Nono Khosa never imagined that a job managing a gas station would lead to a new career that she loves. Khosa, a former teacher, started down a new path in business development and management, working with a licensee who operates Pizza Hut® and KFC® Express units in travel plazas. From there, she learned how to grow a business from inception to expansion.
Nono, tell us a little about yourself and how you got where you are today.
I immigrated from India and permanently moved to the U.S. in 2002. I was an elementary school teacher in India, so I got certified and started working as a substitute teacher in the small town of Baker, California. A year later, I was offered the job of managing a gas station that included a Pizza Hut Express unit and other quick-service brands.
The first thing I needed to do was complete the Pizza Hut training and properly learn all the procedures. This was my first experience of getting trained, which I really loved. I felt passionate about teaching employees, and my enthusiasm brought such energy to their own work performance. After a few years, I moved on to development for the licensee. I was very hesitant at first to take on a retail job, but I accepted it, and that step catapulted me into this career of not only running businesses but also building them. I have had the opportunity to open three Pizza Hut Express locations for the licensee (with several more in the pipeline), and to plan, build, open and operate multiple restaurants of various brands and travel plazas across the country.
Who encouraged and influenced you in your life and career?
My mother was a very strong woman who, despite the troubles she faced, always kept a smile on her face and moved forward. I learned that life happens, and we must do our work regardless.
The biggest fear I had of entering this field was my lack of experience. However, I was open and eager to learn everything the proper way, no matter how overwhelming it seemed; I advise others to have the same outlook. I was lucky to have a great teacher in Ravinder Grewal, franchisee and licensee in the Yum! system, who persuaded me to accept my first job in this field. I have been working with him for 20 years and have been a major part in the development process of the travel plazas he has built. He enabled me to always act like an owner, which empowered me to make decisions on my own.
Following in the family business is Ravinder Grewal’s daughter, Simran, who looks at Khosa as not only her beloved mentor but also as family.
Simran shares “I truly learned the example of hard work as I grew up watching Nono. She is extremely creative and thinks outside the box to solve problems. I am always in awe of her passion for anything she undertakes and for teaching me and her employees. It is her passion and positivity that I want to emulate in my business endeavors in the future. I am very lucky to have her mentorship and support.”
Shannon St. Clair, Pizza Hut LLC, Franchise Growth Leader, shared that in addition to managing Grewal’s development pipeline for additional travel centers, which include Pizza Hut and KFC branded Express restaurants, she also has introduced St. Clair to several new travel center operators, which has led to new unit development with new licensees.
“She is truly a brand ambassador for Pizza Hut and KFC, an excelling operator and an inspiration to me.”Shannon St. Clair, Pizza Hut LLC, Franchise Growth Leader
How has being a woman influenced how you conduct business and what advice would you offer to other women in the field?
It has helped me because I can multitask, I am detail oriented and pay extra attention to ensure that the work is completed. My advice for women who want to get involved in business is to be willing to learn and make mistakes. There is no failure through learning. Stay determined and competitive.
Women should work hard with honesty, sincerity and integrity; it sounds cliché but it’s true. I have also learned to teach and lead by example instead of telling others what to do. Teamwork is required to run operations, so respect for everyone’s work is very important.
If women want to be a franchisee or licensee, they can be their own boss, which gives flexibility to women wearing multiple hats. Most of all, don’t be afraid to start a new venture.
Nono, thanks for sharing your inspirational story and for making us #PizzaHutProud!