Beauty's Go-To Girl
The Raso family. We learn how their passions helped turn their hand from restaurants to pet stores.
By Nikki Stefanoff.
It may seem like a curious decision to switch from spending over 20 years running successful Melbourne restaurants to opening a chain of pet stores, but not so for the Raso family.
“We fed people before and now we’re just feeding their animals,” says Frank Raso, one of the partners in the business. “People love their pets: where we would struggle to charge $40 for a three-course meal, people are more than happy to spend that on their four-legged friends!”
Frank runs the Victoria-based Mega Pet Warehouse stores alongside his sister-in-law Caroline, with brothers Sam and Santo Raso as partners. With a background in engineering, a stint in accounting and a few years spent as a successful chef in one of the family restaurants, Frank is no stranger to turning his hand to new things.
Caroline’s career is just as diverse and, before opening Mega Pet Warehouse, she worked as a personal assistant to a QC (Queen’s Counsel), while at the same time helping to run the restaurants.
This journey from restaurant to pet store began back in 2004 when, after spotting a retail opportunity tucked away on a Bayswater industrial estate, Caroline and Frank made the decision to combine their years of business acumen and take on a retail challenge.
“The property as it stood needed some love and attention, but we saw its potential,” says Caroline.
“We knew nothing about running a retail business, but we felt confident enough in our business skills to take it on. We learned everything on the job by asking lots of questions of various sales reps and doing a great deal of private study.”
It helped that they both love animals. Caroline grew up helping to show dogs with her family and Frank speaks fondly about his ‘mutt’ at home. The business works alongside animal shelters to promote adoption programs and regularly donates food.
“A love of animals is integral to what we do. You only need to spend five minutes with a customer to see how their face lights up when you talk about their pets,” says Caroline. “A pet completes a family and being an animal lover is something we always look for when interviewing staff. That and their ability to cope with handling rats and mice!”
Caroline and Frank are the first to admit that taking on such a large business hasn’t always been easy and has taken a lot of dedication as well as a positive outlook. “Once you’ve got your key business knowledge, the rest can be learned,” says Frank. “Our success is down to the skills we’ve had for years. It’s about staying focused and adapting your skillset to the task at hand.” And adapt they have, taking their food preparation and nutritional knowledge and rethinking it to benefit animals rather than humans.