How ‘No’ And ‘Not Yet’ Laid The Groundwork For My Success As A Black Entrepreneur
"... through hard work, determination, grit and will, anything is possible."
As a kid, I learned anything worth having is worth fighting for. And now as the Operator of Brooklyn’s first Chick-fil-A restaurant, I am seeing it come full circle.
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Growing up, I started selling pickles in my neighborhood of East Atlanta to help my family make ends meet. I got tired of hearing “no” and “we can’t afford that right now.” This motivated me to help my family and I dreamed about all the ways I could assist in providing for them. Pickles led to selling candy, and by the end of high school, I was known as the “walking vending machine.” It was a name I embraced.
At that time, I never imagined that “no’s” and “not yets” would lead me to where I am today, but patience, relationship-building and responsibility all played an important part along my personal journey to success.
Patience Is Key
In order to get anywhere in life, you’ve got to learn to embrace a challenge. Prior to my sophomore year at Alabama State University (ASU), I had never stepped foot into a Chick-fil-A restaurant. In fact, working in the food service industry had never been on my radar. However, my fraternity brother at ASU suggested I apply for a Marketing Director position at the local Montgomery restaurant. I never expected that the five-step interview process to get the job would eventually lead to my own franchise.
After serving in multiple roles within Chick-fil-A, I started the candidacy process for the first Brooklyn franchise opportunity. And it has been a journey. Chick-fil-A encouraged me to get more experience until a location was selected. I had to take that “not yet” and turn it into something positive. I was given an opportunity to learn more by owning and operating a restaurant in Baltimore, where I enjoyed working in an urban environment and developing the skills of young people, but it definitely had its fair share of trying times. There were so many times I wanted to wave the white flag and say, “this isn’t for me.”
Hearing “no” and “not yet” were some of the hardest parts of this growth journey — but if you have patience and work to thrive in those moments, you will learn how to gain a greater sense of purpose.
Nurture Your Relationships
At every move in my career, I’ve been helped by others, which has inspired me to do the same. My main goal for the team at our Brooklyn restaurant is to provide them with a culture of growth and stability, as well as new life experiences.
You have to nurture the relationships in your life to reap the benefits of friendship and mentorship. Had my fraternity brother not encouraged me, I would not have found my first opportunity with Chick-fil-A at all.
After graduating from ASU, I was presented with three different paths to choose from: stay and earn a master’s degree (which the university would pay for), attend law school or join a Chick-fil-A team in Chicago. That’s when my college professor gave me the book Take the Risk. This book helped me think through the direction of my life, the risks I was willing to take and ultimately what was at stake. It was a profound inflection point for me.
I want to be real with you — I’ve been placed in a position to really impact lives, all because of a chicken sandwich. And that’s a powerful responsibility. Chick-fil-A has allowed me to walk with a greater sense of purpose, but I would never have gotten this opportunity had I not handled every situation with the same level of respect.
Early in my Chick-fil-A career, I met with the company CEO, which was when I looked at the Operator role more seriously. Talking with him about the recipe for service and leadership was life changing for me. It was an opportunity for me to dig in. I went back to my restaurant in Alabama and asked my Operator about the business. He allowed me to directly apply the skills I was learning in business school by taking over inventory management. I took this opportunity seriously and it opened my eyes to all of the growth opportunities Chick-fil-A had to offer.
One thing I am most excited about as we open in Brooklyn is the many hats that I’ll be able to wear – mentor, coach, big brother and whatever else my Team Members need from me in order to support them. Walking in my purpose shows others that no matter what your circumstances may be, through hard work, determination, grit and will, anything is possible. And “no” or “not yet” will never stand in your way.
Brandon Hurst is the Operator of Chick-fil-A Flatbush and Atlantic in Brooklyn. A restaurateur and natural entrepreneur, Hurst has been with the company for 11 years, five of which he’s spent as a local owner. He is heavily invested in the development of his Team Members, in addition to community organizations that support financial literacy, education for youth and performing arts as a form of character and leadership development.