“My employees are the most important part of my business.”
Those are the words Jimmy John’s franchisee Brandon Stewart lives by. And it’s his secret to making the successful transition from the world of finance and investing to serving up Freaky Fast sandwiches at 58 locations across Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Ohio.
For Stewart, his decision to join Jimmy John’s started with discussions with other operators and came down to working hands-on with great people.
“I was working on the investor side and got to know some of the operators. Just talking with people in the business, there were so many inspirational stories that got me excited,” Stewart said. “I’m not really an idea guy, so taking something that had been proven and executing it was something I’d done all my life and something I felt like I could do with Jimmy John’s.”
After moving around the country, from Georgia to North Carolina and Massachusetts, Stewart and his wife settled in Birmingham, Alabama, where he opened his first Jimmy John’s location as a general manager and operator.
“It was a really fascinating experience because I went from sitting behind a computer wearing slacks and a dress shirt to wearing jeans and a Jimmy John’s shirt to work every day,” Stewart said. “I really enjoyed the new environment and working with my colleagues because I felt like it almost had a charitable aspect to it. I’m helping people that didn’t have the same background or the same opportunities as me. You really have an opportunity to help them learn and grow in their own life, so I really kind of attached to that right away.”
Early lessons of working closely with team members would shape the next 10 years of Stewart’s time with Jimmy John’s. Stewart started volunteering as much as he could to help his community in all walks of life. He started with the Phoenix Club of Birmingham, which is a young professional men’s group and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Alabama. From there, he joined the First Light Shelter, which supports battered women in Birmingham and became a junior board member at the Birmingham Zoo.
“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to understand what helps make a community,” Stewart said. “Leadership is needed everywhere and if you’re good at leadership, there’s a need for that to make great communities. I think starting with being a Jimmy John’s franchisee and my efforts with the community, I’ve kind of found my purpose.”
It’s those partnerships and community relationships that have helped Stewart navigate his community through the COVID-19 pandemic. Stewart launched a free Little John’s promotion for school-age children in need, he created a Pay It Forward campaign supporting healthcare workers alongside the Phoenix Club and Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Alabama and created a campaign as an emergency fund to ensure animals at the zoo remained fed. Stewart is currently in the process of forming his own foundation for charitable work that he does within the community.
“If I can just do a little bit to bring awareness to the pressure that everyone is going through and help people understand, ‘Hey if you have it and you can give, these are the types of organizations that are still supporting our community.’ That’s where it all comes from,” Stewart said. “The biggest benefit is again my employees. We’ve had a lot of people coming in saying, ‘Hey, thank you all for what you’re doing.’ And that helps my team feel better about where they work, who they work for and how they’re a part of the community. And for me, it makes me thankful to be a Jimmy John’s franchisee to be able to support my team and my community.”
To learn more about franchising opportunities at Jimmy John’s, go to ownajimmyjohns.com.