Robert Pyles is a successful businessman who owns 12 McDonald’s franchises in Wisconsin. When he was a child growing up with 9 siblings and a single mother, he would have never thought he would be as successful as he is now. But now he is one of the biggest employers of African-American people in Wisconsin, and he uses what he went through in the past to drive him.

Pyles got his start in the service industry as a part-time worker at a Wyoming McDonald’s while he was in the Air Force. Since then, he’s realized that he loves helping people and that’s what he wants to do.

In two and a half years, he finished training to become a McDonald’s owner. Don Thompson, the former CEO of McDonald’s Corp., suggested that he open a McDonald’s in Milwaukee, which he did.

The first one he opened was on February 14, 1998. He said that it wasn’t easy at first because of all the pressure to serve people quickly. But he has no choice but to keep going. “I told myself ‘never let ’em see you sweat.’ He told Black Enterprise, “I knew I had to stay true to what I believed.”

From one location, he opened a second one the next year. Since then, he has added more and more locations until he has up to 12 locations now. Even so, Pyles thinks that growth isn’t the best way to measure business success.

“You must be ready for your business to grow and pay close attention to making money. “You can make more money with less stores,” he said. “Adding more stores wasn’t always the goal. I wanted to set up a training center so that people could see that an African American operator can work at a certain level.

He hires about 45 people at each location, for a total of about 600 people. Aside from giving people jobs, he also wanted to make it easier for his workers to find affordable housing near their jobs. So, he teamed up with a friend who owns a construction company to start Magnolia Realty. Together, they buy foreclosed homes near his McDonald’s restaurants, fix them up, and sell them to them at a fair price.

As one of nine children raised by a single mother, Pyles had a hard childhood. Now, he lives well with his wife and three children, all of whom help him run his business. And he wants to show other people how they can do what he has done.

“I think it’s very important to be out in the community and easy to reach,” he said. “Being successful on my own isn’t enough. My goal is to help other people get accepted to own a McDonald’s. I started with my wife because if an owner dies, his or her share of the business can’t be passed on. Now I’m trying to get other people accepted.”