Debbi Fields is the Founder of Mrs. Fields Cookies. The business was started in 1977 in Palo Alto, California as Mrs. Field's Chocolate Chippery. The name was changed as the company began to diversify beyond the venerable chocolate chip. The company grosses over $300 million from over 1000 outlets in 9 countries.
At age 20 Debbi Fields decided being a housewife wasn't enough and despite family, husband, friends and bankers who said no "with cookie breath and their lips smeared with chocolate", she managed to get a loan.
Her husband Randy said she wouldn't sell $50 worth of cookies the first day. After several hours in the shop with no sales, as any good entrepreneur would do, she took to the streets! She assembled a tray of cookies and started to offer samples to the passers-by. By the end of the day, she rang-up $75 in sales. Her husband Randy, would later become an integral part of the companies growth.
As the business grew, Debbi Fields was very conscious of her regular customers. She would often have coffee and cookies ready when they arrived. Making people feel special is an important ingredient in her recipe for success. In fact, it was on the advice and persistence of her loyal employees, that she open additional stores.
The company based in Utah (the Fields residence with their 2 daughters), has enjoyed a tremendous level of success and now employs over 5,000 people. Debbi Fields speaks to many groups and published a cook book entitled, "I Love Chocolate". She is involved in many philanthropic causes. Her present responsibility in the company is operations management, new product development, public relations and of course, brand name management.
"I knew I loved making cookies and every time I did, I made people happy. That was my business plan"
"I knew I had something special when my customers started calling in sick"
Entrepreneurship at an Early Age
Debbi got the baking bug and a "taste" for entrepreneurship at the age of 13 when she received her first paycheck from a job with the Oakland A's baseball organization. She found that "real" ingredients such as butter, vanilla, and real chocolate made for "real" cookies. She also learned the wonderful lesson that everyone needs to feel important. She received inspiration from her father (a welder by trade) learning that happiness was found in friends, family and enjoying what you do.
She scraped through high school and went to junior college to see if she could finally earn an "A" in school. She met her husband to be, Randy Fields, an economist who would become a key catalyst for the company's growth and management in years to come. In this instance, behind every great woman there's a great man!
Key thoughts for entrepreneurs
In the opening paragraph you'll note that Mrs. Field's Cookies began as Mrs. Field's Chocolate Chippery. While a name change for this company was made early on to include a broader range of cookie flavors, the name of a company can have a tremendous impact on success. Let's Talk Business Radio often asks our esteemed guests what things would have been done differently if they could turn back the clock on their journey's. While there are *many* thoughts, many feel they failed to dream big enough! This is very humbling from people who have companies valued at hundreds of millions of dollars.
If you would have asked Mrs. Field's back in 1977 if she thought her company would have grown to 1000 stores she probably would have laughed the way others laughed upon opening her first store. There are many lessons here. The first is that we all must be open to the many people and ideas around us. As we move through the entrepreneurial journey opportunities will come along that we can't possibly dream of. Mrs. Field's now sells a variety of cookies. When you name your company, it should be broad-based enough to incorporate growth. A tag line can also support your name very effectively. Let's Talk Business Network , Inc. has a tag line of "Your Entrepreneurial Support Community". This is used on all marketing materials, press releases, trade show banners and so on. You'll notice that large companies will change their tag lines and more or less use them as advertising slogans. Large companies are always looking to "freshen up" their image in the market with latest public opinion, people, and places.
Mrs. Field's has a very simple business recipe. Treat people with quality ingredients, care, and respect and you'll have a great start on success. She is an inspiration to every one of us because she is every one of us. She is not a Harvard grad nor a trust fund beneficiary. She was a simple person with a fire in her oven, tremendous values and a great idea to put smiles on patrons faces with her baking. Some statistics say that each person has several ideas in their lifetime that could be make them millionaires. Success is found in the execution of an honest idea.