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Don’t give up when the cookie crumbles, ‘Mrs. Fields’ tells leadership students

There’s a special ingredient in Mrs. Fields’ cookies that won’t be noticed by fans of those famously rich, buttery cookies sold online and at franchises throughout the country. But it’s there in every bite. And it’s perseverance.

“I was a woman with a mission,” she told leadership students gathered in Sandhu Conference Center on Tuesday afternoon in a talk titled “Recipe for Success!”

woman smiling

Mrs. Fields founder Debbi Fields speaks at Chapman University on Tuesday afternoon in the Sandhu Conference Center. The cookie tycoon  recounted her road to success by sharing a veritable baker’s dozen discouraging moments she encountered along the way to becoming a household name.

Among the roadblocks were bankers who gobbled up her cookies at meetings but rejected her loan requests, chocolate manufacturers who wouldn’t sell her their product because her operation was too tiny, and an awful opening day when she launched her first shop in Palo Alto, Calif.

Give up? Never, said Fields, saying she drew inspiration from no less than Winston Churchill and his famous “Never give up” motto.

“Every morning this was my mantra: I will find somebody who wants to say yes. It means I have to keep asking, I have to keep knocking. But I will find that person. And so I immediately knew that the moment I stopped asking, it was going to end. As the doors would close, as people would say ‘No,’ I kept believing in my heart that there would be somebody out there,” she says.

And eventually there was. Even though her $25,000 loan came with a 21 percent interest rate, she said it was the break that got her “truly rolling in dough” and off the ground.

Success was not instantaneous. After a slow morning on her first opening day, Fields left her bakery with a tray loaded with samples in what became her “try and buy” sales technique.

“And (customers) followed me back to the cookie store. That day I happily rang up $75 (in sales). It was the best day of my life, and what I can tell you I learned is that it was all about not giving up,” she says. “It was truly understanding that you can celebrate when you have failure. You never know what causes success. Honestly, it could be multiple things that cause success. But when you’re failing you take that and you seize it and say, ‘OK, bring it on. It’s not working. What I have to do is be creative and find another way to make it work.’ And you keep finding a way until something sticks.”

Fields’ presentation at Chapman was sponsored by the National Society of Leadership and Success, which has a chapter at Chapman. The talk was broadcast live to universities nationwide.

Dawn Bonker

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