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Rise of the Female Breadwinners: Dawn Lafreeda

Photo: Photo by Sarah Brooke Lyons, License: N/A

Photo by Sarah Brooke Lyons

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Dawn Lafreeda

52; partnered
Children: Twin sons, 9
Job title: President and CEO Den-Tex Central, Inc.Estimated household income: $100,000
Education: One year of college

Are you a native San Antonian? If not, when did you move here?

No, I was born in Philadelphia, but I grew up in Orange County, Calif. I moved here in 1986 when I got the opportunity to open my first Denny’s. My first restaurant was in San Angelo, but then I moved to San Antonio and bought a Denny’s there.

How did you become the primary breadwinner?

I think it started from being self-employed. I’m an entrepreneur so I work for myself and create my own destiny of building more restaurants. I’ve had the opportunity to earn more with owning my own company. I needed to be self-employed.
There were no ceilings. I was 23 when I bought my very first restaurant and at 23 you’re not thinking long-term. I knew I wanted to be self-employed so I went down that path where I created my own destiny. I created what I wanted. For whatever reason I didn’t finish school, or find a career path there, but I was recruited by Denny’s and they were going to pay me a lot of money for my age back then.

Describe your job:

(Laughs) It’s very busy. We have restaurants in seven states so there’s never a dull moment, anywhere, ever. I have my hands in everything and I have great team players at various levels. I sit in Denny’s franchise advisory board, helping make the Denny’s corporate brand better. It means I sit in a committee for Denny’s that designs what color’s we’ll use for new Denny’s, what marketing promotion to put in place. This all helps run my business. I invest a lot of time in committees; I’m very involved in developing and remodeling new stores. I’m always looking for new sites. Lately I’ve been renegotiating leases, franchise agreements and buying businesses from other franchisees. During the last month I’ve been focusing on three restaurants that I’m buying, financing [and] leasing.

Is your job now the career you’d always thought you’d have?

Yeah, I think it is. I always knew I’d be self employed; I didn’t know what it was going to look like or what it was going to be, but it’s everything I hoped and probably more.  There’s not a lot of females in the industry that have as many locations or are doing as many businesses. I wanted to have 10, 20…we have 75.

What is your dream job?

I’m doing what I wanted to do. I wanted to be self-employed, and I wanted to make that dream happen. I’ve had the chance to create what I wanted to be, and I can always change what I’m doing. It’s never dull. I’m really living American dream, I started as a waitress.  

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?

I love being able to go in and put in a new Denny’s (in new markets). It excites me to give people jobs, give a community a great new place to eat. Developing the brand and putting in new Denny’s is what excites me.

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