Without business training or experience, Debbi Fields took her ability to make chocolate chip cookies from a single store into a major international operation – Mrs. Fields Cookies, Inc.
Debra Jane Sivyer aka. Mrs. Fields born in 1956 in East Oakland, was the youngest of five girls whose father was a welder for the Navy. She graduated from Alameda High School at the age of 17, class of 1974. She was also homecoming queen that year. She married Randall (Randy) Fields in 1976. Together they ran Mrs. Fields Cookies and had five children. They divorced in 1996. She remarried Michael Rose a retired chairman of Harrah’s Entertainment in 1998 and currently lives in Memphis where she is a stepmother to five children.
When she was 13, Fields worked as one of the first ball girls for the Oakland A’s baseball team. She worked at Marine World where she water-skied as part of a human pyramid and swam with dolphins. It was then that she also baked and perfected cookies based on the recipe on the back of Toll House chocolate morsels. It was while working at a department store that she learned customer service, merchandising and organization.
At the age of 21, after one-year of marriage and with some community college education (Los Altos Junior College), she opened the first Mrs. Fields store (originally called Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chippery, and changing the name to Mrs. Fields Cookies as they started diversify) in Palo Alto, in 1977. With little initial enthusiasm especially from the banks, she forged ahead. Securing a loan with her husband, an economist who also built the company’s computer programs, they opened a second store two years later in San Francisco. From there with Fields supervising operations, brand name management, public relations and product development (among other responsibilities), the business grew into a multi-million dollar international corporation with over 900 company-owned and franchised stores.
In the late 1980s the company became an early adopter of computer technology to manage the business operations. Harvard Business School developed a case study on Business Efficiency based on their programs.
Debbi is still an official spokesperson for Mrs. Fields Cookies, although she no longer has ownership in the corporation (The company was acquired by investors in 1993.), and her famous chocolate chip cookies are still one of the firm’s best-selling products. Contrary to common belief, Debbi’s famous recipe is not secret and is available on her website as well as in her best-selling books.
Rather than focus on just making money, she concentrated on the product and customer service. The cookies were served warm, which made them soft and chewy - if the they didn’t sell after 2 hours, they were donated to the Red Cross or other charities. Customers were enticed by free samples and the sweet smell of cookies baking.
She has written several books, including Mrs. Fields Cookie Book: 100 Recipes from the Kitchen of Debbi Fields - the first cook book to make it to the top of the New York Times bestseller list, selling 1.8 million copies. She has been active in charities (including the cycstic fibrosis project), a consultant, board member, and a tv show host.
Debbi Fields and Alan Furst, One Smart Cookie: How a Housewife’s Chocolate Chip Recipe Turned into a Multimillion Dollar Business: The Story of Mrs. Fields’ Cookies. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987).
Debbi Fields, Mrs. Fields Cookie Book: 100 Recipes from the Kitchen of Debbi Fields.