“I’ve had an entrepreneurial spirit ever since I was very young,” says Daniels-Carter. Her father, who owned a heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration company, sparked her interest in entrepreneurship.
Prior to founding V and J Holding, Daniels-Carter spent nearly 10 years in banking. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Lincoln University in 1978, she served as a management trainee at First Wisconsin National Bank (now U.S. Bank) in the retail and commercial lending department. Then in 1981, she worked at MGIC Investment Corp. as an auditor in the underwriting division. After studying the finance industry closely for a few years, Daniels-Carter noticed a growing number of bank mergers, which meant workforce downsizing would not be far behind. Before someone else could determine her fate she decided to take control and make her move. A year later, in 1982, after receiving her master’s degree in management from Cardinal Stritch University, she was ready to strike out on her own.
Daniels-Carter’s entry into the quick-service industry was hardly spur of the moment. The CEO had been mapping out a plan from the very beginning of her college career. She took business courses and worked in banking to gain the knowledge she would need to one day own a chain of restaurants. “Banking and finance provided a strong foundation so that I could put together a business plan for my organization, learn how to finance it, and understand how to create my strategy,” she says. “That was a strategic choice to enhance my skill set. I knew that ultimately I would own my own business.”
A combination of personal savings, contributions from investors, proceeds from the sale of her car, and a bank loan gave Daniels-Carter the $900,000 in startup cash she needed to open her first Burger King in Milwaukee in 1984. Close to $700,000 went toward construction costs and about $200,000 went toward the franchise fee and other soft costs. “At the time it seemed like a lot of money. I saved as much as I could,” she recalls. Revenues at the end of the first year of operation were close to $1 million.
Daniels-Carter never let obstacles hamper her progress; she even sold personal assets to raise needed funds. “You have to face a plethora of things as a person in business, but you have to understand whether that’s really who you are and what you’re designed to do. If it is, then it just comes down to exercising your ability and will to make it happen. That’s the kind of person I am.”