Welcome to Spill the Biz. I’m Sarah Stowe, head editor at Inside Franchise Business. Join me as we have candid conversations with leading entrepreneurs and business owners behind some of the world’s most impressive franchise brands. At Inside Franchise Business, we acknowledge the traditional owners of country throughout Australia, repair respects to elders of past and present.
Sarah Stowe (00.30)
Stuart Cook is the former CEO of Zambrero, an international Mexican quick service restaurant chain. He joined the business almost accidentally and left six years later, having built the business to a revenue upwards of a hundred million. Now he is collaborating with his wife Samantha, on an exciting plant-based fast food option Flave that has launched in Sydney and has mega global ambitions.
In this podcast, we talk about what it’s like to step into CEO shoes at just 23 years of age, why he has such an interest in not-for-profit organisations and lessons learned on the journey so far.
Today’s guest describes himself as an entrepreneur, advisor, and investor in businesses that are making the world a little bit better. Stuart, welcome to the podcast.
Stuart Cook (01:20):
Thank you so much for having me. It’s great to see you again.
Good to see you, Stuart. It’s, it’s been a while. Now you, you, you are the former CEO of Zambrero, which was an, an international Mexican quick service restaurant. Can I say almost an accidental ceo? I think it all started with a, a chance meeting overseas. Can you, can you tell us about that?
Yeah, did, I had a corporate role in sales, but I’ve always been fortunate enough to be involved with a number of different charities. And I was actually over in India working with Rotary, but also going, attending a junior Chamber international, sort of a young professionals conference on my own time. And that was to, you know, go and meet different people from around the world because I was always interested in meeting other people and networking. And it was on a bus on the way to the Taj Mahal, sort of off the back of that conference, that I was seeing next to Dr. Sam Prince. And we started chatting and I thought it was quite funny at the time that a medical student, cause he was a doctor doing his residency at the time, but I thought it was funny that a doctor had two Mexican restaurants.
But what was more interesting to me was that the profits of those two restaurants were building centres in schools in Sri Lanka to help reduce the digital divide that exists in the developing world. And so I used all my annual leave the following year to go actually with him at the end of the Civil War, to go and build 10 it centres across different schools in remote Sri Lanka. And so it was through that journey of getting to know him and work really closely with him and him work closely with me. He said, how about you come on board, be my business partner and CEO. I’m finishing my residency and then let’s grow this business to a hundred restaurants in five years was the goal. Truth be told, I was so inspired by, by that conversation and working with Sam that he could have been selling socks <laugh>. So it wasn’t that my, it wasn’t that my passion was Mexican food, but it was more the passion of working and problem solving and going on amazing adventure. And that’s what it was. And so, you know, it was, you know, if you know what you know now, would I have signed up to it, you know? Yeah, a hundred percent. But it’s would’ve been a lot more daunting than I, I gave it credit for at the time.
So you just went in with, with, with passion and not a great sense of, of necessarily how you were going to achieve?
Head first with no hand holding, diving, head first into the water, not knowing if it was shallow or not. But I also am very fortunate to have come from, you know, a loving family and living in a country like Australia that, you know, my worst case scenario was moving back with my parents and finishing my university degree. And so if that’s the worst thing that would happen to me in life, it was worth the risk.
What do you think were the big challenges for you at Zambrero, but both in terms of the business itself and, and as you as a CEO? Cause you were young, you were just 23, is that right?
Yeah, yeah. 23. And then I, I think there was a, there’s a number of challenges. One, I’d never worked today in my life in terms of hospitality restaurants, and so I had to learn the trade. But I, we also needed to, you know, being a young CEO, you know, I was fortunate enough to hire and bring on some amazing team members who were all, you know, had been in business as long as I’d been alive.
And so working with that dynamic of working with more experienced people, but as the CEO and one of the owners of the business, you know, it definitely had its challenges at times, but just learning to work with the right people, being able to select the right people who could work in a growing business that, you know, had a leader who hadn’t done this before as well.
But then on the plus side, you know, being young was also huge superpower as well. And so, you know, we, we surrounded ourselves with people who had done this before from advisors and mentors and, you know, so we didn’t have to make a lot of the mistakes that other people did. And because we were young, you know, we would call up a, you know, former CEO of KFC and say, you know take him out for coffee and ask him, you know, if you were 24 and starting out again in business, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
And you’d see them in their eyes, <laugh> would sort of like, look at you, look back, have a little bit of a shock at how young you were and what you were trying to achieve, and then smile, and then, you know, give you so much information and be incredibly generous. And it was that same CEO, Bob La Pointe, he laughed and he said, you guys are so fortunate that you get in, clever that you get so many amazing people around you that they’re going to realise it too late that they’ve just created their biggest competitors, <laugh>, and that, you know, so that we’re very, very fortunate to have amazing mentors around, around us that we wouldn’t have maybe otherwise had.
So you joined the firm, just I think this is right, you joined the firm in 2009 and, and left I think six years later. And in that time, Zambrero had increased its revenue from just over a million to over a hundred million in sales, which is quite extraordinary. And you’ve grown to four countries and, and sold more than 300 sites. That’s quite swift growth. What was that stressful for you?
Yes and no. I think it was incredibly exciting. I think we were very fortunate to have amazing franchise partners and, you know, we lent our business model. I mean, if you look at Zambrero, even the layout of a restaurant, it’s very much like a Mexican Subway. And so we took a lot of learnings from the best companies in the world who have done it before us. And so, you know, definitely there were some stressful times, but you know, we also had these amazing area developers that existed around the country and are abroad. And so again, that was very much learned from the Subway model. Tracy Steinwand, who was an early mentor to us. She was based, she was originally from the States and had spent many years at Subway. And so, you know, really put it in to our heads, the, the area developer model.
And we met with a whole bunch of area developers in the Subway system. And, and so that allowed us to expand really, really well without having to expand our head office in a, in a huge way as well. So effectively it gave the satellite offices in states, you know, we had Far North Queensland, we had Queensland, we had Western Australia, South Australia, and two in Victoria. And so we kept New South Wales ACT for ourselves, but that meant that they had development targets. They were growing the brand, selling the franchises. And so, you know, we became very much a, an IP and a brand type business as well, continually just disseminating information strategy down to them while they were executing and helping us grow. So yeah, I, it was, it was a lot of negotiation finding and challenging to find those right area developers. But once we found the right area developers, then it made growth a lot easier.
So in terms of the franchising side, was, was that a challenge? I mean neither you or, or Dr. Sam Prince had experience with that?
Yeah. And, and so I think that that was a good thing. So we got to learn what was, who were the best and who were the worst in terms of the relationship with franchisees. Because, you know, the model of, you know, in terms of business structures and models, like franchising has been around for a long time, but it hasn’t at the same time. So there was still a lot of major change that have grown over the past two or three decades in Australia that had made some of the mistakes. And, you know, going back and fixing a hundred, 200 franchisees and their relationships is incredibly difficult. So, you know, we went and spoke to Gloria Jean’s, we went and spoke to McDonald’s. We spent a lot of time with these and going, okay, well what are the good things about those systems? And what are the negative things about those systems?
And so, and then let’s try and incorporate them with us. I think that you could solve world peace if you’ve been a franchisor <laugh>. So, so, you know, and then you also learn to pick the right franchisees. Like I, I’ve often told people on a scale of one to 10 in entrepreneurialism, you want people who are like a six to a nine because if they’re too entrepreneurial, as they’re too entrepreneurial, they go and take your system, not follow you, not do anything that you need. And then, then you’ve got people who are below a six are people not willing to take a risk in the first place. And so they, they are business owners. If you treat them like business owners you get a lot of respect. And so I think that that helped us. And, you know, we were very upfront with them from the beginning and saying, especially for the early stage franchisees, we said, Hey, like, you’re joining a system where we are just still new.
We haven’t developed all the systems, but you can be part of really putting your footprint on your fingerprint, on, on building the brand. And we are very, very fortunate to have had some amazing early stage franchisees. You know, we had my, my former boss in the outside world, he, he, he was American, Chris Scott who took Adelaide and, you know, he, he saw our rostering systems were rubbish and came in and found technology and brought that to us. And, you know, we then adopted the system. You know, we had Michael Hardy from Erindale who always kept us on our toes and was incredibly attentive to detail. And so we learned to actually send things to him first to be able to gain, get his sort of sign off or, or pressure tested and before it went out to the system, because we know if we sort of passed his level of detail and due diligence, then, then everybody who else would sort of not have not have many questions at all.
So it was just, it was, I think the big thing is, is that, and the more I’ve got in business is that if you could, the biggest killer is ego. And so, you know, if you, if you were, were too egotistical, and I think a number of franchisors can be, and you know, and say it’s, it’s my business and it’s, you know, my brand and all that, but these are the, you’ve chosen to use the franchise model as a way to expand and you are using their capital. And so you may as well use their intelligence and their different way of thinking to be able to help grow the brand. Because, but we, both, one of my first mentors said to me is, is that, you know, ill feelings are a misalignment of expectations. And so when, when a franchisee a franchise partner came to us with a, a challenger a question, I knew that deep down it came from one of two reasons.
It was either they honestly believed that it was going to make them more money or it was going to save them time and so if, or make their lives easier. And so if we started from that position and saying, I know that it’s coming from one of those two areas, and trust me, if you make more money, so do we. And if you have more time, you are going to, we are going to have more time as well, and you’re going to be better with what you’re doing. So we’re both coming from the right place, and so let’s respect each other’s opinion and point of view knowing that it’s, we, we share a lot of aligned values and aligned incentives. And I think that served us incredibly well as we grew the brand.
So you, you spent your time at Zambrero and then you walked away. You got married and went traveling?
Yeah, well, I mean, it was a little bit more than that. I mean, we, we were, we were getting ready to go to the US. I’d picked out even where we were, which suburbs we’re going to be living in Seattle, we’d built an international team or the start of the international team. I’d replaced myself as CEO in Australia. And then you know, Sam Prince being the majority shareholder, he was focusing on biotech. And so, you know, at that point to go in the US we wanted to bring in external capital for the first time. And then at very late in the piece decided that, you know, well within his rights to be able to change that tack and to be able to focus on the biotech tech with a full, with a free cash flow of the business. And so I said, well, if you don’t want to go and grow this then you, you know, how about you buy me out of the next two years? And so my one year honeymoon, that was meant to be turned into being a year one. And then the international team that we’d actually set up, you know, Sam disbanded to be able to focus on some of the other ventures that he’s been doing over the years. And then that’s provided me an amazing opportunity to be able to go and invest in other, other brands and to be able to work with them and you know, bring back some of my old team to go into new ventures as well.
So your, your resume shows really, I think that you’ve got a bit of a focus on sort of not-for-profits. Obviously there are other elements. You’re, you’re chairman on Fit Stop, but you are also chairman of the what is it the ForPurposeCo, which fundraises, I think for the, for the OzHarvest charity. Where does this, where does this kind of passion, is it a passion for, for the doing good side, if you like, did, did that, is that something that you had from your childhood or did that develop through other experiences?
Yeah, I think it’s, you know my family, we weren’t the wealthiest of families. My parents, you know, my dad was a school teacher, mum was a stay-at-home mum. We grew up in the country, you know, we learned to fix our toys and, you know, play in the woods sort of thing and be home by dark. So a very, very, like amazing, upbringing. And, but I think from an early age I was exposed to just seeing how lucky we were. I was living in Australia with loving parents, you know, not fear of wondering where my next meal was going to be. I was very fortunate in year 11 to be exposed to Rotary and go to a leadership program. And I actually was, it was at the National Youth Science Forum. I was a big science and math nerd at high school.
And then, I represented Australia as a youth ambassador to Africa in my final year of high school for a month. And so through that, you get exposed to the slums, you get exposed to sort of some of the challenging parts of this world and realised that, and at the time, and you know, still about to this day is, I don’t believe in luck, but except where you are born in this world. I mean, you don’t choose to be born into royalty, you don’t choose to be born into the slums of Africa. And so I always looked at it as that if I could take what I’d learn and, you know, especially the fortunate position I’ve been in Australia and helped reduce the, my version of the word luck in the world, then, then I’d done my part. And so that’s definitely been a primary driver that is driven me and, you know, from TWIYO, which is my investment vehicle.
And you know, the, a corporate advisory company, which is, it manages all my investments that have made since Zambrero. And, you know, our primary focus is on health and wellness, environmental technology and food sustainability. And so even our investment thesis and the companies that we go raise capital for is, I’m only working in those impact areas because we do believe that you can do, do good in this world and make a great return. And I think consumers are saying to demand that more and more. And so ForPurpose Co is, you know, the venture arm of Oz Harvest and trying to build a sustainable funding model for OzHarvest. So it doesn’t rely on the generosity of corporate donors and donors and the amazing work of the founder of Ronnie Kahn, who’s not going to be around forever opening up a black book and making it rain whenever she, she does a talk or an amazing job. And so we, we like to think that we can find amazing opportunities and link the charity with them to be able to create revenue opportunities for the charity to fund it. So it creates a sustainable funding model for allowing them to do the amazing work that they do.
So what’s the, what’s the key to capital raising, to getting money from other people, whatever that is, whether that’s in a, you know, on the big scale of corporate side or whether it’s crowdfunding, what’s the key?
So I think the ability to be able to capture people’s imagination and, and create a vision that they can align themselves with, with and belief. And so, you know, with Flaveve, which I’m sure we’ll talk about in a bit, but you know, I’ve, I’ve built a restaurant brand before and so I’ve got a lot more credibility and it’s a lot because of that credibility of what I’ve done before and what the team around me have done before, then it does make it a little bit easier to do that. But then if you are a founder who hasn’t done that before, it’s about, okay, what are the questions the investors that are going to ask? Being very prepared, having the answers for them, and having the answers to the following questions that they have so they can be really prepared because, you know, knowing the concept is really important.
And, you know, that’s sort of like the first hurdle, but nine times out of 10, it’s about backing the founder and liking the founder and believing that they can do that because everybody’s got a business plan that goes up and to the right, and it’s going to show that it’s going to make millions and millions of dollars, <laugh> and everybody rich.
But, you know, I’ve been in the room with venture capital guys who laugh at it and don’t even look at the model, and they just ask questions around the founder, how they, how they deal with adversity, what challenges have they been through in life to understand how that person deals with those challenges. Because business is often quite a lot of it of the time just about solving problems and, you know, and rolling with the punches and, you know, and having the resilience just to continue fighting when times are tough, especially, you know, in last few years as well. And, you know, potentially next year.
So perfect segue. Do tell, tell us about Flaveve because this is, you know, fairly new on the market, but it’s making a bit of a bit of noise. What’s the concept? How did it come about?
So the concept of Flave, you know, we’re a Flave forward business that just happens to be plant-based, and so we’re a burger and bowl restaurant brand, but there also will end up doing our own product lines as well. And so, you know, the idea of Flave came around when my wife and I were on our honeymoon, and she was airlifted a hospital in Costa Rica because of a really bad bacterial infection. And so as part of the process, she was flushed with broad spectrum antibiotics and then post that as part of a recovery, a forward thinking doctor said, Hey, your gut biome is absolutely torn to shreds. You need to be gentle on it. So you need to go plant-based for a month, so vegan for a month, and then go vegetarian for a month, and then you can start introducing meat into back into your diet.
And you know, Samantha was amazing enough to continue on our honeymoon, and I thought if my wife was cool enough to continue on our honeymoon after being airlifted to the hospital and spending seven days in the Costa Rican hospital, I could go vegan for a month, <laugh> <laugh>. And, and so I think the, the big thing is that really opened our eyes to being, you know, although that we’d done a lot of charity work, Samantha actually was the CEO of Sam Prince’s charity One Disease at a Time. And so we’d both worked in startups and we, you know, we were well overdue for a, a long holiday and, you know, so we’d always been generous people who were doing good in the world, but we didn’t realise as much how ignorant we were to the everyday impact we were having with the decisions we were putting on our plate.
And so we opened our eyes to, you know, different documentaries that existed, the ones that, you know, especially around the climate and the impact of animal agriculture in the world, and how small little tweaks can really make a massive impact, especially as we grow towards sort of 10 billion people on this planet. The way that we currently eat is not sustainable. And we are starting to see that in terms of climate change and animal agriculture is one of the biggest proponents of that.
And so, you know, and not only that, we started feeling better, you know, we dropped weight, we, you know my wife said that our skin started to glow a bit better and, you know, but we realised that we were always a bit of an afterthought when it came to restaurants and, and things you were just eating aside or, you know, or, or the chefs were just doing something that they had to do because they were told they had to do rather than actually putting a lot of creativity and thought into that and definitely not thinking about the micro maker nutrients about the meals.
And so selfishly we want to create a brand that we could go and eat up but also one that we thought that could start to try and move the needle on getting people’s getting people to start experiencing and, and dispelling some of the myths or myths around plant-based food. Now there’s a lot of money that has been pouring into the product side. So there’s Beyond Meat, Impossible Burgers and all that space, but there’s not a lot of money that has been poured into the actual end customer experience of that. Now you go and buy something off the shelf, it’s, you are judging that product based on your ability to cook it. And a lot of people aren’t amazing cooks. And so they then, then sort of propagates the fact that they they’re going to they’re going to say, oh, plant-based foods are rubbish or, or not.
And so we want to be able to show people what the best on the market of the alternative plant-based proteins are and, you know, be that sort of go-to, to help guide people through their plant-based journey, or to be able to just have a meatless Monday or a future Friday, provide catering options for, for corporates so that they can make a positive impact on their sustainability piece as well.
And, you know, we’re really excited and so we’re made to open at the start of 2020, but luckily I’ve got a board member who was actually the, you know, I brought onto board to be the international COO of Zambrero. And so we’ve kept in contact in between, and she was part of the Starbucks rollout globally, and she’s based in China. And then as part of her board guidance said, Hey, we’ve got this thing called Corona that’s moving pretty quickly. Maybe don’t sign that quarter of a million dollar lease in Bondi. And you know, lo and behold it jumped, jumped across the, the ocean. And so we had to definitely pivot and work on some other projects over a year or two and then and then open the, launched the restaurant in December 6th 2021.
And what was the initial reaction to that? Was it immediately popular or did it take a bit of time?
Immediately popular. We, it’s been a really, it’s been a full on year for hospitality. I mean, it’s been a full on three years for hospitality. And so we definitely, were open with amazing media coverage. We’ve got some great we’ve got some great preliminary sales and we’ve got great repeat customer rate. You know, we’re having one location in Bondi with the weather that we’ve had this week has been definitely something that we didn’t anticipate. But you know, now that the sun’s shining and, and, and people are actually going to Bondi and delivery drivers are actually going down to Bondi <laugh> you know, we, we are doing really well.
So it is definitely been an up and down year and but overwhelmingly positive, we’re about to open our second location or technically our third location. We’ve got partnership with David Jones at the moment which is just over summer. And then we’re opening our Darlinghurst [Sydney] location by the end of January, depending on whether the builders are working over Christmas.
<Laugh>. When you, when you say a partnership with DJ with David Jones, what does that look like exactly?
So we’ve got a, we’ve got a, in their food hall and we’ve got a, a site that they’ve that we’ve worked with them on. So from November, December, January we’ll be there as a trial with them, with their first sort of brand that they brought in from outside to be able to go in, provide a different offering, and definitely their first plant-based offering in David Jones. And then we’ll be able to start selling our products within the David Jones Food Court.
So that’s, so that’s the merchandise, that’s the product that you’ve been developing that you’d be selling as well?
We actually have got a full, we’ve actually got a full mini restaurant in there. Oh, okay. So you can go Yeah. So you can go in there, get burgers, get bowls get desserts.
Okay. But you have got grand plans for this, haven’t you? So can you tell us a little bit about what we can expect to see from Flave?
So our goal is to open up a thousand locations over the next 10 years, and of, that’s not in Australia. That’s probably about 50 in Australia and the rest overseas. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, we say that, you know, we play in a space that is rapidly growing and there is a lot of money coming in there, but there’s no clear front runner at this stage. So you’ve got other brands that you know, that you could say on a, on a global stage that will start to compete with being that is a wholly plant-based brand. You know, there’s a brand that Kevin Hart’s just launched in LA, and then there’s one that Lewis Hamilton has backed in the UK called Neat Burger. And you’ve got Slutty Vegan, which is just raised an amount of money and it’s got seven locations and Veggie Grill’s got 30, but there’s no sort of like big major global player, but it’s almost like you can start to see a little bit of the, what was happening in the mid-2000s with Mexican food in Australia.
So, you know, there was a rise of Salsas, G y G, Mad Mex, Zambrero, you know. Pre 2006 or 2007 I think there was, apart from Montezuma’s, which was like the full Mexican restaurant, there wasn’t any. And you know, now you’ve got two companies, you know, you’ve got G y G worth one and a half billion dollars, and then you’ve got, you know, Zarmbrero, which is, you know, probably worth about half a billion primarily franchise, but both growing incredibly strong and you know, so we sort of see that a billion dollar plant-based brand will, will come out of the, the 2020s.
And, and so that’s our goal to be that and expand around the world. And, you know, I I, I sort of figure if I took, you know, six and a half years as a 23 year old to, to open up a hundred locations, I like to think I’m a bit older and wiser and uglier at 37. And so hopefully over the next 10 that I can do the same. With, with this Flave concept.
Do you think business is instinctive or do you think it’s a mindset? Do you think it’s something that you can learn?
I think that there’s two types of business people, and so I think that there, it, it’s, I think it’s broken into two points. I think you can learn business, but I think the instinctive part is your ability and your appetite for risk. And so if you are there and you can still be a business leader either way, but you are I think, a different type of business leader and you’re potentially solving different problems as well. And so, you know, I’m fortunate enough that I, I would have a, I’m not a big gambler or, you know, going, putting everything on black or whatever at the casino, but I think compared to a lot of people I have a naturally high risk appetite. And so I think that part is just, you know, my mum said that I was like that as a little kid. And so, you know, that that part I think is a little bit more, and, and my parents are not risky people as well.
So it’s just, I think that’s sort of like a, you’re born with that part, but then you, you learn business. And so I think that sometimes the ones who are riskier like myself will take bigger jumps. Like I didn’t even try the Zambrero food before I even became CEO. And so if you actually said that to somebody out loud, like that’s dumb <laugh>, you know, so, but the ones who do get into business who are a little bit more risk adverse they’re usually solving a lot of problems. They’ve got more thought out business plans, but they just need a little bit of push from somebody who’s got the risk piece.
But, you know, I think that, you know, I think to become great at business is to be very wise and wise isn’t about intelligence. It’s about being exposed to as much as possible. And so that’s why these mentors are, you know, surrounding yourself with people who have done it before is really important because, you know, they can answer the question that you don’t even need to learn to ask because you haven’t come across it yet. And so that’s just because they’ve been exposed to it. So I think the, the more people expose themselves to things, the better business people, they can, they can learn about how to react in different ways or know the people to ask.
So I think that’s, that’s how it’s learned.
Just to, to finish up, what would you, if you looked back now and said, what was the best piece of advice given to you, and equally what advice, and it may not be the same piece of advice, it may be, what advice would you hand on to a young entrepreneur?
You’re definitely the average of the company you keep is the biggest one. I’ve gone through different groups of friends across the year, and I think that over the years, because I changed as an individual, not because of them, I think I have seen people fail because they have held onto relationships far too long. And because it doesn’t, they doesn’t align with what they, what their career or business aspirations are, then it pulls them back and actually doesn’t help them lift them up. So that, that’s one of the biggest things. And so, sort of almost as a flow on from that, what I’d say to a young entrepreneur is that when you’re young, it’s your superpower. You don’t have, especially if you don’t have a family, you don’t have you know, a wife or a husband, you know, you take the chances people are likely to pick up the phone because what, 22 year old or a 19 year old or a 25 year old looks you up on LinkedIn and asks you out for a coffee to learn about your experience.
But you know, if you do that, just make sure that you go be prepared. And that’s the way that you can then surround yourself with really good people who can help you on your journey and help you with sort of the major decisions that come up on life. Because, you know, those same people that I went to in my early days at Zambrero are still around, some of them are still around me today, and some of them have given me amazing pieces of life, not only from business, but also from a, from a life perspective.
Stuart, you’ve had a great journey so far in business and still under 40, which is pretty exciting. So <laugh> look, thanks for chatting today and really look forward to seeing how Flave develops. As a, a non-meat eater myself, I’m particularly excited by the prospect of, of that. So good luck with it.
Stuart Cook is the former CEO of Zambrero – an international Mexican Quick Service Restaurant chain. He joined the business almost accidentally, and left six years later having built a $100 million plus business.
Now he is collaborating with his wife Samantha on an exciting, plant-based fast food option, Flave. It has launched in Sydney and has mega global ambitions.
In this podcast we talk about what it’s like to step into CEO shoes at just 23 years of age, why he has such an interest in not-for-profit organisations, and lessons learned on the journey so far.
Stuart Cook is not yet 40 but he’s already more than made his mark in business. At just 23 a chance encounter with Dr Sam Prince, the founder of Zambrero, led him to dive headfirst into a CEO role.
Zambrero is a Mexican food chain with a social mission, to have a positive impact on the world, based around its Plate 4 Plate initiative.
Sam Prince’s mission and passion inspired Stuart. “It wouldn’t have mattered if he’d been selling socks!” he says.
With the confidence of youth, and a no-fear attitude, he navigated his way through business leadership.
“I hadn’t even eaten at Zambrero when I took the job!” he says.
Now he sees youth as a superpower, something that young entrepreneurs should make the most of.
In his career to date Stuart has always leaped into new opportunities, taking an extended year-long honeymoon to travel when plans to expand Zambrero in the US fell through. It led him to build connections with other entrepreneurs and not-for-profits and to set up, with his wife, an investment and advisory group T.W.I.Y.O – The World Is Your Oyster.
This invests and works with a number of start-ups and businesses.
Stuart is also chair of ForpurposeCo, the OzHarvest charity’s venture arm.
And then there is Flave, another collaboration with Samantha. This is a plant-based fast food concept, a step into the restaurant market with a focus on the consumer’s end experience not just the product.
With Flave, Stuart and Samantha aim to also help people switch to a plant-based diet and reduce their carbon footprint.
The feel-good Mexican restaurant has donated more than 63 million meals through its Plate4Plate initiative. Each big or regular burrito, bowl or retail item sold at Zambrero, equates to a meal donated to someone in need. Rise Against Hunger, LoveMercy and Foodbank distribute the donated meals.
This is a sustainable, profit-for-purpose social enterprise that invests in food and waste technology and innovative startups with the aim of boosting funding for OzHarvest.
Dr Sam Prince founded non-profit organisation One Disease with a simple mission – to eliminate one disease at a time, starting with scabies.
The World Is Your Oyster offers virtual CFO, corporate and capital raise advisory services to entrepreneurs committed to building a better world. It is involved with a number of businesses including two franchises: Fitstop and Lifesize Plans.
This plant-based fast food business has a flagship store at Bondi Beach in Sydney. Joining the founders Stuart and Samantha is head chef Scott Findlay. He trained with Gordon Ramsay and then developed plant-based recipes while working as a private chef to Sir Paul McCartney.