Debbi Fields Talks The Importance Of Persistence And Staying Present In ORIGIN Magazine
The following is an excerpt from ORIGIN Magazine
Interviewer: Maranda Pleasant
Maranda Pleasant: What is it that makes you feel fully alive?
Debbi Fields: I get very excited when I wake up in the morning and I am just full of oxygen. I say that purposefully. I try not to take for granted how lucky we are to have life and breath and opportunity. Once we’ve got that, we can conquer anything. Truly, I get high on oxygen, and once I graduate from that, what really fulfills me is doing what I love. That, to me, is absolutely priceless.
MP: What are the things that you love?
DF: I love being in the moment. I love my family. I love chocolate. I love baking. I love making people smile. I get so much energy through interacting and feeling like I’ve made a difference, a small difference. My favorite movie of all times is “Pay It Forward.” I feel like any time I’m doing what I love, my big pay-off is watching somebody else be the receiver. All I need as payment is a smile. That just really pushes me forward so that I’m always capturing the next opportunity to develop myself.
Working on “Supermarket Superstar” has fueled me. It’s given me new oxygen, new energy. It’s made me more innovative, creative. It tapped into what I love to do. I love to nurture, I love to help people. I love to brainstorm. I like to mentor. When you’re starting out, especially as an entrepreneur, you really don’t know what you’re doing. You go out there and you try so many things. The key in the process, to me, is that you keep trying and you never give up. The opportunity that the show presents is, I use my experience, my failures, my successes, and help people stay focused.
MP: Is “Supermarket Superstar” the thing that you’re focusing your energy on right now?
DF: One hundred percent of it. I got involved in this show because it fits what I believe. Number one, my role is to be a mentor. My role is to coach, encourage, inspire, motivate, and help people. This show will appeal to anybody who, in your lifetime, said, “I make the best ________” or “My family has this recipe that’s been passed down and everyone says I need to market it.” Well, if you believe in those two things, this is the show for you. This is the vehicle that helps people take their home food product and get it onto supermarket shelves. It goes from the kitchen to mass production to portioning, nutrition, and packaging, and then branding and then marketing. It’s the most exciting developmental show.
Small business in America is what fuels the American economy. We need more small business to assist us in creating a great nation and in creating more jobs. It’s this frontier that is endless in terms of opportunity and potential. I see how this show can do so much. It can motivate people who are watching TV, saying, “Oh, I don’t know if I can do it.” This is the show that will show them how.
I’m having so much fun. I’m also working on a new cookbook, which is called “Debbi Fields: More Than Just Cookies.” I’m having a lot of fun doing it.
MP: You have a part in all of our childhoods and lives. What was it like being a woman in business?
DF: When I started out at 20, I had a dream, I had a recipe, and I wanted to market my cookies. My very first challenge was when I told my family and my friends that I was going to go into the cookie business. Their first response was, “Debbi, what are you thinking? You will absolutely fail. Nobody will buy your cookies. Everybody makes cookies at home. It will be a fad.” I can give you an endless list of all the reasons why you’re told you can’t do something. The bottom line is that I knew all the reasons why I couldn’t. I did not have a pedigree of any kind. I was two years into junior college. I had no money. I had no business experience. I wasn’t bankable. I thought the greatest failure for me was to never pursue my dream, and to always think, what could it have been like? I’m not a “what if.” I want to just do it, try it, give it my all, and if it’s not meant to be, I can accept that. But I had to do it.
What really fueled me, and maybe infuriated me, is that nobody believed in me. Nobody. I don’t even think I believe in myself. Part of what I was trying to do was to make the decision to go into business and find the guts to see it through. I was told that when I went in to see the bankers that I was supposed to be very muted, that I was supposed to blend in, that I was supposed to have the typical drab suit on. I thought, you know what? If that’s what everybody else is doing, that is not what I’m going to do! I already knew I was up against so much. Why do I want to look like everybody else? Yes, everybody can bring their business plan — I’m going to bring my product. My product will sell more than my business plan. They’re going to make a decision based on numbers, and my vision, my business, is more than numbers. It’s an experience. I would take my business plan, I would make fresh-baked cookies, and I would go in with the brightest possible dress that you can imagine.
MP: You defied a woman having to look like a man to succeed.
DF: It’s true! If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this. My great plan did not produce results; I did get wonderful feedback through all my rejections. The one thing that was always obvious, besides the answer no, was that they ate my cookies! As bad as it was that I didn’t get the money, I didn’t get the financing, I got the answer no — what I saw is that they would eat all the cookies during the course of my meeting, and they would be gone.
My mom, who is just truly my mentor, really gave me the breakthrough, and said, “Debbi. It is so obvious that this is not working. Everybody is telling you no. Just give up! Your dream is not going to happen.” She had to say those magic words, “Just give up,” and that motivated me further and farther than I ever imagined.
The easiest thing any of us can do is give up. It doesn’t matter how many no’s you go through. I set up a whole new mantra, “No is an unacceptable answer. I’m allergic to no.” Frankly, I just said, there are people out there who want to say yes. That gave me confidence to keep asking.
I believe the only limitations are the ones that we accept. I know that there is, in theory, a glass ceiling. But I don’t believe that it’s a solid wall. I’m going through it. Nothing’s stopping me. Yes, there are these preconceived notions; yes, we have challenges. Let’s accept them, let’s not be afraid of them, let’s break through them. We will show the world that we are more than capable. When somebody says, “You can’t,” I say, “Why not?”
MP: I am so inspired. If you could say something to everyone on the planet, what would that be?
DF: We are here for a reason. We all have a gift or gifts to share. You want to look inside your heart and your soul, and you want to tap into the one thing you love to do. Develop it. Share it. Nurture it. You were meant to have that gift.
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