South Africa’s MoneyWeb caught up with Endeavor Entrepreneur Carlo Gonzaga in May 2011 to discuss optimistic 2011 growth for his company, Taste Holdings, his approach to competitors, and several best practices behind his high-impact enterprise and again in July 2011 to discuss the company’s switch to South Africa’s primary stock exchange. The company reported a modest increase in earnings to over $2.5 million in the year to February, and announced a new maiden share dividend. Click here to listen to the podcast and read the interview transcript from May; click here to listen to the podcast and read the interview transcript from July.
Taste Holdings, which began as a restaurant franchising company, now franchises Scooters Pizza, St. Elmo’s and Maxi’s Grill trademarks, as well as NWJ Jewelers. In looking forward to the next year or two, Carlo says, “The real focus is on building our portfolio of brands, as well as building the backend engine that drives our food division. So, we can get the food division to start looking like our jewellery division in terms of its level of integration…increasing our share of manufacturing, going into warehousing and distribution.” While they make 40% of the jewelry that they sell — an advantage over competitors — they are just beginning to vertically integrate in their food division.
In discussing Taste Holdings’ management, and what advantages the company has over bigger competitors, Carlo remains a champion for entrepreneurship. “We’re a lot smaller, we’re a lot less corporate, [and] we like the idea of keeping entrepreneurs involved. I often say that I’d prefer to have a slightly dysfunctional board, in terms of having a bunch of entrepreneurs screaming and shouting at each other because that’s just how they’ve come up, than having managers run a business.”
Most recently, Taste Holdings’ growth allowed it to fulfill a long-held ambition and move from the AltX alternative exchange to list on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. The company was listed on the AltX, an incubator exchange for promising small and medium sized businesses, for slightly over five years.
When asked about plans to expand into additional brands or another industry, Carlo said it isn’t out of the question, but that Taste Holdings is focusing on existing investments for the next two years. His sentiment regarding international expansion is similar; Taste isn’t actively expanding, but is open to being approached by potential international franchisees.