Monday, March 1, 2010

A Swedish Fisherman's Daughter

Aurora Henrietta (Ora)Hanson was the seventh child born to Olof Hanson and Mary Hepke. She was born in 1876 in Michigan and married William Snyder on 24 Mar 1894 in Chicago, IL. About 1909 she began a candy business that became a Chicago fixture for 50 years. Our family connection is that my husband Dave Peterson is the great-grandson of Ora Snyder's older sister Lizabet. Below I have collected some articles about her and her candy company. There appears to be some confusion about the number of children Ora and William had and I can only document a daughter Edith, born in 1895.

March 31, 2009

Mrs. Snyder's Home Made Candies

Chicagoans used to salivate at the words Mrs. Snyder’s Home Made Candies.

That reaction was the result of Mrs. Ora Snyder’s recipes for candy and for business success: use high quality ingredients and hire high-quality staff; sell fresh candy; provide good value for the price; give your customers what they want.

These ingredients are basic fare in today’s business classes but Mrs. Snyder didn’t learn them in business school. She developed and tested her recipes on-the-job. Like many entrepreneurs of her day, she started with limited capital and without a business plan. She could of failed but she refused to.

Her story begins in the kitchen . . .

Ora learned to make candy as a child. But in 1909, when she was a worried wife and mother, she turned to it for economic stability. At night, her kitchen produced whipped crème chocolates, fudge, divinity, and other confections. By day she sold them in some unused space belonging to a Chicago peanut & coffee roaster. Her individual sales were small, five-, ten-, and fifteen-cents. But her volume grew quickly. After four months in business she was making $500 a month, about $9,600 in today’s dollars.

Ten years later she had four stores in Chicago's Loop. She was the subject of articles in national magazines and a co-founder of a national trade organization. Twenty years later she had ten shops. Newspapers covered her plans and purchases. She lectured at conferences. Lists of prominent, successful businesswomen published in Fortune magazine, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune and other publications all included her.

By the time she died in 1948, Ora’s candy-kitchen-factory was cooking up confections to fill 16 retail shops daily. That’s quite a successful recipe.