One Tough Cookie – The Story of Mrs. Fields

Published in Inspiration

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When you think of how successful Mrs. Fields' cookie shops are, it is hard to imagine that this business almost didn't make it. Debbie Fields was not an instant success. She encountered many obstacles and naysayers on her road to fortune.

Debbie Fields, maiden name Debra Sivyer, was one of five children in the home of an U.S. Navy father and stay at home mother. Living in poverty, the family found that eating high quality meals was nearly impossible. To make matters worse, Debra's mother was not a good cook. As a result, Debra and her sisters hated eating what her mother cooked. To make up for the bad dinners, Debra baked cookies for her father and sisters, using whatever ingredients she could find in the house.

At 13 years old, Debra got her first job on a baseball field. She continued to work through her teens. She saved her money to buy ingredients for more cookies. Her cookies made her, and the people around her, happy. Debra continued baking throughout her teen years, perfecting her cookies. At the age of 19 she married Randy Fields, a recent college graduate. He pursued a career; she stayed home to care for the house and children. She didn't like being a housewife and knew she wanted to do something else with her life.

Her father had always said do whatever makes you happy, and for Debbie Fields it was baking cookies. She drew up a business plan, baked a batch of cookies, and visited the local bank to apply for a loan. They turned her down, but that didn't deter her. The next day she baked more cookies and went to a different bank. Again, she was turned down for a loan. The pattern continued. The banks felt she was a bad risk because she didn't have any work or business experience. Even her family and friends tried to dissuade her, telling her she would fail at the baking business. She could have given up and returned to her kitchen at home, but she was determined to succeed. Finally, with her husband backing her, she was approved for a $50,000 small business loan from the Bank of America.

Debbie Fields opened her first cookie store in Palo Alto, California in 1977. She opened the store that first day expecting customers to come in and see what she had to offer. She even bet her husband that she could make $50 that first day. After several hours, not a single customer had come in. Undaunted, Mrs. Fields took her cookies and walked up and down the sidewalk in front of the store. She offered samples to passersby. Eventually, people entered the store. She made a total of $75 that first day. While it wasn't a fortune, it was a start. She made a few small changes in her business plan and continued to bake her delicious cookies.

Today, Mrs. Fields cookies has over 750 locations in 33 different countries. Corporate owned and franchise locations exist in airports and shopping malls all over the United States. Additionally, the products are available in vending machines, on airline flights, and from the Mrs. Fields company's website. Debbie Fields' cookie company is now worth over $1 billion. She and her husband live in Tennessee. Her products are produced in a factory in California and shipped all over the world. If there ever was an entrepreneurial success story, Debbie Fields of Mrs. Fields Cookies is the perfect example. She grew up in a poor home and worked hard to make her cookies an internationally recognized brand.

A penny for your thoughts!

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