BUILDING MY EMPIRE AND I’M LOVIN’ IT
By Tanya Hill-Holliday, TanWay Enterprises
My path to becoming the first black female McDonald’s franchise owner in Philadelphia.
It’s hard to believe that over 26 years, I have held 13 different positions with McDonald’s, beginning with what I thought would be just a part-time job as I earned my degree in business administration and management at Morgan State University. I began as a crew team member cleaning the restaurant and kept working there through college to pay my way with no real intention of having a career with McDonald’s. Like many others, I planned on getting a ‘real job’ when I finished college.
As I worked my way up through the ranks, eventually to the role of corporate vice president in charge of multiple locations within McDonald’s corporate offices, I couldn’t ignore the idea that franchising could be an exciting and challenging next chapter for me.
I acquired my first McDonald’s restaurant next to Villanova University in Villanova, Pennsylvania in July 2005, becoming the first Black female McDonald’s owner within the Philadelphia region’s Main Line. From there, I began to chart my path. Through my next acquisitions, my company TanWay Enterprises became the first Black woman-owned McDonald’s franchisee in Philadelphia and the first African American McDonald’s owner in Allentown, Pennsylvania. I now maintain a portfolio of 12 stores in and around Philadelphia – including all three McDonald’s on Philadelphia’s Main Line – and I pride myself on using each and every store to create opportunities that impact my crew members’ lives.
I see so much promise in many of our employees and those that show dedication and commitment are those I try to help become successful at whatever they choose to do with their careers.
Mentoring others who aspire to forge their own path in business and life – especially women – is my pride and joy. I see so much promise in many of our employees and those that show dedication and commitment are those I try to help become successful at whatever they choose to do with their careers. Because at some point, we all need a helping hand.
One of the helping hands that I was dealt was my relationship with Richard Snow and WSFS Bank. I was already a WSFS customer when I met Richard through our involvement with IFA and working with Richard in a variety of ways this past year has reinforced my belief that strong business and personal relationships are critical to driving success. With COVID restrictions and limitations, my company and each individual store has had to get creative to be successful and having a sound partner looking out for my long-term success was key in this turbulent year.
People don’t plan to fail; they fail to have a plan.
The path I’ve traveled hasn’t always been easy, but I hope the next generation of entrepreneurs see that having drive and perseverance can open many doors. When mentoring others, I always share the following pieces of advice:
Have a vision. It’s important to visualize your dream and keep your eye on that goal. Don’t change where you want to be in life. Change how you get there, if you need to, but have a plan. People don’t plan to fail; they fail to have a plan.
Don’t be afraid to fail. The only true failure in life is to give up. It’s okay to make mistakes, just don’t keep making the same ones. If you don’t hit a goal or target, use it as a learning experience. Ask yourself, ‘What’s my next step?’ Learn and grow from mistakes. They are life experiences.
When you get knocked down, fall backward so you can still see what’s in front of you. Then look up, get up and go at it again. Being Black and female isn’t always a smooth road, but you can’t give up.
For Black and female entrepreneurs specifically, it is important to acknowledge that getting to a leadership position will not always be easy. You need funds and the doors you need to open may not open as you wish. There is still much work to be done with regard to exposure and helping young, ambitious people of color to know that there are people who own franchises or businesses who look like them or had a first job just like theirs.
I had so many opportunities as I grew my career with McDonald’s and became a franchise owner. My goal is to reciprocate, which also helps continue my own growth as a businesswoman, leader, mentor and friend.
Tanya Hill-Holliday is president and CEO of TanWay Enterprises, vice chairperson for the National Black McDonald’s Operators Association (NBMOA) and an IFA Member.