All our dreams can come true - if we have the courage to pursue them. - Walt Disney

Just about everyone I know loves "subs." We may call them grinders or hoagies; we may order them hot or cold; we may ask for "the works" or simply lettuce and turkey, but this we know - we love our "subs."

And, for those of us who love "subs," the only thing better than a good "sub" is a good "sub" story. You will like this one.

On a recent trip out-of-town I met Fred DeLuca, the "Sandwich King of the World." Well, I didn't actually meet him in person but I did meet him through AmericanWay, the American Airlines magazine (12/15/03).

Fred DeLuca is the founder of Subway sandwiches and this is his story. As a purposeless 17-year-old teenager, DeLuca took a casual suggestion from Dr. Peter Buck, a nuclear physicist and family friend, and turned it into the nation's largest fast-food business, giving him a reported net worth of around $1 billion.

That suggestion at a social event went something like this, "I think you should open a submarine sandwich shop." And, after sensing DeLuca's interest, Buck wrote him a $1000 check to help him get started.

From that first sandwich shop in Bridgeport Conn., you can now buy a Subway sandwich at 19,700 locations in 74 countries of the world.

How did that one idea with that one small investment grow into such an enormous deli-empire? Much of his success DeLuca itemizes in his book "Start Small, Finish Big," where he lists seven lessons for would-be entrepreneurs.

1. Start small. Starting small prevents money from being a barrier.

2. Earn a few pennies. Small profits build discipline.

3. Ready, Fire, Aim. Start, now and then fine-tune the idea.

4. Continuously improve your business. Thirty years ago they didn't sell turkey subs. Now it's the best seller.

5. Believe in your people. It takes a team to win anything today.

6. Never run out of money. Anticipate cash-flow crunches and borrow before the needs are urgent.

7. Build a brand name. Everyone knows Subway.

Subway's explosive growth has also taken place because of a successful franchising philosophy. The company does everything it can to keep the franchises happy. According to one expert, "over 70 percent of DeLuca's new franchises are bought by existing franchises."

And then there's also Jared. Where did he come from? Actually, Jared did lose 245 pounds on a strict Subway diet - two low-fat "subs" a day. In the Houston area, they were advertising the "seven under six" (seven sandwiches with six grams or less) and he decided to try it.

According to DeLuca, Jared's success did not impress the Subway marketing department but when his story got national publicity, even they had to sit up and take notice.

When asked why he keeps active in the business, DeLuca simply says, "I don't think I'd be a sit-around-the-house kind of guy or a play-golf kind of guy. I'd probably want to get into a business...At least I know I can do this, and I'm pretty good at it."

Here's a guy who began a sandwich shop in 1965 and over 38 years later, he still loves what he's doing. And it all started with a casual suggestion to a 17- year-old teenager.

Think about it.

Editor's note: Dr. Meyer is president of Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville. Responses can be mailed to

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