John Cassimus is the son of Marcus and Zoë Cassimus and was born and raised in Birmingham, AL. As an energetic child, John excelled in football, baseball and track and caught the fever for hunting and fishing in Alabama’s Black Belt when he was 8 years old. He graduated from Mountain Brook High School where he was a two time All State football player and Adidas Honorable Mention All-American. He earned MVP honors in football and baseball. He finished with 3000+ yards rushing in his career. He signed a football scholarship with the University of Alabama in 1985. While at Alabama, John earned 3 varsity letters and played in 38 consecutive games as a punt returner, running back, strong safety and wide receiver. During his Senior season, in 1989, Alabama was crowned Southeastern Conference Champions. John graduated in 1990 with a degree in Finance from the Culverhouse School of Business.
After a successful 3 year career with Met Life Insurance company in Birmingham, AL, John decided to follow his entrepreneurial instincts. In 1993 he founded J Rag USA, a pre-printed apparel line providing products and services to the outdoor retail industry. In 1996, after successfully growing J Rag into a national brand, he sold the company to pursue other entrepreneurial ventures. He then became the President of a consulting company for Hilb, Rogal & Hamilton, a large publicly owned insurance brokerage firm. He successfully implemented growth strategies as the company’s co-leader and helped its revenue sky rocket from $500,000 to $4,300,000 in 18 months. Once again he felt the itch to start another company. He decided to take his mother’s 3-year-old fast casual restaurant concept, Zoë’s Kitchen, and attempt to grow it into a national brand. Having risked everything to start his new company, John knew that failure wasn’t an option. Over the next 8 years, through a tireless, relentless pursuit, John grew Zoë’s Kitchen into a regional brand with 19 locations in 6 states. The Zoë’s Kitchen business model created industry leading profitability and a consistent 98% customer loyalty and satisfaction rating. In mid-2007, Zoë’s Kitchen was being courted by many interested private equity firms. In late 2007, with the help of Brookwood Associates, an investment banking firm located in Atlanta, GA, John sold the majority of Zoë’s Kitchen to Brentwood Associates, a private equity firm based in Los Angeles, CA. John remains an equity partner in Zoë’s Kitchen to this day. By the end of 2013, Zoë’s Kitchen will operate 105 fast casual restaurants in the United States and will employ over 3000 people. John remained CEO until the end of 2008 and then retired to shift his energies to the growth of Jinsei Sushi and Maki Fresh. Both of these concepts were created by John. Jinsei is an award winning fine dining Japanese concept based and founded in Birmingham, AL in 2006 and another location in Oxford Mississippi that opened in August 2013. John plans on opening 10 locations over the next 3 years in the Southeast United States. Maki Fresh is a fast casual Japanese concept John founded in 2008. Maki Fresh is a franchise brand with four locations in Birmingham, Atlanta and Montgomery, but many more in the works. John is also the founder of Sawtooth Plantation, a hunting resort in Southeast Alabama. Sawtooth is considered by many to be the number one hunting resort in Alabama. Sawtooth provides full service Whitetail Deer and Turkey hunting as well as world class cuisine and unparalleled service. Sawtooth is also a licensed deer breeding facility.
John serves on the Board of the Alabama Entrepreneurship Institute at the University of Alabama, the Business School Advisory Board at the University of Mississippi and serves as Entrepreneur in Residence at Samford University. John is a highly regarded public speaker and donates numerous speeches to numerous universities. John enjoys hunting, fishing, cycling, kiteboarding, snowboarding, running, photography, cooking, gardening and traveling. He is an avid pilot with 2500+ hours of logged time. John’s parents are Marcus and Zoë Cassimus and he has one daughter and two older sisters.