The customizable pizza chain founder continues growing his Italian brick-oven concept.
Drew French, founder of Your Pie, always knew he wanted to own restaurants. His journey in the fast-casual pizza segment began to take shape in 2006 after he was inspired by brick ovens while on his honeymoon in Italy. French’s wife’s family is from the island of Ischia in Italy and it was here French discovered the brick oven style of baking pizza. Taking his new found pizza knowledge back to Athens, Georgia, the Your Pie brand (the original down-the-line pizza concept) was born.
Since opening, Your Pie has grown to 21 locations in four states. The brand is best known for its customizable 10-inch pizzas coupled with craft beer. With the brand heading into Q2 2015, French discussed his plans for the brand and his experience as a 31-year-old franchise mogul with 1851.
How did you end up in your current role?
In 2005 I started working for a franchise company in Atlanta called Great Wraps after I finished up at UGA’s Terry College of Business. I helped them launch and run a fast-casual sandwich brand. From there I developed the Your Pie brand and launched it in 2008 back in Athens, Ga. I moved from owner-operator of the first store to my current role leading the franchise company.
What have been the biggest challenges you've faced?
Growing through the worst economic time this generation was a challenge. The good news was that I was young and naïve, so I didn’t know that it was a bad economic time.
What has been the most important lesson you've learned?
People make the difference in many ways. Surrounding yourself with great people makes what you do worth it. Whether that is the people you work with, your franchisee partners, the customers you foster relationships with or the suppliers that help along the way, make sure that they have the same values as you, because it really makes all the difference.
Did you have any mentors along the way?
My father, and first business partner, pushed me to take the risk of opening up my own business at such a young age. For that I’ll always be grateful. My business partner, Bucky Cook, has been a mentor in how to grow a franchise company the right way. Tim Green, Wood Stone’s chef, taught me everything I know about creating the best pizza in the world. My wife Natalie keeps me honest and tells me when I am being stupid, and most people don’t do that for me. There are hundreds of others along the way. I would say listening to those that are smarter than you (which for me is everyone) is key in developing as a person and as a leader.
What is your primary goal for your career? What do you most want to accomplish?
I want Your Pie to change the way people experience pizza. In a way, we are starting to see that come to reality, but I want to do it the right way and over the long haul. As long as I help others achieve their goals, I know that I’ll reach mine, which of course is to own the NFL.
What has been the accomplishment you’re most proud of so far?
It’s great when we open up in new communities and we support new local charities. Our franchisees really love supporting things that are near and dear to their heart, and I love that we can do that by creating a different experience for the communities we serve.
What would your advice be to the next generation of young men and women hoping to make their mark on the business world?
Don’t be afraid to put in the work and add value to whatever business you are in. Put passion into whatever you do, and good things will happen.
In your own opinion, what is the formula young executives should follow in order to mature into established business leaders?
I hope I never know what it means to be mature. On a serious note, I would say don’t forget what got you there. Doing things for the right reasons tend to get you the results you need to stay relevant over a long period of time.