Kat Cole, Focus Brands // Leading A $5 Billion Company, International Expansion + Brand Partnerships

👑 Who Is Kat Cole?

Kat is one of the most impressive business leaders in America. Fortune magazine, named her on their 40 under 40 list & her story is often cited as an example of the “American Dream”.

Growing up with an alcoholic father and a single mother living on a food budget of $10/week – she worked her way up from being a waitress at Hooters aged 17, to an exec at 26 & a president at 31.

Today, she’s the president of a parent company doing $4-5bil in sales in 60+ countries, across 6500+ locations. Their 7 brands including Cinnabon, Carvel & Jamba Juice.

In this conversation you’ll learn how she thinks about growth, adapting products to emerging trends, using brand partnerships to grow & the factors that go into expanding internationally.


🧠 Five Things You’ll Learn

  • Lessons In Leadership – how to establish credibility, even as a young leader, to lead a team through any situation
  • Emerging Trends + The Innovation Adoption Curve – how she thinks about adapting to emerging trends for brands like Cinnabon + Jamba. Finding a place on the innovation adoption curve while holding onto where you came from
  • Impact of Lockdown On Malls + Airports – how recent events have impacted their 6500+ locations in malls + airports, and where she sees opportunities
  • International Growth – the factors you should think through when expanding internationally, stories of mistakes made, and examples of situations she navigated in Argentina, Turkey + UAE
  • Brand Partnerships – controlling your brand when expanding with partners, and when to consider licensing vs franchising vs joint ventures


⏳ Time Stamps (YouTube)

00:00:00 Preview
00:02:04 Welcome
00:05:01 From Waitress to Vice President of Hooters
00:08:41 Invaluable Lessons In Leadership
00:14:18 “I’m Friendly, But Not Your Friend”
00:16:49 Blending Humility + Confidence
00:20:57 Scale + Revenue of Focus Brands
00:22:12 Case Study: Turning Around Cinnabon
00:29:23 Opportunity = When Your Company Says “No”
00:33:03 Approach To Testing New Products
00:35:10 Adapting to Trends: Jamba + Cinnabon Example
00:42:11 Jamba + The Innovation Adoption Curve
00:48:54 Mall Traffic In 2020
00:51:47 Prediction On Airport Traffic
00:53:22 Increased Search Demand For “Near Me” + “Delivery”
00:54:35 DTC vs Third-Party Delivery Services
00:57:25 International Growth: Hooters in Argentina
01:01:11 Importance of Cultural Context: Turkey Example
01:04:47 International Context – Asking the Right Questions
01:06:29 Factors To Consider When Expanding Internationally
01:12:08 Growing Through Licensing, Franchising + Joint Ventures
01:14:51 Brand Partnerships – Controlling Your Brand
01:17:34 Wrap-Up


💌 Exclusive Content + Free Giveaways

We recently gave away 5 free copies of Emily Heyward’s new book: Obsessed: Building a Brand People Love From Day One, featured in this episode. Sign up below to hear about the next one coming up with the co-founder of Square:

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