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In four years, business-savvy Kat Cole turned a struggling Cinnabon into a billion-dollar success story. One of the youngest people in the U.S. to become a corporate executive, her career rise from Hooters' hostess to President of Cinnabon has been documented by several mainstream media outlets and driven numerous companies, leaders, and entrepreneurs to seek out her insights on team work, strategy, and business building.

Currently the Group President of FOCUS Brands, Cinnabon's parent company, Cole built her career up from humble beginnings. At age 16 she started working at Hooters to help her single mother support her and her two younger sisters. Cole's talent for building strong teams was quickly noticed; at age 19 she was asked by Hooters Corporate Headquarters to take on an international role opening restaurants around the world and training their staff. By age 26, she was vice-president of the company and six years later she was recruited by FOCUS Brands to take the reigns at Cinnabon.

Outside of her role at FOCUS, Cole serves on the United Nations Foundation Global Entrepreneurs Council and is heavily active in sustainable development work in Africa. In addition to serving as a role model and mentor for female entrepreneurs, she has been named one of Fortune’s “40 Under 40” and is featured on CNBC’s “Next 25 List of Rebels, Leaders and Innovators.”

Full Profile

Sharing the story of her accelerated rise up the corporate ladder, from her start working as a hostess to leading some of the world’s best-known food brands, Kat Cole provides insight and perspective on what it takes to create and lead successful teams, drive innovation and growth, lead with heart and sustain excellence.

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.”

Cole has worked in Africa for sustainable development of women and children in need. She has also volunteered and advocated for many food service related organizations.


Kat Cole Speaker Videos Back to top

Kat Cole, Business Leader: Keynote


Successful corporate leader, Kat Cole reveals the patterns she identified in her life that enabled her to go from an entry-level job at Hooters to President of a billion-dollar company within less than 20 years. From supporting her mother's decision to leave her alcoholic father to seeing how her mother was able to feed her and her two sisters on a $10-per-week budget during the 1980s and 90s, Cole learned numerous lessons that she claims were key to her ability to scale and grow companies faster than most formally schooled executives.

The first pattern she recognized was that the people closest to the action or transaction are always the first people who realize what should be done. In her case she had witnessed her father's destructive behavior three years before her mother finally made the decision to get the family out of a damaging situation. When her mother announced that they were leaving her father, nine-year-old Cole's reply was, "'What took you so long?'"

Decades later in a leadership position of at Cinnabon, she reflected on that moment, realizing that the key to innovating her company was staying close to those who worked in the bakery, at the cash register, and taking out the trash - jobs that she spent most of her time doing in order to connect with her employees and get their insights about what needed to change. "Those people know the right thing to do in your business long before you do," she reflects.

Kat Cole, Business Leader: Keynote Highlights


Kat Cole, Business Leader: Interview



Speeches / Speaking Engagements Back to top


A captivating corporate speaker, Kat Cole is delighted to share her ideas on building successful teams, innovative corporate cultures, and effective leaders who are able to engage both customers and employees. Although the talented businesswoman has amassed an impressive track record, she has stayed true to her strong values that make her admired by so many. She is open about her humble beginnings, the keys to her success - as well as her missteps - and the lessons she's learned along the way. Cole's thought-provoking content, approachability, and zesty delivery win over even the toughest audiences.

    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.





* Please note that while this speaker’s specific speaking fee falls within the range posted above (for Continental U.S. based events), fees are subject to change. For current fee information or international event fees (which are generally 50-75% more than U.S based event fees), please contact us.

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    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.



Kat Cole, Business Leader: Keynote


Successful corporate leader, Kat Cole reveals the patterns she identified in her life that enabled her to go from an entry-level job at Hooters to President of a billion-dollar company within less than 20 years. From supporting her mother's decision to leave her alcoholic father to seeing how her mother was able to feed her and her two sisters on a $10-per-week budget during the 1980s and 90s, Cole learned numerous lessons that she claims were key to her ability to scale and grow companies faster than most formally schooled executives.

The first pattern she recognized was that the people closest to the action or transaction are always the first people who realize what should be done. In her case she had witnessed her father's destructive behavior three years before her mother finally made the decision to get the family out of a damaging situation. When her mother announced that they were leaving her father, nine-year-old Cole's reply was, "'What took you so long?'"

Decades later in a leadership position of at Cinnabon, she reflected on that moment, realizing that the key to innovating her company was staying close to those who worked in the bakery, at the cash register, and taking out the trash - jobs that she spent most of her time doing in order to connect with her employees and get their insights about what needed to change. "Those people know the right thing to do in your business long before you do," she reflects.

Kat Cole, Business Leader: Keynote Highlights


Kat Cole, Business Leader: Interview