"From an early age, I always had role models in my life who drilled into me the importance of a strong work ethic and to always focus on what I do best. I grew up watching with admiration as my late father, Robert Schnatter, and my late grandfather, ‘Papaw' Ackerson, handled their business and respective legal careers with fierce determination. No matter how much they sometimes struggled, they never gave up, and that taught me a lot about business and life.
As soon as I was old enough to get a job, I started working. I got my first job in high school at a pizza joint called Rocky's in my hometown of Jeffersonville, Indiana. I started as a dishwasher and worked my way up to making pizzas. That's when I first saw my determination pay off. But I also noticed something else; I noticed there was something local pizza joints could provide that seemed to be missing from national pizza chains – a quality pizza delivered with excellent service right to the customer's door. It was then that I realized my dream was to open my own pizza restaurant.
After I finished high school, I went to college at Ball State University and worked at another pizzeria called Greeks. I learned a lot about the pizza business, and my job served to solidify my desire to open my own pizza joint. Once I graduated with my business degree, I returned to Jeffersonville, where I learned my father's business, Mick's Lounge, was struggling. To save my dad's tavern, I sold my prized 1972 Camaro Z28. Once we turned around the struggling business, I decided now was the time to pursue my lifelong dream, and Mick's Lounge was just the place to do it.
So, I knocked down the broom closet in Mick's Lounge, bought $1600 in used restaurant equipment, installed an oven in the tiny space and started selling pizzas out of the back of the restaurant. And that's when Papa John's was born! I put my heart and soul, and everything I had learned from my father and grandfather, into my pizza business, and it paid off. In 1984, I opened my first Papa John's restaurant, and the rest is history!"