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From family business to franchise phenomenon

Chances are you’ve ordered a Crust pizza or entered its viral #freepizzafriday Twitter competition, but did you know the entrepreneur behind the successful franchise gave up a high-profile international soccer career to found the gourmet pizza business?

Costa Anastasiadis ended his contract with the English Football League when his parents fell on hard times, and came home to found a business to help them get back on their feet. He knew the pizza business, so he decided to set up a pizza parlour with a healthy, gourmet twist, and Crust Pizza was born.

Anastasiadis enlisted the help of his brother, sister and cousins as staff and within four years, they’d set up four stores. Not long after, he and co-founder Michael Logos decided to franchise the business – which has led to Crust opening 100 stores across the country.

In 2008, Anastasiadis celebrated another achievement, as Crust became the first take-away pizza brand to earn the Heart Foundation Tick of approval on six pizzas.

In this interview, Anastasiadis talks about dealing with the rapid growth of a business and offers up the advice he wish he’d been given when he set out as a young entrepreneur.

Q. How important is it for an entrepreneur to find a niche to exploit? Or is it all about having a good business idea?

I think it’s a combination of both – a solid business idea that is niche or taps into an untouched market is the ideal situation to be in.

For Crust, back in 2001 we identified that the Australian takeaway pizza market consisted of two models: large chains focused on fast delivery and low prices at the expense of product quality, and small independents offering quality products, but little or no delivery service.

We established Crust to combine the best of both worlds, offering a high quality, healthier pizza for quick and efficient pick up or delivery.

Q. You’ve grown your business very quickly – what’s the best way to deal with rapid growth?

When we opened up Annandale 10 years ago, I didn’t think we would be talking today about 100 stores. For us, it was all about adjusting very quickly to this growth and ensuring our infrastructure, like IT and operations, was up to scratch.

The rapid growth is also thanks to our lasting relationships with suppliers, customers in local store areas, and influencers in the retail food industry.

Q. Crust is very much a family business, how important do you think it is for a business owner or entrepreneur to have a good support system?

A business is only as good as the support system it runs. At Crust we put emphasis on our support system, whether internally at head office, or for those on the front-line representing the brand every day, our franchisees and their staff.

Staff at Crust’s head offices in Sydney and Melbourne ensure that franchisees have everything they need to be able to build successful businesses.

Q. Crust Pizza has seen some great social media success over the past 18 months, do you think an entrepreneur needs to be open to using these online platforms?

Crust is powered by the passion of those who order our pizza.

For us, social media is about having the dialogue with our customers. It’s how we started, how we adapted to people’s demands for healthier takeaway options and how we continue to shape our business.

Like any marketing medium, you have to be ready to adapt when new channels emerge, but we think it’s very important to be out there listening to our customers wherever it is that they’re talking about us. And right now, they’re out there on social media.

Q. What advice do you have for other young entrepreneurs, that you wish someone had given you when you were starting out?

  • Find the right partner(s) – with clearly defined responsibilities, and complimentary skill-sets. I was fortunate to connect with my cousin and co-founder Michael Logos from the get-go, and the benefit to the business has been immeasurable.
  • Invest in your staff –surround yourself with the best possible people, give them the tools they need, empower them, and back their judgement.  This gives them the opportunity to step up and grow within the business but also add value to your company.
  • Be flexible – you have to be able to adapt and react quickly when growing your business.  You can have a plan and strategy in place, but you’ll sometimes need to diverge because of circumstances. Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks.

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Lorna Brett

Lorna Brett

Lorna was Dynamic Business’ Social Web Editor in 2011/12. She’s a social media obsessed journalist, who has a passion for small business. Outside the 9 to 5, you’re likely to find her trawling the web for online bargains, perfecting her amateur photography skills or enjoying one too many cappucinos. You can follow her on <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/dynamicbusiness">Twitter @DynamicBusiness</a>

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