From MBA Alumni to Pizza Entrepreneurs — The Journey of Third Coast Pizza

As entrepreneurs, UNYP alumni are truly second to none. Today, we are thrilled to feature a spotlight interview with the creative minds behind Third Coast Pizza, an American pizzeria that has become a local sensation in the Czech Republic. The three American expat founders (Ross VanSlambrouck, Cameron Hawes, and Michael Rogers) stand out as a shining example of business innovation and teamwork – and two of them are UNYP alumni! We talked to Ross VanSlambrouck about the business, the partnership, and the influence of the University of New York in Prague.

Can you start by giving us a brief background about yourselves and what program you studied here at UNYP?

Third Coast Pizza is owned by three Americans: Cameron Hawes, Michael Rogers, and me. We’ve all been living in the Czech Republic for roughly a decade. Cameron and I are UNYP MBA alumni. Interestingly, we all have day jobs in fields such as IT, fitness, and app development, while the restaurant is our side hustle.

Did any courses or professors at UNYP have a significant impact on you?

Andreas taught a class on entrepreneurship that was a cornerstone for us – it taught us the art of adaptability and viewing challenges as opportunities. Samir’s classes on ethics and Luidmills’ classes on branding were also impactful. The sum of these experiences has provided invaluable lessons that go beyond the classroom.

How did your friendship evolve into a business partnership?

Cameron and I have a rich history together. We’ve worked in several businesses, played American football in Prague, and we even dated twins for a while. When the pandemic hit, we initiated a Detroit-style pizza pop-up, which Mike later joined. Our venture rapidly grew from cooking in our homes to partnering with local restaurants, eventually culminating in a permanent location.

What inspired the name and concept of Third Coast Pizza?

“Third Coast” refers to the Great Lakes region, specifically Michigan, where I’m originally from. It’s an homage to the place we love, encapsulating the essence of family, nature, and adventure.

Why Detroit-style pizza?

Detroit-style pizza is distinctive, with its crispy edges, high hydration dough, and special cheese blend. The sauce, interestingly, goes on top of the cheese, much like racing stripes, tying it back to Detroit’s automotive heritage.

How did you make the transition from a pop-up to a full-fledged restaurant?

Persistence is key. We conducted pop-ups every other week for over a year. Eventually, an opportunity to occupy a permanent space presented itself, and we seized it.

How do you manage as co-founders?

It’s a fluid process rooted in mutual respect and understanding of each other’s strengths and limitations. Our partnership is like a triad, beneficial for decision-making but demanding ongoing effort to maintain balance.

Do you employ any sustainable practices?

Absolutely. We minimize food waste, use biodegradable materials, and actively donate to charities and local sports teams. We also open our kitchen for other pop-ups, paying forward the kindness we received during our early days.

What’s next for Third Coast Pizza?

Our menu is ever-evolving. We’re exploring options to expand, potentially into frozen pizzas or even bagels.

If you keep doing what you’re passionate about, while staying true to your principles, you’ll achieve what once seemed impossible.

Third Coast Pizza serves as a testament to the enduring power of education, friendship, and a robust business vision. Their story is not just about making excellent pizza; it’s about community, entrepreneurship, and the pursuit of a dream. It’s a narrative that started in an MBA classroom, and will continue to unfold one slice at a time.

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