For those who knew Cameron Mitchell in high school, the idea that he would create a multi-million-dollar business might come as a surprise. Once a teenager who seemed to not care one bit about his future, his choice to enter the culinary world would change the course of his life.

A High School Dropout

Growing up in Columbus, Ohio, Mitchell was smoking and drinking by the seventh grade. When his mother intervened, his rebellious ways led him to leave home and live with other runaway kids for months. During this time, Mitchell even robbed and stole just to try and get by.

After coming back home, Mitchell soon dropped out of high school where his grade point average was just a 1.05.

Finally Hitting Rock Bottom

Before his junior year started, Mitchell called his mom to apologize and asked to come back home. By the age of 19, Mitchell knew he had hit rock bottom.

He was working two jobs at local restaurants but was only making enough to cover his food and beer money. Mitchell also wasn’t motivated to succeed. At one job, he was late so often he was suspended. Eventually, he realized something needed to change.

Mapping His Plan For Success

After realizing his life wasn’t going anywhere, he got serious. He decided to set goals and make a plan to reach them. He wanted to be a chef by the age of 23, and reach vice president of operations by the time he was 30.

Just a few months after getting back into work, Mitchell realized how much he really loved being in the restaurant world. His excitement motivated him to finish his high school degree, get his grades up at a local community college and after six months of hard work, finally got accepted into the Culinary Institute of America.

Starting His Empire

Just two years after starting his schooling at the Culinary Arts Institute, Mitchell graduated and began working as a sous chef in Columbus. By the time he was 23, he had been promoted to executive chef, reaching the goal he set for himself years before.

By the time he was 28, he was leading a restaurant as their operations manager. That’s when he decided to go out on his own. In 1993, after studying business and meeting anyone in the industry he could get ahold of, Mitchell opened his first restaurant, Cameron’s American Bistro.

Each following year, he opened another restaurant.

Hard Work Pays Off

Just 35 years after turning his life around, Mitchell’s empire has expanded to more than 55 restaurants across the country, a catering business, and a chain of casual dining restaurants.

Because of Mitchell, nearly 4,000 people have part-time and full-time jobs and his business generates more than $300 million annually.

With a focus on employee well-being and creating an enjoyable company culture, Mitchell’s success won’t be slowing down any time soon.