Papa John’s founder John Schnatter started a gutter-painting company when he was 12 years old at the home of his grandfather and mentor. A decade later, he launched what would become the nation’s third-largest pizza chain.
How he got started:
1. Find something that comes easy to you. In school, he bombed out, and every night prayed, “God, just give me something I can do that I don’t have to work three times harder than everybody else.”
2. Put your ideas to work. Having dreamed of starting a pizza business, Schnatter tore out a broom closet in the back of his bar and installed a pizza oven.
3. Be willing to take on the big guys. His secrets: Quantify your progress. Stay connected to customers. Try to do one thing great.
“We tried pasta, we tried sit-down, we tried fried zucchini and salads,” he says. “But the customers told us early on, ‘We like your pizza delivered—you’re a delivery chain.’ So we focused on the pizza.”
— Adapted from “How Papa John’s Got Started,” interview by Scott Cendrowski, Fortune.