Retired NFL Player Van Jakes Enjoys Life as a Successful McDonald’s Operator

Retired NFL Player Van Jakes Enjoys Life as a Successful McDonald’s Operator
McDonald's owner/operator Van Jakes and crew member Marissa Benton

McDonald’s Owner Van Jakes once enjoyed a seven-year career in the NFL, where he played cornerback for notable teams like the Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs and the New Orleans Saints. When the husband and father of four retired, he yearned to be an entrepreneur and continue to build his nest egg. After careful consideration, he decided to become a McDonald’s franchisee and his first investment was a McDonald’s in Palm Harbor, Fla., in August 1994. Two years later, he invested in four more stores in the Atlanta area. Here, the former president of the Black McDonald’s Operators Association Atlanta chapter and founder of Jake – 22 Management Company discusses why he chose to be his own boss and how he gives back to the community. –yvette caslin

Why did you decide to invest in the McDonald’s franchise?

I wanted to be a good steward of my money and be a business man. I didn’t foresee myself going to open Van Jakes’ Hamburger Stand. Research revealed that nine out of 10 franchise businesses were going to be successful. In my opinion, McDonald’s was the most promising.

Why is the Black McDonald’s Operators Association (BMOA) important?

Being a minority in any business venture, we come in underfunded and are constantly playing catch up. We don’t always have the necessary capital to fund it properly or even have a business background. The BMOA is an organization designed for us to help each other and help the new black operators who enter business to see that you have to be a good steward over your finances in order to be successful. Ultimately, we make each other stronger.

What experiences did you bring to your position when you were the president?

I tried to make sure that we had open and honest dialogue, whether you were in business for three years or 23 years. There were new operators who kept to themselves and didn’t know how to reach out for advice from the seasoned operators, who we found really wanted to provide assistance. As a former athlete, my biggest strength is teamwork.

How many stores do you have? Where are they?

We have five. They are located at Panola Road at I-20; Turner Hill Road at I-20; Wal-Mart on Hillandale Road; North Hairston Road and Memorial Drive; and South Hairston Road and Redan Road.

How do you give back to the community?

I have been operating in Atlanta for 17 years, helping kids and have been giving people good customer service. We live by that. We give people, who need an opportunity, jobs, as well as hot, fresh food – quick. Also, we have the Wheels of Dream Youth Foundation where we work with juniors and seniors in high school, and, now, we are looking at college students who come in for an eight-week internship opportunity, where they learn about business operations and marketing. I ensure the interns understand that our founder, Ray Kroc, started his career as a blender salesman who had a dream that has turned into a billion-dollar company, and they can do the same thing.

Also, I am a member of the 100 Black Men of Atlanta and Antioch AME Church. God has given us gifts, and we really must do kingdom building by reaching back.

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