High Five – Early Female Entrepreneur

From Bob GilesHigh Five from Handshake 2.0:

An old guy, manacled by old sights, folklore, rules, and customs, I still find women amazing, and even more amazing that they start businesses.

And yet I remember Mom’s business which she created about 1943.

Early Female Entrepreneur, circa 1948, Mom, far right, Bob Giles, center

Last year it crept through my thickness that I was one of those “poor children raised in a single-parent family.” I did not know it then either. The family had “stayed together for the good of the children.” It didn’t work. Dad paid no alimony and, at that time, contributed little to the family (but did so later) so making ends meet required that Mom invent and run a business from home.

It was a fancy cookie business. Sugar was rationed, we had no car, and so as youths my brother and I helped in making the cookies and in bike runs to the store for coupon trading, and to deliver to nearby customers flats of cookies in floppy cardboard boxes lined with wax paper.

She had two types of sugar-cookie batter, one chocolate-flavored (chocolate was rationed so such cookies had a high price). The cookies were made with an aluminum press and they were small and crisp. Big sales were at Christmas of cookies as wreaths (with a red cinnamon candy on ripply green batter).  There were other peak periods: Easter, Halloween and Thanksgiving.

We helped mix the batter, mix in the coloring (or chocolate), load the press with batter, and we took turns with her pressing the cookies in various standard patterns of diamonds, squares, flowers, and ovals on which we put colored or clear sugar crystals. We never dealt with the oven. We should have been obese because we ate a lot of the broken and misshapen items.

She later diversified and built a market (mostly through church contacts) for a spiny-looking, straight orange-color cheese-cookie stick from the same press. The cracker-like thing was about 2.5 inches long and a favorite at cocktail and bridge parties.

I remember her keeping “the books” for her diverse orders, customers, payments, charges, and ever-threatening grocery-store bills coming due. She really ran two businesses, a two-child day-care center, and a bakery in a period it was not noticed that women did such things.

I’m now proud of her as well as grateful. Her business was a survival mechanism…but perhaps so is almost any enterprise.

***

Robert H. Giles, Jr. writes High Five for Handshake 2.0, a technology business news and Web 2.0 services enterprise of Handshake Media, Incorporated, a member company of business acceleration center VT KnowledgeWorks.  The opinions Robert Giles expresses are solely his own and are not necessarily shared by Handshake 2.0 or its clients, sponsors or advertisers. 

You can follow Robert H. Giles, Jr. on Twitter @Bob_Giles

Robert H. Giles, Jr. is a Virginia Tech Professor Emeritus with a vision for a rural land management system.  He writes two blogs, The Survivalists and Faunal Force. 

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