Valerie Daniels-Carter’s journey to build a fast food empire is a prime example of how small beginnings at a young age, can turn into big rewards, later in life. Daniels-Carter’s is one of successful female franchisees in the country. The president and CEO of Milwaukee-based V&J Holdings even happens to be a minority owner of the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team.
According to V & J Foods, Inc.’s website, a Burger King franchisee, was founded in 1982 by Valerie Daniels-Carter and John Daniels, Jr. In 1984, the company’s operations began with one Burger King restaurant. It has grown into a 38-store operation. 12 units are located in Milwaukee. However, 26 units are located in Detroit.
“V & J Holding Companies, Inc. (V & J) is the largest female-owned franchise organization in the U.S., as well as the largest minority-owned Pizza Hut franchisee in the U.S. With all restaurants combined, V & J is one of the largest restaurant franchise companies in the country,” information on the website stated.
According to Milwaukee Magazine, Daniels-Carter’s formative years included living with six brothers and a sister. The budding entrepreneur’s first gig entailed walking her neighbors’ younger children to school.
“For $1.25 per week, I would walk a kid to and from school every day,” Valerie Daniels-Carter said. “I told them there are dogs on the path and lots of other things their kids might be afraid of and I could make sure they got back and forth safely. Thankfully, no one ever tested the waters to see if I really could fight because I couldn’t.”
Milwaukee Magazine also reported that Daniels-Carter served as the salesperson for two of her brothers who offered snow shoveling and leaf-raking services. The children divided the profits, but some funds were reserved for savings. By high school, Daniels-Carter worked as a secretary for the U.S. Army recruiting office, during the school year. She later worked and played basketball while attending Lincoln University in Missouri. After working as a banker for a few years, Daniels-Carter decided to start her own business.
Raising nearly $1 million to buy the Burger King franchise’s rights and build the restaurant required extreme sacrifices. The ‘queen of franchising’ sold everything she owned, including her car. Daniels-Carter’s late husband gave her a surprise of a lifetime, too. Milwaukee Magazine reported that on her wedding night, Jeffrey gave her a savings account. He deposited checks he earned from his second job to provide the surprise.
“And he said to me, go start your business,” Daniels-Carter’s told Milwaukee Magazine.
By 1982, after also taking out a sizable loan, Daniels-Carter broke ground on her first Burger King restaurant. By 1998, 32 Burger Kings and 67 Pizza Huts were among V & J’s portfolio. This made Daniels-Carter the head of the largest minority-owned franchise company in the country, Milwaukee Magazine reported.
In another interview, Daniels-Carter’s told The New York Times that she was not the typical franchise when she started.
“I had to challenge the status quo in the franchise industry,” Daniels-Carter said to the newspaper. “I met several unnecessary delays; it was a test of endurance. I wanted to help other African-American women have a chance. When I give motivational talks today, I tell people not to let anyone keep them from their dream.”