It’s easy to bake a batch of cookies… simply follow the instructions on the back of the box and in 14 to 16 minutes you are rewarded with a delicious treat. However, it is far more difficult to make a $450 million dollar business using the same ingredients, yet Debbi Fields managed to do just that. Growing up in a family who struggled to make ends meet with a mother who hated cooking, Mrs. Fields found comfort in baking cookies. After completing high school, she got married and enjoyed her role as a stay-at-home wife. She seemed to have it all until one night, at a cocktail party with her husband, she was chastised by the host for using incorrect grammar. Mrs. Fields was embarrassed by her blunder and the public humiliation that followed at the hands of her host. She was reduced to tears but, in that moment, she had a wakeup call and decided she needed to pursue what she loved, which for her, meant baking cookies. After years of being content as an unemployed wife, dependent on her husband for any money, she had a sudden change of heart which inspired the creation of her current empire.
With no business experience, reaching her goal was no easy feat. Debbi was faced with many challenges along the way including the fact that she had no money, and no bank was willing to invest in a business centered around a cookie recipe. Through sheer persistence, she was finally able to get the necessary loan to open a bakeshop and store located in Palo Alto, CA. Twenty years later she was able to expand Mrs. Field’s to a multimillion dollar company. As the company continued to expand, Debbi took advantage of new technologies to keep operations organized and efficient. Throughout her time as an entrepreneur, she has worked to keep her business organized so that its growth came smoothly and she has been able to successfully oversee all parts of the company.
Debbi Fields is an excellent example of someone who reached a crossroad in her life and made a conscious decision to change the direction in which she was heading. While the path she chose was not easy, and she struggled to start her business, she ultimately succeeded beyond even her wildest dreams. Looking at her story, there are many lessons that can be learned from the way she coped with the difficulties faced in starting a business from scratch. In an interview she preached, “Good enough never is.” She always keeps an open mind about making adjustments and innovations to improve. This attitude aided her success as she always seeks ways to improve not just her life, but her business. She never “settles” and this is an invaluable trait that helps her keep her company relevant and successful. A lot can be learned from the face of chocolate chip cookies.
To read more about other women who have overcome big challenges go to WSJ.com/SOTY