From Team Member to President of Team Conifer: Second Generation Franchisee Laura Thurston
March 24, 2016
Laura Thurston is a second generation franchisee and president of Team Conifer operating 18 restaurants in the New England market. Her father, Fred Thurston has been a KFC franchisee for more than 40 years.
Laura’s first job was working as a team member at KFC. She returned to her father’s business after college (she graduated from Wheaton College with a degree in economics). She worked her way up through the ranks as shift supervisor, assistant manager, restaurant general manager, trainer, above restaurant leader and beyond.
“The Colonel, and his legacy, has always been part of our lives,” Laura said. “The company is like an extended family. We have people who have been with us for 40 years. They have watched me grow up and they have taught me so much. Some of the people that I work with day-to-day now were my first bosses.”
Throughout her career, Laura has served the Northeast Franchise community in various roles, including a term as president of the northeast association and president of the Portland advertising co-op. She was one of the only women on the Northeast Distribution and Poultry Committee at its inception. In fact, she says she sat in a lot of meetings where she was the only woman, and was very often the youngest woman.
“I felt like I belonged and that I could make a difference,” she said. “I had to prove my worth and I hope I did.”
Laura has been inspired by many remarkable women during her career, including fellow franchisees Darlene Pfeiffer, Lois Faust and Jeanine Bagshaw.
“Darlene has had a huge impact on KFC. She really paved the way. I was always the only other woman in the boardroom with her many times. She gave me advice and mentored me. Jeanine and I grew up in the system together. I value her friendship and we share a lot of best practices,” Laura said.
Her advice to other women business leaders: “Work hard, but stay true to yourself. We sometimes give up things that make us who we are in order to try and compete, but we can compete very well by just being ourselves.”