Nicole Harper Rawlins and her sister Kerri Harper-Howie own 18 McDonald’s restaurants in LA County, many in economically depressed neighborhoods of Compton and Lynwood.
This duo took over the family business from their mother. Patricia Williams, now retired at 78, bought her first McDonald’s 30 years ago, after quitting her job as a rehab therapist and cashing in her 401k.
“A black woman in the 90s who ran these restaurants on her own — she must have shown tremendous courage,” Kerri said. “The will and courage to make such a change was incredible foresight for her and I have to assume she did it because she thought she would be able to create more opportunities for Nicole and me. “
His daughters went on to successful careers in psychology and law before taking over restaurants in 2019.
“One of the comments we always get is, ‘Oh, we didn’t even know African Americans owned McDonald’s,'” Nicole said. “So the opportunity to show that we’re obviously African American women and doing business is something we’re very proud of.”
The sisters have employed more than 700 people throughout LA County, and 14 of their 18 general managers are women.
They carry on their mother’s legacy by partnering with community groups, hoping to inspire the next generation of girls.
“To let people see examples of what can be possible — and let them now that there are black women in these communities and we are passionate about service,” Kerri said. “We really try to share our story and if we can be an inspiration, so much the better.”