Founders' Friday: Drew French, Your Pie
Meet Drew French the founder of Athens’ favorite pizza place: Your Pie! Read on to learn how Drew grew a startup business into a part of the Athens culture.
RC: What was your inspiration for starting your own company?
DF: There were always a lot of entrepreneurs in my family so watching them was my inspiration for wanting to start a company. I grew up liking cooking and was always drawn to restaurants for work. I’ve always liked the atmosphere of making food for people and talking to people. The idea for Your Pie came from working in those atmospheres and envisioning an idea for a pizza business that hadn’t been done before. I thought I could create my own niche with pizza and was inspired to use the brick oven and include gelato when I was in Italy. It also tied into my wife’s family’s Italian heritage.
RC: Is there anything people don’t know about Your Pie?
DF: Some people don’t know that we are a company that started in Athens. We started in Athens, but we have aspirations of becoming a globally admired brand. We’re hoping to bring the Your Pie culture and Athens culture to greater heights.
RC: What has been the biggest challenge so far?
DF: When I started the first store in 2008 I was only 24. Getting people to buy into what I was doing was a challenge. The banks didn’t buy in, but my family did. My dad was an initial investor that allowed me to launch the brand with my first store. In the early days getting banks, landlords, or suppliers to believe in what I was doing as a young person with little experience was hard.
RC: What has been the best part of the process?
DF: Growing a team and working with franchisees and people at different stages in their lives is fun. Getting to see customers smile and enjoy what they’re experiencing is always exciting as well.
RC: What is the most valuable lesson you have learned from starting your own company?
DF: Believe in yourself and what you’re doing. When people’s aspirations and ideas get rejected they decide they can’t do it. I learned that you can do anything if you have your mind set.
RC: What past experience do you think has helped with founding your own company?
DF: I worked for multiple franchise companies, franchisees, and different styles of restaurants.
RC: Do you see any big changes being made to your company in the near future?
DF: We were founded on innovations so we are always looking to improve. We are always trying to find a better way to either serve our food from a system standpoint or improve our food and processes from a customer stand point. Technology has changed a lot in the past couple years and that has changed the way restaurants do business. We are trying to stay with the times in terms of technology.
RC: What is the biggest difference between starting a technology company versus starting a restaurant in your opinion?
DF: A restaurant business is bricks and mortar where you are relying on customer transaction on a face to face basis. Most technology companies are still capital intensive because of the infrastructure needed, but they are not typically brick and mortar driven.
RC: What advice would you give others wanting to start their own company?
DF: Do it for the right reasons. The famous saying is, “I want to be my own boss,” but that is not something that is going to sustain long-term growth and profitability. If you have the right mind set, want to work harder than you have ever worked before, and are willing to be hard on yourself, then go for it.
RC: Are you originally from Athens?
DF: I am not originally from Athens, but I did my undergrad here. I have been here longer than any place in my life, so I like to call Athens home.
RC: Has the Athens environment helped in founding your company?
DF: Definitely. When we opened the first store we didn’t know what we were doing and relied on people to come in and try it. Athens is very supportive of new ideas. The community is willing to try new things. If they like it they will tell their friends, and if they don’t like it they will tell their friends.
RC: What are you most proud of about your company?
DF: We started in 2008 when the economy crashed. The success rate of a startup restaurant is 2%. I am proud of the fact that we were able to open and succeed in 2008 and then grow throughout the recession. We have created jobs and opportunities when others have done the opposite.
RC: What do you get at Your Pie?
DF: I made one today that is a mixture of barbecue and hot sauce, mozzarella, chicken, cilantro, red onions, jalapenos, pineapple, and a little bit of gorgonzola cheese to finish it off.