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Welcome to #BizUnited, a new series highlighting innovative partnerships between large corporations and small businesses across America. Check back periodically for new installments.
Brian Weavel says running a successful mom-and-pop pizza shop requires a lot more than a special blend of cheese, sauce and dough that tastes just right every time, every pie (though that’s a critical ingredient). It also requires the support of local businesses and the community-focused entrepreneurs behind them.
This is especially true in a close-knit, 3,000-resident town like Winnebago, Illinois, where this “pizza-preneur” owns and operates Anna’s Pizza and Pasta, a local favorite since he served up its inaugural slice in 1995. Weavel, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville School of Business, runs Anna’s alongside his brother and restaurant manager Eric. Together, they manage a crew of 14 part-time employees, the majority of them youth born and raised in Winnebago.
“In our small community, our businesses need to stick together,” the philanthropist founder, who regularly donates profits to local charities, tells Free Enterprise. “It recycles the money. I buy my flowers down the road, my groceries at our market, tomatoes from local farmers. In turn, they buy our food. Pride and support in your community — and in other small, entrepreneurial communities across the country — is so important to small business success.”
A veteran pizza-maker, Weavel got his start hand-tossing dough at just 16. Today, he works closely with two larger but equally community-minded companies to help his team grow local appetites for his unique pizza creations – which come in several quirky, taste bud-tempting varieties, such as spaghetti-stuffed, chicken alfredo, taco and cinnamon roll.
Those two businesses are Moving Targets, a Perkasie, Penn.-based direct-response marketing and branding firm, and Cameron’s Coffee, a midsized, long-established coffee company headquartered in Shakopee, Minn.
Moving Targets, which Weavel first heard about in Pizza Today magazine, gives Weavel a considerable leg up on his direct marketing efforts via email and traditional mail.
“They save me a ton of time,” he says of the homegrown marketing firm, which was founded in 1992 by Jay Siff and Stu Duckman, two ambitious entrepreneurs who met in the Commerce and Engineering program at Drexel University and later worked together in auto sales.
Before signing an annual marketing services agreement with Siff and Duckman in 2008, Weavel spent countless hours between shifts trying to market to families who had recently moved to Winnebago. He drove around town and jotted down the addresses of homes with “sold” realty signs posted in their front yards. “Then I would send new residents welcome letters and free pizza coupons,” he says. “Now, Jay and Stu and their team do all the work for me.”
Moving Targets’ new residents direct mail service lets Weavel introduce his pizza brand to a wide net of new potential customers. The ultimate goal: Drive foot traffic to the doorstep of his South Benton Street restaurant — and ideally keep new diners coming back for more.
All Weavel – a former hospital human resources executive – has to do is select the pizza delivery area he’d like to hone in on, and Siff and Duckman’s team take it from there, targeting recipients based on a combination of information like age, income level and type of home, Moving Targets chief marketing officer Jenna Gross tells Free Enterprise. They write, print and mail the letters for Weavel, too.
Weavel also looks to the seasoned marketing firm to strategically boost sales during occasional lulls in business. “If I have a need for a quick surge in cash flow, I call upon Moving Targets for an email blast offering a discounted special,” he says. “They help me write it and then they send it out on my command.”
Moving Targets optimizes Weavel’s email marketing pushes for the many different platforms and devices people view them on. While that may seem like a small detail, taking the more technical aspects of digital marketing off of the busy business owner and father’s plate pays off in a big way. It frees him up to do more of what he loves to do — cook up hot slices for local families, friends and neighbors.
“Everyone wins when businesses work together,” Gross says. “Working with a bigger company that specialize in direct marketing, online and mail, makes small businesses like Anna’s Pasta and Pizza smarter and stronger. We collaborate and then refine Brian’s ideas to help him be more successful today and in the future.”
Cameron’s Coffee has also played an important role in Weavel’s business success.
“Everyone in my life knows I’m a coffee nut,” Weavel says. “I stumbled across Cameron’s Coffee by accident, when they had a sale at a local store. I sent them a tweet about how much I love my Cameron’s and decided that my customers deserve not just the best pizza, but also the best coffee. Now we have this amazing, supportive online presence with each other.”
He continued: “If I have something important going on, Cameron’s shares it on their social media channels and vice versa. They’re truly a larger company that understands small business.”
Rachael Barker, a consumer relations specialist at Cameron’s Coffee, responded to Weavel’s complimentary tweet, and the two companies struck up a working relationship soon thereafter.
“Not only is Brian a customer who extends our brand reach by selling our coffee to his restaurant customers, he’s also an awesome brand ambassador, sharing his love of what we make and do on Twitter and Facebook, and in his hometown community,” Barker says. “And he does it in such a genuine way. It’s something we’re thankful for, and we have even seen our social following grow as a result of it.”
To thank Weavel for spreading the word about Cameron’s Coffee — and for brewing it for his pizza customers — the company gave him a special shout-out on its blog last year. Being the humble guy he is, he says there’s no need for thanks. Rather, it’s he who’s thankful to team up with collaborative companies like Cameron’s and Moving Targets.
“I think it is so important for both big and small business to work together like we do,” he says. “Collaborations like ours can be great, and standing in each others’ success can make a huge impact, whether we’re talking in local, state or national economies. There is so much good that companies of all sizes do, so let’s embrace and encourage each other to reach our goals.”
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