McDonald’s NextGen Entrepreneur: Monique Vann-Brown

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onique Vann-Brown describes her path to becoming a McDonald’s owner/operator as “a little bit different.”

Her mother is a McDonald’s owner/operator of 26 years, “so I started working in her restaurant when I was 14,” says Monique. “I started as crew, in the lobby, cleaning bathrooms.”

In high school, she moved to a customer service position. And by college, she was studying to become an engineer while working as a summer intern in the automotive industry and at McDonald’s.

“I also took time off to attend the McDonald's Management classes like the general managers take,” she says.

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After graduating from Purdue University in Indiana, she was also a certified McDonald’s manager. But she chose to work as an industrial engineer instead.

“I loved science and math, so I excelled in those subjects in high school,” she says. “So naturally, I thought the thing to go into was engineering.”

After working nine years in the automotive industry-going back to school for her master’s degree and graduating from the McDonald’s Hamburger University®-Monique decided on a change of career.

“I was more fascinated by the business aspect of engineering. So when I worked in plants, I was doing all these time studies, labor studies, movement studies-but there was no people interaction in it other than the data and the numbers.” One thing Monique says she missed was the teamwork of working at McDonald’s.

“I really always loved working at McDonald’s,” she says. “I loved the pace. The fast-pace environment of always having targets and goals that were timed-based in order to assemble our orders and make sure we can satisfy our customers.”

While in graduate school, Monique took classes in marketing and operations.

“So that’s how I ended up in purchasing. And then when I worked in purchasing, I was also interested in purchasing businesses-because I thought about the kinds of opportunities they created for other people,” she says. After meeting a vice president of McDonald’s, she decided to rejoin the company and train to be an owner/operator.

“I basically made a duel path on my way to becoming part of the registered applicant program,” Monique says. “My mother was an entrepreneur, so I kind of already had that link and connection indirectly with McDonald’s. And so to me, it was just a natural fit for me to at least explore that as an opportunity to become an entrepreneur.”

In 2009, Monique purchased two McDonald’s restaurants from her mother. Today, she owns a total of six McDonald’s restaurants after recently purchasing four more.

“When the opportunity came about for me to join the training program and then purchase the restaurants, it seemed like a natural fit because McDonald’s has the structure and framework that created a great business model,” she says.

What people often don’t realize, she says, is that behind many golden arches is a family business.

“A lot of people see McDonald’s as a large global brand. Everybody knows the golden arches,” Monique says. “Sometimes, what people don’t always remember is that there are local faces behind McDonald’s-owner/operators who look like them, who are African-American or women or African-American women who operate stores.”

Local McDonald’s owner/operators are an important link between McDonald’s the corporation and the community it serves, says Monique.

“We make sure that our customers’ tastes are represented,” she explains. “Some of my peers sit on national menu committees and make sure that things like grits, which resonate with African-Americans, make it to our menu. Or the local promotions we did last year, like the $3.13 meals or the $1.99 Happy Meal®. Even things like healthy options in the Happy Meals; those things are brought to local stores to make sure we are representing what our customer wants.”

She adds, “And then there’s our engagement in terms of local community groups. You have a lot of owner/operators who are members of the NAACP or even in the HBCU sororities and fraternities.”

After all, Monique says, McDonald’s owner/operators are also part of the community.

“We are church members. We are here. So I think the key is that we are the link between the big corporate entity McDonald’s and the local community,” she says. “And I think McDonald’s is doing a lot of great things to engage the community.”

Monique’s favorite part of being part of the McDonald’s team? The people-both her employees and her customers.

“I enjoy the fact that I am able to learn so much and see how people do things in different ways,” she says. “I love the people that I work with, and I am quickly getting to know my new customers.”

General Manager Mayo Ellis on why he loved his first job

When restaurant general manager Mayo Ellis started working at McDonald's in 2001, it was his first job.

"My mom said I had to get a job to pay my cellphone bill," he remembers with a laugh.
"They hired me on the spot. I started out crew and worked my way up as I was trying to learn all aspects of McDonald's."

And, to his delight, he developed a devotion to the company and now hopes to one day become a McDonald's owner/operator.

"I love working with the crew, and I like the people aspect of it and engaging with the public," says Ellis. "It gives you great customer relations skills. A lot of my customers come in here and I try to be as friendly as I can and smile."

Sometimes that's all it takes, he says. "One customer told me it really made their day. So if I can make someone's day that much better, that just makes the day just as great for me."

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