I was born with a strong work ethic. I started working at a young age and because of my early drive, have been involved in a variety of industries and performed many different jobs. These early experiences in the workforce are what ignited my entrepreneurial spirit. My mentality and passion for what I do has remained consistent at every stage of my career, carrying over to when I first started with Tropical Smoothie Cafe in 2010, as the brand’s first vice president of franchise development. The brand’s dedication to “Inspire Better” in all aspects of the business resonated with me from day one. From my VP of development days to my role as chief development officer to today as CEO, I’ve been passionate about the brand’s vision.

It’s been quite the adventure since becoming CEO in 2018, and I’ve enjoyed every twist and turn in the road. In today’s restaurant industry, consumers are always looking for the next trendy item or the next emerging concept. Over the years, we’ve learned that our innovative and versatile menu, featuring a wide variety of food items in addition to smoothies, has brought tremendous success to our brand and to our incredible franchisees. Our franchisees and their teams are the faces community members see daily, and the dedication from them is truly what’s given us so much success in recent years.

What was your first job?

I was 11 years old when I got my first job washing dishes at my father’s restaurant. I may have been the smallest employee there (I had to stand on a tub used for busing tables just to reach the sink) but I had the biggest ambition. I worked for my father throughout my teenage years, and those years were my first taste of what the restaurant industry was all about. Both as an employee, but also because I was able to see how my father operated his business.

What’s your favorite cuisine outside of Tropical Smoothie?

Southern-style, all the way. I love a good pot roast with mashed potatoes, green beans and corn. On the other hand, it’s hard to beat a really good plate of spaghetti.

Who inspires you as a leader?

I have a lot of people that inspire me daily, but I really do think that my parents inspired me to be the leader I am today. Both of my parents had the entrepreneur bug and they definitely passed that on to me. I learned through watching them that success shouldn’t be measured in hours worked, but rather in get-ting the job done right. We like to call it “chopping wood,” meaning you don’t decide when quitting time is; you simply get the work done.

What’s the best piece of advice that other restaurant executives should hear?

There’s an obvious answer for me here, and that’s to put your heart into what you do. As a restaurant executive, hospitality should be in your blood. To me, the greatest thing you can do in life is serve others and reap the reward of knowing you’ve done something good for someone else. Maybe you made their day just one percent better, but you still had a positive impact. I think the world would be a little bit of a better place if we all kept that in mind.

What are some of your interests outside of work?

I’m a football lover through and through. I was originally a quarterback in high school and had my heart set on the same position for college. However, I ended up being a punter for my alma mater, Cornell. I won’t lie, it was a blow to the ego at first, but it taught me what being a “role player” means and how important every role is to the bigger picture. I learned how to put my best foot forward in everything I do, with the mindset that it is for the good of something bigger than me. That ideology applied to my football team, but it is still prevalent in my business and my personal life to this day.

Business Advice, Fast Casual, Start to Finish: What Inspires Execs, Story, Tropical Smoothie Cafe