John Draper II: Making the Wing Stop in Michigan

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(Wing Stop Detroit’s ribbon-cutting with Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, members of the Tuskegee Airmen, Sen. Virgil Smith and Wing Stop owners John Draper II and Voshon Lenard.)

For as long as John Draper II can remember, he has dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur. Growing up in Michigan and Georgia, he had plenty of business role models to emulate, including his father, John “J.D.” Draper, who has owned and operated multiple franchises for more than 40 years in several states.

Young Draper also watched family friend and businessman Grady Keys masterfully own and operate dozens of fast-food franchises in metro Detroit and across the nation for decades. Over the years, he admired the success stories of such business standouts as Greg Jackson and Len Burnett, Sr. “My father had a lot of friends who were extremely successful as entrepreneurs,” said Draper. “I couldn’t help but learn from them because they were a part of my life growing up. They were like family. I was around them a lot.”

Today, John Draper II is no longer dreaming of becoming a successful entrepreneur, as he is president of VKL Investments and brand partner of four Wing Stop eateries. Draper and his business partner, former NBA player Voshon Lenard, opened Michigan’s first Wing Stop in Southfield in 2012. The locations of the business partners’ other Wing Stop eateries are Roseville, Taylor and Detroit. There are two additionally Wing Stop restaurants under construction in Farmington and Eastpointe.

Wing Stop’s menu boasts the best in chicken wings, boneless wings, boneless strips and gliders, all of which come in 10 flavors. Wing Stop also serves homemade potato salad, Bourbon Baked Beans and many other sides. While Draper is proud of all of his Wing Stop locations, he is especially pleased with the Detroit establishment that opened in November 2013 in the new Gateway Marketplace, located on Eight Mile Road and Woodward Avenue.

The complex where the Wing Stop is located marks the first major retail shopping complex built in Detroit in decades. While all Wing Stop restaurants are aviation-themed, with decor dating back to the 1940s and 1950s, Draper took a different slant. He decided to go with a “Red Tails” theme as a salute to the legendary Tuskegee Airmen. “It goes into the lessons that I learned growing up, when Brady Keys of The Keys Group was branding Burger King restaurants with Black themes to let customers know that his establishments were Black owned,” said Draper. “It was important that his Burger Kings were not viewed as just any Burger Kings.”

When asked how the Detroit Wing Stop was progressing, Draper replied, “The store is doing well. It has outperformed our other stores. So I’m happy with where things are at this point, and I’m proud to have had the opportunity to hire 28 employees so far. I believe all but one are from Detroit, which is important to me.”

According to Draper, there are no other Wing Stops in Michigan, so why open four locations in the state, with more to come? “I wanted to bring Wing Stop to Michigan because it is a great business and offers a lot of room for growth in this market,” he said. “In addition, being a native Detroiter, it made a lot of business sense to come back home.”

Coming back home is in reference to Draper living for a while in southern Georgia, where he moved when he was 13. The family moved there after his father pulled off one of his many patented business acquisitions. However, Draper actually finished Southfield-Lathrup High School. He subsequently enrolled at Clark Atlanta University where he earned a bachelor’s in finance and accounting and a master’s in accounting.

After Clark Atlanta, Draper returned to Detroit once again, where he worked as an accountant for Gregory Terrell and Company, a certified public accounting firm located in downtown Detroit. While an accountant by day, by night, and into the wee hours of morning, he worked in management at Burger King. He worked both jobs for almost eight years. He would go on to gain 17 other valuable years of experience in the retail and food management arena with V&J Holdings, a company owned by his father.

V&J is responsible for 125 units, six brands, and more than 4,000 team members in six states. Young Draper was instrumental in growing V&J Holdings by 42 units in a single year (2008). His retail and food management portfolio includes Burger King, Pizza Hut, Auntie Anne’s Pretzel, Haagen Daaz, Coffee Beanery and now Wing Stop.

Since branching out to head his own franchises, Draper loves the experience offered by the entrepreneurial opportunities.

“When you get into a business like franchising, you deal with a lot of people on both sides of the counter,” he said. “You get to do real estate transactions, accounting and finance. You get to touch every aspect of business.”

With a long and successful background in retail and food management and/or ownership, the future is extremely bright for this entrepreneur.

“Our plans are to open up another 28 locations over the next seven years,” he said. “We may even get real aggressive and open more. We’ll see.”

The importance of a business succession plan

Chief Investment Officer
Comerica Asset Management Group

Business succession planning is one of the most important tasks a family business owner should complete. If you do not have a business succession plan, make the development of this plan a priority in 2014. It is estimated that 25 million Americans own a private business. Approximately 90 percent of all businesses are private businesses or family owned. Many of these types of businesses do not survive under the leadership of the second generation, therefore making it critical to plan for the business’ future after the initial generation of the family moves on.

Business succession planning is different than management succession planning. Business succession planning involves determining the best way to transfer ownership and management to minimize the impact of the owner’s departure.

There are several factors to consider when developing a business succession plan. They are:

■ financial security to the owner after retirement

■ financial security for the family in the event of a premature death or disability

■ family member interest in working in the business

■ ability of a family member to successfully run the business

When addressing these factors, a business owner has several options to consider. These include:

■ sell the business during their lifetime

■ have their estate sell the business after death

■ transfer their business to heirs during their lifetime

■ transfer their business to heirs after death

Tax implications will be an important consideration in determining the best option. A business owner should consult with their tax accountant to better understand the tax efficiency of each choice.

There are several methods business owners can consider using to transfer their ownership in the business to heirs, employees or a third party. They include creating a Limited Liability Company (LLC), Charitable Remainder Trust, Charitable Remainder Unitrust, Buy-Sell Agreement and Employee Stock Option Plan.

Finally, business owners are working very hard to build and manage a successful enterprise. Developing a thoughtful and tax efficient business succession plan will go a long way towards providing financial security during retirement as well as securing the future for both family members and the business.

The views expressed are those of the author at the time of writing and are subject to change without notice. Comerica does not assume any liability for losses that may result from the reliance by any person upon any such information or opinions. This material has been distributed for general educational/informational purposes only, and should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation for any particular security, strategy or investment product, or as personalized investment advice.


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