Since the doors to the Khan family’s first Cousins Subs location opened in 2007, it has been about more than creating quality sandwiches. It has been about creating opportunity for crew members and delivering a personalized guest experience. Mohsin Khan, who spent the greater part of high school working in his father Rehan’s restaurants and is now his business partner, sat down with us to discuss his entrepreneurial journey, that dates back to his freshmen year of college, and his key initiatives as a Cousins Subs franchise owner.
This is your third time owning and operating a business. Tell us about your entrepreneurial journey.
One could say entrepreneurism is in my DNA. Growing up, my father owned and operated several Dunkin’ franchise locations for eight years and now owns and operates four Cousins Subs locations. I spent many days shadowing and working with him in his stores.
Started out early too – I was pushy with my parents to learn the register when I was fairly young. I can only imagine how strange it looked to a customer having a 10-year-old entering promotions on a register, bagging up their donuts, and giving out change.
While enrolled in University of Wisconsin-Madison to obtain my Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science, I founded two companies. After just one semester, I took a leap of faith and started my first business – Canary LLC. Recognizing a need, I launched the company to provide a one-stop-shop for those downsizing to sell everything but their home. I ran the business for a little over 2.5 years before moving on. A little less than one year later, I co-founded my second business – Payper – with the goal of making peer-to-peer recurring mobile payments simple. I co-ran this business for a little over 2 years as well.
Five years and a couple of moonshots later, I moved on to more corporate pastures. I spent the last few years in DC at an Integrated Comms / PR Firm as Director of Analytics. I’m happy I was able to observe and learn about how a larger organization structures itself and operates.
Why join the family business and run four Cousins Subs locations alongside your father?
As you can imagine, making a big career move, like mine, in a pandemic can be daunting. I left my position at a booming public relations and communications firm and moved half-way across the country to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to step into the unknown of the pandemic-effected restaurant industry. However, it was the right move for me.
With my digital experience, general business and technology knowledge, we both feel that there is great potential in what we can accomplish. I will use key learnings to increase online sales, which is especially important amid the pandemic, and better connect with our current and future guests on digital platforms by personalizing our messaging to them and measuring consumer sentiment.
My dad has always been my biggest supporter and my greatest source of business advice. He continues to encourage me to seek opportunities to grow and learn. With more than twenty years of restaurant experience, he knows pretty much everything about operations, business planning and staffing.
I mean there are times he will tell me something in 10 seconds that would literally have taken years of my life to figure out on my own. I’m blessed in that way to have him so close providing me with guidance and advice.
What impact(s) do you hope to make on the business off-the-bat?
Having essentially grown up in my father’s restaurants, I have seen firsthand how life-changing talent management is. My dad has always done a fantastic job recognizing skill and advancing career growth for qualified, dedicated crew members within our four store walls. In fact, many of his employees have worked with him for more than 10 years and have enjoyed fulfilling careers of increasing responsibility.
I’ve already met many funny, kind, and hardworking individuals at Cousins and I really want to push our employees to further achieve their career dreams, by focusing on life outside of our four store walls. Whether it is enrolling in post-secondary education or creating their own business, cultivating an atmosphere that promotes employee growth is important to me.
Also, as a bit of a personal challenge, I’m hoping to increase our catering sales in the midst of the pandemic. I think if we were able to land on the moon, then I should be able to figure this out. I’ll let you know