Kat Cole, the 30-something president of Cinnabon, doesn’t have an Ivy League resume or famous family pedigree. She’s a leader whose life experiences — including being raised by a single mother and working her way up from washing dishes at Hooters — have led her to the top of business world. Cole was a panelist at the recent Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit in Philadelphia, where she spoke with Knowledge@Wharton on Wharton Business Radio on Sirius XM channel 111 about her unconventional path to leading a $1 billion global business. (Listen to the podcast above.)
Knowledge@Wharton: How did the opportunity at Cinnabon present itself, and how did your leadership roles at Hooters help you?
Cole: I really have to trace it back to a series of events, almost as if a domino was flicked back when I was 19 and just kept hitting dominoes leading up to the Cinnabon opportunity. In my mid-20s, I started volunteering for industry organizations. I became the youngest board member of a state restaurant association. I became the chair of the board of the Georgia Restaurant Association. I did political fundraising for business-friendly candidates, and I did all kinds of work to elevate the industry and shape the environment in which we did business. That gave me an audience that was very different from my typical company: private equity firms, banks, analysts, other CEOs and restaurateurs. Those individuals became friends and colleagues over time. So, when the opportunity came up for the private equity firm in Atlanta to look for someone to run one of their portfolio companies, I was not just a name on a resume. By the way, my resume — child of a single parent, dropped out of college, worked at Hooters my whole life — was not exactly stellar. But because of the interactions I had with them in other nonprofit and industry leadership capacities, I was much more than my resume and able to get credit for the work I did that might not have been literally articulated by my title or the experience on my resume. I was asked to come and interview at the age of 31.
Read the full article at http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/141022_kw_radio_cole-mp3.