Couple turn their successful side hustle Casa Gee's into a franchise
Cheltenham couple Rachael Willoughby and Elliott Richmond have taken Casa Gee's – their lockdown side hustle making and delivering traditional Neapolitan pizzas – and spun it into a successful business.
The pair are now setting up a franchise to help other couples or families with a passion for cooking to earn a living making authentic Italian pizzas at home and delivering to their local communities.
Elliott, who was brought up in Malta has always loved pizza – done the Italian way.
He has become famous among his friends for his tasty pizzas even though he has run a successful web development company with Rachael for more than 20 years.
As with many owners of small businesses, they lost a big chunk of their family income overnight when the country went into lockdown in March 2020.
“We were chatting about it in bed and Rachael said perhaps now was the time to take my pizzas out on the road. Over the years, many friends have said they love my pizzas and I should ‘sell them’.
"We decided to give it a go for three months to help us through that tricky time, We had the whole website, booking system and logistics in place within three weeks.
“Here we are nearly three years later, offering pizzas two nights a week and we make on average £2,000 profit each month.”
The couple came up initially with a limited menu of pizza choices, Elliott makes his own dough and with no more than 36 pizzas made per evening, all orders were allocated a time slot, booked via the website.
Delivery was kept to a four-mile radius to ensure the pizzas are delivered hot and on time. The couple’s teenage boys were tasked with delivering any pizzas by bike that fell within the one mile radius and Rachael delivered the rest by car.
Rachael said: “Over the following months we listened to our customers and have refined our recipes and methods to provide the best pizza service possible from a domestic kitchen.
“We increased both the quantity and choices on our menu and we’ve also built relationships with a couple of local businesses. Our pizzas are high end, traditional Neapolitan style (no pineapples ever!). We encourage people to order in advance to avoid disappointment as we often sell out.
“We never dreamt three years ago that we would still be making pizzas but the demand keeps increasing, despite new pizza competition in the area. For Valentine’s Day, our clients can even order a heart-shaped pizza!”
This experience has led the couple to set up CasaGees (‘casa’ meaning ‘home’ in Italian) as a franchise aimed at couples who love cooking and who are looking for extra income, a business which works around caring responsibilities, or a family who can all muck in to make it work.
Each franchisee will be able to work from home and will deliver to a four mile radius of their kitchen.
They are looking for people in Gloucestershire or the Cotswolds initially and the first four successful franchisees will be asked for an initial investment of £7,000 which will include training and the kit they need to get up and running. The first four franchisees will get a 25 per cent discount on this start-up fee.
“It’s important that this franchise is created in the right places – as we’ve found it works well even if there are other take-away providers nearby. Residents do like a choice in their community.
"For it to work, the area must have a population of at least 12,000 so it suits a large village or small town which can easily be accessed via a short car ride or by bicycle.”