Ducey looked for, found the right opportunities in life

Jeremy Duda//September 26, 2014

Ducey looked for, found the right opportunities in life

Jeremy Duda//September 26, 2014

Doug Ducey (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)
Doug Ducey (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

In the early 1990s, Doug Ducey’s career at Proctor and Gamble was on the rise. Just a few years after starting out with a sales and marketing territory in Los Angeles, he was in charge of the company’s food service distributorship for the entire state of California.

But Ducey was looking for something different.

“I was enjoying P&G. I was moving up the ladder. I was taking on more responsibility. And I had a concern that if I didn’t make a decision and try to do something more entrepreneurial, I might be stuck there,” Ducey told the Arizona Capitol Times.

As a business student at Arizona State University, Ducey’s favorite was Professor Claude Olney’s entrepreneurship class, and the lessons stuck with him. He wanted to build something. Ducey and his wife Angela hadn’t yet had children, and the time was right to strike out on his own.

So Ducey started looking for opportunities, both to be an entrepreneur himself and to make his way back to Arizona, where he and Angela had long hoped to return. He found it in a small ice cream franchise called Cold Stone Creamery.

The story of Ducey’s time with Cold Stone Creamery is familiar to anyone who has watched the Republican gubernatorial hopeful’s campaign. Many of the details of his life are now well-worn parts of his stump speech. He grew up in Toledo, Ohio, where his father was a cop. A guidance counselor suggested he go to school at ASU. So he packed up his old Datsun and moved to Arizona.

Ducey, 50, is known as the ice cream guy, and his stump speeches are peppered with frequent ice cream references. But had Ducey not found the opportunity at Cold Stone, he may well be touring the state talking about coffee or sub sandwiches.


One of the first franchising opportunities Ducey considered was Subway sandwiches. But Subway was already a massive brand. And it’s hard to break into the pecking order of a franchise that already has thousands of stores, he noted. Ducey also looked for a time at another ice cream brand, Ben and Jerry’s.

“I made the decision that I’d be a better franchisor than franchisee. I think the creation of the brand and the direction of it was something that I thought would fit what I wanted to do,” Ducey said. “I came in to do something entrepreneurial. I wanted to go into business for myself.”

And after years spent selling Folgers Coffee for Proctor and Gamble, Ducey considered getting into coffee as well. As he searched for opportunities to go into business, Ducey was inspired by Starbucks, at the time an up-and-coming company. At Proctor and Gamble, he said he often told his colleagues and superiors to keep their eye on the rising Seattle-based coffee chain.

“I was able to see the Starbucks brand growing from Seattle. So I would go back to Cincinnati for these awards for sales growth for Folgers and talk to my superiors and say, ‘I think we need to pay attention to the Starbucks brand,’” Ducey said. “I think in many ways, I can understand how some of this was missed. It was kind of discounted, just, ‘Ducey, just keep focusing on the red can.’”

But in the end, it was Cold Stone that caught his eye. At the time, the chain had just eight stores in the Valley. Ducey formally joined the company in 1996, 10 years after getting his start with Proctor and Gamble in Los Angeles. He invested in the company and put up money for his own franchise, located at 83rd Avenue and Bell Road.

Ducey hadn’t been looking for an opportunity just anywhere. He and Angela wanted to come back to Arizona. His wife was from Arizona, and he had fallen in love with the state while going to college here.

That notion was driven home when Ducey went back to Ohio for his company training after joining Proctor and Gamble out of college.

“I remember opening up the shades at the Adams Mark Hotel in downtown Cincinnati and just seeing the low-hanging, gray, pewter sky and thinking, ‘Boy, I really like the West. I really like Arizona and I’d really like to find a way to get back there,’” he said.

Once he joined Cold Stone, Ducey and the company’s founder, Donald Sutherland (not the actor), got to work trying to expand the company’s brand. They’d show Sutherland’s store at McClintock Road and Southern Avenue to potential franchisees.

Ducey looked to other successful franchises, drawing inspiration and ideas from success stories like McDonald’s. He reached out to connections in the Subway franchise, using the sandwich chain’s economic model as a template for Cold Stone.

He also drew inspiration from Starbucks, which Ducey said was a huge influence on him. He read Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s book, “Pour Your Heart Into It,” a chronicle of building the coffee shop into a global franchise. Ducey, who had obtained a 50 percent interest in Cold Stone, used the book as a model for developing its brand.

He also got some direct help from Starbucks. Cold Stone developed a relationship with Starbucks’ real estate team and often opened new ice cream stores alongside coffee shops.

“Starbucks was taking down the finest locations in the country. They liked the relationship with Cold Stone Creamery. Starbucks lit up a center in the morning. We lit up a center in the evening,” Ducey said. “So we were able to take down some of the finest locations in the country by drafting with Starbucks.”


From 1996 to 2007, Ducey and Sutherland built Cold Stone into a global brand.  Ducey proudly recounts on the campaign trail that the company now has more than 1,400 stores in all 50 states and 31 countries.

But it wasn’t until after he left Cold Stone that he started thinking about a career in politics. Ducey had never been involved in the political world. In fact, despite all the national and international traveling he’d done on behalf of Cold Stone, Ducey had never even been to Washington, D.C., when he sold the company in 2007.

His introduction to politics came in 2008 during U.S. Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign. Some of Ducey’s friends at Hensley Beverage Company, the liquor distributor founded by McCain’s father-in-law, asked Ducey to get involved in the race.

“I didn’t really know what that meant. I found in hindsight that it meant raise money,” he said.

Ducey raised money for McCain and served on his Arizona leadership team. It wasn’t long before Ducey started thinking about running for office himself.

Friends started urging him to run in 2010, Ducey said. Some encouraged him to run for retiring Congressman John Shadegg’s seat, Ducey said, but he didn’t want to move to Washington while leaving his family behind in Arizona. He said others urged him to run for governor, but that was too big a job for someone with no experience.

“I’m not a legislator. I knew that about my personality. I’m an executive,” he said.

The ideal opportunity presented itself when then-state Treasurer Dean Martin decided to challenge Gov. Jan Brewer in the Republican primary.

“Had Dean Martin not made the decision to challenge Governor Brewer and the Treasurer’s Office not opened up, I may have not gotten involved in state politics,” he said.

As a businessperson with a background in finance, Ducey said the Treasurer’s Office seemed a perfect fit for him. It didn’t take him long to jump into the treasurer’s race after Martin announced his gubernatorial campaign.

“I think I’ve been throughout my career a measured risk-taker. A lot of times people will say entrepreneurs are gamblers. And I would take issue with that. I think it’s more being a measured risk-taker of seeing an opportunity and thinking, ‘Can you maximize it’?” he said.

The Treasurer’s Office is a low-profile position, Ducey said, but it was a way to get involved. It was a way to see if he could make a difference. And it was tremendous learning experience that has taught him about policy, the state budget, consensus building and working with stakeholders, he said.

“I’m so much wiser today than I was four years ago. And I think oftentimes the fatal conceit of a businessperson is to think because they ran something over here they can automatically come and run something over there,” Ducey said.

Doug Ducey
Age: 50
Education: Arizona State University, B.S., 1986
Wife: Angela
Children: Jack, 17; Joe, 15; Sam, 11