STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE – New Dorp resident Ilir Sela, 36, grew up surrounded by friends and family members in the pizza business. His parents and grandparents, owed Charlie’s Pizza in Manhattan during the 1970s, and he has many friends who have owned or still own pizzerias on Staten Island.
He was always a tech savvy student from a young age. This led Sela to pursue a bachelor of science degree in computer science from the College of Staten Island. For the early part of his career, he designed websites for small businesses in the borough.
As the tech-guru among his friends and family, he would often be asked for ideas to better reach customers in the digital age.
So five years ago he developed MyPizza.com, a business that allows people to order pizza online from a local pizzeria.
“The first 30 or so customers I had were through friends and family on Staten Island. I ended up developing over 3,000 relationships with pizza restaurants throughout the country,” said Sela.
“I started this really genuinely wanting to help people. … Last year, I reached out to one of the founding members of Seamless, a website that allows you to order food from nearby restaurants online. They immediately opened the door for me and introduced me to their network,” he added.
CREATING THE SLICE APP
But that wasn’t enough. The digital age is rapidly progressing and people are doing more today through phone apps than their desktop computers or laptops. Plus, Sela was tired of seeing people opt for “convenience over quality.”
“It’s easier for people to just order from Dominos because they would download the app on their phone; I wanted them to be able to do the same with local businesses,” he said.
“On Staten Island we realize how big the pizza industry is; it’s a $40 billion a year industry. It’s kind of like a tug of war between locals and independents and (chains like) Dominos,” added Sela.
So he used his technical background and large array of connections in the pizza and food business to develop Slice, an app you can download onto your iPhone, so you can order pizza instantly with a tap on your screen. (An Android app will be available soon).
“The Slice app helps consumers order and reorder from their favorite pizzerias and we have made it super simple to do that and we’ve also brought world class technology to these mom and pop stores,” said Sela, noting Apple Pay, cash or credit cards are acceptable methods for paying for your order through the app, which was launched last week.
The app allows you to choose a local pizzeria by your location or you can search for your favorite, he said.
“The app is built around loyalty. It’s built around helping customers order and reorder from their local pizzeria. We have made it supper simple to do that,” said Sela.
“You can also order from the rest of the menu. You can order pizza, salad, pasta,” he added.
With 6,000 pizzerias available through the app, Sela said he is adding new restaurants every day.
SLICE AT A GLANCE
New Businesses in Focus is a weekly column that relates the stories of new Staten Island businesses owners.
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This article by Tracey Porpora was first published Oct. 20, 2016 on www.silive.com. It is reprinted here with permission.