In 2009, Jim Kolzow was looking for ways to enter the restaurant industry and when he discovered Pancheros Mexican Grill he knew it was an opportunity worth pursuing.

Having frequented the burrito brand in his college years, Kolzow was no stranger to the fresh-pressed tortillas and Burritos Better Built. It was the right opportunity at the right time to pursue his dream of business ownership. Fifteen years later, and backed with confidence in his work ethic, Kolzow now owns three successful Pancheros restaurants in New Jersey.

Clear Path to Business Owner

Kolzow graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2004 but had been cultivating a desire for entrepreneurship well before then. While working at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey, Kolzow met his business partner, Mike Yurcho, who also shared the same lifetime goal. The pair loved the idea of fast-casual Mexican food but couldn’t find the right brand that exceeded their expectations. They needed a sustainable business model that offered simple operations and strong guest loyalty. Pancheros was the answer.


While working through a 10-year military contract, Kolzow seized the business opportunity and opened their first restaurant in Voorhees, New Jersey in 2009. Seven years later in 2016, the pair opened their second restaurant in West Berlin, New Jersey. They opened their latest New Jersey restaurant, Cherry Hill, in February 2022. Their restaurants have produced a large fanbase, helping to build strong brand recognition and loyalty on the East Coast.

Military Takeaways

In his final year of his contract, Kolzow was wrapping up his master’s degree from Oklahoma State and well on his way to becoming a leader within the restaurant industry. Throughout his time in the service, he found that many of his skills could easily translate into entrepreneurship.

Kolzow learned how to adapt to any situation and persevere through adversity which has served him well as a restaurant owner. When asked about what the military taught him, he said, “It teaches you a lot that you don’t know about yourself, as well as a lot about your potential ventures in life. It also brings out a level of perseverance that you didn’t know you had which translates well to business ownership.”

Ultimately, Kolzow’s persistence and drive is what propelled his businesses to be successful and highly rated amongst customers. The discipline and strong work ethic that was instilled in Kolzow through his military background proved to be his greatest asset in opening his Pancheros locations.

“Believe in yourself that it’s going to work out and go for it,” said Kolzow. “Surround yourself with the right people and form those strategic partnerships that can really take you far in the long run.”

Community Initiatives

Kolzow also credits his teamwork and communication skills to be key components to his business success. By building a strong leadership team, he was able to focus on multiple ventures such as being a commercial pilot and growing a family, all while building his burrito business.

Because of these values, he and business partner Yurcho invested in their communities by partnering with local schools to provide burrito dinners to sports teams. Then, Pancheros would host Queso for a Cause events that raised money for the schools to utilize.

“This fundraising initiative really changed the business for us,” said Kolzow. “It was really important to me to have the opportunity to get to know our guests on a one-on-one level and bring everyone together. The communities we serve are more familiar with the sit-down style and this program introduced mass amounts of customers to the fast-casual concept.”

When asked what advice he has for veterans looking for entrepreneurship opportunities, Kolzow said, “you should have peace of mind that your skillset can support your venture and know that franchising will always keep you on your toes. I can confidently say that if you’re looking to pursue a unique, challenging, and rewarding business venture, the Pancheros Mexican Grill franchise is for you. Regardless of personal or professional pursuits, I want to truly thank all Veterans for their service to the country.”