Venice Café and Pizzeria

Sefir Cokguler’s dream was to own his own pizzeria so he kept his eyes open for the opportunity. He found one far from where he was living, but he acted and purchased the pizzeria in Indiana, Pennsylvania. The pizzeria he purchased was in close proximity to the Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). He relocated from Arizona and began to run the shop. Sales were not what he had hoped they would be. Even though his location was in relatively close proximity to the university, there was a lack of awareness at the university and in the community at large. He approached the IUP Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for assistance in marketing to the university.

Sefir’s SBDC consultants coached him on putting together a business plan and editing it, including coming up with pro forma forecasts and targets. Together, they brainstormed tactics to market to the college and the community, including flyers and promotions to target students and collaborating to market with other vendors, e.g., a beer distributor and a video store. The SBDC also connected Sefir to individuals, including students, who could help co-market and distribute his promotional materials.

As a result of the SBDC’s assistance, Venice Café and Pizzeria has achieved many successes, reaching two and three year weekly targets over a year earlier than forecasted. Sefir has repeatedly set new weekly sales records, including having a week in which sales were fifty percent higher than the highest forecasted week in his three year pro forma. He has also been able to refinance and pay off his debt at a quicker pace than expected, as well as retain and even expand his number of employees. The results were influenced by and expanded Sefir’s ability to support the community as he has hosted numerous community minded activities at his location including car washes.

Sefir views his customers as friends and family and will not serve what he himself considers to be of subpar quality. He has also chosen to serve the community in various ways. The campus at IUP is very diverse and hosts faculty and students from around the globe. Consequently, in addition to pizza and the regular fare one expects to find at a pizzeria, he has added many favorites for people from around the world such as baklava, gyros, and additional international menu items.