DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - Fourteen-year-old Mason Wright is ready for the October 17 grand opening of his Snapfinger Road restaurant, Mason's Super Dogs. He is excited to become the youngest restaurant owner in Georgia.
"This is what I wanted, but it hasn't been easy at all," Wright told FOX 5's Portia Bruner.
Wright said he encountered some initial pushback from DeKalb County and state officials after he insisted on being listed as a business partner and owner--not with parents--but with his 22-year-old sister.
"They kept trying to take my name off the building because they kept saying, 'How can a 14 year old own all of this?' But it worked. We got the place renovated, repainted, got the kitchen ready and I got an ‘A’ on my inspection," Wright said with a smile the day before his grand opening.
Wright has been at this for a while--saving money and gaining support from business and community leaders. FOX 5 introduced you to him in July 2019 when he had only a mobile cart that he toted between Morehouse College and smaller companies to sell his highly decorated dogs.
His family secured the wood-frame restaurant stand in a shopping plaza near Flat Shoals Parkway in August after another restaurant went out of business.
"So this place was really important to me because I could stack as many hot dogs as I want and go for hours and hours and hours. With the cart, when I ran out of hot dogs, I had to shut it down and that's not good for business," the home-schooled eighth-grader said.
Wright credits Morehouse College business students, WOAK radio personality Rashad Richey and the Russell Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, among others, with teaching him the skills he needed to succeed.
"I can't tell you the feeling of pride that washed over me when he sent me a picture of that perfect score on his inspection with a text that said, 'I did it, Mr. Jay.' I started my first business when I was 12 and so now to be able to go over and support him right down the street from where I grew up is special," said RCIE president and CEO Jay Bailey. Bailey started mentoring Mason two years ago.
"He sought me out. He pitched his business, told me about his business strategy. He told me where he wanted to go, told me he wanted to be a 16-year-old millionaire and quite honestly, I was floored,” said the DeKalb County native and UGA grad.
The Russell Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is a think tank of Black professionals that helps aspiring entrepreneurs develop, execute, and sustain a thriving business model. Bailey said RCIE mentors always made sure Wright had the one thing every aspiring business owner needs--access to resources.
"We've got to undergird that passion inside of him and fan the flames and see how bright it can blaze. We're the village and young kings like him need all the support we can possibly give," said Bailey.
Wright is now training his own employees--with his mother supervising nearby--and sharing some business lessons of his own.
"Do something you love. If you love doing your hobby, you'll love doing your work because my motto is if you love doing what you do, you'll never work a day in your life," said Wright with a smile after checking his inventory.
Mason’s Super Dogs will be open daily. Business starts after his homeschooling classes end—just in time for the lunch hour rush.