Helping children reach their full potential, one pizza at a time.
By Doug Harris
December 7, 2018
I wanted to be a business owner from a young age. It was what drove me to leave my medical sales job and start working at a local pizza store so I could learn the business and open my own shop. Within a year, Papa John’s opened one of its first stores outside of Kentucky in my neighborhood in Nashville. After tasting the pizza and understanding what great value it was, I knew I had to franchise with Papa John’s. I negotiated a loan from a relative and with the help of several friends, built my first store.
Working with Papa John’s for the past 26 years has given me the opportunity to be an entrepreneur. My wife and I started out with one store in Columbus, GA, which led to opening a few other stores in the area. What has kept our business running is our emphasis on treating our people like family. In fact, some of our employees have been with us for 10 to 25 years.
Our business has given us the chance to become more involved in our community, and for the past 20 years, my wife and I have been working with and mentoring urban youth. Collaborating with FOCUS Child Project has helped us extend our reach further to Mulago in Kampala, Uganda. Each of our stores are responsible for supporting a FOCUS child and we encourage our team members and customers to invest in sponsorships. Every quarter, each store receives a letter from their child so they can see how their support impacts the child’s life.
Since we started this project over 10 years ago, I have made about 30 trips to Uganda to meet with children who grew up in some of the poorest urban slums in the world. These trips have helped me understand the difficulties they face, as most of these children are surviving on only a few dollars each day. But I also see joy, determination and hope. They inspire me every day to be the best person I can be.
Seeing firsthand the growth of these children is incredibly rewarding in many ways. Meeting their parents and siblings shows how the program helps not just the child, but their entire family. We have sponsored some of these children for more than 10 years now – they’ve gone on to college or trade school, and have even become doctors, engineers and architects.
While working in the pizza business is great fun because everyone loves pizza, it’s so much more than that. People have always been the core of Papa John’s. Whether it’s in the United States or Uganda, treating everyone with dignity and respect improves business and forms bonds that make reaching our potential that much more than just a piece of pizza pie.