When Dave Ansett met Stephane Meyer at his branding agency Truly Deeply in April 2011, the French chef turned up with a confidentiality agreement and wanted it signed before he would even talk about a new business idea he planned to shop around to investors.
Stephane had approached the agency for help in turning the idea into an investor presentation to attract seed funding.
Dave was intrigued – the pasta concept was the fastest-growing in the crowded quick service food segment in France – and spent his Easter holidays “obsessed with the model”.
Upon returning to work, he met with business partner Peter Singline and persuaded him that the pair should become Stephane’s investors.
After 20 months spent further developing the concept, the trio launched Etto in January 2013.
It’s a popular, lively and stylish pasta bar offering Italian street food using fresh pasta cooked to order with a range of 15 sauces – and if urbanspoon’s comments are any guide, the punters love it.
Located in Clarendon Street, South Melbourne, it’s just around the corner from the Truly Deeply offices.
“If I get a spare hour I go up there and wash dishes, serve customers, do anything. I just love it,” says Dave.
Starting out as a graphic designer 20 years ago, Dave drifted toward brand and business strategy in the late 1990s, when Peter, who had a marketing and brand strategy background, joined the agency.
Brand strategy starts with understanding the market, knowing the customer and identifying the best way to connect with them, so they are genuinely motivated to buy the product the business is selling.
In 2008, he started a blog called ‘Truly Deeply Madly’, which is now the second most read branding blog in the world.
They publish a new blog post every day at 6 a.m. to catch office hours in the US, uploading more than 2800 posts since launch. There’s a team of 14 at the agency and everyone is expected to contribute.
“As a result of the blog, I’ve got 10,500 followers on Twitter and we get 180,000 unique views per year,” says Dave. “The beauty of online is that it can all be tracked.”
The blog drives a lot of client inquiries. “We use our own social media strategy as a case study with our clients. It’s a world-class example of what a business of any size can do”.
He’s also been an active member of the global Entrepreneur Organisation for the past 10 years. You need to be nominated and have a turnover of US$1million per annum to qualify, but it has connected him with some of the brightest business start-up minds in Australia and overseas.
City-based chapters break into smaller groups and meet regularly to network and support each other.
“Through my group I have been fortunate to connect with Kristina Karlsson from Kikki.K, Danny Guest from Blue Illusion, Carolyn Cresswell from Carman’s and Jo Horgan from Mecca Cosmetica.”
When he was setting up Etto, the advice he received from his network was invaluable.
“They are four of the best retailers in the country,” says Dave. “If I want to know about point of sale, I spend half an hour with each of these guys. If I want to know about property, they tell me the best people to deal with.”
Halfway though a Masters in Entrepreneurship at MIT in Boston, his passion for business is paying off and he’s upbeat about the prospects for Etto.
“Since we opened the door it has been immensely successful. We are aiming to open our second Etto in March and the third by Christmas. We think Melbourne is big enough for at least 15, so we’ll aim for that and see where we go from there. Everybody loves pasta. ”