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Start Your Business Entrepreneurs

Summer Jobs Are Breeding Ground for Entrepreneurs

Summer jobs for students offer a hard-knocks introduction into the world of work that has been the launch pad for numerous entrepreneurial careers. . / Credit: Work gloves image via Shutterstock

For many students, having a summer job is all about gaining work experience and squirreling away hard-earned cash to help pay college expenses. Though they are not nearly as glamorous as résumé- burnishing internships with top-tier firms, these often crummy jobs have offered instead a hard-knocks introduction into the world of work that has launched the careers of a number of entrepreneurs and instilled the work ethic required to succeed.

BusinessNewsDaily recently spoke with several entrepreneurs about their summer jobs and how the lessons learned carried over into their careers.

Brian Mattingly developed a work ethic at a very early age. The founder of Atlanta-based Welcomemat Services, a franchise company that provides monthly packages to individuals and families who have recently changed their address, Mattingly was 14 when he took his first job washing dishes and making beignets at Huey's New Orleans Café, a famous Atlanta eatery.

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"I was clearly the low man on the totem pole," Mattlingly told BusinessNewsDaily. "The actual job was by far was the least desired in the restaurant. Washing dishes and burning myself with hot oil all summer certainly instilled a strong work ethic and gave me career aspirations."

Mattingly continued working while in high school and during college to help pay for his tuition. His jobs included teaching tennis at a camp for kids, caddying and waiting tables.

"In college I ran a delivery service for a Mexican restaurant," he said. "I was in charge of the kitchen, delivery staff, scheduling, finances and more. The experience from this job was invaluable. Working in the restaurant industry in this position and in others taught me so much about leadership, management, sales and communication. The restaurant industry really paved the way for me becoming an entrepreneur and launching my own business."

Mattingly launched Welcomemat in 2003. After growing to 12 corporate-owned locations, primarily in the Southeast, his company began franchising in 2010 after receiving a nearly $2 million capital investment from private investors.

Two summer jobs were highly influential in developing the entrepreneurial skills of Neil Chyten, founder of Lexington, Mass.-based Chyten Educational Services,  a franchised chain of tutoring and test- preparation centers.

 "I spent one summer doing deposition summaries for my brother," Chyten said. "I would have to read through hundreds upon hundreds of pages of notes and summarize them. It forced me to understand and simplify very complex information."

After graduating from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 1980, Chyten took a summer job teaching educational programs across the country. He never thought this summer gig would turn into a career.

"I was working for a company that specialized in reading and study skills and they were hiring young college kids and at the time and I needed a job," Chyten said. It showed me the good and bad side of private education. I learned that supplemental education was very valuable, but the company was hiring unqualified people, including me."

Chyten remembers the first time teaching a group class.

"I had a panic attack," he said. "I realized the company was charging people for a service that wasn’t worth the price. It actually motivated me to start my own business.  It’s the quality of the instructor who really makes a difference in private education."

Chyten Educational Services was launched in 1999 and today the company has approximately 40 centers across the country. Every Chyten tutor is an experienced teacher who has earned at least a master’s degree. What sets his company apart, Chyten said, is its strategic approach."

"We have an education-first approach to private education." Chyten said. "Chyten was built on a lesson plan, not a business plan. The strategies we teach are unlike any others on the market."

Pierre Panos is the founder and CEO of the Atlanta-based Fresh to Order — a franchise player in the 'fast fine dining segment.'" He spent three summers in his early teens working a pinball assembly line. His responsibility was to assemble the actual slot mechanism where the cash was inserted.

 "I learned work ethic and the value of money, and I loved saving the money I earned from those summer jobs," Panos said.

A native of South Africa with experience working in restaurants from fast food to fine dining in his native country, Panos didn’t waste any time applying the lessons he’d learned when he came to the U.S., first turning around one restaurant operation before one of his own that he later sold to the O’Charley’s brand. 

Today, Panos heads QS America, parent company of Fresh To Order, which also operates more than 40 Papa John’s restaurants in four states and Atlanta’s popular Brookwood Grill.  He’s grown Fresh To Order to six locations, with three more expected by the end of 2012. By 2015, he expects to have 50 locations nationwide, with another 50 locations in various stages of development

Those summer jobs paid an additional dividend, Panos said.

"An added benefit was that I became an expert pinball player because of my intimate knowledge of how the machines were made."

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