Susie's South Forty Confections
I like to cook, and I had a friend with a pecan grove. He wanted to do something more with the pecans, so I generated some recipes. I was a dance teacher during the day, and started making candy at night.
I asked some successful people in town for mentoring. Then I went to Odessa College, took culinary arts to learn how to cook in volume, and went to Midland College to learn how to write a business plan for manufacturing. The bankers were very supportive.
We started in my house in November 1991 and built a factory by the fall of 1992. I put windows in the factory kitchen, and put a gift shop in front. We're a huge mail order business now, and have two other stores -- one in Midland and in Odessa. We have a staff of 16, and we bring on more than 80 additional seasonal workers to handle the rush around the Christmas holidays.
It feels like there are about 500 nonprofits in Midland, and whether it's for Boy Scouts or Meals on Wheels, we donate to them. That word of mouth has gotten us a lot of customer loyalty. Midland's the best place in the world to start a business, because if you're committed and stick with it, the community will support you 110.
My biggest challenge is that I can't pay the big wages and benefits others do. We're self-insured, and people work for hourly wages. About 60 to 72 of our annual income comes in the last quarter, during the holidays.
But family comes first here, so employees know they can take off for school and families whenever needed. Pardon the pun, but it's really a sweet business. -Dinah Eng
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