Reflecting on his most cherished memories from growing up, Kyle Welch notes the thread connecting them all: they took place at unforgettable venues. From resorts and hotels to clubs and bars, these moments lured Welch (BA Hospitality Business ‘09) to Michigan State’s Eli Broad College of Business, and ultimately to pursue a career in the hospitality industry. Today, he is the president of Chicago Scoops, LLC, by which he owns 39 total operations including 37 Cold Stone Creameries and two Little Caesar’s Pizzas. Welch was recently honored by MSU as the Spartan Innovator at the 2017 Sparty Ball in Chicago.

Kyle Welch

Welch accepted the Spartan Innovator award at the 2017 Sparty Ball in Chicago.

Welch set a goal that seemed simple, but proved a challenge to execute: have a career out of something he enjoyed, and to create spaces for guests to make their own memories.

Today, a successful entrepreneur and business owner, Welch says his professional journey didn’t begin with a perfect 4.0 GPA. He took time to have fun in college, and in turn learned valuable lessons along the way. One of those lessons was that he needn’t define his success through test scores. At the same time, however, he learned the importance of surrounding yourself with people who will support you.

“When I got the chance to do my first internship, I told myself ‘OK, I really want to take this stuff really seriously’ and I definitely got my act together,” said Welch. “But I like having transparency about that because, through my journey as an entrepreneur, I’ve become a firm believer that you are a product of your environment and the choices you make in life. I wasn’t a 4.0 student, I didn’t have perfect ACTs, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still have success. You can still work hard and make a name for yourself.”

His internship at Sizzling Platter in Salt Lake City, Utah catapulted him into the industry, and is where he learned the ins-and-outs of a franchise. Following graduation, he received a full-time position – an opportunity deeply valued given the economic climate in 2009.

“We grew from 100 restaurants to about 350 while I was there, which less than three years, so I experienced extreme growth,” said Welch. “I held various positions and realized that this was ‘it.’ I was like ‘I love this; I love franchising and owning and running franchises,’ so I started my first one in Chicago with Little Caesars Pizza.”

A common misconception about large chain restaurants, like McDonald’s for example, is that they are all owned by one, large corporation. Not true; many of these businesses are franchised and family-owned. “Franchising is basically a contract agreement to utilize a company’s product or services for your own profit, but you need pay back royalties,” said Welch. “In layman’s terms, I’d say it’s like if someone sets the table for you, and you just need to give them a little bit of food every now and then.”

Over the past two and a half years Welch and his business partner have been on the up and up, buying and building stores continuously. At the beginning, Welch and his partner did everything from HR to accounting. Now, however, each store has a General Manager, resources and support. The plan, says Welch, is to get to 75-100 stores over the next two and a half years.

So why did he drop everything and leave a comfortable job?

“Life was good, but I’d always wanted to start my own business. Leaving the mothership… that’s when you start to figure everything out,” said Welch. “I’ve never been happier. I have my own team and it’s fulfilling. We employ a lot of youth, a lot of people in their 20s. We’re giving people the opportunity to have a career. We’re big on teaching, mentoring, and training. We want to invest in people. Integrity is lost in this business, but we take the opposite approach.”

At the end of the day, that’s why Welch chose to go into franchising. “It’s right there; there’s business out there and there’s a competitive edge to franchise and do better than other people,” said Welch. “There’s no magic potion; it’s better service and products and taking care of your people.”