Joey Karvelas, founder and co-owner of Karvelas Pizza Co., grew up in his dad’s pizzeria in Hogansville, Georgia. The first job he held, at age 12, was as a dishwasher in his father’s shop. Later, he moved his way up to working the line and eventually making pizza.

“I would get off the school bus, do my homework there, and then start working,” Karvelas told PMQ in a new episode of Peel: A PMQ Pizza Podcast, which recently launched. “It sucked as a kid because you had to work, but the food was good.”

He couldn’t have known that one day he would own a pizzeria in that very same building—and, with the help of his brothers, grow the business into a six-unit pizza brand.

Related: Running a Proactive Business Model with Nick Karvelas of Karvelas Pizza Co.

You could say Karvelas took the scenic route to get there. Not one for school work, Karvelas became, in his own words, an addict. Eventually, he ended up in prison.

While he was incarcerated, Joey’s father, Jim, suffered a stroke in 2008. Jim had to sell the pizzeria to get his health in order. As things got worse a few years later, Jim told Joey—who had been released from prison—that he ought to start his own business.

“It was pretty depressing [that he had to sell the pizzeria],” Karvelas said. “He encouraged me to open my own business due to my own criminal history. He basically told me I’d have difficulty finding employment.”

Five men stand in a pizzeria.

Karvelas Pizza Co.

Meanwhile, the pizzeria his father had sold was about to go out of business. So Joey found a family friend to lend him $20,000, and, a year after his father had died, he bought the pizzeria, and Karvelas Pizza Co. was born.

Karvelas details this story and more on the latest episode of Peel: A PMQ Pizza Podcast. He also tells the story of how he became something of a pizza influencer on social media. As he tells it, he didn’t have some grand plan when he started posting videos to social media. He was a bit of an accidental pioneer when it comes to marketing his pizzeria on social channels.

“I wanted people to see what I was doing with my food,” Karvelas said. “I hated writing, so video was a natural choice. It worked: People liked and shared it, and they would come in saying they saw me on Facebook.”

For more on how Karvelas grew his business into a soon-to-be six unit pizzeria, check out Peel’s second episode at any of the links below.


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