“We didn’t want to do fine dining, we wanted something mainstream that utilised our design and marketing skills,” explains Homschek.
“We wanted something that was scalable and we realised that no-one was doing pies well, despite them being such an Australian food. Coffee had Starbucks and bread had Baker’s Delight – there wasn’t anything equivalent for the meat pie.
“The Eureka moment was realising the size of the market, as well as coming up the brand itself. We were kicking around ideas for three or four months before a friend suggested it. We thought it was quirky, clever and functional.”
Path to finance
Homschek set about utilising his banking background to raise money, while Fong concentrated on store design, a partnership that continues playing to its strengths to this day.
The couple initially managed to raise $350,000 to launch the business and has since raised $15 million in funding to propel its growth. Homschek says contacts in the finance sector were key in accessing the kind of cash that most start-ups dream of.
“There was no way that I would’ve got that money for a food start-up without my banking background,” he says.
“Even so, I had 100 pitches and one person liked it. I would show them the market potential and the brand and say that this has the potential to be the next Boost Juice.”
“You have to sell them something special, but it’s basic metrics. The metrics of the stores, the revenue for each and so on. It’s a bit like calculus.”
The first Pie Face store opened in Bondi Junction, but it was far from a smooth debut.
“Site selection is hard unless you have major dollars, and even then you can get it wrong,” says Homschek.
“We were determined to get into Westfield in Bondi. We thought we were being clever, but it was a living hell for two years. They dug up the footpath right outside the store and we didn’t get people into the store.”
“It was an exciting but scary time. We were losing money, but we knew that people liked it. We knew that we had to scale it in order to support the staff we’d taken on.”
Having managed to carefully build the business to the point that it can grow to the next level, Homschek is looking forward to putting his initial struggles behind him.
But he has some good words of advice for any start-up looking to follow in Pie Face’s footsteps.
“No one will give you money unless you can prove your concept works,” he says. “Get a prototype up and running so that you have something to anchor your faith to.”
“You can’t just turn up with a business plan and get money off an investor. That happened once – in the dotcom boom. It won’t happen again.”
“Miracles don’t happen. You have to throw everything at the business and, as you sail into the horizon, hopefully someone will get to you before you go over the waterfall.”
“But you’ve got to show that you’re prepared to go down with the ship and drown.”