When most kids were busy playing video games or thinking of ways to get out of doing their homework, Chequan Lewis was immersing himself in the political world, studying up on the history of our presidents. He offers, “When I was a kid, I wanted to be President. It was a platform where I thought I could do the most good.” With that same drive and passion, Chequan Lewis, Chief Equity Officer, is doing some serious good here at Pizza Hut, Yum! and in our communities, read on to learn more.
As you grew up, you didn’t veer too far from your interest in government and in helping people. Were there key moments that either changed or shaped your career path?
I remember as a teenager I was out encouraging others to vote in Newark during a big election, and I approached a group of twenty-somethings on a playground. They basically ran me off because they scoffed at the process and have never seen it benefit them in the ‘hood. It really put into perspective how important it is to advocate for people and communities beyond the voting transaction. If democracy doesn’t feel real, people will opt out. This has remained with me and is a key driver for me becoming a lawyer and serving in a role where I could provide a voice for people who may not have had one otherwise.
And I would be remiss if I did not share that my Mom played a critical role in my life, setting her career ambitions to the side to take care of me as a young (and often sick) child. I’ve always wanted to pay her back in some way. I know I can never do that, but I am counseled by her insistence that I try to be good to someone else.” I often think of this in all that I do; I try to give or amplify voices to people like her.
In addition to your work, you are also very involved in the Dallas community. Can you share more?
I try to support (with my time and my resources) many great organizations who are making an impact in this community. Previously, I worked with the Office of Dallas Mayor, Mike Rawlings, to analyze economic revitalization efforts in southern Dallas and had served as chairman of the City of Dallas’s South Dallas-Fair Park Opportunity Fund. In this role, I was able to contribute to the city board’s efforts to invest municipal funds, via grants and loans, in a historically-marginalized area of Dallas. I currently serve on the Board of Directors for both the Dallas Zoo and City Square (now a model for other cities) and on the Board of Advisors for the SMU Dedman School of Law Robert B. Rowling Center for Business Law & Leadership.
Switching gears a bit, tell us about your favorite Pizza Hut memory from childhood.
I am a proud BOOK IT! kid! Growing up in Watauga, TX, I remember the first time I received my certificate for a free Personal Pan pizza after reaching my reading goal. I was so proud that I earned that on my own. It fueled a love of reading and our brand.
What is the best part about working with franchisees?
I really respect that franchisees are entrepreneurs, and many are family-owned and operated companies that started as local outfits. I value the interactions I have with them, especially the 1:1s I’ve been having since I started in this role, and I’ve learned quite a bit from their various stories. I appreciate that they roll up their sleeves to make their business a success and that their restaurant(s) can have a positive impact on the team members who work there and the communities they serve.
What’s the best part about working at Pizza Hut?
The journey towards unlocking our capacity for good in this world. Pizza Hut and our food not only brings joy to customers, but we also continue to show up and “turn the lights on” for people. BOOK IT! is an incredible example of this, with almost 40 years of transforming kids’ lives, encouraging them to read and be their best in school. And our remarkable and committed restaurant teams who continually step up to help in their communities during times of need – Pizza Hut’s capacity for good simply resonates in every nook and cranny in the marketplace. It’s just who we are. I’m fired up about extending that legacy in our culture, in our business and in our communities.
Any parting words to share or best advice you’ve been given?
The best advice I’ve been given is an amalgamation of guidance I’ve received from my parents, grandparents and mentors. I take every nugget of wisdom as a gift, and I’ve tried to distill these treasures into simple principles that I can easily remember, recite in my own words, and apply broadly: Be intentional. Be authentic. Be humble. In all that you do.