In 1997, Michele Hoskins was nominated for the BE Emerging Company of the Year award as founder and owner of Michele Foods Inc. She took a generations-old family recipe and turned it into a multimillion-dollar corporation that produces Honey Crème Syrup. The story behind the recipe is almost as intriguing as the story behind Hoskins’ success as an entrepreneur. The tradition in her family, as set by her great-great-grandmother, America Washington, was to pass down a syrup recipe to the third daughter of each generation. Hoskins, the only girl born to her parents, persuaded her reluctant mother to give her the recipe for her own third daughter, Keisha. This beloved family recipe would become Hoskin’s saving grace. In the midst of a bitter divorce, a custody battle, and a part-time teaching career that left her financially strapped, Hoskins decided to create a business around her great-great-grandmother’s syrup recipe. This excerpt, from Hoskins’ recently published book Sweet Expectations: Michele Hoskins’ Recipe for Success, chronicles the story of a woman who looked to a family tradition for inspiration and found success and self-determination as an entrepreneur.
A EUREKA MOMENT
While I was going through the divorce and working one part-time job after another, I made a discovery that would be extremely important in shaping my destiny. I read in an article that the ’80s [was] the decade of the woman. The article said that the decade was going to turn out independent, successful women. Corporate America was going to open up. Women were going to be CEOs of companies. Women were going to be entrepreneurs. It was a time when, if you were a woman and you were going to be something, this was it. There were a lot of resources available to women. The article was right: By 1992, a third of U.S. firms would be woman-owned (according to the U.S. Census Bureau).
I thought about it. I was going through divorce proceedings. I had three small children. I did not like any of the part-time jobs I had held. I did not like working for someone else. I was at a point in my life where I was saying, “What do I want to do with the rest of my life?”
I decided to become an entrepreneur. I did not even understand what an entrepreneur was — I had to look it up in the dictionary — but I could get enough from the article to know: I wanted to become an entrepreneur. I wanted to be independent. I wanted to be able to raise my children without always struggling for money. I wanted to be able to control my own destiny. I wanted to join these powerful women who would dominate the ’80s.
If you’re like me, and you’re unhappy living in the confines of what someone else thinks you should be, and punching someone else’s [time] clock makes you crazy, you have to be grateful that you live in a world with expanded opportunities. Because this is the least you need to remake your