Any chef will tell you, it takes more than a list of ingredients to make something great. If you have ever had a pack of our cookies, you have a complete list of everything in them. But I’d like to think that after more than 13 years of baking, and 50+ years of ‘personal experience’ we’ve developed a unique recipe that makes every batch of our cookies and brownies something special.
I’m often asked about my background and how it is that I came to bake cookies. Like most people, my life’s recipe is filled with events and experiences that, combined, brought me to where I am today. One of those experiences was meeting a man who became one of the most recognized faces on the planet based on his secret blend of 11 herbs and spices. Colonel Harlan Sanders.
I tinkered with business ideas from a very early age. In high school, I discovered an organization called Junior Achievement and that forever impacted the course of my life. Junior Achievement was an after-school program which gave me the opportunity to setup and run a real company. And to meet successful leaders and entrepreneurs like David Jones, the founder of Humana, Inc.
I had the opportunity to meet Colonel Sanders on a couple of occasions, including a brief appearance in a television commercial promoting Junior Achievement. He arrived as you might expect in his chauffeur driven white Cadillac with red leather interior, wearing his white suite and string tie. He was cordial and greeted all of us. He delivered his lines, “Your friends are in Junior Achievement. You should be too.” and was driven away to his next appearance.
Later that year, I was the Master of Ceremonies for our annual banquet. We honored the Colonel for his support. During the ceremony, he stood up and handed me a personal check made out to Junior Achievement for $50,000. It left an indelible mark on my high school career, meeting someone so well known who really cared about young people and giving back to his community.
Colonel Sanders developed and perfected his recipe for fried chicken in a small motel/restaurant, Sanders Court, in Corbin, KY. Despite the success and notoriety of the food, Interstate 75 routed traffic away from his establishment. Customers dwindled and he was forced to sell the business. At age 65, he went back out on the road, selling his franchise concept of Kentucky Fried Chicken. He had a total of $105 in his pocket.
At a time when most people are winding down their career, the Colonel was just getting started. There were many twists and turns along the road, but eventually he sold his business for $2 million, stayed on as their ambassador, and became one of the most recognized brand names in the world.
Last fall, we stopped in Corbin (as I have done in the past) to visit the original place where KFC was born. The restaurant includes areas where some of his original equipment is on display. It is a reminder and an inspiration of what can happen in business with enough persistence, patience and passion to be the best.
In addition to the Colonel’s secret blend of 11 herbs and spices, his recipe for success included a strong commitment to how he treated his customers and franchise owners. The Colonel’s Creed speaks volumes about what can happen when you put the right ingredients in a business, something we aspire to do at Anna’s Gourmet Goodies as well. You’ll find a copy of it on the wall if you happen to stop by the Cafe:
The Hard Way
“It is comparatively easy to prosper by trickery, the violation of confidence, of the weak…sharp practices, cutting corners – all of those methods that we are so prone to palliate and condone as “business shrewdness”. It is difficult to prosper by the keeping of promises, the deliverance of value in goods, in service and in deeds – and in the meeting of so called “shrewdness” with sound merit and good ethics. The easy way is efficacious and speedy – the hard way arduous and long. But, as the clock ticks, the easy way becomes harder and the hard way becomes easier. And as the calendar records the years, it becomes increasingly evident that the easy way rests hazardously upon shifting sands, whereas the hard way builds solidly a foundation of confidence that cannot be swept away.”
While you should avoid saying ‘never’, it is unlikely that my face or the cookies from Anna’s Gourmet Goodies will ever achieve anything close to the level of notoriety of Colonel Harlan Sanders and Kentucky Fried Chicken. I’m comfortable with that.
I do believe, however, that while there are countless places where you can purchase a cookie or a brownie made with most of the same ingredients we use (flour, butter, sugar, eggs, etc.), none will be exactly the same as what we bake at Anna’s Gourmet Goodies. That’s because the ingredients of a business are more that simply what is listed on the label. It contains the experiences and passions of the founders as well as the people who help run the business. A small, but important ingredient in our business, came from my chance meeting with The Colonel.
What comes out of our oven every day is more than simply raw materials, it is the sum total of a lifetime of experiences and a focus on what we consider the most important measure of success for our business and what we do – to create a simple moment that brings joy and happiness to the person who bites into a cookie or brownie that we’ve made. It’s not always been easy. Building a business takes time. But from what I learned early in life from people like the Colonel, hard work and doing the right thing is ultimately the best recipe for success.