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Jimmy John Liautaud Inspires Entrepreneurs at Library Talk

Jimmy Liautaud fielded questions from want-to-be entrepreneurs about starting and growing a business at the Champaign Public Library. Jimmy’s talk at the library was the first in a series called Launch at the Library. The program is part of the library’s effort to better serve the community and help those who wish to start or grow a business. Jimmy was glad to join and share his story.

“If I touched one person’s soul today — if I said, ‘Look, know your numbers, outwork your competition, understand your product, there’s no right answer, it’s scary, it’s lonely, you got to risk it to get the biscuit,’ all the things I talked about today — if I hit one of those kids today and they went home with a nugget that changes their life … that’s why I’m here,” he said.

From starting with one store and a $25,000 loan from his father, Jimmy has grown his company into a national franchise with nearly 2,800 stores across the country. This success has caused the company to move its headquarters to a bigger office building in Champaign.

“It’s just an incredible building,” said Liautaud. “It’s world class. For the employees, it’s incredible. The best chairs, the best desks, best screen, best sound, best break room, craft beer on tap for after 5, great iced coffee.”

Jimmy continues to build the company and try new ideas, including tripling the size of their IT department and testing ordering kiosks at his store on West Kirby Avenue. While many companies have moved to kiosk ordering over the past few years, Jimmy isn’t sold on the idea.

“I don’t really know, frankly, if the math even works on it, and frankly, I like a personal experience at the cash register,” he said. “I want to talk to somebody, and if they’re confused, I want to help them. So even though we’re testing it, and our partners like to test everything, I’m still big on the one-on-one experience. … It’s awful hard to automate handmade food.”