April Valusek, multi-unit franchisee of Wayback Burgers, recognized as one of the most aggressive and ambitious better burger brands in the United States, has always had a particular liking to the restaurant industry. She pursed this interest right after college by attending Chef School, but ultimately opened her own pharmacy, part of a family business. Always in the back of her mind was her interest in food and when she was looking to buy her second business, she knew this was the time to follow her heart back to her passion. With six kids, one would say April has a full plate as it is, but in addition to her impressive role as a mother, April owns two Wayback Burgers locations with a third on the way. April credits her success to her role as a very hands-on owner, paying close attention to her restaurants and 50+ employees.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I think if you always try to learn from your experiences, it will just make you a better person. My dad would always say, "if you look back on something you did in life and have no regrets or no changes you would make then you didn't learn anything from that experience." We can always strive to be better.
How did your previous employment experience aid your position at Wayback Burgers?
I own a pharmacy that I managed for six years before I bought my first franchise with Wayback Burgers. Managing people is the same no matter what business you are in. Of course there are differences between running a pharmacy and running a restaurant, but customer service and employee management are the same. These two pillars set the foundation for a successful business.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I have six kids and a lot of times it makes balancing things a little crazy. I try to prioritize my time and make sure the time I spend with my kids is quality time. I also try to multi-task. If I have errands to run, I will take only one child so I can get things done but have a chance to talk with that child alone. It is definitely a balancing act, but I love both my role as a mother and a business owner.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Wayback Burgers?
I think my highlight and biggest challenge are one in the same. The hardest and most rewarding thing was getting my store open on the naval base at Port Hueneme Navy Exchange in Ventura County. This was my first time having any interaction with the American Navy and it was Wayback Burgers' first store on a base, a major milestone as the brand continues to expand into nontraditional locations. There were a lot of learning curves for everyone. I was lucky to have great people at Wayback corporate and great people I met in the Navy to answer questions and help me work through the logistics of opening and running a restaurant on a naval base. As Wayback Burgers continues to converse with national retailers, universities, and other armed services organizations, the company has the goal of expanding into 20 nontraditional locations by the end of 2015.
What advice can you offer women seeking to establish business ownership?
That it is never too late. I had my kids and stayed home as a full-time mother for a lot of years. I went back to work when my kids got older. I was scared and nervous but it has been the greatest blessing. Having my own business and being my own boss gives me the opportunity to be there at the cross roads of all my children's lives.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I would say two things, first the idea that you have to do it all. In all reality it needs to get done but it doesn't all need to be done by you. I know many women who feel guilty for having a nanny or a house keeper but I think if you look at running a home as a business you would not think twice about hiring more help if it was needed. Second, I think prioritizing and multi-tasking are the key. Like Sheryl Sandberg stated in her book Lean In, sometimes we give 100% to things that only need 50%. We need to make sure our time is spent on the most important things.
What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In book and movement?
I loved Sheryl's book. What I loved most is it really gave me a look into how things are for women in the corporate world. Being a business owner, I sometimes get lost in the little world that is me and my business. I loved that Sheryl gave real simple examples of what we as women can do individually to help us move forward as a group. I loved that she was able to clearly point things out that we do as women to hold ourselves back. It was a very eye opening and inspiring book.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
My grandparents of both my parents owned their own businesses. My father opened a pharmacy that he owned and ran for 30 years. I watched my grandmothers and my mother go down and help work and run these businesses with their husbands. When the opportunity arose to buy a pharmacy in the area where we lived, my husband and I decided we would take a chance and see if this could work for us. After we bought the pharmacy and we had that going well, the kids were getting into school age and I decided I had more time and wanted to start a business that I could run on my own. That is when I started looking into the world of franchising and came across Wayback Burgers, fell in love with the product and the people and the rest is history.
What are your hopes for the future of Wayback Burgers?
I would love to continue with Wayback Burgers. I have two stores open and one under construction. It has been great watching Wayback Burgers grow so fast over the years. Wayback Burgers currently operates in 24 states with over 80 locations nationally and plans to open in 28 countries throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa, in addition to expansion plans in Argentina. I am very optimistic and excited about the future.