Digital Jersey recently launched Springboard, the Island’s first crowdfunding platform, to help entrepreneurs and start-ups get access to much needed funding to grow. One of the first businesses to take advantage of the platform is Pizza Box, run by James A. Matthewson and his wife, Liz. James shares their unique journey:
If you’re of the same generation as me, then you’ll remember Victor Kiam and the Remington shavers ads. His catchphrase was, ‘I liked the shaver so much, I bought the company.’ I never thought when I was watching his TV adverts as a young lad, that I would one day end up saying the same thing – only this time it’s pizzas, not shavers.
My wife, Liz and I were customers of Pizza Box, a fledgling business that had been set up in Jersey. It’s the Island’s only ‘Make & Bake’, your own pizza kit company. We loved coming home to find a pizza box on the doorstep and then making it with the kids. It’s a great product and most importantly, it was good for us as a family. So, we bought the business. Of course, there was more to the decision than just that. We saw its potential and now we’re looking to expand it, not only in Jersey, but beyond into mainland UK and internationally as a franchise business.
My background is digital. After owning a digital agency in London, I developed an international reputation for being someone who could educate business leaders and their staff in digital marketing. It’s taken me all around the world working with some of the most prestigious brands from Mont Blanc to Panerai, IWC to Vacheron-Constantin and A. Lang & Söhne, to private aviation and super yachts. I now run social media and digital marketing courses for Digital Jersey.
Pizza Box was initially intended to be a local business which Liz would primarily run. But very quickly it grew, showing its tremendous potential and that is why we are now one of the first businesses on the new Springboard platform seeking crowd funding to develop our international strategy. Springboard was developed by Digital Jersey in answer to the need for local start-ups to seek funding. It’s the first reward-based crowdfunding platform in Jersey and also has a bulletin board where entrepreneurs can showcase their businesses in order to raise equity-based funding.
We were tremendously lucky because the corporate side of our business took-off soon after we’d bought Pizza Box. Companies place large orders for their staff and hire our pizza ovens for team building events. We also started to introduce Pizza Box into school PTAs as a fundraising opportunity. At the heart of it though, is families. Mums and dads cooking Pizza and having fun with their kids. We supply the ingredients and instructions, then you get to consume whatever Pizza you create in your style.
Jersey is already starting to be recognised on the world stage as a digital Island. I’d like to support that ambition by not only sharing the skills that I have here locally, but by growing Pizza Box into a recognised international franchise brand that has its roots in the Island. Jersey is a great sandbox for proving the concept of businesses and is tremendously supportive as a community.
For people who invest in our ambition via Springboard’s crowdfunding option, there is no capital risk per se, as they will be getting product in return. We are effectively asking them to invest in a subscription to Pizza Box, but asking them to pay for it up front. With 20 months of trading track-record behind us already, it is low risk and you get to have a delicious family experience once a month at a discounted rate to the retail price.
There are various levels of support, ranging from as little as £150 for a six-month family box subscription, to £500 for a year’s subscription and lots of add-ons like pizza oven hire and gift vouchers. There is also one unique package for a V.V.I.P. subscriber, who will be one of ten people to join the Pizza Box Working Group, which meets quarterly. That person can help us develop the strategy for the business and have the opportunity to invest for equity at a discounted rate.
We have the help of someone who currently operates over 220 franchisees globally, but the funding is what will help us develop the strategy and legal documents, training materials and recruitment of franchisees. We are going to be discerning about who we recruit as a franchisee. They have to be people who like the story, the product and will work hard to ensure it’s consistent in terms of quality and service. Liz and I have worked hard to build Pizza Box here in Jersey. Like most entrepreneurs, we have carried out all the functions, from marketing to delivery, and we know and understand this product and the market. We’re very protective of our reputation.
Pizza Box is essentially a food tech business with a physical product and aspirations to create an Smartphone App and go global in the food kit market. Having worked with so many of the top luxury brands worldwide, I’m fully aware of the importance of brand and reputation. We might be selling pizza kits and not high-end watches, but the principles are still the same.
Springboard is a great new initiative for businesses like ours who want to get some visibility for their ambitions. Digital Jersey has been tremendously supportive and we’re hoping that we can encourage others in the Island to support us and the other entrepreneurs on Springboard, as we develop our successful home-grown business into an international one.
By the way, if you weren’t around in the late 70s and early 80s, you should watch the Remington ad, it’s still available on YouTube and a great bit of advertising nostalgia.