One Smart Cookie: The Founder of Mrs. Fields Shares How She Did It

Libby Kane
Posted

Were there any rough spots when you were getting started?

The morning my first store opened, my husband bet I couldn’t make $50 in sales. Of course, I took that bet. I was sitting in the store on our first day, waiting for customers, and after a few hours, I realized that not only were there no customers, I was going to lose that bet.

So I took to the streets. I walked up and down the street, letting people try the product, and that day I ended up selling $75 worth. I had to realize that failure means something isn’t working–and I had to try something new.

I structured my business to give me immediate feedback so I could see right away whether I was failing. I used to get the profit and loss sheets ten days after the month ended, and that was just too long to wait. So I sat down and worked out not only how much I needed to make per month, but also per day and then per hour. It was something like $32 an hour. And hey, we could do that!  Even as the company grew, we still set our sales goals by the hour.

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When was the moment you knew you made it big?

I think success is something you earn every day, and I never felt like I earned it. I break it down to every customer, every cookie: If I didn’t make my customer happy and my team didn’t honor the recipe and our purpose, I wasn’t successful in that moment. It’s easy to get comfortable, but it’s important never to lose touch with that feeling of opening day–that enthusiasm and excitement, that desire to touch every customer.

What’s an entrepreneurial trick you’ve learned along the way?

Never ask a question that can be answered with the word, “no.” This doesn’t just apply to business; it’s for daily life as well.

For instance, when I call a hotel I don’t ask, “Can you give me a discount?” First, I get the name of the person I’m speaking with, and then ask them to direct me to the person who can give me the lowest price on a room. When I get to that person, I ask if they’re the person with the power to say, “Yes.” They tell me that they are, and at that point, they’ve already agreed! I just haven’t asked yet.

What are some of your own personal finance tips and tricks?

Because I grew up on imitations, margarine and fake, to me the most important thing is to buy the best. That doesn’t always mean designer, or most expensive–it means pure and good and what makes you happy. What I’ve learned is that “good enough” never is … that’s the philosophy of Mrs. Fields.

I buy things because I fall in love. First I fall in love, then I see if I can afford it. If I can’t, it doesn’t mean I can’t still love it–I just won’t own it. I would rather love something and appreciate it than compromise and buy something that I don’t love instead. If it’s something I could maybe afford, I  sleep on it for a few days, then check back. If it’s there and meant to be, it’s mine.

After growing up with limited means, the little things give me joy. I just bought a pair of inexpensive sparkle shoes–I love things that sparkle!

Any final words of wisdom?

The American dream is true. It works and it’s possible for everybody. Even the word “impossible” says “I’m possible.”

Giveaway Alert!

Mouth watering yet? Win one of Mrs. Fields’ best-selling recipe books by entering over at our Facebook page!

  • Marie

    I LOVE this article!! Mrs. Fields Cookie Book was one of my first cookbooks; I loved making her cookies growing up. I am currently on the hold list at my library for her book, One Smart Cookie, which is about starting her business (I’m surprised they didn’t mention it here, although it did come out a long, long time ago).

    What an inspiring story of persevering in spite of naysayers and other roadblocks. Go, Mrs. Fields!

  • Engchik

     I am honored to read this and get such amazing advice from an amazing woman! I am the same way in many areas- never ask anyone in a way they can say no- ask them in a way they can say YES!!! THX!

  • Mtejada

    One Smart Cookie?!  Is that how you describe a business owner who’s company filed for Chapter 11 twice in a period of 3 years?  I’m pretty sure that anyone who invested or lent credit to this organization would have a very different adjective for this “cookie”.

    • Gtbarnes

       To be fair, Mtejada, Mrs Fields sold the company in the early 1990s to an investment group.  While she remained as company spokeswoman, she was no longer in control and making the decisions that led to the bankruptcy in 2008 and near bankruptcy last year

  • Goldberry

    This is a nice article, but it’s so sad that someone felt they could criticize her like that for her English.  I find incorrect English annoying but I hope that I would never be so insensitive.  Obviously there is more to a person than their grammar or vocabulary (obscenity aside).  Snobbery could have the opposite effect and completely crush someone instead of inspiring them to achieve more.

    • http://mauishopgirl.com/ Taniashop

      Agreed.  I live in Hawaii where many people speak pidgin English and some ESL speak broken English. Being able to speak English well does not mean you are more intelligent or more intuitive than someone else and that is the erroneous assumption that many make. 

    • Peter Hoffman

      What’s even more amazing is that “orientated” is NOT incorrect!

      http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-ori1.htm

      Just imagine, if the boor had actually known what he was talking about, she might not have become the success she is!

  • Marge Edgerton

    I LOOOOVE THIS ARTICLE!!!!!!!!!!! so inspiring! fabulous hearfelt story!

  • LVSquared

    “For instance, when I call a hotel I don’t ask, “Can you give me a discount?”
    First, I get the name of the person I’m speaking with, and then ask
    them to direct me to the person who can give me the lowest price on a
    room. When I get to that person, I ask if they’re the person with the
    power to say, “Yes.” They tell me that they are, and at that point,
    they’ve already agreed! I just haven’t asked yet.” <<< This is amazing! Thanks for the advice :)

  • Quadira Sophia

    What an encouraging story! Years ago, I decided I wanted to be the next Mrs. Fields, and created some awesome cookie recipes of my own. Only I never had the necessary funds to really launch my business. I haven’t dared to get out a loan, not only due to credit rating, but also from fear of not being able to pay it back. Now I’ll have to reconsider how to launch my own dream, CW Sweets! (I create magnificent candies and a frozen dessert as well as cookies.)

    • Erica Stinson

      I am in the same boat. No capital and afraid to try for a loan.  It’s hard out there if you don’t have the capital up front, I am learning…

  • Miriam

    Loved the last quote – Terrific story :-)

  • Erica Stinson

    Glad I read this.  I am currently trying to turn my baking hobby into a business since I am unemployed for almost two years now.  I hope I can do it!

    • Mel

       You can :)

  • Corinne Phillips

    I have a new small business called Pretty Petals and yes everyone can get started and do what you really enjoy…it is soooo rewarding for me and I love to be at my shop everyday. I haven’t been in business for long but know the growth is slow!! I am working on my business plan and hope to achieve more capital in the coming year 2013!!

  • clover

    I like this article