Name: Michele Hoskins.
Age: 49 yrs.
'Foolish' Idea: To market the syrup recipe concocted more than 130 years ago by her ancestor, America Washington.
Start-up Capital: Money from sale of furniture and car, plus used food stamps.
How Idea was Launched: Michele made the syrup and bottled it into clear plastic food bottles, sticking 'Michele's Honey Crème Syrup' labels on. She persuaded local grocery store owners to stock the syrup. Michele also sold it to friends. She started up a company, calling it, Michele Foods.
Sales: By 1984 the syrup was in 48 stores. Her big breakthrough came when Dennys and Wal-Mart agreed to purchase her product.
Earnings: $7.5million-a-year revenue.
School teacher, Michele Hoskins, discovered her salary was too small to pay the mortgage and feed her children, when her husband left her in 1979.
However, she knew that she could turn her great-great-great-grandmother's recipe for syrup into cold, hard cash. She decided to market the syrup concocted by her ancestor, America Washington, a slave freed after the civil war.
Unfortunately, her parents and brothers did not feel that she had the right to use the family recipe, for profit; so they took Michele Hoskins to court, charging that the recipe was not hers to sell.
Michele eventually won the case. She was on welfare, so sometimes she used food stamps to buy ingredients, other times she'd sell something. She sold her car, furniture, jewelry and even her condo, to keep her small business going in the early days.
Michelle persuaded local grocery stores to stock bottles of Michele's Honey Crème Syrup and friends also bought from her.
At the end of the first year her profits were a paltry $300. Despite this, Michele Hoskins never quit. It was nine years of pure struggle, but by 1984 bottles of her syrup were on the shelves in 48 stores.
Today, Michele's Honey Crème Syrup is sold to Denny's, Wal-Mart and Kroger's grocery stores and sales top $7.5million a year. (1995)