Entrepreneur turns student lunches into a business with Schoolhouse Grill

By Thomas Heath
Monday, August 16, 2010

There are some businesses where I think, "Hey, I could do that." And there are others I cannot figure out.

Entrepreneur Brian Busick runs a business that I understand.

Busick, 43, is founder and president of Schoolhouse Grill, an Ashburn company that delivers an average of about 3,500 lunches a day to private school kids. Clients include programs such as Arlington Head Start, the Virginia Academy in Loudoun County, and a Sparkles Daycare in Centreville.

The 14-employee start-up does all right. Busick expects to gross $1.3 million this year and deliver a profit somewhere in the neighborhood of around $400,000. He rolls most of that back into the business for expansion and investment in new equipment, but the father of four daughters isn't complaining.

I gained immediate respect for Busick, who grew up in Fairfax County, when he told me how he worked as a branch manager for a bank during the day to make enough money to attend George Mason University at night. He earned a degree in finance and later earned an MBA at Virginia Tech, which has a campus in Northern Virginia.

After several financial jobs at places like KPMG and the public relations firm Porter Novelli, he got the itch to make some money in the technology boom in the late 1990s.

"You had Amazon.com, eBay, AOL and all those companies going crazy, and I thought it was interesting and wanted to get involved in that," Busick said.

A professional recruiter around 2000 hooked him up as the chief financial officer at Etegral Partners, a sole proprietorship that was developing software for handheld devices. Etegral grew from 16 to 60 people in the three years Busick worked there, and he eventually bought the company.

He changed the name to Inpoint Engineering Solutions, eventually sold it for a seven-figure profit and decided to try the franchise fast-food game.

Around 2004, he contacted Jerry's Subs & Pizza, a Gaithersburg-based chain of restaurants, and eventually bought four stores grossing around $2 million a year total. He spent more than $1 million to acquire the four franchises -- half borrowed and half his own money. They threw off a profit that paid him $115,000 a year, but he worked his tail off seven days a week to get it.

"It was an incredible amount of work . . . 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day," he said. "It's like buying a boat. The happiest days are the day you buy it and the day you sell it."

But it created a valuable opportunity. He got a call in early 2005 from a private elementary school in Ashburn asking if his restaurant could provide the school with 100 sub sandwiches one day a week.

CONTINUED     1           >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company