FoodLab's mother entrepreneurs: these women started businesses and ended up with happy families
Friday, Oct 28, 2016
FoodLab's mother entrepreneurs: these women started businesses and ended up with happy families

Jess Sanchez McClary is, admittedly, a serial entrepreneur—she started her first business at nine years old making bracelets to sell at school and hasn't stopped since.

Today, she's the owner of the growing McClary Bros., which manufactures drinking vinegars. The business recently moved from Farmington to a new facility in Inkster and is on track for a $1 million revenue year with product served or sold in 1,000 locations in 27 states.

It's finally given her financial independence. But the road was long and the fear of failure omnipresent.

"My family is full of people who work hard, but few have graduated from college. As a result, I think they've all experienced very real ceilings and barriers in their jobs and careers," says Sanchez McClary. "Being an entrepreneur is risky and scary, but it's limitless. You drive your own success, or failure, or both."

Sanchez McClary is one of many Detroit-area women business owners who, as a mother, satiated their thirst for entrepreneurship by starting an independent business. And while entrepreneurship has around-the-clock demands, many women, like McClary, prefer it as a pathway to achieving both financial and family stability.

That drive and fortitude not only impacts families, but in turn, impacts the local economy. According to Ali Webb, director of Michigan programs at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, entrepreneurship is part of any thriving ecosystem, which needs both people creating startups and people in the workforce.

"You've got to have both ends of that equation in order to have a healthy economy," says Webb. "Entrepreneurship, having a steady pipeline of qualified entrepreneurs who want to start businesses and hire people, is a critical part of success for Detroit or, frankly, anywhere else."

W.K. Kellogg, through its Entrepreneurs of Color Fund and other grantmaking, works to provide assistance and funding for budding entrepreneurs, particularly people of color. 

Cynthia Davis of Sha La Cynt's, a Detroit gourmet vegan popcorn and dessert company, is emblematic of the type of entrepreneur Kellogg wants in the local economy.

Before forging out on her own in 2013, Davis was a personal chef and worked as an office manager. Now, her business is "kicking tail around the metropolitan area" and has improved the economic and social mobility of her family.

"My family has been placed in a better position to enjoy traveling while staying humble and reflecting on our journey of mom-being-a-paid-employee to now a successful entrepreneur," says Davis.