Start to Finish: What Inspires Execs | March 2015 | By Robert Thomas

Start to Finish: Kathleen Wood

The co-owner of Suzy’s Swirl talks about the importance of establishing her concept as a neighborhood gathering spot.
Quick service veteran Kathleen Wood inspired by creating dessert joint for families.
Co-Owner, Suzy’s Swirl Suzy’s Swirl

I unequivocally love the foodservice industry. Since I was 14 years old, being around this business has been my life. The local Italian restaurant in my town growing up was my first experience, and I held almost every job there, including cooking right alongside the grandma of the family-owned establishment. I then had a great opportunity to work for McDonald’s, and even though I never forecasted it to be a career, the industry became a passion for me. With McDonald’s, I started as a crewmember, and then became a crew leader, a trainer, and eventually a shift leader. My experiences as a teenager led me to pursue further education. I had a very clear understanding of the direction I wanted to go as a professional and was ready to motivate other people.

With Suzy’s Swirl, we want to reignite the American dream. My partners—my sister and my niece—started the brand in 2012 with the commitment to what we call “fami-tizing” the community. We are driven as a family operation to bring families together in the community in which we operate. I’ve had such a great opportunity to work as a consultant with several other brands prior to co-owning and operating Suzy’s Swirl, and what I loved most about working with each was being a part of how they grew.

My partners and I got together to put a brand into motion that would not simply be a brand for our family, but families all over in any community. Consultants generally have the stigma of not being able to walk the walk, but now with Suzy’s Swirl, I can do both; I can talk the talk, and I can walk the walk. We work very hard not to let just our product, but our relationship with the community define who we are as a brand. I would love to some day have over 100 families owning and operating Suzy’s Swirls in their communities, and I hope that through that we can change the model of how business owners and business operators work together. It’s been our vision from day one to be the community restaurant, to be a part of that fabric that generates our business. Without the community, we don’t exist.

What’s your favorite dish at Suzy’s Swirl?

It’s a tie between our Banana Nutella Gelato and our Chocolate Chip Mint Yogurt.

Besides Suzy’s Swirl, what’s your favorite type of food?

The Cajun and creole foods of Louisiana.

What are your interests outside of Suzy’s Swirl?

I always enjoy spending time with my family, especially outdoors.

So far, what are you most proud of?

Our continual efforts to be the community restaurant.

Who are some leaders you look up to?

My sister Sue is one of my biggest inspirations. She is positive. She is rational. She is competitive. It’s a great mix.

As a consultant, what’s the best piece of advice you gave to industry executives?

Embrace fail-forwarding magnificently. Rather, swing for the fences; don’t get stuck holding the bat.

Add new comment