If he hadn’t been thrown out of a convenience store in the 1970s, Ron Shaich, co-founder of Au Bon Pain and Panera Bread Co., might not be the entrepreneur we know today. Incensed at the store because it didn’t welcome packs of college students, Mr. Shaich opened a rival shop on his Clark University campus in Worcester, Mass. The store brought in $60,000 in revenue by the end of its first year. Bitten by the entrepreneurship bug, Mr. Shaich opened a cookie shop after college in downtown Boston, and a year later combined operations with a struggling French bakery to become Au Bon Pain. By 1999, he had sold off the original business to focus on its Panera division, now one of the fastest-growing chains in the U.S. with a roughly $3 billion market cap. Mr. Shaich, 57 years old, stepped down as Panera’s CEO last year but remains chairman. This week, he opened Panera’s third “pay-what-you-want” café in Portland, Ore. – an attempt, he says, to use business to tackle communities’ hunger problems
How cool is that?