An Unlikely Restaurateur
All things considered, Blake Kuznia was an unlikely restaurateur. He was young and lacked experience in the food service industry.
After finishing high school in Thief River Falls, he left for Duluth for a couple of years, where he pursued a degree in education at the University of Minnesota Duluth. While he loved the idea of an education degree, he always thought he would take over the family’s construction business one day.
He took a break after a couple years of college and during that time joined the National Guard. After his military training he got involved with the family construction business and got married.
At that time, he started having some conversations with Andrew Peralta, another young Thief River Falls entrepreneur and owner of the Dairy Queen. “We started talking about buying the Pizza Hut in town,” Blake said. “We got really serious about it and eventually made an offer on it.”
After the sellers accepted the offer, the next step was to get the approval from Pizza Hut corporate. Blake said, “we gave them our spiel and they loved it.” The Pizza Hut franchise provided him with three months of training, which taught him what he needed to know: everything from answering the phone to making pizzas.
Finding His Passion
Between the training he received and his own personal work ethic, Blake seems to have hit his stride at a young age. He has been running the restaurant for three short years and reports that they have ranked “second best franchise in the nation.”
While he has found success in the restaurant business, he is quick to admit that his passion is people, not food. What gets him excited is getting involved in the community, meeting people, and being part of what the community is doing. He managed to finish his education degree, too, and puts it to good use training his employees. He enjoys taking a leadership role and giving back to the community where he was raised.
“Recently, we fed all three local schools in one day,” Blake said. “After all the kids were sent home, we fed all the staff. Digi-Key paid for it and that was a good feeling. Doing stuff like that is really, really motivating. People are why I stay in it.”
When asked what suggestions he would give someone thinking of starting a business, Blake had three recommendations: (1) maintain an attitude of positivity; (2) reach out to people for advice; and (3) find your passion in your business – your personal “why.”
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