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The Startup That Made a 17-Year-Old Inexperienced Billionaire: Subway

Dilara Avlupınar

Dilara Avlupınar

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The Startup That Made a 17-Year-Old Inexperienced Billionaire: Subway 1
Subway is one of the most well-known restaurant chains worldwide. Subway, the world’s largest fast-food chain with more than 70,000 franchises, was founded by a 17-year-old teenager to pay his university fees.

In 1965, a young man named Fred DeLuca laid the foundation of Subway by asking for $1000 from their family friend Peter Buck.

The Startup That Made a 17-Year-Old Inexperienced Billionaire: Subway 2
DeLuca would use that money to open a sandwich shop in Bridgeport, Connecticut. DeLuca, who wanted to be a doctor at the time, wanted to pay for medical school with this restaurant.




The company originally called it “Pete’s Super Submarines”.

The Startup That Made a 17-Year-Old Inexperienced Billionaire: Subway 3
However, the name was changed to “Pete’s Subways” on the grounds that it sounded like “Pizza Marines” in their advertisement on the local radio and left different impressions on people. In 1968, it began to be called simply “Subway”.


Despite his inexperience, youth and small capital, DeLuca lit the light that he would achieve great success by selling 312 sandwiches on the first day for 50-70 cents each.

The Startup That Made a 17-Year-Old Inexperienced Billionaire: Subway 4
DeLuca admits that he knows nothing about sandwich making and the food industry in his 2012 book “Start Small Finish Big”.




Nine years later, in 1974, DeLuca and Buck opened their first franchise in Wallingford.

The Startup That Made a 17-Year-Old Inexperienced Billionaire: Subway 5
Wallingford was very convenient for a first dealership, about 48 km from their own business. Expanding over time, the company opened its first international franchise in Bahrain in 1984. Afterwards, chains continued to be opened in Canada, China, India, France, Russia, Turkey and many other countries.


Starting out with the goal of becoming a doctor, DeLuca eventually became a billionaire businessman and served as the general manager of Subway from 1965 to 2015.

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Her sister Suzanne Greco took over her business, which she started at the age of 17, upon her death in 2015.



Founded at the age of 17 with $1,000 capital and zero industry knowledge, Subway teaches us that if we believe in our ideas, we shouldn’t let anyone belittle them.

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