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Tipping the entrepreneurial scale

Teen goes from employee to restaurant owner in just 3 years

Posted: December 30, 2013 3:53 p.m.
Updated: December 30, 2013 3:53 p.m.

Entrepreneur Robert White sits in the Santa Clarita restaurant Tri Tipps. White will soon become the owner. Charlie Kaijo/The Signal

At age 21, Robert White is about to buy his first Santa Clarita restaurant – Tri Tipps on Newhall Ranch Road.

Having grown up in Iowa, White moved out to Santa Clarita where his mom lives as soon as he graduated from high school at age 17 in December 2009.

“I didn’t like minus-10 degree weather,” White laughed.

By February 2010, White landed a job at the local eatery and by the end of that year owner Chuck Joseph promoted him to manager.

White immediately changed the way the food was cooked and served.

“We started doing everything fresh and made per order,” he said. “As soon as we did that sales went up 20 to 30 percent steadily, every year.”

In recognition of his success, Joseph granted White 30 percent of the business by April 2011.

“It was in exchange for growing the business and working with the owner to make what we have better, and make the restaurant grow,” White said.

Motivated to show everybody that the time people invested in him as he grew up was time well spent, White said he thanks everyone from his mom, dad, grandparents and teachers for helping him along the way – even his current boss Joseph.

“I spent a lot of time with my dad’s parents. They lived on eight acres and every weekend I’d help my grandparents mow the lawn,” White said.

“Between them and my dad, they taught me if I wanted something I had to work for it; nothing was ever given to me.”

While in school, White said his teachers really helped him realize he could make something big out of his life if he just put a lot of effort into it.

White also credits the current owner of Tri Tipps, saying Joseph has been like a father figure to him teaching him every aspect of the restaurant business.

“Robert stepped up to the plate and did everything he needed to get to where he is,” owner Joseph said. “He worked hard. He has a lot of good characteristics - he’s an honest kid, just all-around good with a good work ethic.”

Selling the restaurant to White allows fits into Joseph’s plans to open another Tri Tipps. He’s been looking at a location in Canyon Country, he said.

Saying he’s willing to give the same ownership opportunity to anyone who works as hard as White did, Joseph admits that it’s remarkable what White achieved at such a young age.

“Age isn’t a factor though,” Joseph said. “He worked hard; he handled the business.”

While White hasn’t made long term plans, he said he can see himself owning multiple stores in 20 years.

“I like to leave all my doors open so I can go any direction,” White said.


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