Beth Schatz Kaylor
Kendra and Harper Howard. (Megan Milbradt)

Kendra Howard pours a cup at the Fireflour Coffee Bar. (Megan Milbradt)

(Megan Milbradt)

Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life. - Dolly Parton

After college, Kenny and Kendra Howard moved to San Francisco, living the urban experience to the fullest. They both had cool, creative jobs, Kenny using his graphic design degree in type design, and Kendra working in fashion merchandising with boutique retail shops. The couple often went out for dinner at trendy restaurants. They took advantage of area farmers markets, concerts, museums and beaches. Even the wine mecca of Napa Valley was just an hour away.

Then Lukas, their baby boy, arrived.

"We decided it was time to move," said Kendra Howard, who with her husband owns and operates Fireflour Pizza. And they weren't moving just anywhere -- they were trading in California for their home turf in North Dakota.

"We always said that when we had children, we would raise them in North Dakota. This is a safe, healthy place to be, and much more economical than living in San Francisco," Kendra Howard said, while holding the Howards' second child, five-month-old Harper, on her lap.

After deciding to relocate, the Howards then took a unique direction: instead of finding 8-to-5 jobs in North Dakota, they decided to build a work life around their priorities of family and quality time together.

"We wanted to work together. We also love good food, and opening a restaurant was always our dream," Kendra Howard said. Seeing a niche market in Bismarck for wood-fired artisan pizza, Kenny and Kendra invested in a mobile pizza kitchen unit and the rest is history. Fireflour Pizza is now a dining hotspot on 5th Street in Downtown Bismarck, serving up their signature pizza, coffee and gelato using premium ingredients, crafting the menu items with care.

According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, about half of all working parents -- both male and female -- say it is difficult to balance career and family responsibilities. Do a Google search on "work-life balance" and thousands of articles touting tips and tricks will populate the results. The Howards will readily admit having two young children and running a restaurant isn't easy; however, in their experience, achieving work-life balance was a simple, conscious decision: work together, do what we love, have our children nearby.

Kenny is proud to say the pizza shop is a family business, and although he spends full days at the restaurant, Kendra and the kids come in daily. Kendra stops in for coffee in the morning with Harper, working on the business financials while the baby naps. After preschool, Lukas often spends time at the restaurant as well.

"From the start we wanted Fireflour Pizza to be family friendly," said Kendra Howard. The menu has plenty of kid-friendly options, and even the coffee bar whips up no-caffeine steamers with just milk and their house-made vanilla or mocha syrup. As Kendra talks about the restaurant, Harper plays on the table. Soon a server swoops in and, with encouragement from Kendra, picks up the smiling infant, carrying her around the restaurant.

"Clearly, the staff loves her," Kendra Howard said with a smile.

Although Kenny and Kendra had the support of family and friends in their decision to open Fireflour Pizza, some expressed worry and hesitation. The Howards knew they were taking an unconventional path by leaving their previous careers to open a restaurant, but they haven't looked back.

"It could've been easy to get caught up in the questioning, but we just did it," said Kendra Howard. "We started from scratch and at times it was stressful, but we kept moving forward."

Sitting at Fireflour Pizza with their infant daughter on a Wednesday afternoon, customers bustling in and out of the bright, clean dining area, Kenny and Kendra are living the life they dreamed of, created with intention. When it comes to creating the life you truly want, Kendra doesn't hesitate to give advice: "Take the risk, push the limits, and don't ever give up."

Beth Schatz Kaylor is a communications professional and freelance writer. She blogs about her North Dakota kitchen at