By Jessica Thiel
Life rarely takes on anyone on a wholly predictable journey, and that certainly has been the case for Glenda Woosley. Now the co-owner/operator of Culver’s of Darboy, Little Chute and Grand Chute, Woosley’s path has taken her through roles in corporate America, selling cosmetics, a divorce and learning to flip burgers alongside teenagers.
Woosley got her start in the corporate world before transitioning to selling Mary Kay Cosmetics — yes, she drove a pink car. A native of the Madison area, Woosley watched with interest as the Culver’s chain of restaurants continued to grow in the state.
“I used to tell my friends and family, ‘There’s something about those Culver’s.’ I loved the product, I loved the atmosphere, I loved the way they took care of their staff,” she says.
Eventually, Woosley’s husband at the time encouraged her to pursue opening a franchise. She thought she and her husband would be able to buy into the business and let other people run it, but Culver’s uses an owner-operator model, something Woosley says sets it apart. Woosley’s husband completed a 16-week training course for owning and operating a Culver’s, and the two opened their first location in 1999.
Woosley kept her Mary Kay job for a time but later gave it up after seeing her husband needed help running the Culver’s business. At the time, the couple owned three Culver’s locations, a storage facility and a landscaping company.
Change and a defining moment came when Woosley and her husband divorced after opening the Neenah Culver’s location. Woosley completed an abridged 16-week training course to learn to operate her Culver’s restaurants. As part of that experience, staff at her restaurants — whom she affectionately calls “my kids” — helped train her.
“That was an awesome experience for them. It was an awesome experience for me. My goodness, I really bonded with my kids. I instilled in them that they can teach anybody, and they instilled in me that I could do it,” Woosley says.
Woosley’s early assessment of Culver’s turned out to be spot-on, as the chain continues to increase in reach and popularity. The location she co-owns on Calumet Street in Darboy perennially performs as one of the top 20 or 30 restaurants out of more than 740 nationwide.
Throughout the years, Woosley has touched many lives. Eleven years ago, she began holding a Community Christmas celebration for those in need. The first year, she closed the Darboy restaurant on Christmas Eve, inviting 90 guests to enjoy a buffet, presents and a visit with Santa. This year, around 700 attended the event held at the Grand Meridian in Appleton.
Woosley also has become a personal mentor to many, including Maggie Kauer, who first started working for Woolsey as an 18-year-old. Inspired by Woolsey, Kauer went on to earn an associate degree in culinary arts and now co-owns and operates the three Culver’s locations with Woosley.
“Glenda taught me how to be a professional but most importantly how to carry myself as a strong, independent businesswomen. She taught me how to carry and present myself when conducting business outside of ‘flipping burgers,’” says Kauer, who nominated Woosley for the Women of Influence Award in the mentor category.
Click here to view Glenda Woosley’s acceptance speech.