From a single Burger King, Valerie Daniels-Carter built an empire with over 100 restaurants

BY Preta Peace Namasaba March 11, 2024 7:48 AM EDT
Valerie Daniels-Carter. Photo credit: Northwestern Mutual

Valerie Daniels-Carter saw her chance at entrepreneurship when she heard that Burger King was looking to increase its number of Black-owned Burger King franchisees. She scrapped together her savings and sold her car and property to raise money for her restaurant. That single Burger King soon grew into a franchise empire with over 100 restaurants and an annual revenue of around $250 million. Today, Daniels-Carter owns the largest woman-owned franchise company and is the largest minority owner of Pizza Hut franchise stores.

Daniels-Carter understood the importance of the hustle from a young age. At age six, she was walking the neighbors’ younger children to and from school for $1.25 per week. She also teamed up with two of her brothers to offer neighbors seasonal services such as snow shoveling and leaf-raking. Daniels-Carter was in charge of marketing while they did the labor. By high school, she had moved on to better-paying gigs such as working in the county parks department in the summer and as a secretary for the U.S. Army recruiting office during the school year.

“For $1.25 per week, I would walk a kid to and from school every day. I told them there are dogs on the path and lots of other things their kids might be afraid of and I could make sure they got back and forth safely. Thankfully, no one ever tested the waters to see if I really could fight because I couldn’t,” Daniels-Carter said about her early entrepreneurial adventures.

She went on to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at Lincoln University where she was recruited to play basketball. After college, Daniels-Carter was drafted to the professional women’s basketball team the Milwaukee Does in 1978 but turned down the offer. Women’s basketball at the time involved so many uncertainties and she needed to support her widowed mother. She instead took a job as a banker at First Wisconsin National Bank and decided to further her education.

While pursuing her master’s degree and working in banking and finance, Daniels-Carter decided she was ready to start her own business. She started the groundwork in 1982 and planned on how she would raise the necessary funds. With all her savings and money from her husband’s savings account, Daniels-Carter managed to raise over $1 million to buy the rights to a Burger King restaurant and to build the restaurant itself. In 1984, she launched her first Burger King franchise alongside her brother.

“I had a good base, a good foundation. I had a support system in my family. And I tell people this all the time, you need some type of support system, because as you operate and navigate through this world, there are going to be so many pressures and so many challenges, you need to be able to reach out and touch somebody that believes in you,” Daniels-Carter said about how familial support was vital for her business growth.

After only six months in business, Daniels-Carter was approached about opening a second location. She added seven more Burger Kings across Wisconsin over the next years and expanded the franchise to several locations in Michigan. In 1997, Pizza Hut inquired about her interest in running a suite of restaurants in upstate New York. Daniels-Carter was thriving in a fast food industry where women and Black franchise owners were rare.

By 1998, Daniels-Carter had 32 Burger Kings and 67 Pizza Huts under her portfolio. Her company V&J Holdings has since expanded to other quick-service restaurant restaurants such as Auntie Anne’s Soft Pretzels, Coffee Beanery, Nino’s Southern Sides, MyYoMy Frozen Yogurt, and Captain D’s Seafood. Daniels-Carter has built a franchise empire that includes over 100 restaurants across five states and generates an estimated$250 million in revenue annually. V & J Holding is the largest woman-owned franchise company, the largest minority owner of Pizza Hut franchise stores, and one of the largest franchising companies in the United States.

As a Black woman in the male-dominated franchise industry, Daniels-Carter had to challenge the status quo. She met several unnecessary delays, had her endurance tested and made many sacrifices along the way. Now that she has a seat at the table, Daniels-Carter is ensuring that other African American women have a chance to own their own franchising companies. In addition to her franchise empire, she has widely invested in the real estate industry and is part owner of the NBAs Milwaukee Bucks.