Sometimes, a merit badge will spark a future career path for a Scout. For Brian White, it was a leadership outing.
White, who earned the Eagle Scout Award with Troop 299 of Dublin, Ohio, in 2004, owns a restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. Six years ago, the business began as a food cart on a college campus. Recently, he opened a brick-and-mortar establishment, specializing in pho, a Vietnamese soup featuring broth, rice noodles and meat. His restaurant, Pho Fast, also serves as a corporate catering company.
I caught up with White via email to ask him 5 Quick Questions about how Scouting specifically helped him as an entrepreneur.
How did Scouting help shape your career path?
Brian White: My most memorable moment was at Brownsea Leadership Training Camp. For the first time in my life, I heard the phrase “use your resources.” That changed my life.
I’m very good at finding opportunities and surrounding myself with highly intelligent people, yet I had not yet learned how to utilize my network. Ever since that leadership training, I began to have confidence in delegating more of my duties while still seeing them performed at a high level.
I felt like my natural thought processes had been validated in a way that I’d never heard a teacher in school mention.
Why did you gravitate toward Vietnamese food?
White: I’m a foodie and appreciate high-quality food. The first time I tried Vietnamese pho, I found it refreshing and filling, yet still light and delicious.
I love to eat, but I’m also cognizant of what I put into my body. Food is medicine. My favorite part is the broth. A hot cup of vegan or bone broth has numerous health benefits and warms the soul.
How did you structure your business model to meet the needs in the Columbus market?
White: In June 2013, there were zero catering options for Vietnamese pho in Columbus. Pho Fast started as a food cart for the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, but we quickly pivoted to serving inside food courts for Aramark and Sodexo. Now after years of serving only lunch, we’ve listened to our customers and are opening our first brick-and-mortar restaurant for lunch and dinner seven days a week.
What has been your biggest challenge as an entrepreneur?
White: The biggest challenge actually came this year. During an outpatient surgery earlier this year, I was infected with E. coli, and almost died twice, needing four surgeries this year alone. Being self-employed and not being able to work is very, very difficult. What I faced was both taxing on my mind and on my body.
I credit a lot of my mental toughness to both sports and Boy Scouts. I always try to Be Prepared and enjoy planning ahead. Although this was not an event I could have planned for, I’m fortunate that I took care of my body and had staff to help fill in the gaps while I was recovering. Without “using my resources,” Pho Fast would have gone out of business.
What advice do you have for Scouts and Scouters who are considering starting their own business?
White: Pho Fast was created by thinking outside the box and asking questions. So, first and foremost, I’d encourage anyone who’s considering starting their own business to ask lots of questions. Always be curious. Talk to your professors, your parents and your friends’ parents. Go the library or read online as much as possible about the industry you have an interest in. Don’t just talk, do!
Don’t be afraid to say, “no.” Value your time and create boundaries for yourself and your clients. Learn from your mistakes, so they’re not repeated. Lastly, if you want to talk more, then come to Columbus, Ohio, and let’s have a chat over a warm, welcoming bowl of pho.