Entrepreneurs: Square Pie – from Spitalfields shop to stores nationwide and rugby 'canapies'

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Here’s a crumb of comfort for English rugby fans still mourning the hosts’ exit from the World Cup: we remain top of the pie league. 

Captain Chris Robshaw and his band of underachievers may already be back with their clubs — and the final is still nearly two weeks away — but the England steak and ale pie is crushing allcomers, according to Martin Dewey, founder and boss of gourmet pie maker Square Pie.

The All Blacks (steak and cheese) and South Africa (spicy springbok sausage) are being ground under heel.

Dewey’s pies are on sale in Twickenham and 10p from each one goes to former England captain Lawrence Dallaglio’s charitable foundation during the tournament.

In the corporate seats meanwhile, the great and the good will be chomping down on his “canapies”.

The 46-year-old is a rugby fan and you can’t blame him for milking it, although he still shakes his head over the England campaign.

He went to the Wales game — “which we lost the Tuesday morning before when we dropped George Ford” — and watched the Australia debacle on television.

“After watching the game, I needed a pie. It was the most depressing thing I’ve seen for a long time,” he says. 

Square Pie’s own business — thankfully for Dewey — is in better shape than English rugby.

He’s just raised nearly £700,000, with more than 300 people stumping up as much as £25,000 each in a crowdfunding exercise.

The “pie bonds” will pay investors 8% a year and help grow the chain to up to 30 stores nationwide over the next four years.

“I used to spend my time staring out the window thinking about pies.”

Martin Dewey

Fourteen years after he whacked £3500 on a credit card to open his first shop in Spitalfields Market, he’s just moved outside the capital for the first time with a shop in Birmingham.

The wholesaling business supplying Ocado and Waitrose is also ripe for growth.

He’s gone a roundabout route to gourmet pies, aided by a gift of the gab that saw him manage a reggae band (“we put an album out in Japan”) and become an IT contractor for some of the big investment banks.

“I used to spend my time staring out the window thinking about pies, to be honest. I always knew I had a calling and never quite knew what it was and then Square Pie popped into my head one day.”

Why is he so into pies? “I’m not a classically trained chef but I come from a foodie family and couldn’t find a decent pie so I ended up starting to make my own.

£8m

Square Pie’s target turnover in 2016

“I’ve always loved pies. Mum used to make them, and they’re part of that great British food thing.

“It was, and still is, difficult to make a well-made pie. We were the first to do gourmet. Sometimes you can forget what is right under your nose with great British food — and do it better.”

His favourite is the lamb and rosemary but “people love the classics, they love the steak and ale, the chicken and mushroom”.

Dewey and his wife Lucy live not far from Spitalfields in Mile End. Bizarrely, when he met her 10 years ago on a blind date, “the night before she had a dream about a rectangular pie”.

So he thought “I’ve got to marry that woman”.

He owns about a third of the company. Nicola Horlick’s private equity firm IW Capital found other angel investors.

So what next? Dewey wants to be the best-known premium pie brand in UK supermarkets and then grow the restaurant business.

For that, he’ll need capital. He’s eyeing a big jump in turnover to £8 million next year.

He says: “It may be in the future that something happens. There are a lot of PE houses in this game.

“It may be at some point we refinance because opening restaurants is expensive. It’s very scalable. There are different ways to structure the business, and we have shareholders who at some point will want to take money out.” 

In the meantime, he’s not too worried about rivals gobbling up his slice of the market.

“Full marks to anyone who wants to make pies. There’s enough pie lovers out there for all of us.”

SQUARE PIE

Founded: 2001

Staff: 70

Turnover: about £5 million this year

Business idol: Julian Metcalfe for what he’s done with Pret A Manger and Itsu

Source Article from http://www.standard.co.uk/business/entrepreneurs-square-pie-from-spitalfields-shop-to-stores-nationwide-and-rugby-canapies-a3093926.html

October 19, 2015 |
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