Through Thick And Thin
Although minority women-owned businesses are having quite a heyday, it wasn't always so. Just ask Michele Hoskins, founder of specialty syrup manufacturer Michele Foods Inc. in Calumet City, Illinois. In 1984, the recent divorc? and mother of three suddenly faced an uncertain future. How would she obtain financial stability for her family? She found the answer in her roots.
Five generations ago, America Washington--Hoskins' great-great-great-grandmother and the daughter of a slave--concocted Honey Creme Syrup and passed the recipe down to her third daughter (who then passed it down to her third daughter, and so on). "When I got the recipe to give to my third daughter," she explains, "I decided, being a woman of the '80s, better a [business] than a recipe to pass on." Smart choice: The company, which also makes Butter Pecan and Maple Creme flavors, generated 1997 sales of $7.5 million.
Hoskins, now 50, traveled a long road to success. To finance the business in the early days, she sold everything she owned and bottled syrup in her mother's basement. First selling to the neighborhood grocer, she then moved on to local retail chains, then statewide and regional stores.
One of her biggest breaks came when she expanded into food service and won a major contract from restaurant giant Denny's. "That put us on the map as a company--it was a $3 million contract," Hoskins says. "People take me a lot more seriously now."
It's all been sweet success for the former schoolteacher, who launched her business with absolutely no experience. "I read somewhere that women could really be successful if they had their own business and that it was a way to become financially independent," says Hoskins. She's certainly living proof.
Michele Foods Inc., P.O. Box 1415, South Holland, IL 60473, firstname.lastname@example.org