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Business student applies knowledge to family business

September 08, 2010, Courtesy of Ryan Simonin of the Daily Egyptian

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Khali Smith didn’t wait to put what he learned in the classroom into practice—he used his knowledge to help his mother with her business.

Smith, a senior from Chicago studying business management, said he took what he learned in his business classes and applied it to the accounting, marketing and distribution aspects of his mother Rachelle Smith’s cookie business called “Lou’s Gourmet Sweets.”

Smith said he always wanted to be an entrepreneur and figured his mother’s cookie business in Chicago was a perfect place to start. He said his mother handles most of the baking operations and he handles the business operations.

“I always tell my mother ‘We’re a team’ every time I go home. Since we started we have always looked at it as a family business,” Smith said.

Rachelle Smith said her business has sold cookies to stores for about a year. The recipes for the cookies date back to her mother and grandmother — both named Louvenia Jones — which is where the business got its name.

“She would be so proud, not only of me but also because Khali is coming into this,” Rachelle Smith said. “He just totally surprised me when he said he is going to work with the company, and I know he is going to take it to another level.”

She said she started baking the cookies for family functions and other community gatherings. When people continually asked her for the recipe or to sell the cookies, she decided it was time to start her business. She said she sold her first batch of cookies at a church function, and after they sold out, it prompted her to sell them in stores.

Smith said it was difficult at first to get businesses to agree to sell the product in stores. He said his mother had to find a place to bake from and the business had to be certified by the health department before stores could stock their products.

“It was very hard to get our product out there; at first we were selling to fast food establishments, and then from there we sold to farmer’s markets,” Smith said. ”Finally we were able to open accounts to different Walgreens around Chicago.”

Smith said he recently was able to extend the business to the Walgreens on Wall Street in Carbondale.

Michael Haywood, Director of Minority Affairs for the College of Business, said there are so many factors that any business needs to pay attention to in order to succeed.

Haywood said most small businesses fail within the first 16 to 24 months, and it takes a certain will and drive to make a business work.

“Khali is a student leader and is involved with many student organizations and that experience has and will continue to help him along the way,” Haywood said.