Twenty years ago, a divorced ex-school teacher had children to support, a family secret and a dream.
Michele Hoskins’ determination to “leave my daughters a business instead of just a recipe” was the inspiration for Michele Foods. And now, after having achieved much success throughout her past two decades in business, she plans to share some of her keys to that success with the students and staff of Eastern Illinois University.
Community residents can also hear what she has to say during an open presentation at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20, in Lumpkin Hall’s Roberson Auditorium. Admission is free.
Hoskins will be visiting Eastern as one of this year’s four executives-in-residence. The School of Business’ Executive-In-Residence Program primarily serves as a student motivational tool. It also provides opportunity for individuals and firms to discuss their “fit” in the world of business, what their business expects from its professional employees, and what tools and skill sets prospective employees are expected to have.
In order for students to gain an understanding of the concepts and processes fundamental to productive business activity, executives-in-residence discuss the scope of activity and responsibilities of their positions, how activity within their areas is linked to other areas within the organization, and the personal background needed to develop the skills necessary for the position they hold.
Hoskins, as founder and owner of Michele Foods, will share both her struggles and mistakes as an African-American woman entrepreneur.
“From a young age my parents told me, ‘Anything the mind can conceive can be achieved.’ That’s what gave me the ability to start my own company literally with no start-up capital and no business experience,” Hoskins said. “All I had going for me was my goal.”
The foundation of Michele Foods is a secret syrup recipe handed down to daughters from a great-great-grandmother. But Hoskins had a vision that went beyond the family recipe. Today she sells Honey Crème syrups that “are condiments, and you can cook with them. We have over two dozen recipes for cakes, jams and glazes you can make,” she said.
The company’s products can currently be found in more than 10,000 food stores nationwide, including Super Wal-Mart, Kroger, Super Target, Cub Foods and Jewel Foods.
Michele Foods has also branched out into related products such as providing condiments for Church’s Chicken.
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,” Hoskins said. “If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will.”
Hoskins recalled investing the capital she made from selling “virtually everything I had.”
“I never had any bank 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 added, which is why she hopes programs to help minorities build businesses continue.
Over the past 20 years, Hoskins has achieved much success. She was awarded the 2002 Entrepreneur of the Year award by the Woman’s Foodservices Forum, and was the keynote speaker at Johnson & Wales University’s graduation ceremony, at which time she received an honorary doctorate degree.
She has been featured three times on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” and on all major news channels.
She was awarded the Phenomenal Women Award 2000, and “Dollars and Sense” magazine voted her as one of the Top 100 Professional Women. Her other credits include “Black Enterprise” magazine’s The Emerging Company of the Year Award 1996, The Entrepreneurial Women Award 1998 and Madam Walker Entrepreneurial Award 1999.
She is also the author of the book, “Sweet Expectations: Michele Hoskins’ Recipe for Success.”
More about Hoskins and Michele Foods can be found at http://www.michelefoods.com/default.asp.