Lifting up Women-owned Businesses in Michigan

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we want to put the spotlight on a few of our female local food business owners. We were able to connect with Jody Haden of Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate in Empire, Amy Polk of Applecore General Store in Cedarville, and Nicole Shubert of Shubert Family Homestead in Ossineke. Get to know them and their insights on owning a business!

Describe your business in one sentence. 

Jody Hayden (JH) : We’re a clean ingredient chocolate shop made for chocolate lovers (and we love to use local ingredients in our recipes)!

Amy Polk (AP) : Applecore is a celebration of Michigan-made products and art work, with a mission to give opportunities and exposure to as many local and state makers as possible.

Nicole Shubert (NS) : Shubert Family Homestead LLC is a Certified Naturally Grown (produce certified) farm, nursery and DairyDOO retailer.

What inspired you to start this business? 

JH: We purchased the business in 2013 from our dear friend and chocolate fairy godmother, Mimi Wheeler, who founded the business in 2004 in quaint Empire, MI. I was inspired to purchase the business to carry on her legacy but also to work in chocolate, which presented a new exciting challenge for me following my years in specialty coffee. Mostly, I’m inspired to create a business that truly does good in the world.

AP: I have always dreamed of having my own business, and I was inspired and excited by Michigan’s entrepreneurial culture as early as grade school while learning about Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, where I grew up. But what really lit a spark in me to start this particular business now was the recent rise of makers and entrepreneurs who emerged from the economic downturn of the early 2000s– creating new careers and meaningful businesses out of necessity. I wanted to be a part of that movement and to help however I could, by not only selling my own work, but also the works of other local and Michigan makers, and to eventually create jobs. I had a lot of encouragement from customers when I started making soap, too– they thought I could turn it into something more. 

NS: Organic gardening and being as self sufficient as possible is my personal passion. I wish to provide a source of non-GMO, open-pollinated and heirloom plants to the community. I hope to share knowledge about seed saving so everyone can be self-sufficient and sustainable. 

What is it like being a woman business owner? 

JH: Women seem to have this innate ability to view things holistically in a business and this is a special power I’ve been tapping into these past few years. It helps me make better long-term decisions for the business. On the other hand, being a business owner and mom has been a supreme balancing act. Sometimes I feel like my brain is Grand Central Station and a quarter of the trains aren’t running. Ha! But, like most women business owners, I  feel challenged to find a healthy balance between self care and family/business obligations. It’s something I’m always trying to better manage.

AP: The field of woman-owned businesses seems to be growing wider than I ever could have dreamed of, and I’m constantly surprised by how many businesses in my region of northern Michigan are owned or managed by other women (women are statistically the minority in my county). One of the cool things about that is how supportive women can be of each other– it’s so great when we give shout-outs to each other or applaud each other on social media! But one of the persistent challenges for women in business is the burden of caregiving– whether it’s children, elderly parents, or other dependents. I have seen amazing women-owned businesses close and fantastic female managers step away from their jobs, due to caregiving responsibilities. Most women I know– myself included– are juggling a lot. 

NS: In addition to running this farm business, I’m also a Mom. I enjoy that my business is home-based so I’m always with family. 

What advice do you have for other business owners? 

JH: Follow your gut. You know your business/product better than anyone and, especially in pivotal moments, trust yourself. When you are making the hundreds of decisions you do every day, remember all the people on the other side of those decisions and the power you have to effect change through your business. And, something I’ve been doing more of lately, ask for help. Reach out to other business owners you admire or who may face similar challenges as you. I’ve found most business owners are willing to share their lessons learned and expertise. 

AP: Attend as many entrepreneurial and business workshops, summits, and classes as you can find. Those are the places to find energy, inspiration, and like-minded business start-ups and seasoned owners who usually are willing to share tips and network with you. It’s wonderful to be in the same boat as others, and to know you’re not alone. And, you learn so much by taking the time to enrich and educate yourself. 

NS: Find what you love and are passionate about, and do more of that. Share your joy and knowledge with others. 

What do you want people to know about your business? 

JH: We love what we do! Chocolate is a magical food that brings people together and makes them happy. It’s a joy to share our passion for great chocolate and ethical sourcing with everyone who visits our little green shop in Empire. We’re especially grateful to all of our customers who’ve supported us through the pandemic, leaving us sweet notes and shipping chocolate to friends and family across the country. The outpouring of support was overwhelming and we’re so deeply grateful.

AP: I have personally met nearly all the makers whose work I sell in my store, and I love to tell their stories. One of my favorite things to tell customers is how much their purchase means specifically to the person who made the item they are buying. There is a life and a purpose attached to every item we sell, far beyond just making money. For one artist, sales mean the difference between fixing her car or not. For another, sales are the validation she needs to keep working at her craft. I wouldn’t be here still making soap if it weren’t for those customers who keep buying it, which boosts my confidence and nudges me along. Also, my dogs have become a store attraction in their own right. I have customers who visit the store just to see my dogs!  

NS: My business is in the early stages but will grow every year as the mother plants mature and I’m able to produce more plants. I’d like to be a resource to the beginner home grower so questions are always welcome. 

Polk’s Scented Soaps that started it all!

Did you know that you can search by ownership type in our directory? Check out more women-owned businesses in Michigan here.

Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate 11590 S. Lacore Rd, Empire, Michigan 49630

Applecore General Store, 708 W. M-134, Cedarville, Michigan 49719

Shubert Family Homestead, 1602 W Nicholson Hill Rd., Ossineke, MI 49766

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