This episode of The Intersection is the second of two in our Entrepreneur Series where we talk to outstanding MBA students about their journeys with entrepreneurship.
Sawyer Williamson’s father and uncle started Williamson Bros. Bar-BQ in 1990. They came to Atlanta from central Alabama, chose a random exit off of I-75 in Marietta, found a vacant building, leased it, and moved their family to a nearby one-bedroom apartment. Today, Williamson Bros. consists of five businesses with a sixth starting this spring. They have three Williamson Bros. Bar-BQ restaurants, a 16,000-square-foot catering facility, and an FDA-approved food manufacturing facility with their products in more than 2,000 grocery stores and 500 restaurants.
Growing up Sawyer had a number of functions throughout the business of a more financial nature that you wouldn’t necessarily expect for a ten-year-old. This helped him to understand various components of the business. At age 16, he started selling koozies to bars and restaurants-- his dad was his first customer.
Sawyer went to the University of Alabama for undergrad where he started two small businesses – a clothing company and a food truck. One of his big takeaways from these two business involved leveraging, and today he tries to leverage lightly. After graduating Sawyer sold his businesses and got a job in Atlanta at the Intercontinental Exchange, the parent company for the New York Stock Exchange.
Sawyer Williamson and host Jasmine Howard
After gaining some invaluable work experience outside of Williamson Bros., Sawyer decided to return for two years of training in the food manufacturing facility before taking on the general manager position. Additionally, he now sits on the board of directors of all the other Williamson Bros. businesses.
Sawyer is pursuing his Evening MBA at Georgia Tech to help his company better meet their goals. He is aware that today’s business world requires a little more understanding and study than it did 30 years ago. At his admissions interview he fell in love with the technical nature and history of Georgia Tech. Sawyer has already used everything from every course he’s taken at Scheller.
This spring Williamson Bros. is opening a farm wedding venue in Cherokee County. Sawyer’s end goal is to be one of the largest restaurant owners in the city of Atlanta. His advice for anyone looking to follow in his footsteps is to apply what you’re learning as you’re going through it, and don’t just learn it for the grade.
Listen to this episode of The Intersection to hear more about Sawyer and entrepreneurship: