Thursday, July 31, 2014

How a Former Denny's Waitress Amassed an Empire of Over 75 Denny's Locations

By Jason Daley

Dawn Lafreeda began working at a Denny's in California at 16, making her way from hostess to waitress. During college, she took on a second job at a software company, where she learned about accounting and managing personnel.

In 1984, when she was 23, Lafreeda was able to merge all her skills when she had the opportunity to purchase a Denny's restaurant in the tiny mining town of Globe, Ariz. She jumped at the chance. "I knew from a young age I was going to own my own business," she says. "I always knew I was going to be self-employed."

Eighteen months later, impressed by what Lafreeda had accomplished, Denny's offered her four ailing restaurants in west Texas. It was a challenge whipping the stores into shape, but for Lafreeda the biggest hurdle was culture shock--she wasn't prepared for the area's depressed economy and arid landscape. Every week she called Denny's executives and asked them to sell her a store in the big city of San Antonio. Eventually they did, and since moving there, Lafreeda has increased her empire to 75 Denny's locations in six states, becoming the largest single-owner franchisee in the system.

We got Lafreeda to tell us how she has built her empire over the past three decades.

You bought a restaurant at 23? That's pretty gutsy.
When you're 23 you don't think the same way you do when you're older. You're fearless and think you can do it all. It empowered me. I was too ignorant to know any better. I remember having a moment of doubt. I told my mom, "I have 35 employees depending on me; what if I fail?" She said, "You'll just start over."

How were you received as a young, female business owner?
I didn't feel discrimination, but when I was 23 I looked like I was 12. Nobody took me seriously. I'd go to the bank for a loan, and they wouldn't believe I was the owner. I just kept forging ahead until I found people to deal with. I wouldn't let no be an answer.

Read the rest here.

1 comment:

  1. Entrepreneurs don't believe they are entitled to a job. Entrepreneurs create jobs.