Tom Landis of Howdy Homemade On The Benefits Of Running A Purpose-Driven Business

An Interview With Chad Silverstein

You need to surround yourself with wise counselors. Don’t be afraid to hold people close that will be honest with you, help make tough decisions. I have a friend of mine who is a great businessman I can call every Tuesday to ‘beat me up’ and tell.

In today’s competitive business landscape, the race for profits often takes center stage. However, there are some leaders who also prioritize a mission-driven purpose. They use their business to make a positive social impact and recognize that success isn’t only about making money. In this interview series, we are talking with some of these distinct leaders and I had the pleasure of interviewing Tom Landis.

Tom Landis is a Dallas-based entrepreneur who has an intrinsic desire to make a difference in the lives of those with special needs. As an experienced restaurant franchisee, Landis became keenly aware of the lack of employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Additionally, Landis came across the book, Another Season: A Coach’s Story of Raising an Exceptional Son by the legendary University of Alabama and Texas A&M football coach Gene Stallings, who shares the moving story about his life’s journey with his son Johnny who had Down Syndrome. This ignited Landis’ passion, inspiring him to take swift action and create a business with a ‘people plan’ that offers opportunities for those who are often overlooked.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us your “Origin Story”? Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

“I grew up in Washington, DC and my mom had Polio; She could never drive, so we relied on public transportation. But she never complained about anything and dedicated her time to helping high school dropouts get their GEDs. My father was also lucky enough to hear MLK’s “I Have A Dream” speech in person, which led him to make a loan for the first black restaurant. I think I was just really lucky to have two parents who were great role models and always prioritized helping others over profit.”

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

“One of my employee’s Moms had a very good friend who would visit them every time she came into town. They would always meet up and chat. But a few months after the first Howdy opened, that friend wanted to come visit, but the employee’s Mom had to explain “Sorry, Brandt can’t make it. He has to work,” which may seem trivial to others, but it had them bawling because they just never could have imagined that it would be in the cards for her son. 8 years later it sticks with me, because millions of Americans still don’t have that opportunity.”

We often learn the most from our mistakes. Can you share one that you made that turned out to be one of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned?

“When we opened the first Howdy, I picked a very expensive location in the interest of protecting the safety of my employees. It turned out to be unnecessary because our employees are fully capable of running the store, even better than the typical person. They go through the full checklist meticulously and hold the best standards of service for customers.”

As a successful leader, it’s clear that you uphold strong core values. I’m curious what are the most important principles you firmly stand by and refuse to compromise on. Can you share a few of them and explain why they hold such significance for you in your work and life?

The biggest one is grace. Some people in this industry don’t have the capability to grasp that. Grace is required to be continuously centered, especially in our line of business.

What inspired you to start a purpose-driven business rather than a traditional for-profit enterprise? Can you share a personal story or experience that led you to prioritize social impact in your business?

Absolutely, that would be Legendary Coach Gene Stallings. I’ve always thought that greatness comes from doing a million nice little things that you don’t need to do. He revolutionized the way that people look at people with disabilities. Not only did he have a hard job as a coach, he also had a child with special needs who most people at the time had seen as an inconvenience to Stallings’ career. He truly changed the tide for the community.

Can you help articulate a few of the benefits of leading a purpose-driven business rather than a standard “plain vanilla” business?

I was a franchisee for several different concepts in my career. I was at a conference with one of the biggest franchises ever, and they were giving a presentation about their business but had a cartoon character as the face of the entire thing. It was insane to me to see someone trying to sell their entire business with no true face or mission besides money. Nowadays, people care more about what your business stands for rather than what product you provide. Because we change lives, customers are more inclined to support us as we continue on our journey.

How has your company’s mission or purpose affected its overall success? Can you explain the methods or metrics you use to evaluate the impact of this purpose-driven strategy on your organization?

I don’t know what I don’t know, but I have a mission that will lead us to be in roughly 2000 grocery stores by the end of this year. So I know we can open franchises and sell great ice cream, but the true metric is how many real, sustainable jobs we can create for the special needs community.

Can you share a pivotal moment when you realized that leading your purpose-driven company was actually making a significant impact? Can you share a specific example or story that deeply resonated with you personally?

When we realized we could open franchises in other cities. We opened in Denver about a year ago. At the grand opening, it was amazing to be there and see the number of parents that would come up with tears in their eyes saying “We didn’t ever think our child would be able to get a job.” If there’s anything that Howdy is, it’s hope.

Have you ever faced a situation where your commitment to your purpose and creating a positive social impact clashed with the profitability of your business? Have you ever been challenged by anyone on your team or had to make a tough decision that had a significant impact on your finances? If so, how did you address and reconcile this conflict?

It’s happened before with certain people or investors who can only see the financial aspect of the business. Howdy is a double-edged sword. As long as Howdy Homemade is used for good, I believe it will go forward. The moment we make it just about profit, we will die and I think we should at that point.”

What are your “Top 5 Things You Need To Know in Order To Create A Highly Successful Purpose-Driven Business.”

1 . What do you worship? The only way I could do Howdy was when I stopped worshiping my house. When entrepreneurs say “I don’t have any money,” I ask them what they have on their key ring. I ask them how badly they really want it because I think they need to go all in.

2 . You need to surround yourself with wise counselors. Don’t be afraid to hold people close who will be honest with you, and help make tough decisions. I have a friend of mine who is a great businessman I can call every Tuesday to ‘beat me up’ and tell.

3 . The single biggest decision you can make in your business is your spouse. Howdy would not exist without my wife’s support. She has given up so much, and truly believes in Howdy as much as I do.

4 . Put others first. People say it but don’t really do it. I’ve even had to check myself in the past. For example, I had the opportunity to pitch retail to one of the biggest grocers in the world, but I decided to let an employee, Bossman Brandt pitch it and within 4 minutes they were sold. Put others first and believe in your team.

5 . This is the most important, sing your own song. Stay true to yourself and your mission. You need to be yourself and it’s something that a lot of people struggle with but is super important for leading a business.

I’m interested in how you instill a strong sense of connection with your team. How do you nurture a culture where everyone feels connected to your mission? Could you share an example or story that showcases how your purpose has positively influenced or motivated people on your team to contribute?

“Two different styles of leadership. The first is leadership by example, not asking anyone to do anything that you wouldn’t do. The second is, from a business standpoint, there is no better way to build teamwork than prayer. No matter what anybody thinks or believes, it solidifies our connection as a team and is actually really led by the teams of employees we have. “

Imagine we’re sitting down together two years from now, looking back at your company’s last 24 months. What specific accomplishments would have to happen for you to be happy with your progress?

I imagine and hope that in two years, let’s say my daughter has to write a report about a figure in her life and she asks me, “Dad, what do you do for a living and what makes it special?” I would respond “I try to create jobs for people with special needs,” then she rolls her eyes and says “Oh Dad, everyone does that!”

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

“I say it all the time, but I want to inspire a movement that shows the full capabilities of Howdy’s employees. I want this to carry into other aspects and industries in life, to show that those with special needs are great speakers, leaders, and motivators who deserve all the credit.”

How can our readers further follow your work or your company online?

Check out our website,, or visit our Instagram page @howdyhomemade to stay in the loop about new franchises, flavors, stories, and more. Plus, keep an eye out for us in your local grocery store, Howdy is growing and we don’t have plans on stopping any time soon.

This was great. Thanks for taking time for us to learn more about you and your business. We wish you continued success!

About the Interviewer: Chad Silverstein is a successful entrepreneur with more than two decades of experience as a successful founder and CEO. He started his first company, Choice Recovery, Inc. a third-party collection agency, out of his apartment while going to The Ohio State University. He grew the business nationwide and represented more than 10,000 clients before he sold the company on his 25th anniversary. Chad’s second venture [re]start, a career development platform that helps people find new jobs, launched in 2013 as a division inside his agency. [re]start was a catalyst to Chad’s team becoming an industry outlier after connecting thousands of people sent to collections with new career opportunities so they could afford to pay their bills and get out of debt. His team was nationally recognized for their social impact, while twice being ranked the #1 business to work for in Central Ohio. Chad sold [re]start in 2023 and is now a writer and thought leader for Authority Magazine’s Entrepreneur and Sports Editorials. He also offers an exclusive executive leadership program inside his online community at Authentic Authority.