He created one of the great off-field success stories in rugby league history. This is how Sean Garlick turned one pie shop into a global empire.
He created one of the great off-field success stories in rugby league history. This is how Sean Garlick turned one pie shop into a global empire.

How former NRL star built $20m global empire

It was originally dismissed as pie in the sky but has now ­become a $20 million worldwide empire.

On the eve of Friday night's blockbuster between the two clubs he captained - Sydney Roosters and South Sydney - Sean Garlick, now 51, has opened up about his burgeoning 100-strong staff pie ­business, Garlo's.

Garlo's produce 80,000 pies a day from their Kingsgrove head office, with the company now worth a cool $20 million. The pies are distributed to 650 stores nationally. And it started from a small shop in Maroubra nearly 20 years ago.

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Sean Garlick played for South Sydney and the Roosters.
Sean Garlick played for South Sydney and the Roosters.

"The only person who knew anything about pies back then was my brother, Nathan, who was a pastry cook. When we opened our first pie shop at Maroubra, not only did we not know how to run a business, we didn't even know anyone who had run a business," said the company's managing director and co-founder.

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"We had to create it from scratch. We opened Maroubra in 2001. We then opened 13 pie shops in the first five years - Mascot, Coogee, Bondi Junction, Marrickville, Eastgardens, Manly, Liverpool, Parramatta, Blacktown, Enmore, they were spread around Sydney.

"Our biggest customers are Coles and Woolworths and we also supply to Costco. We export to five countries - Japan, that's our biggest, we're in a supermarket chain over there, UAE - Abu-Dhabi and Dubai - Hong Kong, New Zealand and we go to some Pacific Islands. We make about 80,000 units a day - 80,000 pies a day. We have about 100 staff and I have nine full-time family members working here."

Sean Garlick built a $20m pie empire. Picture: James Gourley/The Daily Telegraph
Sean Garlick built a $20m pie empire. Picture: James Gourley/The Daily Telegraph


Garlick, a tough hooker, recalled the humble days when he and Nathan were selling pies out of Maroubra.

"When I finished playing, I actually worked at the Rabbitohs for a couple of years as football manager, when we got back into the comp, and I was doing this (pies) on the side as a bit of a hobby. It was always going to be a job for Nathan," said Garlick. "Our shops became too small and we had to keep opening more. We're now probably in around 650 stores around Australia. It's funny, we used to sell pies one at a time. I then used to think we were killing it when we would sell them by the box when we went to wholesale.

"Then when we first went into Coles we started selling them by the pallet. I thought: 'Wow'. Then most recently, with the export, we sell them by the container now. How things have changed. The football following and population is just perfect for us.

"It was tough though through GFC in 2007 but we've been very lucky as a business in COVID. Whilst our pubs, clubs, schools, cafes, golf clubs and sports grounds dropped off, supermarket sales are through the roof. When those places shut, we thought: 'Where's this going to go'.

Sean Garlick in his two-tone jersey. Picture: James Gourley/The Daily Telegraph
Sean Garlick in his two-tone jersey. Picture: James Gourley/The Daily Telegraph


But then everyone went into panic buying and pies seemed to something they wanted in their freezers in case Armageddon came along."

Garlick played 96 matches for Souths between 1990 and 1993 and then again in 1998 and 1999 while contesting 64 games for the Roosters between 1994 and 1997. Garlick will be there when the rivalry continues at ANZ Stadium on Friday night. While loving both clubs, Garlick admitted: "I was a South Sydney junior and that's where I made my first grade debut.

"I started at Souths and then finished at Souths after four years at the Roosters."

Originally published as How former NRL star built $20m global empire


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