David Walker: Expanding Tallahassee One Franchise at a Time

We're back with another themed week on the site: Career Week. This semester, Her Campus FSU has created themed weeks dedicated to exclusive content we believe all of our readers should have access to. Keep up on the site for the next few days as we cover everything from what NOT to put on your resume to a Q&A with an RMPD major currently interning at ELLE magazine in NYC. This week definitely won’t be filled with the cliché career advice you’re always hearing (take for instance there’s even a piece on how to deal with rejection). Don’t miss out! 

Name: David Walker

Year attended: 1987                         

Hometown: Destin, Florida

Major: Business Finance

Occupation: Franchise owner

Photo By: Nicholas Kielbasa

David Walker began his franchise career in 1987 when he opened up his first Subway franchise in Tallahassee after attending Florida State University. Since then, his franchise repertoire has expanded to 10 Subways as well as five Which Wich and three Smashburger locations in Walker Plaza, Village Commons, Magnolia Grove and most recently The Hub on West Tennessee Street. Walker is also the co-founder of Tropical Smoothie Café, which has increased to more than 400 stores statewide. By creating his own path in life and letting nothing get in the way of his dreams, he has incredible success in his career. Walker was the first to bring a drive-thru concept to the region and throughout his franchises; he simultaneously created a multitude of job openings and fundraising opportunities around the Tallahassee area, all for the betterment of the community.

Her Campus (HC): What was your experience like at Florida State University?

David Walker (DW): I was a big FSU football fan! When I knew I was going to start the Subway franchise during my last semester at Florida State, I wanted to do really well and go out strong and that I did. I definitely enjoyed my time spent at the university. 

HC: What was your favorite memory?

DW: The year we played Miami at Florida State and we were up 16 to 3. I can’t remember exactly when it was, but I got to see Michael Irving who played for the Hurricanes. We ended up losing, but it was a great game and a lot of fun to participate in that incredible energy and be a part of such an amazing team.

HC: After Florida State, what made you want to stay in Tallahassee?

DW: I got into business here with Subway and never left. It’s not far from my original hometown of Destin, Florida. It’s about two hours away from there.

HC: How did you get into the Subway franchise?

DW: I went to school in Gainesville and found Subway there and used to go there all the time. When I transferred to Florida State, I noticed that there wasn’t a Subway and I looked into the franchise from there.

HC: What was the process like?

DW: I remember that a lot of people were unsupportive, however I had the support of my parents. It was hard to get financing and I had to get my parents to co-sign the loan for me. I was 21 at the time but I knew I wanted to do it and I was going to make it happen no matter what.

HC: How did your time at Florida State help prepare you for the franchise business?

DW: The things I learned in accounting and finance definitely helped prepare me. However, real world experience truly helped to prepare me as well. I worked in grocery stores and jobs such as Pizza Hut, which helped a lot. My background in accounting has assisted me with aspects that I use in business even today.

HC: What gave you the idea of founding Tropical Smoothie?

DW: My partner and I found a Smoothie King that we really liked and came across Tropical Smoothie Café in the Destin area, which we bought into. There was only one at the time and I opened up the first franchise location in 1997 on Tennessee Street across from Yianni's and that was store number one as far as franchise locations. Now we have 472 locations open nationwide. It’s pretty wild for sure.

HC: That’s incredible! What do you attribute the success of Tropical Smoothie to?

DW: We hit a need in the marketplace and people love the product, atmosphere and the vibe. It took off and is doing extremely well.

HC: What has your journey been like so far with opening up so many businesses?

DW: Tallahassee has a great labor market. One thing we said when we got started is that we truly enjoyed creating jobs and having fun and that is exactly what we have been doing lately.

HC: Congrats on your third Smashburger here on Tennessee Street! Can you recommend one of your favorite items on the menu?

DW: My favorite go-to would definitely be the bacon cheeseburger on the pretzel bun!

HC: Can you tell me about some of the community involvement within your businesses?

DW: With Tropical Smoothie, we have an annual event called National Flip Flop Day and on that day we raise money for Camp Sunshine. This past year Tropical Smoothie raised over a million dollars nationwide. Right now we are doing different share days for Which Wich and Smashburger to raise money for charities.

HC: A lot of college students struggle to manage their time wisely. With all of your businesses, what is your key to prioritizing your time?

DW: The night before, I write down the six most important things I want to accomplish the next day, otherwise it could become overwhelming when you write down 100 things. If you create a top six list, it really helps place your priorities in check.

HC: Do you have any advice for college students who are striving to open up their own businesses?

DW: The first thing is that if you have a dream, you have to have a passion for it. Then it is just a matter of making it happen, whether you need to see your aunt, uncle, friend or grandparents to help get started. That is how a lot of businesses begin.

HC: Is there anything else you would like to add?

DW: We really want to get involved with Florida State and some of the charities there. If you are interested in participating in one of our share days, please contact your local Smashburger or Which Wich to set one up.

Photo By: Nicholas Kielbasa