Name: John Gulledge
Franchise/Location: Cheeseburger Bobby’s in Hiram, Ga.
Number of years in business/number of employees: 7 years / 21 employees
Initial investment: Gulledge's franchise came in around $460,000, which included a franchise fee and $15,000 starting capital.
While we often hear about how the mistakes people make in their youth can haunt them into adulthood, we rarely hear about the youthful decisions that go right. When John Gulledge was a 15-year-old high school student, he took a full-time job at Stevi B’s pizzeria in Georgia without knowing how that job would impact his life well beyond graduation.
Gulledge began as a dishwasher at Stevi B’s before moving up to a line cook. Over time, he worked his way through every position at the company. When he’d been there for seven months, he became the restaurant’s assistant manager. One could say he was hungry. “My greatest personal qualities I possessed during that time were my availability and eagerness to learn,” he says. “I used to gobble up hours from other workers that had other plans or simply did not want to work.“
Although he left home to attend college, he kept in touch with his former bosses, Richard and Bob Stoll. When the brothers sold Stevi B’s and opened up a build-your-own burger fast casual restaurant called Cheeseburger Bobby’s, they asked Gulledge to be their first franchisee. Gulledge accepted, happy to continue his relationship with a man he considers his mentor.
“Bobby Stoll saw something in me and took me under his wing,” Gulledge explains. “Bobby taught me about the food service industry, but more importantly he taught me how to be a good person. His actions and leadership made me grow to respect and love the food service industry.”
When you love what you do, it’s not challenging to put in the hard work. Now 32, Gulledge has been running his location since 2008 and has been consistently profitable. Of course, even someone who worked all aspects of a food industry establishment can still encounter challenges when starting a business in that same sector.
“The most unexpected challenge was the unknown,” he says. “I knew how to smile, be nice, cook, clean, pay bills, learn from mistakes and take charge. ... But the unexpected nature of food service and the ever-changing landscape threw me through a loop. The ability to juggle family and business took effort as well.”
Still, his family has proven to be a major source of support for Gulledge. He credits the support of his wife and three children for a large part of the success he’s had with his business -- or, as he and his wife think of it, their fourth kid.
Furthermore, for those wanting to follow in Gulledge’s franchising footsteps, he advises putting faith in yourself and your family. “Making money, having a great product and service and helping your community can happen but it all starts with hard work, dedication and faith in yourself and the people around you,” he says. Stoll’s faith in Gulledge was well-placed, and seeing how hard his protege worked inspired him to offer the young man “a piece of the pie [that] came with a bun and patty,” as Gulledge puts it.
Stoll served it up, and Gulledge sunk his teeth into the challenge. As a result, both men are satisfied.