William Rosenberg, the Entrepreneur Who Founded Dunkin' Donuts

William Rosenberg’s (1916-2002) name is very respected around the world, especially in business and franchising. Best known as the founder of Dunkin’ Donuts company, but also as an example for many entrepreneurs.

Rosenberg was born on June 10, 1916 in Dorchester, Massachusetts. During the Great Depression, at the age of only 14, he had to leave school to work for Western Union to help support his family. At 17 his job was at a company that distributed ice cream from refrigerator trucks. In this company, he moved up through every level - from Assistant Manager, Manager, Branch Manager to finally become National Sales Manager. “Hard work pays off” he said.

At the start of World War II, he began working for Bethlehem Steel Corporation, which was America's largest shipbuilder and second-largest steel producer. After the war Rosenberg borrowed $1000 to add to his $1500 and using his food distribution knowledge started a mobile catering business.

“If someone else can do it, I can do it, too”

In a short time, he had 140 catering trucks, 25 in-plant outlets and a vending operation. The business flourished and branched out including in-plant cafeterias and vending machines. He quickly realized that coffee and doughnuts summed up to 40% of his total sales so he decided to open his first doughnut store – “The Open Kettle”. The year was 1948 but two years later he changed the name to “Dunkin Donuts”. Dunkin’ Donuts signed its first franchise agreement in 1953. His partner at that time was against this idea, so Rosenberg had to buy him out.
Although he handed over the presidency of Dunkin’ Donuts to his son Robert in 1963, Rosenberg stayed on as chairman of the board and still had a significant influence on the company.

"A Leader must possess credibility, imagination, enthusiasm, vision, foresight, a sense of timing, a passion for excellence and be willing to share"

In the late 1960s Dunkin’ Donuts went public, and in 1970 the first shop abroad opened in Japan. In 1988, Rosenberg quit from his position as a chairman, but became a consultant to the company. Later on Dunkin’ Donuts was bought by Allied Domecq, 1990 and then once again in December 2005 by Dunkin Brands, Inc.

In 1996, Rosenberg wrote his ten principles for building a successful organization:

1. Seek out the best people.
2. Compensate them the best.
3. Share your profits and equity with them.
4. Treat them with respect.
5. Share your goals and strategies with them. Create a family atmosphere, a sense of belonging, and give recognition for accomplishments.
6. Make certain your credibility is unquestionable.
7. Set the highest possible standards.
8. Enthusiastically instill in them your passion to achieve excellence in all your combined endeavors.
9. Give the responsibility and authority to achieve.
10. Periodically check and follow through that your standards and philosophies are adhered to.

Apparently his ideas and ambitions worked. Because of his success, he has been called "the father of franchising as we know it today" and "one of the most influential and innovative individuals the foodservice industry has ever known" by a number of renowned print media.

Rosenberg symbolizes the American spirit of passion and hard work. Despite his limited education, his diligence and spirit brought wealth and fame enabling him to become a philanthropist in his senior years.

He donated millions of dollars to many causes. In 1986, he founded the William Rosenberg Chair in Medicine at Harvard Medical School through the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. In 1989, Rosenberg became the first honorary trustee at Dana Farber, and in 1999 he assisted in funding the Vector Laboratory at the Harvard Institute of Human Genetics in Boston.

On September 22, 2002, William Rosenberg passed away at the age of 86 at his home on Cape Cod. He is survived by his wife, two sons, daughter, stepdaughter, as well as nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. He is now true example for a hard work, dedication and success.