Why This Air Force Vet Became a Marco's Pizza Franchisee

The two careers have more in common than you'd think.
Why This Air Force Vet Became a Marco's Pizza Franchisee
Image credit: Courtesy of Marco's Pizza
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Associate Editor
4 min read

This story appears in the October 2019 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Beginning in 1985, Stephanie Mosely spent seven years as an Air Force intelligence analyst with top-secret clearance, running a division that oversaw the highest- and fastest-flying aircraft ever built. Which is to say, she never thought she’d end up running a pizza joint. But fast-forward to 2016, and as she was heading home from her corporate sales job in Virginia, a wind-waver banner caught her eye and lured her into a Marco’s Pizza, an international franchise with more than 900 locations. She read the company’s family-founded origin story, ordered a sausage-and-pepperoni pizza, and was sold: She wanted a piece of the Marco’s pie. Two years later, she opened the doors to her very own location in Newport News, Va., and is learning that her experiences in corporate America and the military perfectly prepared her for life as a franchisee and entrepreneur. 

Image Credit: Courtesy of Stephanie Mosely
Pizza is a total career shift for you. What tools has Marco’s given you to help you succeed? 

There’s an online education platform called Marco’s University that offers training and courses for franchisees, managers, and employees. Employees also take real-life courses on how to make a pizza, how to stretch dough, how to sauce a pizza, proper portioning, and more. The amount of cheese on a pizza, depending on the size, should be four, six, eight, or 10.5 ounces. If someone’s not weighing the cheese and there’s 8.3 ounces of it on the pizza instead of eight, for example, that translates into real losses. I have a new general manager who makes sure every pie is weighed, and my food costs have gone from $4,600 a week to $3,500. 

Related: Domino's Sued This Pizza-Maker -- and He's Thrilled

How did you first market your franchise to the local community? 

The day before our grand opening, we offered free pies for local residents. It was designed to get the employees operationally ready and train them on the point-of-sale systems and making and delivering pizzas in a timely manner. It was a zoo, but that was a good thing; it got members of the community to come in.

Did the lessons you learned in the military prepare you for entrepreneurship?

As an intelligence analyst, I learned how to apply critical and analytical thinking in decision-­making. That skill served me well in all my military assignments, whether I was overseeing the SR71 aircraft program in Okinawa, Japan; working with the 6th Tactical Intelligence Group in South Korea; or stationed in Austin, Tex., while the U.S. fought the war on drugs. In terms of entrepreneurship, analytical thinking helps you analyze reports on sales by the hour and day, demographics, and geography so you can strategize how to grow your business and be profitable. If you know things are slow on Mondays, you have to come up with ways to increase business for that day of the week. Sometimes if we’re slow on a Monday at my Marco’s location, we’ll put out a “50 percent off for nearby residents” sign and bring in business that way. 

Related: How a Colorado Home-Improvement Franchise Found Its Market

What’s your advice for other veterans seeking franchise opportunities? 

Seek out franchises that support veterans, like opportunities through the VetFran program. I got a lot of help from VetFran; they helped me get a discount on my Marco’s franchise fee, and they paired me with a consulting company called FranNet. My adviser helped me navigate the franchise process -- what to expect, what to look for in a good company, and pitfalls to avoid. 

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