Sharing the story of her accelerated rise up the corporate ladder, from her start working as a hostess to leading some of the world’s best-known food brands, Kat Cole provides insight and perspective on what it takes to create and lead successful teams, drive innovation and growth, lead with heart and sustain excellence.
Kat Cole’s improbable rise from working as a Hooters Girl to running a billion-dollar brand in under two decades is an exemplary story of grit, service and hustle. Her belief system about how to do business and make tough decisions, her strategy around building brands, managing change and innovating business models, and her unrelenting commitment to serving others have continued to prove successful.
Curious, helpful and armed with a tenacious work ethic, Cole rapidly worked her way up through the corporate ranks from humble beginnings, learning from and building strong teams.
By the time she was 26, Cole had already earned the role of vice president of multinational brand, doing $800 million in revenue at Hooters. She was soon recruited by FOCUS Brands and Cinnabon to serve as chief operating officer, was promoted to president of the company within three months, and simultaneously worked to earn her Master of Business Administration degree.
Cole accomplished this without ever finishing her undergraduate degree. Widely respected for her skills in business model innovation, brand building, servant leadership, and the ability to build strong, flexible teams, Cole reveals the skills and mentalities that helped catapult her monumental success.
Under her leadership, Cinnabon’s multichannel brand team saw record sales growth—breaking the $1 billion mark—brand expansion and franchise evolution, in just four years. Cole now serves as chief operating officer and president, North America, of FOCUS Brands, Cinnabon’s parent company, where she is now responsible for building revenues and profits for six franchise food brands in 60 countries through global licensing, manufacturing and e-commerce. In addition to Cinnabon, this multichannel division helps grow Auntie Anne’s, Carvel, Moe’s Southwest Grill, McAlister’s Deli and Schlotzsky’s.
Outside of her role at FOCUS, Cole serves on the United Nations Foundation Global Entrepreneurs Council. Additionally, serving as an investor and advisor to many young startup companies keeps Cole in the know as a contemporary corporate leader, bridging with worlds of global corporation and emerging startups, Wall Street and Main Street. She has been featured on CBS’s Undercover Boss, and her business philosophies as well as inspirational stories have been featured in publications ranging from Forbes, Inc., and Fortune to Cosmopolitan, Real Simple and Glamour. Cole has received many accolades, including being named one of Fortune’s “40 Under 40” and to CNBC’s “Next 25 List of Rebels, Leaders and Innovators.”
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