It’s hard to believe that Friday wrapped up my third year already of working for Donatos at the home office. And, this year was definitely one that put the emphasis on the field in my title of Field Marketing Manager.
When the year began for me, we as a brand were just launching our newest store in midtown Nashville. This was my first new store opening process and it was great to be in on the ground level from day one in this fun city. I ended up making numerous visits to check on this store over the year to the point that the great staff at the Courtyard by Marriott Vanderbilt/West End became like family to me and even had my same room ready for each and every visit. 🙂 Thanks, ZsuZsa, Kim, Gary and the rest of the team! I earned those Marriott Rewards Platinum and Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards A-List statuses.
As the Nashville store began to get established and I continued working with all the existing stores and franchise partners, we also made plans for our next new store to open in Summerville, S.C. (left). It ended up opening at the end of July and let me just say that going around town making business visits is not as much fun when it’s 100 degrees and you are dripping sweat. Each market presents its own unique opportunities and the town of Summerville is filled with great people we get the chance to meet and share our great food with. Our franchise partners there are a joy to work with and are out spreading the word about Donatos each and every day.
As the fall approached, it was time to figure out how to gain the business of college students as they came back to school in our markets with stores by universities. One whirlwind day that seems typical of the year had me helping serve pizza to the 7,700 incoming freshmen at The Ohio State University inside Ohio Stadium (below) at lunch time and then flying to Nashville to feed over 1,000 incoming freshmen at Belmont University that evening. Fun times!
For the second straight year, I also had the privilege of running the Donatos summer-long 13-week contest that saw one of our guests win $1,000 each week and also pick a charity to receive $1,000. It was such a privilege to hear the great stories of our guests as to why they picked the charity that they did and also to connect with these great organizations who are doing so much to benefit others. I am extremely grateful to work for a company that believes in giving back.
One other moment of giving to others that was a highlight of my year was getting to attend the Ohio State-Michigan game with three families (above) who had been touched by pediatric cancer. It was great to be able to let them have this experience and boy did the game turn out pretty exciting with a double overtime win by the Buckeyes that included all of us on the field afterwards.
Two other highlights of the year for me was getting stories of our associates told on local TV stations in both the Nashville and Virginia Beach markets. The story of Barbie Henry, one of our first hires in Nashville, aired in July and the story of Diego Roma from our Newport News, Va. store aired in November.
As the end of the fiscal year approached, I visited each of my franchise partners over the course of about seven weeks to begin making plans for the 2017 year. While all this travel could get cumbersome, I try to make the most of it by finding great running routes and making new friends in all the cities that I visit. I managed to get sunrise or sunset pictures in 9 different states this year while also running in such beautiful places as Lexington, Ky., Newport News, Va., Charleston, S.C., Charlotte, N.C., Nashville and Seabrook Island, S.C. For those who think that it is too hard to exercise while traveling, I beg to differ. I logged 3,018 miles running during my third year at Donatos and ran both the Boston Marathon and the Chicago Marathon while also doing four half marathons including lowering my PR three times!
The final two months of my third year at Donatos have been spent focusing heavily on the opening of our newest store in Owensboro, Ky. (below). I knew from the start that these guys were going to be fun as they were heavily connected in their community and really understood the importance of relationships in selling pizza. Well, they have been open for one month now and that town has just embraced the store, our product and the partners to the tune of the best first month of any store in company history!
It seems fitting that in a year that saw me spend 70 nights in hotels while traveling that I wrapped it up in South Carolina working out the delivery area for a store in Boiling Springs that will open in a few months. It should be an exciting year for Donatos with that store and two others (Bowling Green, Ky. and Murfreesboro, Tenn.) opening in the next couple of months along with possibly others as the year moves along.
As I put the wraps on my third year at Donatos, I have to say that it was my most challenging but also my most rewarding year yet. It can be stressful at times trying to figure out exactly what works in each new market and also balancing life on the road while also having a personal life outside of work. However, I feel like I grew more professionally and personally this year than ever before and I can’t wait to attack the challenges and new opportunities ahead in year number four. #PizzawithPassion