Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

Knoxville Business News Tennessee Mountain Scenery Background
PrepWizard 2024
March 11, 2024 | Katelyn Keenehan

PrepWizard food labeling shares secret sauce to growth

The company was the winner of the Ballard Innovation Award two years ago.

Two years ago, PrepWizard took the stage at the PYA Ballard Innovation Award. They prepared, pitched, and secured the first-place prize of $10,000 in capital and $40,000 in in-kind services. Recently, we caught up with Cole Harris, the President of PrepWizard to hear about how the competition helped jumpstart their business.

PrepWizard is a family-owned company. It is run by Cole, his brother Eli Harris, the Chief Technology Officer (CTO), and his Dad Doug Harris, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). The basis of the business is a specialized technology that prints food labels for restaurants, saving employees time and ultimately the company’s money.

This all got started at Papa John’s. Throughout Cole’s childhood, his dad owned Papa John’s franchises in Alabama and Georgia. The whole family was extremely involved in the food business and identified a major problem that was wasting employee time and hurting the culture.

One of the mundane tasks that food service workers perform regularly is labeling food. When was it prepared? When will it expire? They must write the same thing on dozens of storage containers.

“It’s a boring task, and nobody wants to do it,” Harris said. “So, what if we could create a way to streamline that process?”

That’s exactly what the family did. They created technology through an app that allows employees to print the labels directly from a phone, instead of writing them by hand.

Immediately, the family was able to test the effectiveness of the app and process at their own Papa John’s franchises. Before long, PrepWizard was implemented in Papa John’s stores across the country!

“Landing more Papa John’s locations gave us the confidence to go after other, well-established brands,” Harris said.

He shared that the biggest hurdle was bridging the gap between an employee (the one using the technology) and an owner (the one with the purchasing power).

“Employees became our biggest advocates because they can vouch for how the technology makes them more efficient,” he said.

The PYA Ballard Innovation Award helped PrepWizard in many ways, Harris said.

They took the $10,000 in capital and put it toward their application process to get a bid from a large quick-service chain. They capitalized on the in-kind services from PYA to seek out accounting support and write up warranties on the printers that would make their company more competitive, but also not lose them money in the long run.

They also used PYA’s video services to create promotional material with one of their customers, Subway. To this day, they still use the footage!

Since the competition, they also developed WorkWIzard, an operations management app.  It helps multi-unit operators execute standards and improve visibility.

PrepWizard has grown by 400% in the past two years. You can now find their technologies in 15,000 stores across the U.S. Harris said by the end of 2024, they anticipate the technology will be in 23,000 locations.

Furthermore, when they won the PYA Ballard Innovation Award, they had four employees. Today, the company has 16.

PrepWizard can be found in nearly every major fast-food chain including Taco Bell, Papa John’s, Burger King, Subway, Jack in the Box, Sonic, KFC, and more.

“We are thankful for the support of PYA and the Knoxville community,” Harris said. “It has been a great place to set up shop and we cannot wait to continue growing.”

The application is open now for the PYA Ballard Innovation Award. The application closes on March 15.

Like what you've read?

Forward to a friend!

Don’t Miss Out on the Southeast’s Latest Entrepreneurial, Business, & Tech News!

Sign-up to get the Teknovation Newsletter in your inbox each morning!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

No, thanks!