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Graduation speaker not cookie-cutter choice

Courtesy of Cheryl Krueger

Ohio State’s Autumn Quarter graduation will feature as its commencement speaker an Ohio native who overcame many obstacles to find success.

Cheryl Krueger, founder of Cheryl & Co., a gourmet baked goods and arrangements company, will speak at Autumn Commencement on Sunday.

Although she hopes to shed some light on her road to success, Krueger said what she hopes to do most is to challenge graduates to do something more.

She attributes much of her business knowledge to Leslie Wexner, under whom she worked for six years at The Limited Brands, Inc. before giving up her job to pursue her baked good business.

“He taught me how to be innovative and creative and to not limit my thinking to what you see, but to limit it to what it could be,” Krueger said.

In her speech, she said she hopes to focus on one point, which is to “see the invisible and do the impossible,” she said.

President E. Gordon Gee wrote a letter personally asking Krueger to speak at Autumn Commencement.

“I was just overwhelmed,” Krueger said. “Ohio State is where my heart is, even though I didn’t graduate from here.”

She graduated from Bowling Green State University in 1974 with a double major in business and home economics.

When Krueger became a full-time employee at the store after the passing of her business partner, she said the business struggled for the next five or six years.

The biggest breakthrough, according to Krueger, was when the company decided to include other baked goods and also a seasonal gift store.

Some students have familiarity with the company and said Kruger’s story interests them.

Michelle Blatnik, a third-year in marketing, said she thinks it’s good that students will have an influential speaker, and not just a celebrity or public icon.

“I think it’s really good because she’s a successful woman who started her business in our area,” Blatnik said. “I know a lot of the graduates from Ohio State are looking to stay in Columbus where it’d be a good opportunity for them to know what’s available to them.”

Amanda Bouffard, a fourth-year strategic communications and is graduating this quarter, said she wasn’t aware that Cheryl & Co. was based out of Columbus.

“I think it’s interesting that it’s a woman coming to speak,” Bouffard said. “I personally like to hear about business owners and entrepreneurs.”

Cheryl & Co. was the first cookie company in America to do mail-order catalogs, have an Internet site and do seasonal cookies, Krueger said.

“What I learned is that throwing money at the problem will never solve it, you have to be creative and imaginative and throw your creativity at the problem,” Krueger said.

Her commitment to The Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute, OSU’s comprehensive cancer center, stems from the battles she saw many family members have with the disease, including her business partner at Cheryl’s, friends and her father.

“I made a commitment to him before he passed … he said, ‘The people at The James had been so good to me that you make sure you pay forward if you would,'” Krueger said.

She is now working on a capital campaign to raise money for the new cancer hospital.

“I look at this as an opportunity to give back and share some wisdom and I’m honored that Dr. Gee thought I had something to share,” Krueger said.

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