Small brand. Big money.
WANT OVERNIGHT FAME AND FORTUNE BY BUILDING AN INTERNATIONALLY-KNOWN, SMALL-BUSINESS CULT BRAND?
Then get busy.
The brand we're going to use as a model for your overnight success is very sexy.
Your brand will also be years in the making. That's the reality of most overnight successes.
Cruising easy-breezy into the international spotlight is simple: do a lot of planning, a lot of leg work, get repeatedly hot and grubby, and be intensely focused.
Simply put: be prepared to just work your ass off.
Our model brand here is built by a smart, good-looking couple working in a stunning environment. Azure blue waters. White sand beaches. Muscular, suntanned yachties as customers.
This couple is a living, breathing, made-for-photos-and-TV example of small-business brand focus.
And if you're equal parts courageous and crazy, you can do what they do.
THEY ARE EXACTLY WHAT YOU'D EXPECT FROM A PIZZA BUSINESS
Yes, pizza. Really.
On TripAdvisor, their brand has become the #1 restaurant in St. Thomas, USVI--which is saying something for an island destination whose lifeblood is tourism.
That #1 rating is out of 204 restaurants rated by TripAdvisor users.
Here's the catch: to get their pizza, you need a boat.
The pizza is being served to boaters in St. Thomas from a sailboat anchored in beautiful Christmas Cove at Great St. James Island.
The business has garnered international attention in the press, and became an overnight sensation.
It has been covered by the press internationally, and has become a bustling operation that serves about 70 pizzas a day. (That might not seem like a lot relative to, say, any other pizzeria anywhere. But how many of those pizzerias are on a boat in a remote location?)
And who is this happy couple and what is their bustling little business bobbing away at anchor in paradise?
MEET CHEF TARA AND CAPTAIN SASHA OF PIZZA PI
These two are certified Smart People.
Capt. Sasha graduated from MIT before going to Wall Street and working for Standard & Poors. That lasted about six years, until he "chucked it all" to become an instructor at the New York Sailing School.
Of course, as great as sailing in New York Harbor is, it has little on sailing in the limpid, cerulean waters of the Caribbean. So Capt. Sasha lit out to the Caribbean, where he began captaining boats.
That's where he met Chef Tara.
A special education teacher from Indiana, Tara was spending her summers in the British Virgin Islands as a scuba instructor.
Meeting Capt. Sasha put a voluntary end to the teaching career, as Tara decided to "Chuck it all to follow [her] heart & boyfriend into a life of sun and sailing."
Which led to a new career as an award-winning chef aboard charter yachts.
BUT SMART PEOPLE OFTEN NEED TO DO CRAZY THINGS
That's my analysis, not theirs.
But let's face it: what they did seems just a little crazy.
They decided they needed to open a food truck.
Except they're in the islands.
So naturally, the food truck had to become a food boat.
And that food boat would fill a void so glaring, it seems almost painfully obvious that someone should have filled it--except that most sensible folks would say, "Nah, that's crazy!"
Understand, I say this not just as some branding geek sitting high atop a mountain outside beautiful Park City, Utah.
I say this is a guy who used to work on sailboats in the Caribbean, who loves pizza, and was one of many people in the same job who would sit around a boat at night, drinking a few beers or some excellent cheap rum, saying, "Damn, if only we could get a pizza delivered."
None of us did anything about it, of course.
IT TOOK TWO SMART, POSSIBLY RECKLESS, STARRY-EYED DREAMERS
Again, my analysis, not theirs.
They don't actually look starry-eyed or reckless.
They might be dreamers.
How else do you explain finding an old hulk of an abandoned 37-foot aluminum sailboat, refitting it as a pizza kitchen, and opening up shop in a tropical island anchorage where the only guaranteed traffic is from people with boats?
And if the dream seems reckless, it helps to back it up with some good old-fashioned smarts and responsibility.
I asked Chef Tara what kind of pizza they serve. She says, "Sasha is from NYC. I had no choice in the type of pizza we would be serving."
OK, sell what you know. And as a Yankee who has eaten a lot of NYC pizza, I cannot begrudge the good captain his preferred pie.
Tara continues, "We went to the Pizza School of New York to learn the art of NY style pizza and sauces. As a bonus we were also given a crash course in restaurant management and accounting."
OK, EXPERT TRAINING IN ALL ASPECTS OF RUNNING THE BUSINESS HELPS
It makes things seem a little less reckless.
And if the results are any indication, their dream has been enormously realized.
From Day Zero three and a half years ago, they've ramped up their business to the current slinging of 70 pies daily.
They've also ended up as media darlings. There are dozens of news stories and videos about PiZZA Pi. They've even been covered by business-news giant Bloomberg.
And, of course, their business is booming.
I didn't pry into the financials of PiZZA Pi, but just doing some quick math, let's assume that nobody orders just a pizza. (They also serve soft drinks, alcohol, ice cream and nitro cold-brew coffee.)
Let's just assume 70 tickets at an average of 30 bucks.
THIS COULD EASILY BE A MILLION-DOLLAR-A-YEAR OPERATION
But again, I'm just making a wild guess. Let's say it's half that.
How many new businesses wish they could pull off even that?
A wildly popular local brand, ranked #1 in their category by the fans, making a better-than-living-wage in paradise, winning friends and influencing people from around the world by serving pizza.
This is such a tremendous small-business story for so many reasons.
Wanting to know more so this small-business freight train of a brand could be shared with the Hot Shots faithful, I reached out to PiZZA Pi with questions. Chef Tara was good enough to reply.
I asked her what she believes is the secret to their success.
Chef Tara says, "The more I think about it, the more complicated this question becomes. PiZZA Pi has experienced success on many levels for a variety of reasons and together they equal success for the entire business & brand."
"HERE ARE SOME OF THE MAIN POINTS THAT I FEEL HAVE REALLY HELPED US."
"In national media, the notion of quitting your day job to pursue life in paradise has been trending in the past couple years.
"When production companies hear about us they go nuts because we fit within their story line (left Wall Street to open a pizza boat), as a couple we don't look terrible on camera, and our business setting is visually stimulating enough to attract attention.
"Being featured on national television, big-name print, and online publications has elevated our brand across the board and spread awareness and excitement to tourists traveling to our area."
AND GUESS WHAT ELSE: THEY HAVE A MISSION STATEMENT!
Believe it or not.
As the faithful fan of the weekly screed knows, that's exactly the kind of thing that we here at the Mountaintop Marketing Fortress love to harp upon: have a clear and defined mission.
And you want a good example of why that mission matters and how it informs the success of your brand?
Chef Tara continues: "Our mission statement has been our guide as the company grows. It keeps us true to the initial reason for our existence."
Oh, look. A guide. As the Fabulous Honey Parker would say, it keeps them good, right and true.
Chef Tara says, "Consistency is key to surviving in a small-town atmosphere where your reputation is discussed everywhere from the bars to government offices."
Oh. My. God. Consistency! If we do nothing else consistently here, we bang the drum for consistency.
And never discount the significance of your reputation on the coconut telegraph. In a place as small as St. Thomas, a reputation is easy to acquire--and you better hope people like you. Bars to government offices, indeed.
BUT WHAT'S THE MISSION?
"Our mission statement is as follows: 'PiZZA Pi is a hip and wholesome "food truck on the water" that is out to have fun while serving up the best pizza in the Caribbean. We cater to day-trip, term-charter, and local boaters and are dedicated to surpassing expectations by serving small-batch, high-quality foods sold at a reasonable price by friendly, knowledgeable staff.'
"Though our story is portrayed as having moved straight from NYC to owning a pizza boat, in reality it has been a ten-year adventure. Sasha and I left mainstream and worked as professional yacht crew in the Virgin Islands for a number of years and became intimately familiar with the marine industry and the surrounding communities.
"It was with this base knowledge that we developed our business plan, chose a location, spec'ed out requirements for our boat, and assembled a team to help secure appropriate licensing.
"We did open PiZZA Pi on a wing and a prayer, but we also (sort of) knew what we were getting into."
WHO EVER REALLY KNOWS WHAT THEY'RE GETTING INTO?
But being prepared, doing your homework, learning your craft, and anticipating the unknowns all contribute to the potential for your success.
And without ever once having stumbled across the Slow Burn Marketing mantra about brand, they knew intuitively what they needed to do: make their core customer feel one way about their business.
They want their customer to feel that PiZZA Pi is hip, wholesome and fun with the Caribbean's best pizza.
And that alone is something you can take to the bank.
But wait, there's more.
And we're going to have to continue it next week. Because there's a lot more ground to cover with the hip, wholesome and fun couple behind this sexy, island-time cult brand.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
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Blaine Parker is prone to ranting about any and all things related to brand. In many ways, he is a professional curmudgeon. While there is no known vaccine for this, the condition is also not contagious. Unless you choose it to be so.