Creating their popular slogan, Pizza Rules Everything Around Me (PREAM), Clint Gray, Derrick Moore and EJ Reed—the men behind national Black-owned pizza brand, Slim & Husky’s—have now leveled things up to Progress Rules Everything Around Me. In just under 6 years, the friends turned business partners have now grown to 13 locations across the South, with more in the works.
"We always made a promise in college that we would start a business once the time is right," Reed shares. "We took $1000 a piece in 2009 and started a moving company. We were able to grow and scale that business, and then the idea came for Slim & Husky’s around 2014. In January 2017, we sold the moving company and opened our first Slim & Husky's in March of that same year."
For the three business owners and former classmates, focusing on their local communities has been one of the driving forces in making the brand successful. They are intentional about hiring within the local community, engaging with area politicians as well as artists—whom they often tap to commission artwork for the locations—before they open a new location in a community.
"The faith that our leadership teams have in us has definitely been a key for our success. We've been able to persevere through good times and even some stumbling blocks, like COVID," Derrick "Moe" Moore says. "That along with our faith in God have been important. We always say, 'if we just keep working, the rest will fall into place.'"
When you walk into one of the brand's locations, you're typically welcomed by the sounds of hip hop playing over the speakers. There are vibrant murals and artwork from Black artists covering the walls. Using the pizza to connect people to culture, the men want it to be clear that this is a display of Black culture personified.
"We created this brand and our menu with Black culture at the forefront. The three of us grew up in the 90s hip hop era, which fueled our loved for music in general," Gray explains. "So, our menu from the "Roni, Roni, Roni" to the "Nothing but a V-Thing" vegan pizza are all influenced by the music we grew up on."
As one of the few national Black-owned pizza brands in the country, we asked Gray, Moore and Reid to share a few gems with others looking to scale a brand on a national level.
Fall in love with the sacrifice
Once you start or open a business, it's a sacrifice. It can require a lot of time and energy, often pulling you away from those you love. So, once you get things off the ground, Moore says you'll have to fall in love with that sacrifice and getting your brand to the next level.
"It doesn't come easy," Moore says. "You're investing a lot of time and money, which is a sacrifice, and I don't think a lot of people realize that."
Focus on growth early on
"A lot of businesses gain a following early, but they don't have the infrastructure to really grow. We're in the process of creating a blueprint for other businesses to follow," Reed says. "Really and truly working on your business for you to be able to scale is key. It's okay to have a mom-and-pop operation, but it feels great to be able to have multiple locations, too."
Find a good mix of people and utilize great tech
"Look to bring on people that are just as entrepreneurial minded. People who are ambitious and can also bring great ideas and support your vision," Gray says. "On the tech side, it helps makes things faster and put your business in more places faster. The results of new technology just make us a better company as a whole and has allowed us to grow faster."