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March 9, 2022 17 mins

In this episode of “Life’s Tough—YOU Can Be TOUGHER!” host Dustin Plantholt talks to Denise Ilitch, an owner of Ilitch Family Companies and President of Ilitch Enterprises, an empire begun by her parents when they opened their first restaurant in 1959— Little Ceasar’s Pizza Treat in Garden City, Detroit. 

The oldest of seven children, Denise learned early to serve and to speak up. With humble beginnings she saw her parents build success from the ground up. Neither of her parents went to college or had formal business training. She says they were “incredibly bright and gifted all on their own.” 


In addition to be being signed by the Detroit Tigers, her father sold pots and pans door-to-door to make ends meet in the early days. He claimed this was how he learned about marketing, by listening to people decide how to spend their money. His love of Italian food led him to try different restaurants when he was traveling with the farm team, all of which led him to start his own. 


Much of what Denise learned about success she attributes to spending time with her father and she eagerly sought out opportunities to be by his side. Through his mentorship she was able to apply what she learned to her own life. Her first principle of leadership? Do the work. Recovery and moving forward post-pandemic will require adaptability, but work ethic is important.  

Now she wants to help others to use the same lessons. She says she still aims to make her dad proud, carrying on his legacy of treating everyone equally, learning from others and doing good. She stared her own podcast, The Denise Ilitch Show, to pay it forward. She’s observed that all successful people have courage, confidence and a ‘can do’ attitude and her guests reflect those qualities.  

“The more you invest in others the more you’ll get back.” 

Listen to the Denise Ilitch Show wherever you get podcasts. If you have a great story to share on the podcast, she’d love to hear from you @thedeniseilitchshow. 

To discover more from Life’s Tough Media’s expansive collection of inspiring podcasts and services, follow our social media @LifesToughMedia and visit 

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