Alexander Relf, 29
Co-founder, Peaked Pies
Evaan KherajLife Story: Alex Relf and his girlfriend, Kerri Jones, had no restaurant experience when they started asking banks for a loan to start a meat-pie shop in Whistler. “Nobody would touch us,” Relf recalls. “I was 24, and nobody in North America had heard of this food concept.”
But Relf, who grew up in Victoria, and Jones, a native of Newcastle, Australia, were convinced that the savoury pies would be as popular in the ski resort as they are Down Under. While working full-time at service jobs, the couple had spent two years crafting a business plan and developing recipes in their kitchen. Using their own savings and funds from one private investor, they opened Peaked Pies in July 2013.
On the first day, lineups were out the door. Demand for the pies (which include steak, bacon and cheese; butter chicken; and lentil) hasn’t let up. Last December, Relf and Jones opened a second store, on Denman Street in Vancouver.
The Bottom Line: About 40 people work at the two stores, which together sell between 400 and 1,000 pies a day. Relf has increased employees’ wages by up to 25 per cent and offers benefits including MSP coverage, ski pass contributions and affordable accommodation in a unit he rents. “It was important to us that all of our staff feel like part of the family,” he says.