Twenty five years ago, a divorced ex-school teacher Michele Hoskins’ had to rise up to the task to support her kids. Armed with a secret syrup recipe handed down to daughters from a great-great-grandmother but no startup capital and prior business knowledge Hoskins plunged head up in 1984 with a vision that went beyond the family recipe. Determination to “leave my daughters a business” instead of just a recipe was the inspiration for Michele Foods, she says.
No fairy magic, Michele Hoskins’ amazing work for decades didn’t get the desired recognition, hiding in the shadow of one of the largest brands in the syrup category, Aunt Jemima, but one day she packed up and the story changed – “When she decided to leave, for some reason eyes turned on us,” Hoskins said. “We got a chance to shine, and here we are.”
Today, many thanks to perseverance, Michele’s Syrups- Chicago’s only African American owned syrup company proudly takes pace one of the largest brands in the syrup category.
She sells Honey Crème syrups that are condiments, you can cook with. “We have over two dozen recipes for cakes, jams, and glazes you can make.”
Hoskins recalling her early struggles says: “There was no mentor for me as an African American woman entrepreneur. Had I not been naïve as I was, I might not have done this. All I had going for me was my goal.”
Twenty years ago it was unknown for an African American woman to be the CEO of a manufacturing facility. “That’s why the first thing I tell people is to invest in yourself”; she adds, “if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will.”
“I invested the capital I made from selling virtually everything I had. I never had any banks loans or investors, only one small line of credit when I started in October 1984. I learned how to live off of receivables early on.”
“The banking part is still the most difficult aspect for minority entrepreneurs,” she adds, which is why she hopes programs to help minorities build businesses continue.
“Also, I put God first. I believe that anything can manifest itself with faith, hard work and perseverance. So never give up, the dream is something that unfolds to you as you work it. Whatever happens, look at it from a very positive and spiritual way.”
Image: Michele Foods