A fan favourite, there’s never a bad time for this meal. That soft crust, melted cheese, and an endless possibility of topping combinations. That’s right, we’re talking about pizza.
Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria is a Canadian company that was co-founded by Justin Lussier, who’s our latest featured Vancouver Entrepreneur. Anyone who’s had a slice at Famoso knows that it’s worth going back for, over and over again.
Tell us about your business and what inspired you to create it.
I’m Justin Lussier, co-founder of Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria. In 2005, I went on a backpacking trip to Europe with my wife, and we discovered the best pizza in the world in Naples, Italy. The fire-roasted thin crust pizzas in Naples inspired me to research the product and learn the methods of making authentic Neapolitan pizza. In 2007, I opened the first Famoso location in Edmonton, Alberta with my partners Christian Bullock and Jason Allard.
What’s been the most challenging part about running this business and how have you addressed it?
Business is all about solving problems, so sometimes our biggest challenge depends on what is happening at a particular time. There have been a great deal of challenges in getting from the initial idea to 28 restaurants in Canada.
Starting a restaurant and owning a business for the first time was probably the biggest challenge. You have to learn quickly and work long hours without much help. Growing the first five locations required a lot of time and effort in order to create the necessary systems so all of our restaurants could operate consistently. Now, with 28 restaurants, we have 28 times more challenges – every restaurant requires time and attention to make it successful. Thankfully, we have a great team of employees that share the challenge with us.
How has Vancouver’s rising startup community played a role in the development of Famoso?
Vancouver is a very innovative and entrepreneurial place. Being surrounded by amazingly talented restaurateurs has pushed Famoso to be more competitive in everything from food innovation to design trends. Doing business in Vancouver is a constant reminder that if you’re not continually evolving, you’re probably not going to last.
What core problem is your company specifically solving and/or what’s the main value you provide?
Famoso is bringing back the classic sit-down pizzeria with our own spin on it. Pizza in North America has been dominated by mediocre, unhealthy pizza served in take-out and delivery style restaurants. In Naples, Italy, they have casual sit-down pizzerias everywhere and they are affordable, fun, and serve gourmet pizza. We aim to bring the same casual pizzeria to neighborhoods across Canada and share our passion for authentic Neapolitan pizza.
How did you end up becoming an entrepreneur and what challenges did you personally overcome to succeed?
Starting in high school, I was always coming up with new business ideas. Finally, one of my friends gave me the nudge I needed, pushing me to go forward with one of the ideas or shut up about them. So, after graduating university and discovering the amazing pizza in Naples, I decided that introducing authentic Neapolitan pizza to Canada would be a worthy idea to pursue. Finding the financing to start a business can always be a big hurdle in the way of making it a reality. Thankfully, my dad convinced me to buy a house when I was in my early 20s, so I was able to sell it and use the money to help open the first Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria.
What entrepreneur has inspired you the most for running your business and what makes them so special?
I would have to say Shafin Diamond Tejani. Outside of his entrepreneurial work, Shafin has contributed significant time to charity and community work. He has done thousands of hours in volunteer work and has helped raise over $75 million for school programs, community organizations and awarded over $250,000 in scholarships to students. He has donated so much of his time, knowledge and financial resources to local not-for-profit organizations. He is one of the most humble people I have met and worked with.
What Vancouver celebrity/influencer would you most be excited to have as a member of the team and why?
I think my pick would be Chip Wilson, as he would probably have some pretty valuable advice and experience to offer on how to grow a premium brand worldwide.
What are some accessible resources used and winning habits you have developed to learn and grow as an entrepreneur?
“Setting the Table” by Danny Myer is a great book for aspiring restaurateurs. Networking with people in your industry can provide a lot of learning opportunities, and keeping an open mind is key in order to continue growing and improving. Communicate as much as possible in person with key people in your business so you can connect, find common ground, and share a path forward.
If you could tell your younger self something, what would it be?
Don’t be over confident in your early success, as this can lead to taking risks. Dedicate as much time as possible into learning why you are succeeding or failing so you can chart the right path forward.
What’s your advice for current or future entrepreneurs?
Be prepared for the most amazing learning curve of your life. Be patient and remind yourself that if it was easy, everyone would be doing it. Celebrate your wins big or small – you owe that to yourself and your team.
Vancouver Entrepreneurs is a weekly feature on the city’s most notable entrepreneurs and startups that are making a local and even a global impact. If you think your venture deserves to be on the series, send an email to casey(at)dailyhive(dot)com to explain why you’re a fit.