow your passion. It’s about creating something that brings joy to others and knowing that you’re building a future for your family.”

Looking Ahead

As they continue to grow their businesses, both Art and Chris remain committed to their core values and the reasons they started their entrepreneurial journeys.

Today Art is focused on maintaining the quality and community spirit of Antioch Pizza Shop: “We’ve received national recognition, but at the end of the day, it’s about serving our community and staying true to our roots. Each pizza we make is a testament to our commitment to quality and family.”

Meanwhile Chris is excited about expanding Figgyplay’s product line and continuing to innovate: “We want to keep designing products that are simple, intuitive, and enhance kids’ playtime in meaningful ways. It’s about creating lasting memories for families.”

These stories are a testament to the power of following one’s passion and the incredible impact that fathers can have when they pursue their dreams. This Father’s Day, we celebrate their courage, dedication, and the wonderful example they set for their children and communities. Their journeys remind us that with love, hard work, and a bit of imagination, anything is possible.

To learn more about their companies and the mission behind them check out:  and 


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