An American entrepreneur, best-selling author, and founder of the Mrs. Fields chocolate chip cookie franchise.
"Good enough never is" - Debbi Fields
Debbi Fields (September 18, 1956 - current) is an American entrepreneur, best-selling author, and founder of the Mrs. Fields chocolate chip cookie franchise.
At the age of 20, Fields was a young housewife with no business experience. She had a dream, a recipe and a passion for sharing her chocolate chip cookies with others. Fields managed to do what most people considered impossible: she convinced a bank to finance an unproven business concept that seemed to have little likelihood of success.
Born Debra Jane Sivyer in Oakland, Calif., Debbi is the youngest of five daughters born to a Navy welder and his wife. Raised in middle-class surroundings, her parents taught her to work for what she wanted.
Fields developed a talent and interest in baking as a child, particularly chocolate chip cookies. Starting with the classic 1930s Toll House Cookie recipe on the back of the Nestle's Chocolate Chips bag, Debbi began experimenting with the cookie batter. By the time she was 18, Fields was known locally for her delicious cookies, which were richer and doughier than the classic recipe.
At age 19, she married 29-year old Stanford University graduate Randall Fields, a financial consultant. At age 21, with a talent and passion for baking, coupled with a strong desire to own her own business, Fields opened her first chocolate chip cookie store in Palo Alto, CA in 1977. Called Mrs. Fields’ Chocolate Chippery, her freshly baked oversized cookies were sold soft and warm right out of the oven, something other baked goods stores were not doing at the time.
As her offerings expanded beyond chocolate chip cookies to include a variety of cookies, brownies, and muffins, the business name changed in 1980 to Mrs. Fields’ Cookies with Debbi assuming the role of president and CEO. Her baked goods, made with only the finest ingredients, quickly became the snacks of choice for young, urban professionals.
Her second store, in San Francisco, Calif., had customer lines so long they caused problems for neighboring businesses. Fields continued to expand her locations in California before broadening to other US states. Between 1985 and 1988, the privately held company opened 225 new stores. By the late 1980s the chain had grown to include 425 cookie stores across the United States and abroad, reporting annual retail sales of over $87 million.
While growing her Mrs. Fields business, Debbi was also giving birth to and raising five daughters with her husband Randy, juggling a busy home life while meeting the increasing demands of her expanding business. In 1987, Fields wrote her autobiography One Smart Cookie: How a Housewife’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe Turned into a Multimillion-dollar Business. Her memoir details how, through perseverance, her passion for baking cookies in her home kitchen grew into a $450 million company, and one of the world’s most recognizable brands in baked goods.
Fields orchestrated franchise agreements in Indonesia, Australia, the Philippines, Canada, and the Middle East, with the long-term goal of franchising overseas operations across all markets. She partnered with Marriot Corporation, allowing Marriot to build stores and bake and sell cookies in airports, hotels, and highway travel plazas. In 1990-1992, as Debbi Fields began franchising her business, she sold Mrs. Fields for $100 million to an investment firm that continued to franchise the company into an international phenomenon.
From 1993-1995, Debbi had a popular baking series called Desserts with Debbi Fields that aired on the Food TV Network, a newly launched television channel devoted entirely to baking, cooking, and food programs. In 1996, Debbi Fields starred in her own baking series on PBS Television called "Debbi Fields' Great American Desserts" which coincided with her latest cookbook of the same name.
Debbi and Randy divorced in 1996, and on November 29, 1997, Debbi married Michael David Rose.
In 2000, Debbi’s official time at the Mrs. Fields Company ended, but for several years she remained the company’s spokesperson and continued to promote the company that she founded as a young entrepreneur.
In the fall of 2011 she achieved a personal goal of summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro. In July 2013, Debbi joined the judging panel of Supermarket Superstar, a reality television series in which three home chefs pitch their recipes to food-industry titans for a chance to have their products launched nationally in a major grocery chain.
Debbi’s husband Michael D. Rose, the former CEO/Chairman of Holiday Corp and Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc., died of cancer in April 2017.
Fields is a best-selling author of several cookbooks. The first, Mrs. Fields' Cookie Book: 100 Recipes from the Kitchen of Mrs. Fields, has sold millions of copies and was the first cookbook to top The New York Times Best Seller list.
Today, Debbi continues to devote her time to philanthropy, motivational speaking, and of course, baking. As for the company Debbi Fields founded, today Mrs. Fields Cookies, Inc. is owned by Famous Brands International, which also owns TCBY (The Country’s Best Yogurt). There are currently over 300 Mrs. Fields locations around the world.
“Remember, the greatest failure is not to try.” – Debbi Fields
Born Debra Jane Sivyer in Oakland, California, Debbi is the youngest of five daughters. Her father was a welder for the Navy, and her mother was a housewife.
Her father believed that true wealth is found in family, friends and doing what you love, a philosophy Debbi has embraced throughout her career.
Debbi developed a love of baking cookies as a child, and yearned to be able to afford high-quality ingredients like real butter, pure vanilla extract and chocolate rather than the cheap margarine and imitation extract her family’s limited household income allowed.
In 1969, Charles Finley, the owner of the Oakland Athletics major league baseball team, introduced the concept of “ball girls” at major league games and hired Debbi as young teen. The job of a ball girl was to sit in foul ball territory to retrieve balls hit by the batters. Debbi would often use her $5.00/hour salary to buy butter and real vanilla extract for the chocolate chip cookies she baked at home and brought to the games for the umpires.
Voted homecoming queen in her senior year at Alameda High School, she graduated in 1974 at age 17. Debbi went on to attend Foothill College for two years, a community college in Los Altos Hills, Calif. In 1976, at age 19, Debbi married 29-year-old Stanford graduate Randall Keith Fields. Randy was the founder of a financial and economic consulting firm called Fields Investment Group.
Armed with both a passion and talent for baking cookies, and a desire to share her delicious creations with the world, Debbi Fields sought to open her own cookie store. She approached several banks in search of a loan to help fund her business idea, always bringing a fresh batch of cookies with her to the meetings. Although the loan managers loved her cookies, nearly everyone turned her down. She finally succeeded in getting a $25,000 loan at a whopping 21% interest rate.
She opened Mrs. Fields’ Chocolate Chippery at age 21 in Palo Alto, Calif., in 1977. Mrs. Fields’ Chocolate Chippery sold oversized cookies, soft and warm right out of the oven, something other baked goods stores were not doing at the time. Her opening day was not an immediate success. Alarmed by the lack of customers coming into the shop, Fields walked down the street with a tray of warm, freshly baked cookies, giving them away to passersby as a way to promote her store and woo customers into following her back to her store. She made only $75.00 in sales on her first day of business.
From that day forward, through determination and a strong desire to succeed, Debbi worked tirelessly to grow her business. As her offerings branched out beyond chocolate chip cookies to include a variety of cookies, the business name changed to Mrs. Fields’ Cookies. Her baked goods, made with only the finest ingredients, quickly became the snacks of choice for young, urban professionals. While launching and growing her Mrs. Fields business locations throughout California and other states, Debbi also gave birth to and raised five daughters with her husband Randy.
From 1977 through the mid-1980s, Mrs. Fields’ Cookies store locations grew swiftly, initially with three stores in California. Their fresh baked offerings expanded to include brownies and muffins, in addition to several cookie varieties. Randy joined Debbi in running the company, and he developed and implemented the computer software used as a management tool for the Mrs. Fields stores’ inventory, productivity, and sales. This 1987 Inc. Magazine article provides further insights into the management software Randy developed, and the successful computerization of the Mrs. Fields stores.
By 1987, the privately held company had grown to 350 stores across 25 states, and expanded internationally with stores in Canada, England, Japan, Hong Kong, and Australia, and was on track to do $100 million in business. Fields was barely 31 years old and on track to own and operate about 425 stores in her portfolio by 1988.
In 1990-1992, as Debbi Fields began franchising her business, she sold Mrs. Fields for $100 million to an investment firm that continued to franchise the company into an international phenomenon.
“The American dream is possible for everybody. Even the word ‘impossible’ says ‘I’m possible.’” – Debbi Fields
The humble beginnings of the Mrs. Fields Cookies retail chain began in 1977 when Debbi Fields opened her first cookie store called The Chocolate Chippery in Palo Alto, Calif.
Although its first headquarters was in Palo Alto, the company would follow Fields and her family to Park City, Utah in 1982. Determined to grow her business quickly, Mrs. Fields Cookies retail locations expanded first within the San Francisco Bay area where the store gained fame for it's long line of customers queued along the sidewalk, and then continued to expand throughout California before spreading out across the USA.
Between 1985 and 1988, the company opened 225 new stores. By the late 1980s the chain had grown to include 425 cookie stores across the United States and abroad, with annual retail sales of over $87 million. Fields expanded her product line, adding oatmeal raisin, walnut, coconut-macadamia nut, and other cookie combinations, as well as brownies and a frozen cookie treat.
Despite the growing numbers of store locations, Fields would continue to retain personal control over all cookie-baking operations. She inspected samples of all ingredients and visited individual stores by rotation, introducing herself to employees and checking to see that her own high standards and commitment to quality were followed.
Fields did not initially franchise her locations and soon found herself stretched too thin, both physically and financially. Fields orchestrated franchise agreements in Indonesia, Australia, the Philippines, Canada, and the Middle East, with the long-term goal of franchising overseas operations across all markets. She partnered with Marriot Corporation, allowing Marriot to build stores and bake and sell cookies in airports, hotels, and highway travel plazas.
The US economic recession that hit during the early 1990s severely impacted the Mrs. Fields business. In that era, the Mrs. Fields stores had traditionally been a food-court mainstay, and struggled as foot traffic in shopping malls plummeted.
By 1993, Fields was forced to give up 80% of her company to the lenders that had extended her over $94 million toward expansion of the business, and assisted her with the continued expansion of the franchise. The franchise store models throughout the 1990s included counter service, kiosk, and nontraditional for the customer on the go (airports).
As of 2000, when Famous Brands International became the parent company of both TCBY (The Country’s Best Yogurt) and Mrs. Fields Cookies, Debbi Fields’ executive role at Mrs. Fields Cookies ended, with Fields remaining as a company spokesperson. Famous Brands International announced in 2015 that it would almost exclusively be developing dual-branded Mrs. Fields/TCBY locations, based on the successful tests by franchisees.
To this day, Mrs. Fields cookies are still made daily in store, served soft and warm, and remain true to the original recipe – just as Debbi Fields had envisioned it.
“An enthusiastic attitude, filled with integrity and determination to work hard, can lead you to places unimagined.” – Debbi Fields
Debbi Fields epitomizes the American dream. From America's cherished tradition of humble beginnings, she launched what rapidly became one of the nation's most visible and successful baked goods empire.
At the age of 20, Fields was a young homemaker with no business experience and only two years of community college education under her belt. Yet, she had a dream, a cookie recipe, and an unwavering determination and passion to share her chocolate chip cookies with the world. Twenty years after opening her first cookie store in Palo Alto, Calif., Debbi’s role had expanded to supervising operations, brand name management, public relations, and product development of her company’s 600+ company-owned and franchised stores internationally.
In the mid-1980s, Mrs. Fields, Inc. was one of the first companies to take advantage of dramatic computer technology advancements. Fields led her company into the computer age, streamlining operations and production schedules with a state-of-the-art computer system and enterprise management software developed by her husband Randy Fields.
Debbi Fields' personal values guide her decisions and behavior as a businessperson. Her philosophy of excellence, stated in her business motto of "Good Enough Never Is” earned Mrs. Fields, Inc. a reputation for providing the best in product quality and superior customer service. Debbi attributes her business success to her ability to relate to her customers and earning their lifelong loyalty.
Debbi Fields' contributions and legacy reach far beyond business management.
In 1987, she penned her autobiography One Smart Cookie: How a Housewife’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe Turned into a Multimillion-dollar Business, detailing her entrepreneurial journey. Fields is a recipient of the Golden Gavel Award, Toastmasters' highest honor, awarded annually to an individual who demonstrates consistent self-improvement, success and leadership. Debbi is an inductee of The Society of Entrepreneurs, which exists to foster the development of the entrepreneurial spirit and recognizes the contribution of entrepreneurs to the business and general community.
In 1993, Debbi had a popular baking show on the newly launched Food TV Network for a couple of years called Desserts with Debbi Fields. In 1996, Debbi Fields starred in her own baking series on PBS Television called Debbi Fields' Great American Desserts. In the fall of 2011, Fields achieved a personal goal by summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro. In 2013, Debbi starred as a judge and mentor in “Supermarket Superstar”, a reality television series where culinary entrepreneurs compete to get their product into grocery stores.
Fields is a best-selling author of several cookbooks. The first, Mrs. Fields' Cookie Book: 100 Recipes from the Kitchen of Mrs. Fields, has sold millions of copies and was the first cookbook to top The New York Times best-seller list.
Today, Debbi Fields continues to be an avid philanthropist and is a highly sought after motivational speaker.
One Smart Cookie: How a Housewife's Chocolate Chip Recipe Turned into a Multimillion-Dollar Business: The Story of Mrs. Fields Cookies (1987)
Cookbooks by Debbi Fields:
- Mrs. Fields I Love Chocolate! Cookbook: 100 Easy & Irresistible Recipes (1994)
- Mrs. Fields Best Cookie Book Ever!: 130 Delicious Cookie and Dessert Recipes from the Kitchen of Mrs. Fields (1996)
- Mrs. Fields Best Ever Cookie Book!: 200 Delicious Cookie and Dessert Recipes from the Kitchen of Mrs. Fields (1998)
- Mrs. Fields Cookie Book: 100 Recipes from the Kitchen of Mrs. Fields (1999)
- Debbi Fields’ Great American Desserts: 100 Mouthwatering Easy-to-Prepare Recipes (2000)
(undated) Style Blueprint: Faces of the South: Debbi Fields
2016 Curiosity Quest: YouTube video series Curiosity Quest goes onsite to the Mrs. Fields processing plant
2014 Entrepreneur.com: Mrs. Fields and TCBY Are Rising From the Ashes, Hand in Hand
2014 Inc. Magazine: An Entrepreneur at Heart, Debbi Fields Misses Running the Show
2013 Huffingtonpost.com: Debbi Fields Talks the Importance of Persistence and Staying Present in ORIGIN Magazine
2010 Youtube.com: Success Against the Odds – Debbi Fields You Tube video
1996 Desert News: Debbi Fields Bakes Up Her Own TV Show
1994 Christian Science Monitor: Clear the Table for Food Channel TV
1984 Inc. Magazine: A Tale of Two Companies
1987 Inc. Magazine: Mrs. Fields’ Secret Ingredient
1986 Los Angeles Times: Mrs. Fields Shares a Recipe: To Entrepreneur, Success Tastes Sweet