Jason Smylie, ’03 BS Computer Science and ’06 MBA, is president of Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop, a 105-unit restaurant chain. In the past nine years, he has more than doubled the number of restaurants in the enterprise. He is also active philanthropically. Capriotti’s has partnered with the Las Vegas Rescue Mission and the No Kid Hungry campaign to provide food for families in need, among other efforts.
My greatest risk was buying the Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop chain. I studied computer science and math during my undergrad and landed a job at Bechtel Nevada working as a software engineer. I was promoted pretty quickly and had a great career trajectory in front of me.
On the side, my business partner and I had invested in a few Capriotti’s franchises and they started to do pretty well. In 2007, I decided to quit my career to oversee the restaurants and grow our business. There was certainly a lot of financial risk. I had the great salary, the benefits, the 401K, everything was nice and secure. It was a big jump to leave and now I was completely reliant on my own success in order to pay the bills and ultimately live a secure life.
After I quit my job, life took another turn. We were going to keep opening up Capriotti’s franchises, but instead made an offer to buy the whole company. We ate at Capriotti’s all the time and we bought franchises because we believed in the product. So, we decided to go all in with the purchase.
When we took over the company, there were 38 Capriotti’s. For most of the last 9 years I’ve been Capriotti’s CIO/CMO building out our technology and marketing platforms. I was able to apply all that knowledge and science I learned at UNLV after all! Today I am the President, we have 105 restaurants, and are opening over 40 in the next two years.
My dad owned his own business and I had had a lot of different jobs, but the plan was never for me to run my own company. I always thought, from a young age, I’d be heavily involved in computer science, but I really took a left turn. It’s one that paid off in a very big way.