Entertaining and compelling real-life stories with valuable
lessons on how to succeed in business and in life.
The author is successful business, real estate, and media entrepreneur Dick Kazan.
Published on August 21st, 2012

David Overton: How a failed rock ‘n’ roll career led to the building of a restaurant empire.

Born in April 1946, David from his boyhood dreamed of becoming a rock star and by the time he was 15 years old, he was talented enough to get paid to be in a band.

Growing up in Detroit, David worked his way through Wayne State University as a rock drummer, and he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics in 1967.

But the music business is tough, so David hedged his bet by attending the prestigious University of California Hastings College of Law in San Francisco.

However, the desire to make it big in rock haunted David and during his first year of law school, he dropped out to pursue that dream.

But years later, after putting his all into the music business, David realized he would never be a rock star. He let go of the dream and moved to Los Angeles, to join the family baking business.

That business had begun from David’s mother Evelyn baking her popular cheesecakes for family and friends. Over time she and David’s father Oscar turned those cheesecakes into a business selling to restaurants, a business they continued when they moved from Detroit to Los Angeles in 1972.

The business was tiny but thinking big, they named their baking facility: The Cheesecake Factory, as Evelyn baked 12 varieties of cheesecakes and other desserts.

But as a couple in their 50’s they often worked 18 hours a day, trying to make the business a success. Evelyn baked and ran the office while Oscar pounded the pavement selling the cakes to restaurants. Gradually they built the business.

As the business grew, Oscar bought more delivery trucks and recruited drivers, as he expanded the distribution all over Southern California and beyond the state.

But they had a big problem. Most restaurants would only buy one or two cheesecake varieties because they thought their customers would not have the interest in so many dessert options.

David had the opposite opinion and saw an opportunity. In 1978, he opened the first Cheesecake Factory restaurant in Beverly Hills, stocking it with all 12 cheesecake varieties, along with salads, hamburgers and other simple menu items he could personally prepare.

Within days of opening the restaurant, cheesecake sales caught on and sales of cheesecakes and other menu items kept growing. As the money poured in, David used these funds to open more Cheesecake Factories, eventually taking the company public in 1992.

Today, the Calabasas Hills, CA headquartered Cheesecake Factory employs 35,000 people, has 170 restaurants in various parts of the U.S., with more planned in the U.S. and soon in the Middle East. Sales last year reached $1.7 billion, with profits of $95.7 million.

David, the failed rock star is founder, Chairman, President and CEO.

As an additional point of interest, a television show David enjoys is the very popular U.S. sitcom, “The Big Bang Theory,” in which The Cheesecake Factory in Pasadena, CA employs two of the show’s fictitious characters Penny (Kaley Cuoco) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch). http://the-big-bang-theory.com/

Success Tip of the Week: As David showed us, if one dream doesn’t work out, the next one may very well. The key is to have the courage to commit yourself in pursuit of your dreams as he did.

Editor’s Notes: Thank you to David’s executive assistant Winifred Song, and to the company’s media representative Wendi Shapiro for assisting me with today’s story. To learn more about David and the company, please see “Cheesecake Factory’s winning formula,” CNN Money, http://money.cnn.com/2011/05/02/smallbusiness/cheescake_factory_david_overton.fortune/index.htm and “Cheesecake Factory CEO took his family business nationwide,” Los Angeles Times, http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jun/24/business/la-fi-himi-overton-20120624

In the next KazanToday: The story of an ex-slave who became a successful businesswoman and a close friend to the wife of a U.S. President.

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Many of these short, inspirational success stories are about people from all walks of life who overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve remarkable results. These stories contain practical advice and a recipe for success for each of these renowned individuals. Some of their stories may help you to avoid some of the costly and time consuming mistakes that many of us make in life and at work. Learn from some of history's greatest winners on how to become a winner yourself, no matter what the obstacle, and no matter how daunting the task before you may seem. Good luck!
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