Jimmy John Liautaud is the founder of the Jimmy John’s Sandwich chain. Growing up dyslexic and graduating second to last in his high school class didn’t stand in the way of Jimmy starting one of the fastest growing restaurant chains in the nation. At the age of 19, he borrowed $25,000 from his dad and opened the first Jimmy John’s in January of 1983 in Charleston, Illinois, near Eastern Illinois University. The original menu started with only 4 sandwiches at 2 bucks each and 25 cent Cokes.
Today, Jimmy John’s has over 2,800 locations in 48 states. In 2017, Liautaud and Jimmy John’s were recognized with the Dealmaker of the Year award from Franchise Times for selling a stake in the business to Roark Capital. His lifework at Jimmy John’s has also earned him and the company recognition including: #1 Franchise by Forbes in 2016, Top Franchise of 2015 by Entrepreneur, Nation’s Restaurant News Golden Chain Award, and Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year. In 2018, Liautaud was named a Horatio Alger Award recipient, an award that honors outstanding Americans who have succeeded despite adversity. The same year, he was also named to the Forbes Billionaires list. In 2019, Jimmy merged his remaining stake in Jimmy John’s into Inspire Brands and remains a shareholder in the company today. He has now shifted his focus to his Foundation’s philanthropic work and his family investment company.
In 2017, Jimmy, his wife and 3 children founded the Liautaud Family Foundation. The Foundation focuses on medical research of obesity and pancreatic cancer, conservation of wildlife and clean water, and children facing adversity.
Some of the Foundation’s notable contributions include, Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, Boys & Girls Club, Big Brothers, Big Sisters. They have given millions to multiple wildlife conservation projects in South Africa, and to wild sheep re-population projects in North America and Eastern Asia. One of the family’s favorites is the Horatio Alger Association, which provides scholarships to high school students who have overcome extraordinary adversity.
Liautaud’s investment company has a portfolio that is diverse. Investments include, two startup airlines, wine, cosmetics, hotels, an outdoor clothing company, bars and restaurants, food franchising, coffee, and commercial, residential, and agricultural real estate.
Jimmy has a passion for empowering his teammates. He is a mentor and a champion of people who want to help themselves. Liautaud has been a featured speaker at numerous universities and professional organizations to share his American Dream story.
Liautaud also had the honor to co-chair President Trump’s small business council with Mark Cuban during the early stages of the Coronavirus Pandemic.
Jimmy was born in Illinois, and currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee, and Key Largo, Florida.