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A Twist of Faith

Anne Beiler, founder of Auntie Anne’s Pretzels® and best-selling author, only had one dream as she grew up in the Amish community in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

“My whole career path was to have a family, to be a wife and mother,” Beiler told 400 attendees of Regent University’s Executive Leadership Series (ELS) on Tuesday, Feb. 24. “It was a glorious dream, simple but glorious.”

However, her dream was soon laced with tragedy, Beiler told members of the Hampton Roads business community, when her 19-month-old daughter was killed in a farming accident.

“I was shattered. That experience took me into darkness and depression that I never knew existed,” said Beiler. “All I did with my faith was question it.”

In 1988, she was a woman struggling with unspeakable grief, with no formal education to her name and a $6,000 loan from her father-in-law to begin her business. And though she was armed with nothing but her purpose, she began twisting pretzels.

“The first day at Auntie Anne’s, it was a new day. The purpose I went into the company with was an unstoppable force,” said Beiler. “And there were two things I did a lot early on: I cried, and I prayed. And I became an expert at both.”

With no formal education to speak of and without a business plan, Beiler frequently found herself paralyzed with fear and intimidation when she entered the marketplace.

“I didn’t know what the word ‘entrepreneur’ was — people kept telling me that’s what I was, so I looked it up in the dictionary,” said Beiler. “But I had a purpose; I had a great product, and I had great people.”

She calls them her “three small p’s,” crucial in attaining another “p”: profit. In 1992, her company had franchised into its 100th store, eventually turning Auntie Anne’s into an international product. Though she’s claimed worldwide success with her product, she’s quick to remember her original intent when starting Auntie Anne’s: to be a light in the world of business.

Now, Beiler travels and shares her story of finding purpose in the midst of failure and giving to the community to make the world a better place.

“My greatest success isn’t the company Auntie Anne’s,” said Beiler. “It was overcoming my own failures, getting back up again, again and again. And I’m grateful I didn’t quit in the midst of it all.”

Each month, Regent’s ELS explores business principles from the world’s most esteemed and inspirational leaders. Join Regent University’s next ELS luncheon on Thursday, March 5, which will feature the annual mayor’s forum.

Learn more about the Regent University’s ELS series.