Cooking Up a Storm: Fields Opens Up Shop
After realizing how unsatisfied with her life she had become, Fields decided something needed to change. And, she knew instantly what it was. “In that room, that evening, I made a decision that I was going to go into the cookie business,” says Fields, “that that was my calling, that that was what I could do best.”
The week after she had made her decision, Fields thought it was time to present the idea to her family. “You know, all these years, all these years you’ve been eating my cookies,” Fields told them. “All these years you’ve been telling me how wonderful they are. Well, I’ve decided I’m going to go into the cookie business.”
Fields was not sure what to expect, but she thought at least they would have been supportive of her plan. She was wrong. Both her parents as well as her husband objected to her decision, stating she had no business getting into business for herself.
Fields ignored them all and set out on her mission. Taking with her a brief business plan that she had written up, along with a batch of freshly made cookies, Fields began to approach bankers one by one with her proposal. Much to her surprise, they happily ate the cookies only to reject the business plan moments later.
She became so desperate to find financing that she began to go through institutions one by one through the Yellow Pages. Still, however she was seeing little success. Nobody wanted to back a woman with no business experience and little formal education to boot.
That is until one day, Fields found a banker who saw through the lack of experience to her passion behind it all. He agreed to give Fields the money she needed to get her dream off the ground, even if it was at 21 percent interest. “It was the cheapest money I could have,” says Fields, “because it was the only money I could get.”
In Palo Alto, California in 1977, Fields opened up her first cookie store. Although sales were slow to start and Fields was forced to go out into the street to offer free samples, she eventually got it up and running. Over the next six years, Mrs. Fields would multiply throughout the U.S. By the end of 1984, there were more than 160 cookie outlets across the country, which along with four international stores, were bringing in $45 million in revenue. Today, with over 2,300 locations and revenues nearing $1 billion, the company remains one of the strongest brands in the country.
Fields has since sold the company she started but remains active as a consultant and is its official spokesperson. She has authored several best-selling cookbooks, and hosted her own weekly television show called “Great American Desserts.” In 2003, her success was such that Fields was inducted into The Society of Entrepreneurs, a decision made by her peers to reward her achievements, leadership, and determination. Fields is also now the mother of five children, a title she wears most proudly.
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