Hustle Mindset

Sterling Coleman Took A Bet And Pivoted From His Sales Manager Role At A Fortune 500 Company And Became Zaxby’s Largest African-American Operator

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Sterling Coleman left his role at a Fortune 500 company to become one of the top Zaxby’s franchisees.

According to the SJAC Food Groups website, The St. Louis, MO, native’s business prowess was displayed at an early age while living in a single-parent home with three brothers. An article on his Instagram business page states he performed countless tasks for neighbors to earn money, such as cutting grass, pumping gas, and running a paper route and hot dog stand.

Coleman’s entrepreneurial muscle would lead him to Tennessee State University, in Nashville, TN,  at the age of 18. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in business administration and secured a position as a sales manager at a Fortune 500 Company. However, Coleman’s longtime vision wasn’t to work for another company. Instead, he wanted to be his own boss.

In 2001, he established SJAC Food Groups, headquartered in Atlanta, GA, “the largest African-American owned Zaxby’s licensee group,” his LinkedIn mentions.

The venture kicked open the doors for Coleman to become a franchisee of the American fast-food chain Zaxby’s, co-founded by Tony Townley and Zach McLeroy, Franchise Times reports.

Despite having no prior experience in the restaurant industry, Coleman was determined to get a seat at the table. He was able to support his investment goal by saving his bonus checks and using his home as collateral to become a franchisee in 2003.

“When I made the decision to go it alone and run my own company, I looked at a lot of franchises and different kinds of concepts,” Coleman said to Franchise Times. “I ended up going with Zaxby’s by saving my bonus checks and putting up my home as collateral to become an owner. That’s how much I believed in the brand.”

He added, “It was clear to me from the start that the founders were devoted to growing the business with friends and family. That was important to me, to join a brand that has those standards.”

In 2014, he signed an agreement to open 28 locations in Oklahoma City, the largest multi-unit agreement in Zaxby’s history. Coleman owned 17 locations at his height, but that number is currently sits at 13 (at the time of this writing).

Today, Coleman’s presence at Zaxby’s has led to positive results. He became the first franchisee to reach $4 million in revenue for his first restaurant in Smyrna, GA.

In addition to his success with Zaxby’s, Coleman has received various awards as a businessman, including the 2016 Game Changer Award from Who’s Who in Black Atlanta, the 2016 Atlanta Business League’s Men of Influence award, and an award for his Zaxby’s location in Fulton County, GA, for guest services in 2008 and 2009, per the Instagram page.

Coleman remains the largest African-American operator within the company.





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