From Four Star Pizza driver to franchise boss, Darren has knack for turning failure into success
Co Antrim man Darren Colgan started work as a delivery driver for chain Four Star Pizza aged 19. Today, aged 30, he opens the doors of his third franchise.
From a young age, Darren was interested in buying and selling and he became a regular at car boot sales.
A born entrepreneur, by 18 he had already set up and sold his own power-washing company.
Working part-time as a student, Darren always dreamed of being his own boss and now, just over 10 years later, the Newtownabbey man employs more than 50 people and owns Four Star Pizza franchises in Newry and Armagh as well as his latest outlet, which opens in Bangor today.
He told the Belfast Telegraph: "I never thought I would get to run my own store.
"I guess back then I just started delivery for the money, but I really love getting up in the morning to go to work. I find I'm motivated to go to work; I'm not getting up in the morning unhappy.
"I always wanted to run my own shop, but it was only when I spoke to the owner of the Northern Ireland franchise and got a good deal on it, I realised I had nothing to lose and decided to give it a go.
"The cost of rent in Dublin was a big shock to the system, but the profit I made when I sold the shop gave me enough capital to take on the Armagh shop."
Darren worked as a driver for the firm until he left to go to university in Scotland and says he learned a lot working as a driver for a different pizza chain while studying at Edinburgh University.
After managing to turn around two failing shops, he became known as a pizza shop 'fixer' and was hired for Four Star Pizza to provide consultancy work, advising the region's franchise holder on how to fix issues.
Shortly after he returned to Northern Ireland from Scotland, he found out about a pizza store in Dun Laoghaire that was about to close.
Under Darren's leadership, the failing outlet went from employing just one member of staff to 20.
After a lot of hard graft, several 80 hour weeks, marketing initiatives and good staff management, he turned the fortunes of the store around.
He eventually decided to sell the store, using the profit to invest in a similar opportunity to take over the chain's struggling Armagh branch - a move which saw it go from just two members of staff to 17.
The shop was named the 2015 winner of the same award and bolstered Darren's reputation as 'The Fixer'.
Darren knew he wanted to buy another Northern Ireland store and had been looking at various areas, one of which was Newry.
He found a site he knew would work well and following a complete build and fit out he opened his Newry store last year, which is going well.
Darren met his wife Laura (26) at the Dun Laoghaire outlet, where she worked behind the counter, and now the two of them run the three stores together.
Each shop costs around £150,000 to set up.
Darren said: "It's a lot harder to start stores from scratch because you don't have any existing customers or staff to work with.
"It's easier for me to come in to a struggling store, spot mistakes and make changes. It's been hard work, but I've really enjoyed being able to set up two stores myself."