Hunger for success Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2007

Bryant Keil was intrigued by a little sandwich shop in Chicago where he was a frequent visitor and often stood in lines out the door.

One day, Keil struck up a conversation with the owner and asked him why he hadn’t opened more stores, and the owner told him he hadn’t met the right person yet.

Keil spent the next year convincing the owner to sell the business.

Everyone who knew Keil thought he was taking a big risk because he paid a high price for it, but he knew there was the potential for exponential growth.

In fact, he was taking a huge risk — not just because of the price, but because he had never owned a restaurant before.

His belief in his concept, coupled with his confidence in himself and his willingness to do something he’d never done before, were key to launching Potbelly Sandwich Works.

Keil funded the first eight stores himself, but then realized that in order to grow the business, he needed to raise outside capital.

A meeting with a venture capitalist ended up putting him in contact with Howard Schultz, chairman of Starbucks and a celebrated entrepreneur renowned for knowing a good thing when he sees it.

With the financial backing in place, Keil has grown Potbelly from one location in Chicago to 150 throughout Chicagoland, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Washington, D.C.

Although Potbelly is popping up everywhere, Keil is dedicated to preserving the individuality of each store to keep it from becoming just another fast-food chain.

HOW TO REACH: Potbelly Sandwich Works, www.potbelly.com or (312) 951-0600