Almost 16 years ago, in April 2004, Tracy Bell followed her dream and opened her own pizzeria, Trabella, in Illovo. Today, she has two stores, loyal customers and continues to live her passion.
Tracy’s love for pizza has touched everything she does, from designing a menu of thin-based pizzas and pastas made only from fresh vegetables and a variety of meat choices, to developing loyal customers who eat out at Trabella at least once a week, to building a team of employees who see the brand and the store just as Tracy does: as home.
Fast forward to 2020, and Tracy has opened a second store in Parkview, and continues to see herself and her staff as one big Trabella family – but the brand’s growth hasn’t been without its challenges.
Finding funding for growth
“As an independent restaurant owner operating in a challenging economy, one of the biggest issues I’ve faced is access to finance,” Tracy explains.
“Sureswipe has been instrumental in helping me to overcome this hurdle; first when I wanted to buy my partners out, and again when I wanted to open our second store in Parkview. Traditional banks wouldn’t touch me, but Sureswipe’s Cash Advance worked for us.
“I had to share my credit card purchase history, qualified for finance based on that, and was able to repay the funding through sales through my card machines, instead of fixed monthly repayments. The more we grew, the faster we could repay the cash advance.”
Opening a second store is exciting, but once Tracy solved her funding problem, she had a new challenge. “One of the things that makes Trabella so special and unique is our staff. We’ve had employees who have been with us for years. They’re on a first name basis with our customers. They’re friendly and helpful. They make each Trabella visit a pleasure.”
Replicating this home-style, comfortable environment in a new store wasn’t easy. Tracy basically had to start from scratch, finding people who fit her brand and the business she was building.
“In many ways, opening a new store is like going back to the beginning. You’ve got a brand and you’ve learnt a lot of lessons, but there are also things that you just have to build from the ground up. A great team is one of them. Getting it right and seeing that same love and dedication in our second Trabella has been incredibly rewarding though.”
Staying hands on and building a successful brand
Despite the challenges she has faced, Tracy wouldn’t change a thing. “Having your own brand lets you do what you want to do,” she says. “It’s a way of bringing your passions to life, and sharing them with other people. We make people’s tummies happy,” she says with a smile.
But there’s a strong lesson in what Tracy is building as well. Trabella wouldn’t enjoy the success it has without its founder’s unique touch. “I personally believe that business owners need to be hands on. You need to build a great bond with your staff and customers, and you can’t do that if you’re not in the store.”
Happy employees deliver exceptional customer service, something Tracy is now capitalising on with Sureswipe’s Loyalty programme.
“This is new for us,” she says. “It allows us to reward our customers, but I’m also building a data base, so I can let our regulars know when we have a special or if we’ve introduced new dishes.”
Portable card machines are also keeping Trabella as agile as possible. “We can host events outside the shop and even make deliveries because we can accept payments away from the tills. It’s great.”
Tracy’s advice to other business owners? Love what you do, include your customers and staff in your journey, and work with partners who really understand your business.
If you want to access our Cash Advance product, make card payments easier for your customers, or offer them the option of using gift cards, contact Sureswipe today on 0860 200 111 or click here and we’ll call you back.