Sitting in Douglas Secrest’s office, the honors, awards and diploma that cover his wall, and the litany of titles under his belt—most recently partner and CEO of healthy fast food chain Spotter’s—may tell a casual observer something about the man on the other side of the desk.
But they certainly won’t tell his story.
The 29-year-old was raised in Baker in a single-parent household, a fate that came full circle when he became a single parent himself during his senior year of high school.
He began welding in 11th grade, and used his inherent determination, perseverance and business savvy—skills he learned as a boy by observing restaurant management while his mother waited tables—to move up in rank. He was offered a position in a welding start-up and spent the next few years helping to manage and grow the Walker fabrication shop.
“It got me interested,” he shared. “What can I really reach if I went and educated myself? Turns out, I’m a little smarter than I gave myself credit for.”
He enrolled at Baton Rouge Community College in 2006. After three years of night classes, he decided he could be more successful with a bachelor’s degree in hand.
The E. J. Ourso College of Business boasts a challenging curriculum for most students. But for a nontraditional student who is re-learning long-forgotten study habits, solely financially responsible for a daughter nearing pre-teen age, and working full time, a full class load can be near impossible. “Keen time management was vital.”
Secrest shared that the financial burden of a college education, especially when raising a child, was one of his greatest obstacles. Days came when he was unsure where his next rent check would come from. Several scholarships, including the Richard A. Roy Memorial Scholarship, Redhawk Capital Corporation Scholarship, and Georgia Pacific/Clint M. Kennedy Memorial Scholarship, helped him make ends meet. “I don’t know what I would have done,” he said. “I don’t think I could have afforded LSU. Scholarships make it happen … Scholarships give [students] the opportunity to completely change the course of their life.”
He knows from experience.
Secrest graduated from LSU, with honors, in 2013. A college education transformed this welder into a successful businessman with no plans to slow down. Spotter’s currently has three locations, with plans to open a fourth—in downtown Baton Rouge—in fall 2014. Secrest hopes to grow the chain to 100 locations within five years, and 1,000 locations within 10. Eventually, he hopes to step back from the day-to-day operations and re-visit his education.
He has his eyes on LSU’s Flores MBA program, and, after that, “at least one PhD.” And, a determination to one day fund scholarships like those he received.
“Education gave me the knowledge to take my intrinsic skill sets, intrinsic motivation and ambition, and maximize its potential,” he said. “Now, I’m an education junkie.”
Published in Cornerstone Winter and Spring 2015.