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A Conversation with Diane Izzo

The Culinary Showman
November 12, 2019
Valletta Cruise Port – Where Excellence meets Opportunity
November 12, 2019
 

As one of Malta’s most prolific retail entrepreneurs, Diane Izzo built the DIZZ Group from the ground up. Now, with her fashion empire secure in its success, she has set her sights on the food and beverage market too.

Diane, when you think about your success today, where do you think it all began? What are your earliest memories of business?
In a business world full of men, I could have easily been intimidated when it came to starting my own company. However, from an early age, I dreamt of a career in business. It’s a known fact that men dominate this world, but I never felt discouraged from reaching my goal – and especially not because I am a woman. I was fortunate enough to have people to look up to, and part of my success can definitely be attributed to the fact I followed in the footsteps of my father and grandfather. I will always cherish and treasure their good advice.

When did you decide this was going to be your career path?
I was 19 years old and on a vacation in Italy with my husband-to-be, Karl, and I remember that we saw the now well-known clothing brand Terranova, for the first time. It was relatively unknown back then, especially with Maltese customers. On our arrival home we made contact with the brand and set the wheels in motion for us to open the first Terranova outlet in Malta, as a franchise within the DIZZ Group. The rest is history!

What do you consider your major milestones?
I would say that owning a company founded in 2000, and which today enjoys continuous growth, is already a milestone. Couple that with the fact we have consistently expanded our portfolio of brands to include some of the most popular and prestigious higher-end market-leading labels out there compounds this landmark. However, there are specific moments I look back on too. September 2016 comes to mind, for instance, when we launched our €8 million bond issue. Then there was the moment in November last year when the €7.5 million unsecured bonds for D Shopping Malls Limited were fully subscribed and, as DIZZ Group, we celebrated our first day of trading on the Malta Stock Exchange. Both of these milestones were made possible thanks to a series of other achievements we made as a company over the years, and all centre around the substantial expansion of our fashion offering and investment in the retail experiences at our shops.

 

One of your major successes so far has been in the retail sector – what made you choose this notoriously difficult industry?
Simple. Both retail and fashion were always a dream for me. I absolutely love fashion and I consider myself to be a fashion enthusiast. I also love the business world, so mixing both together provided the best blend to help me achieve the utmost in my career.

You have successfully side-stepped into the hospitality industry now, with Nespresso, Caffe’ Pascucci and more – what made you want to do that?
Our company has grown substantially in the retail sector - we are Malta’s leading fashion company and, over the past few years, we have added more top brands to our remarkable portfolio of labels. So, more recently, we embarked on a diversification programme that has seen us move into the property and catering businesses too. Our aim is to have a balance between fashion, property and, now, food and beverage. We strongly believe that the F&B sector in Malta has the potential to grow, and that we can attract new franchises and popular international F&B chains to Malta. My own areas of focus at DIZZ remain investment, diversification and development.

What defines the businesses you run in the hospitality arena?
Initially, we launched the DIZZ Group food sector with Caffe Pascucci. Today we already have five stores in Malta and, in the coming weeks, that will increase to seven as we open another two branches of this immensely- successful Italian coffeehouse. Then, at the end of 2018, we were pleased to announce that we had reached an agreement to represent Nespresso – the pioneer and worldwide reference for highest-quality portioned coffee – locally. There is more to come in this area too, as we will soon be opening a Nespresso flagship store in Sliema, along with another three smaller shops, and a large customer service centre in Mriehel. The acquisition of the Nespresso brand for Malta was another important milestone for us as a group, and great news for all coffee lovers on the island. And we didn’t stop there. At the start of summer this year we launched another new franchise – Pastrocchio. This Italian food chain has a fantastic and trusted reputation in the food industry, and is know for delivering excellence and enjoyable food and drinks. We’re pleased to say it is growing stronger every day. Finally, to sweeten our F&B offering, we also opened Yogorino, an ice cream shop in Valletta. Yogorino is an Italian-rooted frozen dessertery, which launched in 1993 and went on to become a leader in the frozen yogurt field.

 

What are your favourite things about working in the hospitality sector, and what are the biggest challenges?
I love watching our clients’ faces when they taste the delicious food prepared by our hardworking and dedicated team. For me it’s rewarding to look at the smiles we place on people’s faces, and to see their satisfaction in what we have served them. Our motto for our F&B arm ‘is feeding happiness to our clients’ and we work hard to accomplish that every day.

What is your advice to others in the hospitality sector?
Always have something to look forward to. If you believe in what you are doing, then let nothing stop you from realising your ideas and dreams.

What is next for you, and for Dizz?
There is always something new and exciting on our agenda. I encourage all our customers to keep following us so they will be the first to know what’s in the pipeline – we can’t wait to share it!