Alumnus Brings A Truly Italian Pizza Experience To The East Coast
We spoke with Edouard Freda (B’15), who recently launched Talia di Napoli, a company that is reinventing the traditional pizza experience by artisanally handmaking it in Naples, Italy, and bringing it to the United States.
Tell us about your new company and your unique value proposition.
Pizza as we know it was invented in Naples in the late 18th century. Ever since then, this iconic Neapolitan dish traveled the world and today many cultures have their own adaptation of it. Take the United States as an example. New York pizza is a completely different product from the first pizza created in Naples. In Chicago, there also is a very different interpretation. An important reason that explains the differences is that Neapolitan pizza, in its original state, is very hard to replicate. You need a very specific skill set, special ovens and equipment, and fresh ingredients that are from the Naples area.
Until recently, it was impossible to get a real Neapolitan pizza in the United States. This is the reason why my business partner, Guido Freda, and I started our family company in Naples. We set a vision to create the most delicious Neapolitan pizza possible in Naples, and then make it available for anyone worldwide. After three years of R&D, we came up with a groundbreaking patented process where we artisanally hand make every single pizza using fresh and local ingredients from the region and then cryogenically freeze them as soon as they come out of the oven to make sure the consumers on the East Coast of the United States receive a fresh product.
Why did you choose Talia as the name for your pizza?
We call our pizzas “the sleeping pizzas” because they are frozen at such low temperatures. It turns out that the story of the sleeping beauty, from which Disney took inspiration from to make their famous movie, was originally written in Naples during the 17th century. The name of the original sleeping princess was TALIA, which conveniently also is one letter away from ITALIA. This is why we called our brand TALIA (di Napoli), the sleeping pizza.
How have consumers welcomed your product so far?
We started sales in Italy in January 2017, and our Italian consumers have been loving our product. We sold over 500,000 pizzas in 2018. This year, we launched Talia in the United States. Our website launched in March and we are hoping to revolutionize the U.S. pizza market. We are the only company in the world that can make pizzas this way, and we hope the American consumer will fall in love with this product as much as us.
What inspired you to start your own business and to specialize on this specific sector?
I always have wanted to export a product from my country, Italy, and ideally from my hometown. Naples has an incredible arts and culinary tradition and to be able to share something so iconic with the world is thrilling. People know Milan for fashion; Venice, Florence, and Rome for their history and beauty; and although Naples always has been appreciated, there is huge potential for the “Made in Napoli” brand to become a symbol of quality in the Italian culinary sector. I certainly hope we can contribute to this notoriety.
What have been the challenges of having operations in Italy and delivering to clients in the United States?
In Italy, we faced the operational challenge of building an industrial-like production capability using cooking and production techniques from the 17th century. Today, we have over 20 pizzaiolos that cut and prepare ingredients daily and bake around 4,000 handmade pizzas.
To export from Italy to the United States, we learned to overcome several hurdles, such as negotiating exchange rates, changes in currency, and huge lead times (it takes nearly a month for a container to travel from Italy to New York City). Once in the United States, we had to build our own fulfillment center for the specific type of goods we produce.
Nevertheless, all the efforts paid off once we started to see our company’s vision come to life with our website and U.S. customers placing orders.
What advice do you have for students or alumni considering to start an international business?
You have to be completely in love with the product, service, or experience that you are selling. You need to have an outstanding product and even more love for it to face all the resistance that you will encounter in your entrepreneurial life.
Also, you need to always be ready to learn. Being an entrepreneur is not knowing better than others how to execute a vision or an idea, but rather having the capacity to learn on the job. I took every meeting and interaction with food industry experts I had, from the high-level investor to the assembly line worker, in order to learn.
Finally, if you do not love getting your hands dirty, this is not the path for you. I cannot tell you the number of hours I have spent driving a van to move pizzas, packing boxes in a -4 degree freezer, or building furniture at a food fair. Frankly, I find it just as fun (perhaps even more) than sitting at a desk.