So You Wanna Open A Restaurant: Nigerian Chick-Fil-A Owner/Operator Adaobi Gwacham
Annually, an estimated 30,000 people express interest in opening a Chick-Fil-A restaurant. Less than one hundred people are selected to become franchisees of the immensely popular eatery. Still in here twenties, Adaobi Gwacham is the proud owners of a recently built Chick-Fil-A restaurant on East Colorado Blvd. in Pasadena, CA; centrally located across from Pasadena City College. Gwacham began her career with Chick-Fil-A as a team member when she was eighteen and a student at California Baptist University. She soon received the opportunity to travel with the corporate office to other locations and train new team members. That task sparked Gwacham’s interest in growing with the company and learning the steps to become a franchisee.
Eleven years later Gwacham stands out front of her business welcoming guests to experience the actualization of her dream. Gwacham’s mother is a nursing assistant and longed for her eldest of five to become a nurse. During Gwacham’s junior year, she decided she wasn’t passionate about pursuing a career in the medical field. “I was doing my clinicals and I realized nursing wasn’t for me. I wanted to be able to provide instant help for the patients but talking to the doctors and learning certain patients didn’t have long to live or that they’d been in the hospital for an extended period of time; I didn’t see myself being in that environment for the rest of my career.” She continues, “I was so scared when I told my mom, ‘I don’t want to be a nurse, I want to sell chicken for the rest of my life!’ (laughs). At first, she didn’t understand but now she does. She says ‘as long as it makes you happy, then I’m happy.”
“You have the option to make something out of your life, you just have to work at it. You have to put in the time and the effort and greatness will happen.”
Many young adults take on part-time fast food jobs while in school pursuing other careers. When asked what was it about Chick-Fil-A that resonated with her for more than a part-time position Gwacham says, “The people that I’ve been able to meet along my eleven years truly care about you and want to see you succeed. I looked at being an owner/operator as an opportunity to make an impact and be an influence on peoples lives.” She adds, “The food is great but I am in it for the people I get to serve and interact with on a daily basis.”
The process to open her restaurant began in 2010 and Gwacham was told the opportunity to be in Pasadena wasn’t available. She recounts, “There’s a lot of litigation and regulations for fast food restaurants coming into the city. Even though I was working for the corporate office in a different capacity I had to go through the extensive process just like everyone else.”
The selection process included phone interviews, one on one interviews and background checks. “[Chick Fil-A] wants to make sure everyone they go into business with has the character, the chemistry and competence that they’re looking for. Thankfully I was able to wow them and I was offered the opportunity to open this location. I am truly blessed.” On what kept her patient and hopeful during the application process, Gwacham comments, “My mom reminded me that GOD has a plan for me. I just needed to stay humble and prayerful. My faith helped me to endure the long process; I was very at peace about it. Over the course of two years, I prayed about it and trust that if this was what I’m truly supposed to do, it would happen.”