26 April 2021|Latest Posts, Meet the Successful Founder
White Rabbit Pizza Co was born when Nick Croft-Simon met Italian pizza maestro, Matteo Ferrari. Using chef Matteo’s generations of experience, passed to him via his family pizzeria in Bergamo, the entrepreneurial duo started refining and marketing authentic Italian-style thin and crispy pizzas off the pub’s menu.
Within two years The White Rabbit was rated No. 1 pizzeria in Oxford on TripAdvisor, selling over 2000 pizzas a week. When customers started requesting a Gluten Free and Dairy Free options, the boys were determined that these alternatives would be an added benefit without compromising the delicious taste their pizzas had become renowned for.
With a firm belief that everyone should be able to eat delicious pizza, they began sourcing the best tasting ingredients from all over the world, crafting an authentic gourmet gluten-free pizza, with a range of Vegan options, that can be enjoyed by all.
The quality, taste and free fresh credentials that initially made the pizzas such a hit on The White Rabbit pub menu have gone on to win the range multiple awards and national listings as a brand in major retailers, as well as specialist independents.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
Nick had just graduated university when I started working behind the bar at the White Rabbit Pub in Oxford. It was there I met our Italian pizza chef Teo. We both saw a growing demand for plant-based and gluten free pizzas. Teo started to develop these pizzas, and soon they were the worst kept secret in Oxford.
How did you achieve awareness?
After launching we soon won product awards from the likes of Great Taste and Free From. This quickly led to interest within retailers such as Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Ocado.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
We have looked to investors to help fund our growth, whilst recently using crowdfunding. Our recent round of funding over delivered by 170%, putting us in a strong position for the year ahead.
What are the key successes?
Our initial launch into Planet Organic with our first plant-based/gluten-free chilled pizza was the first big win, which paved the way to landing listings in Waitrose, Ocado and Sainsbury’s. Our recent success has been the launch of our first wheat-based pizza into the main chilled pizza fixture in JS.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
We want White Rabbit to be known for more than just pizza. Our first steps here is with our recent launch of our Focaccine range – fluffy, gluten-free meal accompaniments in the form of our Garlicky Focaccine and Farmhouse Focaccine – all plant-based of course!
What are your plans now/for the future?
Our plans are to continue to grow the White Rabbit brand, looking to grow distribution within current retailer. Whilst trying to land incremental listings in major retailers such as Tesco and ASDA.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
I think like anything, there are pros and cons to starting a business and it is about how those fit into your own value system. I saw that there was a way I could have the privilege of choosing who I work with, building a team and creating something unique from the ground up. This has always meant a lot to me, and so I knew if/when an opportunity arose to fight for that privilege, I would take it.
Can you share you top tips for entrepreneurial success?
Keep your ego in check. To even be in a position where you can consider taking the risk of starting a business is a privilege, and that is fine, but just carry that awareness with you. It will make you a better leader and a better person.
Listen to people with experience. You may know your own business very well, but that does not mean you know everything there is to know about business. Just embrace it and use every opportunity to soak up as much knowledge as you can. People love giving advice, so take advantage of it!
Hire the right people.Beyond a certain point, it is the team who will be the real driving force of your business. Do not get overly obsessed with ‘culture fit’, choose the people who have the experience, skillset and hunger to grow with a fledgling business over the long term. Culture comes over time, from the ground up, and is built on foundations of success.
Take time to appreciate significant stages in your journey. The turbulent nature of running a start-up means that all your mental energy is geared towards the future. The focus is always on pre-empting the next problem and maintaining your growth trajectory, so it takes a conscious effort to occasionally take stock of everything you have overcome.
Don’t be afraid of altering your course. No matter how good your idea is originally, competition will arise, and the market will change. As a new business, staying agile and constantly evolving your proposition is the only way you will stand the test of time.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
“We are like butterflies that flutter for a day and think it is forever” – Carl Sagan.
Reminds me to put everything into perspective!
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