Jimmy John’s owner, founder, and chairman, Jimmy John Liautaud, was selected to be a member of the prestigious Horatio Alger Association, joining 11 other exceptional individuals, each of whom has overcome significant challenges to achieve professional and personal success.
The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, Inc. is a nonprofit educational organization honoring the achievements of outstanding individuals and encouraging youth to pursue their dreams through higher education. For more than 70 years, the Horatio Alger Award has been annually bestowed upon business, civic, and cultural leaders who have succeeded despite facing adversities, and who have remained committed to higher education and charitable efforts in their local communities.
“Jimmy is an excellent example of the Horatio Alger story,” says Matthew Rose, president of Horatio Alger Association and 2013 Horatio Alger Award recipient. “He persevered through a series of adversities during his childhood and ultimately followed his own path to create the life that he desired. I believe that many of our Scholars will relate to Jimmy’s challenges and find hope and comfort in the fact that he did not let these hardships limit him. He believed in himself.”
Liautaud was born in 1964 in Arlington Heights, Illinois, the second of four children. His mother was a Lithuanian immigrant and his father was an inventor, entrepreneur, and educator who started as an encyclopedia salesman and then launched a plastics molding business. The beginnings and failings of his many ventures took the family on a roller coaster of highs and lows throughout Liautaud’s childhood and early teen years, including two bankruptcies. Liautaud struggled in school and finished second to last in his high school class.
Today, Liautaud’s philosophy is a simple one: out work the competition, push forward, learn from mistakes. He founded Jimmy John’s in 1983 with a $25,000 loan from his father. To launch his business, he went door-to-door at the nearby Eastern Illinois University dorms, offering free samples of his sandwiches. Jimmy John’s soon became a fast-casual trailblazer, establishing the use of delivery drivers to reach a wide range of customers and baking bread in-store all day, every day to ensure sandwiches are served within four hours of baking. Now Jimmy John’s is one of the fastest-growing franchises in the U.S. with more than 2,700 locations across 43 states.
“I am very proud to join this impactful organization alongside such accomplished colleagues,” says Liautaud. “Like many of the Association’s Scholars, my childhood was not easy, but the challenges I faced have shaped me into the man I am today. I have been fortunate enough—through hard work and perseverance—to succeed. Now I aim to help young people and impart some of the valuable life lessons I’ve learned.”
Jimmy John Liautaud has a passion for coaching young entrepreneurs. His family and the company support children’s health, education, the arts, and Jimmy has a deep respect for the military and our veterans.
Since the scholarship program was established in 1984, Horatio Alger Association has provided more than $125 million to students in need, all of which has been funded solely through the generosity of Association Members and friends.
Liautaud and the Member Class of 2018 will be formally inducted into the Association on April 5-7, 2018, during the Association’s 71st Horatio Alger Award Induction Ceremonies in Washington, D.C.