By Times-News staff Erie Times-News
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Kat Cole started her career as a Hooter's waitress. Now she calls the shots as the COO and President of "FOCUS Brands", Cinnabon's parent company which includes seven franchise food brands in 60 countries.
Businesswoman Kat Cole shared her stories of leadership, innovation and success before a capacity crowd of several hundred on Wednesday night during the Manufacturer & Business Association's 114th Annual Event at the Bayfront Convention Center.
Cole is chief operating officer and president of FOCUS Brands North America, and former president of its highly successful subsidiary Cinnabon.
As the leader of FOCUS Brands, Cinnabon's parent company, Cole is responsible for building revenues and profits for seven franchise food brands in 60 countries through global licensing, manufacturing and e-commerce.
In addition to Cinnabon, FOCUS Brands' multichannel division helps grow Auntie Anne's, Carvel, Jamba Juice, Moe's Southwest Grill, McAlister's Deli and Schlotzsky's.
According to her biography, Cole's ascended the corporate ladder from working as a Hooters hostess to running a billion-dollar brand in under two decades.
By the time she was 26, Cole earned the role of vice president of a multinational brand, doing $800 million in revenue at Hooters.
In her final two years as an executive at Hooters, she earned her Master of Business Administration degree from Georgia State University while serving as chair of the board of the Georgia Restaurant Association and Board member of the Women's Foodservice Forum.
Cole was soon recruited by FOCUS Brands and Cinnabon to serve as chief operating officer and was promoted to president of the company within three months.
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.
Among her other credits, Cole serves on the United Nations Foundation Global Entrepreneurs Council, is a Young Global Leader (YGL) of the World Economic Forum and also a co-founder of Changers of Commerce, a movement and group of leaders that identify "mixing money and meaning, and making as much of a difference in the world as they make a profit."
She also has been featured on CBS's "Undercover Boss," and in publications ranging from The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, 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."
The Manufacturer & Business Association's Annual Event is the tri-state region's premier business networking event, featuring some of the nation's most prominent figures in business, politics and journalism. Among the most recent speakers are "Shark Tank" stars Daymond John (2018) and Robert Herjavec (2016) and legendary football coach Lou Holtz (2017).
Wednesday's activities included a tribute to Ralph Pontillo, the Roar on the Shore motorcycle rally's executive director, who died on Sept. 7 in Florida. ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.