What Candy and Pizza Taught Cheryl Bachelder About Business

If someone asked you to come up with a list of the top successes and setbacks that have happened in your life, what would you say? We got the chance to ask Cheryl Bachelder, former CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Inc., that exact question and we are excited to share her answers and reflections all month long. Check back each Monday to hear more of Cheryl’s wisdom!

You can listen to this entire conversation with Cheryl on our podcast, Driven 4word! Listen below or click here to find your preferred listening platform.

Who is Cheryl Bachelder?

I am a Christ follower, married 41 years to my husband Chris, and we’ve raised three daughters, two of whom are now married. We also have five gorgeous grandsons. So I would define myself as a mother and a grandma, as well as a business executive. ‘Multidimensional complicated’ is how I would describe myself!

How would you personally define a success and a setback?

For me, a success is a rewarding outcome for everyone involved in an endeavor. That could be at home as parents, and it could be in the workplace on a team project, or it could be in the turnaround of a major enterprise. For me it, it’s that rewarding feeling that people and enterprises were well served by the actions you took.

Setbacks, for me, fall in the category of trials and tribulations you can learn from. As a believer, I think transformation is a lifelong journey. I’m always learning and growing, and usually from situations I’d rather not be in. Those are the setbacks that I think enrich us in our understanding of what God’s up to and the role He has for us in His kingdom.

When asked to list some of your greatest successes, you started with graduating from Indiana University Kelley School of Business and accepting your first real job. What was that experience like?

Well, I was very young! I graduated from college with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree at the age of 21. I had gone through a combined Bachelor MBA program in four years. So I was truly very young, very inexperienced in work and very deeply experienced in school. It was an exciting time to graduate from Kelley School, where I had learned a great deal from my faculty and colleagues, to then step into the real world with Proctor and Gamble. At the time, I didn’t realize the importance of this first success. Procter and Gamble really set in motion my career and set in motion career relationships that influenced me for years to come. This first job put skills in place that I very much needed post-MBA. So it was an incredibly important starting point for my 40-year career that followed. 

The next success you identified was your first major impact on a company, which was when you proposed three new product innovations for Life Savers. What did that impact look like?

It was the first big opportunity I had to truly create a new business for a corporation. I was asked to map out a new product plan, leveraging the trademark Life Savers. Through research and teamwork, I came up with three ideas. The first one was called Life Savers Fruit Juicers. It was a regular Life Savers hard candy with 10% fruit juice, which was very trendy at the time. The second idea was Life Savers holes, which we thought, you know, there always had been a hole in a Life Saver. Maybe we should sell the hole, but of course, we didn’t make the hole, so we had to make them, package them, and create an identity around them, which we did. The third idea was Life Savers Gummy Savers, which was the first United States entry into gummy candy. Of the three ideas, Gummy Savers was the most successful Life Savers company. It became a $100 million business right out of the gate and still exists today as a great representative of the Life Savers name. 

Why was your time with Domino’s Pizza significant to your career trajectory?

This position was a bit of a turning point, mid-career for me. I had spent the first 15 years of my career in what’s called package goods marketing, basically marketing things that are sold in grocery stores, drug stores, and mass merchants. I had spent a lot of time in the food sector so when I joined Domino’s Pizza, it was a totally new kind of business. It was franchising a pizza chain and it was retail—you call and order a pizza, and it’s delivered to your home. So it was kind of an all-new thing for me. I was so excited to be working for the actual founder of the firm, Tom Monaghan, and it was an exciting opportunity to learn about a business from its founder.

Tom was also a very devout Catholic Christian, which I admired. He was the first known Christian I had worked for in business. I was excited to see what it would look like to put your faith beliefs into action in the workplace. What really captured me about this business was the franchisees themselves. They’re all first-time entrepreneurs in a retail business concept. They start with one pizza store and build their career and business out of that experience. It was new and exciting to come alongside family businesses to figure out how to provide them with good tools, good marketing plans, and good products that would build their business and help them thrive. Many of them were first generation business people or immigrants to our country, so I got really excited about being part of that endeavor. And I spent the rest of my career in food franchising as a result.

Cheryl Bachelder is a passionate, purpose-led business leader — the former CEO of Popeyes® Louisiana Kitchen, Inc. From 2007 to 2017, she led the transformation of a tired brand and discouraged organization into a top-performing quick service restaurant chain. The story of the Popeyes success is chronicled in her book Dare to Serve: How to drive superior results by serving others. Cheryl’s earlier career included brand leadership roles at Yum Brands, Domino’s Pizza, RJR Nabisco, The Gillette Company and Procter & Gamble.

Today Cheryl’s aim is to encourage and invest in senior leaders, helping them to understand and implement Dare to Serve leadership in for-profit and non-profit workplaces.

Cheryl serves as a director and chair of the compensation committee at US Foods Holding Corp (USFD). She is currently the lead independent director at Chick-fil-A, Inc. She is an advisor to Procter & Gamble’s franchising venture, Tide Dry Cleaners. She is a member of CEO Forum, an organization that encourages and disciples Christian CEOs and senior leaders. She is a mentor to ministries that develop future Christian leaders: Spring Hill Camps, Crossroad Farms, Work Matters, and CRU.

Cheryl holds Bachelor and Masters of Business Administration degrees from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. She is married 40+ years to Chris Bachelder and they have three grown daughters, two terrific son-in-laws, and five handsome grandsons. Cheryl and Chris reside in Pinehurst, NC. They are avid learners, fans of the classical education movement, and can always be found reading a good book!

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