(KUTV) Steve Down is an entrepreneur who came up with the idea for Even Stevens restaurant, which just sold its one millionth sandwich.
That also means one million people have been fed through its “give back” business model.
All of Down’s companies are designed to help people in need. It all got started with Financially Fit, which stemmed from a personal financial setback in 1999.
“It’s amazing how financial disease can impact every aspect of your life,” Down said.
At the time, Down had a wife, seven children, no assets, and no income. He was $3 million in debt had was very sick with pneumonia. “I found myself in a situation where I was considering very dark things in my life,” Down said.
During this desperate time, Down had a choice to make. He knew he had inspired others in the past, but thought, “Maybe it’s time for you to inspire yourself.”
As he thought about his situation, he figured out how he could make himself debt free in five years or less.
After Down successfully got himself out of debt, Financially Fit was born.
“We became the largest provider of personal wealth education coaching in the world,” he said of the company.
More ideas came after the success of Financially Fit–including the concept for Even Stevens, a restaurant that’s motto is “eat to give.”
Down was eating at a sandwich restaurant with his assistant in Denver, when they started discussing how they could improve upon the concept of eating a delicious sandwich at a fast, casual restaurant.
His assistant challenged him to think of an idea before he was finished with lunch.
“I had been recently inspired by TOMS shoes and I said, ‘I’ll tell you what. We’ll build a sandwich shop near the University of Utah, and for every sandwich we serve, we’ll provide a sandwich of equal nutritional value to the community’s hungry–sandwich for sandwich.”
Unlike TOMS, Down wanted Even Stevens to stay local. “People are unaware of the fact that there are hungry people right here in Salt Lake City,” he said. “There are hungry among us.”
There are 10 Even Stevens restaurants currently in operation, with locations in Utah, Arizona, and Idaho.
What has evolved from the Even Stevens business model is a philosophy that Down calls “cause capitalism.”
“That’s where a for-profit should choose a non-profit partner–and not as a gimmick, but as a part of your business plan, and you support that non-profit partner,” Down explained.
Down calls cause capitalism the “capitalism of the 21st century.”
“Capitalism must become kinder, gentler, and more compassionate,” he said.
Down hopes cause capitalism will be part of his legacy, as well as being a “decent husband and father.”