For many, the decision to buy a franchise typically comes after years, sometimes decades, in a job. However, a new generation is finding the benefits of franchise ownership at a much younger age with brands like Toppers Pizza that appeal to their personality and fit their financial needs. Three examples of this “young and hungry” crop of franchisees are Toppers Pizza’s Jordan DeCaro, Bryan Atwood and Justin Marten. DeCaro, Atwood and Marten are three of the youngest franchisees in the Toppers Pizza system and are doing things their own way on their own timeline.
Celebrating his 25th birthday just one day before opening his first Toppers to the public, DeCaro brought the brand to Duluth, Minnesota for the first time – a city that DeCaro describes as the perfect demographic for Toppers and its small town family-feel.
“Since graduating high school and then going into the real estate industry, I really developed this entrepreneurial drive telling me to just go for it and open my own business,” said DeCaro. “And while reaching financial freedom is a huge motivation to take risks and work hard, it’s really about opening a business that I can be proud of in a city I love and treating customers the way they should be treated. We treat our customers like family, and I wanted to be a part of the next generation of business owners that helps raise the bar for customer service.”
Atwood, who too recently opened his first Toppers location in Blaine, Minnesota this past May along with his wife Erin, chose to open their own Toppers location after a long-term love affair with the brand’s pizza in college.
“My first experience with Toppers was at the Mankato location near my campus, and I honestly felt that it was a far better pizza than anything else I’d had,” said Atwood. “Every time I would visit the store, it looked like a party. Everyone seemed genuinely happy to work there.”
Upon graduating from Minnesota State University, Atwood went on to serve four years in the U.S. Army. As a veteran, he began researching franchise opportunities, and, like all good love stories end, reunited with the Toppers brand - but this time as a prospective franchisee. While initially drawn to Toppers because of the menu he knew and loved, the now 29-year-old made his decision after meeting with the corporate team and learning about the brand’s extensive two-year training period.
“I think being younger definitely made me approach buying a franchise differently,” said Atwood. “I really wanted to move forward with a brand that was relevant and fun, and employees could feel good about working for. Everyone on our team is here to have a good time and be a part of the community. It’s just an added bonus that we can make some money doing it.”
Justin Marten, while sharing a passion and appetite for the brand similar to the Atwoods, was only 24-years-old when he decided to make the transition from Toppers Pizza employee to Toppers Pizza franchisee, opening his first location in 2009 in Racine, Wisconsin.
“Before becoming a franchisee, I was actually working part-time for Toppers to save up some extra money for my wedding, so it was nice being able to see how the company works as an employee first,” said Marten. “A lot has definitely changed since then, but at the root of it all, I couldn’t have done it without the support and patience of my wife, family and friends.”
Now, nine years since opening his first location, Marten owns five locations across the Racine area, and attributes his success to the brand’s focus on slow and steady, localized growth.
“If you’re wondering if it was easy, the answer is no,” said Marten. “But, sometimes it’s easier to take the risks when you’re young when you have a little room to make mistakes. And if you’re lucky, you end up coming out okay doing something you really love.”