Cinnabon CEO Kat Cole Discusses Her Rise to the Top

The 36-year-old president started out as a Hooters waitress before taking over the $1 billion company.
2:49 | 07/05/14

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Transcript for Cinnabon CEO Kat Cole Discusses Her Rise to the Top
And finally tonight, recipes for success. Kat Cole's rise from a hooter's waitress to president of cinnabon, a billion-dollar operation. She fought for it every step of the way and this latest job, icing on the cake for one of the country's leading executives. At 36 years old, kat Cole has the world by the nose. I hate hearing that line, it's business, it's not personal. All business is personal. Reporter: She's running a billion-dollar business instantly recognizable by its signature smell. Those tantalizingly sweet 880-calorie rolls, a punch line. Did you ever eat a cinnabon? You have to take a nap halfway through. Reporter: Dieter's dilemma. Here's what a cinnabon is. Let me explain it to you. A six-foot high cinnamon swirled cake made for one sad, fat man. Reporter: And the target of criticism from health advocates. But Cole, who says her company sells 100 million of those so-called gut bombs each year, takes it all in stride. It's not good for your butt, but it's good for your soul. And that's the truth. You know, we don't want you eating them all day every single day. But when it's time to treat yourself and your family, we hope that you think of cinnabon. Reporter: Cole grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. Her single mom at times fed the family on just $10 a week. Every year on my birthday, she writes me a card and on the card she writes the same thing, every year. And it is, don't you dare ever forget where you came from. But don't you ever let it define you. Reporter: An early job with hooter's taught Cole the food business. But her engineering studies took a backseat and Cole, the first in her family to go to college, dropped out. I didn't look great on paper. It used to countdown in my head. I would go three, two, one, here's the reaction. I would say, I work for hooter's. Reporter: Then, a turning point. Seven years ago, Cole rustled up recommendations from ten CEOs, including Ted turner and got into business school. She graduated two months after joining cinnabon. Now, credited with completely transforming the business, becoming its president at just 32 years old, she's expanding the brand from malls and airports and into grocery stores. Even brokering deals to get cinnabon into taco bell and burger king. What do you think the secret to breaking through is? It's all about people. Every opportunity I have ever gotten has been some, almost a telephone game, a series of events that likely started like a line of dominos from one good thing I did with someone years ago. Reporter: Sweet validation for one of the youngest and most successful women in the business. Don't forget where you came from, but never let it define you. An American success story on this fourth of July weekend.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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