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Sunday, February 7, 2016

The CEO of $2.2 billion pizza chain Papa John's shares his 5 'unexpected ingredients' for startup success

[papa john's John Schnatter]Reuters John Schnatter has always had an entrepreneurial spirit and a thing for pizza. In high school, he worked at a pizza and sub shop in his hometown of Jeffersonville, Indiana, where he first fell in love with making pizza. He got through college by working at a place called Greek's Pizzeria and even considered dropping out of Ball State University to open a franchise, but his parents wouldn't allow it. "That's when I got the idea," Schnatter tells Business Insider. "I'd finish college and open my own restaurant. I had the recipes, I knew the equipment, and I had a store layout." After consulting a marketing major who lived in his dorm, he even had a name.  He took the leap of faith in 1984. He sold his beloved Camaro Z28 for $2,800 to buy $1,600 worth of used restaurant equipment, and then turned a tavern's broom closet into a pizza business. It has since grown into the empire known today as Papa John's Pizza — the third largest pizza chain in the world, with 4,800 restaurants around the globe and a market capitalization of $2.2 billion. Papa John's is also the official pizza sponsor of the National Football League and Super Bowl 50. Schnatter says these were the five "unexpected ingredients" for his startup success: Courtesy of John Schnatter. 1. PATIENT AMBITION "You have to keep looking until you find work that's meaningful and purposeful," Schnatter says. "Then work it to the bone, and you'll never work a day in your life." As a young man, Schnatter worked all sorts of odd jobs, including driving a forklift for a local package store, painting gutters, mowing lawns, welding barges, and flipping hamburgers at Wendy's. "I bounced around until I fell in love with making pizzas: I was good at it, I enjoyed the process, and loved making people happy," he explains. "I'm not sure I would have lasted as long as I have running my own business had I not been doing what I felt like I was put on Earth to do."   AP 2. UNCONVENTIONALITY "Back in the early days of Papa John's, I dove into a competitors' dumpsters to find their sales sheets and sent personal letters to their customers asking them to give our pizza a try," says Schnatter. "Unconventional, sure, but to be a successful entrepreneur, you need to be tenacious and scrappy. And you have to truly believe your product is the best and personally vouch for it."   Papa John's 3. FAILURE Contrary to what some people might tell you, failure _is _an option — and not always a terrible one, he says. "Perfect example: Years ago, we offered a Sweet Chili Chicken Pizza and were convinced it would be a huge hit. Boy, were we wrong," Schnatter adds. "We were left with a massive surplus of Sweet Chili Chicken sauce. "So, since we encourage curiosity and tinkering, instead of throwing it out, we used the principle of optionality to find ways to make it sell. With a little creativity, we developed our wildly popular Sweet Chili Chicken Wings, proving that even in the face of failure, a successful option is somewhere to be found. But you can't be afraid of failure." Business owners often find some of their best ideas when they're looking for something else, he says. "It's all about turning a negative into a positive." SEE THE REST OF THE STORY AT BUSINESS INSIDER