John Schnatter: From broom closet to franchise
Editor's note: In honor of the university's centennial year, The Daily News is counting down 100 days to the university's celebration Sept. 6 with 100 of Ball State's most famous traditions and figures. Check back each day to read about Cardinal history.
During his time at Ball State, John Schnatter studied business administration and brainstormed ideas for his future restaurant, Papa John’s Pizza.
After graduating from Ball State in 1983, Schnatter set out to save his father’s restaurant, Mick’s Lounge, from going bankrupt.
He sold his car to buy pizza-making equipment, and then set it up in a broom closet at the lounge.
One year later, Schnatter moved his business into its own building and opened the first Papa John’s in his hometown of Jeffersonville, Indiana.
In 1986, the first franchise was sold to Roger and Scott Roalofs in Fern Creek, Kentucky, which is still open today. By 1991, the business had expanded to 100 restaurants.
While running his business, Schnatter has also taken opportunities to give back to his alma mater.
In 2015, Schnatter spoke during Ball State’s commencement ceremony where he encouraged graduates to “use your degree to its fullest.” He also was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree, which then-president Paul Ferguson presented inside a Papa John’s pizza box.
Then, in 2016, Schnatter and the Charles Koch Foundation awarded a $3.25 million grant toward Ball State’s John H. Schnatter Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise.
The institute, which is located in Carmichael Hall, promotes creative problem solving, economic literacy and best business practices through speakers and training sessions.
While Schnatter stepped down from his role as the CEO of Papa John’s after controversy surrounding his comments on the NFL protests of the national anthem, he remains chairman of the board.