Lenny's News and Interviews
Former FedEx VP delivers tasty sandwiches instead of packages, Edith Kelly-June 20, 2010
BY BECKY GILLETTE
The Oxford Enterprise
SUNDAY, JUNE 20, 2010
In 2003, Oxford native and Ole Miss accounting school graduate Edith Kelly-Green retired after 26 years at FedEx in Memphis, rising through the ranks to the prestigious position of vice president and chief sourcing officer. She had planned on a life of leisure, reading books at the local coffee shop each day. But one Saturday morning in 2004, while Kelly-Green was sitting at Starbucks, she read about the Lenny’s Sub Shop franchise in Oxford being for sale.
“My daughter, who was a student here at college in Memphis, ate at Lenny’s all the time,” says Kelly-Green, who was the first African American female vice president at FedEx. “She said, ‘Mom, we should invest in it. The food tastes good, it is fresh and healthy, and it is a good value.’ She is an athlete, so she was interested in the healthiness of the food.”
Kelly-Green bought the franchise in Oxford and used her business management skills honed all those years at FedEx to make the shop successful. Then, she and her partners – daughter Jayna, who is now in medical school, and son James – repeated the success of the Lenny’s in Oxford over and over again. In only six years, they have come to own eleven Lenny’s Sub Shops, in fact becoming the chain’s largest franchisee.
“Opportunities come up,” Kelly-Green says. “I did a have a fun and leisurely retirement for at least a year. Even though FedEx is far larger with billions in sales, the business skills I learned there have been very helpful in operating the sub shops.”
Those skills include putting people first and giving back to the community through philanthropy.
“FedEx has a strong emphasis on philanthropy and putting people first,” notes Kelly-Green, who, as founding chairman of the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy, established a scholarship endowment at Ole Miss for a student in accounting. “With any business that deals with the public, if you don’t have good employees, you don’t get good customer service and you are going to fail. Finding and hiring good employees is always a challenge. You have to treat people well, pay them well and motivate them.”
Training is important to help create a positive work environment. Kelly-Green says her employees are cheerful, friendly and efficient.
“People come for the food, but they come back for the experience of people who know your name and remember which sandwich you like,” she says. “We have some employee turnover, but lower turnover than usual. Some of our employees are celebrating ten years at the particular Lenny’s where they work.”
While business basics are the same at any company — whether it is a Lenny’s or FedEx — Kelly-Green enjoys working for herself and being able to make management decisions more quickly than with a large corporation. Now she doesn’t have to go through multiple chains of command to make decisions.
Still, it is no picnic overseeing eleven franchises. “It is hard work,” Kelly-Green says. “You have to put in the time. You have to be concerned with the pennies and dimes if you are a small business owner.”
Kelly-Green also serves on Lenny’s Franchisee Advisory Board. “We really value her opinion,” says Brent Alvord, president of Lenny’s Sub Shops. “She has insightful franchisee questions and good ideas about how we can improve franchise support services.”
It isn’t the norm for a franchisee to add so many new stores so quickly. But Alvord has learned not to be surprised by Kelly-Green. “She has significant business experience and has had tremendous success with her restaurants,” Alvord says. “They all contribute to her running her operations in a very professional way with missions, goals and core values that, through training, emanate to every employee. She is also very involved in the community and is always thinking about how to give back. She participates on several non-profit boards. She is a very well-respected woman in the community.”
Kelly-Green, who has her bachelor’s degree in accounting from Ole Miss and a Masters of Business Administration degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., is a board member of The University of Tennessee Medical Group (UTMG) and Applied Industrial Technologies, Inc. (AIT) a New York Stock Exchange company.
She also has faced and overcome personal challenges, such as being diagnosed with breast cancer 14 years ago. Her children at the time were young, and she was determined not to leave them motherless. She researched the disease thoroughly before opting for surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Kelly-Green participates in the annual Race for the Cure and is on the Baptist Women’s Hospital Advisory Board.
A member of the executive board of the University of Mississippi Alumni Association, Kelly-Green was inducted into the Ole Miss Hall of Fame in 1999.
Contact Lenny's Public Relations:Jenna Duett
Marketing and PR Manager