By John Gallagher
Detroit Free Press
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Entrepreneur Jill Bommarito named her business after her grandmother, Ethel St. John. “She was an artist and baker,” she said. “She was the first person to teach me baking, sewing, painting and so much more. Mostly, that whatever I wanted to do, I could, with patience and perseverance.”
Detroit Free Press
“Who starts a business at 45?”
Jill Bommarito, founder and owner of Ethel’s Edibles, producer of gluten-free bakery snacks now found in Whole Foods, Plum Markets and many other stores in 14 states and Canada, asked that question the other day.
The answer is: Actually, quite a lot of Detroit’s midlife entrepreneurs start their first businesses in their 40s and 50s. And many do it for the same reasons Bommarito did — because her old career evaporated.
And here is why Bommarito’s story speaks so well to the thousands of other entrepreneurs trying to start businesses in Michigan. Founders of startups often show passion for their ideas, but they have next to no business savvy. They lack knowledge of budgeting, accounting, how to manage cash flow and other essential skills.
The lucky ones, or those motivated enough, learn those skills in time to survive.
Bommarito, now 51, graduated from Michigan State and worked in management at the old NBD bank for several years, then sold residential real estate for several more. But the Great Recession of 2007-09 sent her real estate career spiraling downward, and her husband, an engineer at General Motors, had barely escaped the latest round of layoffs there.
Time for something new. She and her husband decided if they were going to stay in Michigan it had to be more than for just a paycheck.
“I’ve got to do something that brings joy to people,” Bommarito said. “I decided I was just going to do it. It had a mind of its own.”
An admitted foodie who loves the social aspect of sharing meals, Bommarito started baking gluten-free dessert snacks. (Her family has suffered from celiac disease, necessitating a gluten-free diet). She started small with her trademark Pecan Dandy dessert bar, tying bows on each product and hand-delivering them herself.