Mike Peacock is the affable, smart and determined New Jersey-based founder and president of The Flying Pie Guy, a unique food business — with a food truck, retail establishment, catering service for events, and an online retail channel — built around Aussie meat pies. We spoke with Peacock about how to become an entrepreneur.
How did you first get the idea for The Flying Pie Guy?
My cousin was here from New Zealand, and we were having drinks one night, just sitting there talking about office politics. We talked about what I could do if I ever got out of the corporate world — and I really wanted out. He said he'd been eyeing something in New Zealand, a coffee truck franchise that would go around to sporting events. I took that idea and I actually contacted the coffee company, and they wouldn't franchise it to me in America. But that idea morphed. As I researched the food truck world, I realized that it could be a money-making venture where I could actually bring something to market and then make it very unique and special and expand it beyond the food truck world. I chose the food truck as the launching platform, so to speak, for the Aussie meat pies.
How did you get the idea of focusing on Aussie meat pies?
Being born and growing up in Australia and New Zealand, I was raised on meat pies. Every Friday would be a treat day at school: Your parents would give you a couple of dollars, and the teachers would take the meat pie orders. Little paper bags would arrive with all these meat pies in them. A meat pie to an Australian is the same as a hot dog or hamburger to an American. They're everywhere. You can buy them at gas stations, pie shops, convenience stores, at sporting events. They go great with beer.
When I moved to America, I couldn't get my hands on a meat pie. I took family recipes and started from there, something that I knew. I thought, "You know what? It's time that Americans really got to know what a meat pie is, because they're so delicious."
Regarding how to become an entrepreneur, did you sketch out a plan beforehand or learn as you went?
I realized from the beginning that I really had to make sure the pies were awesome. If I had a bad product, the public would just try them, wouldn't like them, and I wouldn't be able to realize my goals. So what I did is I just sat down and I mapped out my next five years. One of my plans was how I was going to start, and then how I was going to expand. I did add things as I went along, of course, and I did make changes.
What were the major challenges that you faced as you learned how to become an entrepreneur?
The first challenge was entering uncharted territory, needing to learn. I chose the food truck as a launching platform to perform market tests, see what the public liked, what they didn't like, and also to help with the brand recognition. I knew nothing about the food truck world, so I actually went on YouTube and looked at every single food truck video. I learned who was successful and who wasn't, why they were successful, what they were doing right and what they were doing wrong.
Another challenge is just making sure that you have legal help and help with tax filings, getting trademark protection for your brand and making sure that everything is incorporated ... A final challenge is time management. As an entrepreneur, you're wearing just about every hat in the business. You're the HR department, you're the accounting department and you're everything else, so time management is essential.
What do you like most about being an entrepreneur?
I'm in control of my own destiny. Before, I had a pyramid of bosses going all the way up, and if you upset the wrong boss or you had a bad boss, that person was in charge of your destiny. Also, I get to make my own schedule. You still need drive and passion, but you don't have to answer to anybody. You can set your own expectations and work from there.
Read more of Michael Peacock's interviews here:
Insights on How to Start and Expand a Business: An Interview with The Flying Pie Guy, Part 2 of 3
Insights on How to Start and Expand a Business: An Interview with The Flying Pie Guy, Part 3 of 3