Two Generations of Entrepreneurial Women Find Success with Zoup!
March marks an important month for Lacie Fitzpatrick and her mother Joya Piland, owner of Zoup! Grand Junction in Colorado’s Western Slope. Their family will be celebrating Women’s History Month when Lacie purchases Zoup! from her mother, Joya.
Stirring up something great
In 2012, Joya and her husband Terry were searching for the right franchise opportunity. They wanted a business that would allow them to work towards a common goal of business ownership, and possibly provide a role for their 23-year-old daughter graduating from college. The Pilands soon heard about Zoup! the leader in fast-casual soup-differentiated franchise and they knew they had a winner. “Soup has always been a huge staple for our family. I have tons of memories around soup,” said Fitzpatrick.
Ten months after learning about Zoup!, the Pilands opened the doors of their brand new restaurant. Joya handled the responsibilities as owner and Lacie managed the restaurant operations. Her experience in the food-service industry and a degree in psychology helped Fitzpatrick feel prepared to handle a staff of twelve and the unpredictability of being a restauranteur. A bit of a wild child, Lacie shares, “The structure and responsibilities of running a business helped me grow up.”
Before Zoup!, Joya ran her own embroidery business for 11 years. The hours allowed her to work from home while the kids went to school. When asked about her desire to become a business owner, Fitzpatrick says, “My mom is a really hard worker and I’ve always looked up to her, even in my teenage years.”
Over the last eight years, their Zoup! business and the Piland family tree continue to grow. Lacie married Kevin Fitzpatrick in 2013, and they welcomed a son in 2016. While Lacie looks forward to her new role as business owner, Joya is excited to travel with Terry. She will still spend time in the restaurant as a team member and catering coordinator. When asked if she was nervous about handing the business over, Piland said, “I’m excited to still get a paycheck! I have trust that she (Lacie) is going to do a great job. But if I’m not working at Zoup!, I’m working at the Fitzpatrick house.” She’s looking forward to an increase in child care demand when the Fitzpatrick’s second child joins the family in May.
When asked how she balances work and family, Lacie shares, “It can be hard. I get super tired. I’m growing a life inside me and maternity leave needs to happen. I’m planning ahead to have the right people in place to step up while I care for my family.”
Adapting to unforeseen challenges
The COVID-19 pandemic brought new challenges to the food-service industry. Business operations had to change to meet changing service requirements like a restricted or closed dining room, new cleaning and safety protection protocols for both guests and team members, contactless transactions, curbside pick-up, expanded delivery, and keeping staffed with healthy workers. “We credit our sales rebound back to pre-Covid levels to our staff, loyal customer base and online ordering” said Fitzpatrick.
The future of Zoup! grand junction
We asked if the Fitzpatrick kids will be serving soup down the road. Lacie replied, “I definitely want my kids to work in the restaurant. It’s a great place to learn good work ethic and how to work with a team, but I don’t want to pressure them to take on the business.”
Joya knew from the beginning that this could be a great opportunity for her family and her daughter. Lucky for her, the love for restaurant service runs in the family.
“I had some hesitations,” says Fitzpatrick, “We considered selling outside, but that made me sad thinking of the eight years of heart we put into this business. It would be nice to put the responsibilities away and leave work at work, but I love working for myself and building my own future.”