On this episode of The Barron Report, host Paul Barron chats with restaurant industry leader Kathleen Wood, the founder of growth strategy firm Kathleen Wood Partners and the co-founder of frozen yogurt company Suzy’s Swirl. Wood’s firm collaborates with a number of Fortune 500 leaders, INC 1000 founders, and other emerging businesses throughout the hospitality, service, retail, manufacturing, and healthcare industry. Founded in 2012, Suzy’s Swirl is first and foremost a passion project and family dream.
“Seven years ago, my sister Sue, my niece Jen, and I started out on a journey to really prove the model that you could sell frozen delicious desserts to the frozen people in northern Illinois seven out of twelve months of the year,” says Wood. Suzy’s Swirl has been certified women-owned and women-directed by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). For Wood, her company is proof that “we’re at this tipping point for women really being in the business arena.”
Despite these opportunities, many women continue to struggle to rise in the restaurant business. According to Foodable Labs, less than five percent of women in foodservice are C-level executives—and of the top 150 emerging brands, only three percent were founded by women.
“If we’re going to shift this equation to increase visibility and increase women being vocal, I think women need to start doing more too,” notes Wood, citing recent studies that suggest women often do not feel comfortable asking for a mentor or sponsorship within their companies due to lack of confidence. “We have to be active participants in the solution.”
Wood adds that if you are in a company that does not offer such connections for women, you should leave. Businesses that do not respect or advance women will not last long in the ever-evolving restaurant industry. “Go to a place where you’re celebrated and not tolerated,” says Wood. “Be less concerned about the title and be more concerned about your passionate purpose… go to a place where you can bring your whole self.”
Check out the podcast above to hear Wood’s advice for handling the predicted downturn coming to the industry, how Suzy’s Swirl won this year’s WBENCPitch, and Wood’s plans for the company’s expansion in the next few years. And if you would like to keep listening, check out The Barron Report podcast on iTunes Now!