Kat Cole        

Group President, FOCUS Brands Inc. (Parent Company to Cinnabon, Auntie Anne’s, Carvel, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Schlotzsky’s, McAlister’s Deli); President and Chief Operating Officer, Cinnabon (2011–2015); Advisor to Early Stage Startups and Multinational,

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 soon became group president 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.”

Speech Topics


Building Highly Successful and Resilient Brands

Whether you are building a brand or need to revitalize one, no one has better insight on the grit and resilience required to do so than Kat Cole. Why does a brand matter? What is your role—as an employee at any level—in building and upholding a brand? How do you build a brand culture? How do you culturally and operationally integrate a new brand or reposition an old one? How do you redefine yourself, your team or your company? There are many risks associated with the fact that a brand is in the hands of many people, but there are also many opportunities. With a wealth of experience and success working with brands, Cole answers the crucial questions most pertinent to your audience, and sharing stories from her own career and her involvement in various sectors can help organizations and brands in any industry expertly navigate the complex challenges that they face.

Be a Leader of Innovation and Progress: How to Iterate, Adapt and Succeed Faster

During Kat Cole’s over four-year tenure as president, Cinnabon, a company then struggling to be competitive, quickly resurged as a multichannel, global brand with over 1,200 stores in 56 countries and saw its sales pass the $1 billion mark. Cole knows you innovate and succeed faster when you are more observant and immersed in the action, and understands which qualities are critical to help you iterate and adapt more quickly—even in traditionally slow or mature industries and organizations. She also knows that it takes hustle, heart, grit and resilience to follow through after you have taken an initial risk. From her well-known “hotshot rule” to her lessons in “hustle muscle,” Cole shares the most significant stories and lessons about leadership and innovation that she has learned throughout her esteemed career. She explores how to discern meaningful patterns, explains the essential qualities and characteristics she looks for in new hires, and addresses how to manage tough decisions and impactful innovations that may have short-term trade-offs, but will provide great return in the long run. In this revealing, authentic and compelling presentation, Cole can customize her remarks to speak expertly on a variety of topics, including:

  • Change management and how to accelerate change no matter where you are in the organization

  • Team building, alignment and communication

  • The bridge between start-ups and big businesses and what they can each learn from each other

  • Common threats in every industry and how to deal with consumer preferences, regulations and requests that create conflict, tensions and headwinds

  • Leading and innovating from within—from hackathons to innovation culture, to creative internal advisory groups, many answers you seek to lead your industry lie within

  • How to innovate your business model: As she puts it, “If you don’t, someone else will,” which is tempered by her principle that “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”

Hustle and Heart: Lessons from Unexpected Places

Kat Cole draws heavily on her own personal and professional experiences and upbringing to share how they have greatly impacted the leader and woman she is today in this inspiring and thought-provoking presentation. Sharing the story of her rise from humble beginnings to powerful global executive, Cole shares how some of the most important lessons she has learned about leadership are lessons she learned as a young child growing up with a single mother. Whether she is doing humanitarian work in Africa or running a multinational billion-dollar brand, Cole understands the power of acts of empathy and believes that you have to have hustle and heart to get where you want to go. She carries and shares the beliefs that employees and companies are built to last when they stand for something that matters and make a positive impact. In addition to Cole’s passion for creating and highlighting opportunities, innovation and community building, helping women succeed in business and leadership is another topic to which she can speak. An active angel investor, humanitarian and philanthropist, she remains engaged and focused on elevating self-sufficiency through education, technology and access to opportunities around the world.

News


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Kat Cole, the 37-year-old business mogul helped Cinnabon accelerate into the mega-force it is today.

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FOCUS Brands Group President Kat Cole and Wicked Good Cupcakes founder Tracey Noonan explain how big corporations and small businesses alike, can ...

How Kat Cole went from a Hooters waitress to the president of a ...

In 2011, Kat Cole, then president of Cinnabon for barely a year, yanked the initiative. The new roll didn't taste as good. Instead, the chain kept the original recipe, ...

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