More and more women are foraying into the manufacturing industry, and they have their own unique sets of ideas and methods to help their businesses succeed. Three Georgia women — Robin Schick, President of CalyRoad Creamery, Heidi Nel, President of Heidi’s Heavenly Cookies and Molly Hubbard, President of Shape Innovation — are women whose manufacturing companies are committed to more than just profits.
Inspired by great foods from around the world, Robin Schick wanted to create a business involving natural or agricultural products. Initially, she thought she would raise goats and make cheese. However, she quickly learned she was best at making fresh, reliable, handmade artisan cheeses from goat milk, something consumers may not be able to buy at their favorite grocery store chains. Today the company has diversified its products, adding aged and fresh cows’ milk cheeses.
Since opening her business, Robin has been committed to producing a better tasting, all-natural cheese with no preservatives or stabilizers, as well as supporting local suppliers. Seventy percent of her business comes from retail sales at farmer’s markets or people who come to her store, and 30 percent comes from high-end restaurants who appreciate her natural product.
CalyRoad Creamery is a profitable business, and Robin values her employee, supplier and customer relationships above everything else. She sees her role, not only as president of her company, but also as an important job creator for others. She is proud to have created an environment where all employees can learn and feel good about themselves, their company and the products they manufacture together.
Heidi Nel’s customers report that Heidi’s Heavenly Cookies are different from all other gourmet cookies on the market. From the look and appeal of the product and the gift packaging to the enhanced homemade taste without any preservatives, Heidi’s Heavenly Cookies are a full sensory experience.
Heidi say she has incorporated Maya Angelou’s philosophy into her company’s mission because it represents the essence of her business and its products: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Heidi is so committed to having her cookies arrive in the same condition as they leave her manufacturing facility that her logistics are now used by UPS as a resource for shipping perishables. As a tribute to her company’s efforts, Heidi’s Heavenly Cookies had no returns during the busy 2012 holiday season.
While Heidi wants her employees to have a strong work ethic and willingness to learn, she strongly encourages her employees to experiment, be creative and contribute new ideas. Their contributions truly make the company and its products better than anyone ever dreamed possible. Heidi also believes that family comes first. “By allowing people to attend to family needs, it comes back in spades.” She also fosters a workplace environment where people can make mistakes and are not punished.
As a result of her leadership, values and beliefs, every year since the founding of her business in 2002, the company has performed financially better than the year before, all without any traditional advertising.
Molly Hubbard’s company, Shape Innovation, was originally established more than 25 years ago by her father. At that time, the company focused on architectural form shapes. When Molly bought the business a few years ago, she became one of the few women to own an EPS foam fabricating business.
One of the most popular products produced by Shape Innovation are foam “cake dummies,” which Molly supplies to independent bakers, cake decorating supply companies, bakery departments in major grocery store chains, TV baking shows and as movie props. Because Shape Innovation is primarily a custom shop, the company is able to create just about any imaginable food or food-related product. Examples include gigantic props such as hot dogs, bananas, cupcakes and spaghetti sauce jars. These can be found on the top of cars, trucks and buildings as well as at trade shows.
Today there are not many foam fabricators left in the United States, especially ones that customize products and sell direct. By offering both custom and stock products less expensively, Molly is able to achieve a significant price advantage over her competitors.
Molly feels women manufacturers take a more personal approach in their businesses because they typically have both a professional and personal interest in food. Being involved in a highly creative and artistic company, Molly is able to change her business with the times and change products as needed. She says her management style is more progressive and flexible, and she is open to new ideas and suggestions. Since Molly is projecting significant growth in 2013 due to increased Internet sales and by offering additional stock pieces, she plans to hire 50 percent more people this year.
While these three women business owners do focus on the bottom line, they have also found a way to incorporate their own unique values of what is important to them, their employees, suppliers and customers into their businesses.
For more information about Women in Food Manufacturing, contact Adam Beckerman, Partner-in-Charge of the Manufacturing & Distribution Group at Habif, Arogeti & Wynne LLP, at [email protected] or 404-898-7542. Habif, Arogeti & Wynne, LLP is the largest independent accounting and business advisory firm headquartered in Georgia and one of the top 50 firms in the United States. The firm’s more than 300 professionals provide financial solutions — including accounting, auditing and tax services, forensic and litigation services, management consulting, financial planning, technology consulting and financial staffing — to more than 15,000 clients in a variety of industries.