Rolling Out

West Philadelphia native Derrick Hayes talks about entrepreneurship

West Philadelphia native Derrick Hayes talks about entrepreneurship
Derrick Hayes (Photo courtesy of Michelby Whitehead)

Father, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Derrick Hayes understands firsthand what it’s like to beat the odds. With two cheesesteak shops and a third one in the works, the West Philly native has made his mark in the food space through Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks and is currently helping to change the lives of others. Rolling out spoke with Hayes about his entrepreneurial journey, business tips, and what he has planned for the future.

How did you learn how to cook?

My cooking skills started in Philadelphia. My grandparents lived in Philly first before moving to Atlanta. As a child, I went back and forth from Philly to Athens, Georgia. … My grandfather, throughout the week, whatever he made, I watched him [cook] and helped him out. On Sunday, if I didn’t want to go to church, he would always make me finish the Sunday dinners, and that geared me up for what I’m doing for Big Dave’s. I didn’t go to school to cook and didn’t have any culinary arts skills. It was all from the muscle of learning from him out of that kitchen. That’s how I learned how to cook.

How did moving from Philadelphia to Georgia impact you?

I started high school in 2002 at Clark Central High School, and it was a different environment for me because I had never gone to school with other races before. I always went to school with my kind, and I had to adjust to that. The level of education was much different [because] in Philly if you were going to class, you were getting a pass. In Georgia, it was different because I was learning and getting discipline and learning how to be in a different environment being around different races. That helped me a lot because now it’s normal to me when I’m in a room with other races.

What advice do you have for individuals looking to become entrepreneurs?

If you are gearing up to build a business, you have to have self-belief. Learn your craft, and study it. Don’t study anybody else or worry about how fast somebody else’s pace is. Learn your pace and what you’re doing so when it’s your time to shine, you will continue shining and won’t dim your light. I could’ve easily made a lot of moves to get me there faster and have many Big Dave’s all over the country, but I’m going to have many Big Dave’s all over the country my way, and it’s going to feel better in the end because I’m in control.

Explain what “getting it out the mud” means to you.

I knew I was going to be a star, make it out of Philly and change the world and I’m showing people how to do that. I’m winning and getting it out the mud and showing people how to do that by not giving up. They don’t need a bunch of resources to get there but they just need one.

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