MEAT pies and rugby league go together like strawberries and cream and Wimbledon.
No doubt, when the sport was born in Australia in 1908, there was a punter on the sidelines of the first game with a meat pie in his hands, trying not to drip tomato sauce and gravy all over his trousers.
As the jingle goes, "football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars go together under the southern stars".
The Garlick family has strong ties to both pies and rugby league through its business, Garlo's Pies.
Managing Director, Sean Garlick, scored around 15 'meat pies' in his 150 NRL games for South Sydney and Eastern Suburbs.
The association continues through his son Jackson (pictured), who is Head of Sales at Garlo's Pies, but who also still harbours an ambition to play rugby league at the highest level.
Much like rugby league has transformed itself into a slick television product, Garlo's Pies sees an opportunity to take the meat pie to a new audience.
The brand is behind a McDonald's meat pie trial in the ACT and is working to make pies healthier.
It has also brought the meat pie to the United States.
Garlo's Pies employs 70 people and will soon move to a new 4,000sqm location at Kingsgrove, in south east Sydney, to an office and production facility twice the size of their current location.
It is a business that has succeeded through expertise, good recipes, networking and a little bit of luck.
Business News Australia spoke to Jackson Garlick and discovered five lessons all businesses could learn from this thriving family business.
Networking is vital
When Garlo's pies opened its first store in Maroubra, Sean Garlick organised a pie eating competition between some of rugby league's biggest stars that was broadcast live on the Footy Show, which made the shop an instant success.
It was the kick-off the brand needed.
And so is some luck ...
Garlo's Pies became the supplier for the McDonald's trial after Sean Garlick sat next to the company's ACT/NSW State Manager on a flight.
The relationship that Garlick struck up with the executive led to the deal, which now sees Garlo's Pies sold in 26 restaurants in the ACT.
"That is a massive opportunity," says Jackson. "The sky is the limit."
The luck didn't stop there, as Garlo's Pies was given the perfect opportunity to upgrade its home base when the Government compulsorily acquired its St Peters warehouse to build Westconnex, only three years after the company entered a 15-year lease at the location.
It allowed Garlo's Pies to purpose-build a new facility with new equipment, double the floor space and increased cold storage.
"We have completely reinvented our systems and processes and increased capacity," says Jackson.
Think big (take the whole pie) and innovate (you can reinvent the pie)
Garlo's Pies is expanding the horizons of the humble meat pie, taking it overseas while also improving its nutritional value to return the pie to one of its natural places of sale, the school tuckshop.
As Jackson explains, schools today adopt a more stringent health focus to their tuckshop menus, forcing bakers to innovate. Garlo's has removed MSG from its recipes, reduced sodium, has lean meat and chicken options and also claims to have a higher ratio of pastry to meat.
"It is the first great way to reinvent the pie," says Jackson about improving its dietary benefits.
Garlo's Pies has also invested in new packaging technology, including a flow wrapping machine, an ovenable box so that pies can be cooked by airlines on-flight, and also a special recipe for the McDonald's, where pie is frozen with cooked meat, but uncooked pastry.
And one last tip on how to run a family business
Jackson works alongside a number of his relatives, including his father, and his uncle Nathan, a qualified pastry chef and co-founder of the business.
"The biggest thing I can take out of it is that you have your home, and you have your place of work. Dad taught me that if you have a disagreement in either of those areas, you can't bring it over to the other side," says Jackson.
While Jackson's first dream was to play rugby league professionally, he is also committed to the business, and also to finishing his psychology degree that will allow him to bring a new perspective to the business.
"My dad brought a strong working ethic and legitimacy to the brand. I want to apply my psychology studies to further understand what motivates people to buy pies and how to strengthen the Garlo's brand," he says.
"Most family businesses fail after two generations, I fully intend for Garlo's Pies to be the exception, whatever it takes."
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