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Local entrepreneur is making Michigan more delicious thanks to MEDC’s Pure Michigan Business Connect matchmaking services
Hannah Awada never intended to be a small business owner. She went to school to be a teacher, but found it was difficult to teach when her husband took several foreign work assignments across the globe. While living in Shanghai, China, Awada brought homemade hummus to a party and realized she had a hit on her hands.
For the next nine months, Awada crafted and sold over 20 different hummus flavors – from Kale-Basil Pesto to Chocolate Coconut – to the expat community in China. When she and her husband moved to Michigan less than a year later, her homemade hummus continued to be popular.
“When I moved to Michigan, I did not anticipate that there would be a demand for hummus,” Awada said. “Take a look at your favorite store – there are so many options. But I went to a party a few months after moving to Michigan and I took hummus of course. Everyone loved that it was made with premium ingredients and the flavors were so unique.”
With the encouragement of friends and family, Awada started Hummus Goodness in April 2019. She took her best-selling hummus recipes from Shanghai and adapted them to the ingredients found in Michigan. All ingredients focus on nutrition and health. She makes everything with real ingredients such as olive oil, fresh lemon juice and cloves of garlic.
While Awada never had dreams of entrepreneurship, she says it runs in her blood.
My grandfather, father, and brothers all have their own business. But I am a Lebanese woman. Not many of us work and to be honest few of us have our own business. We become teachers, pharmacists or more often than not, stay-at-home moms. Yet, I knew I had the drive, knowledge and support of family and friends to show other Middle Eastern women that they can start a business and grow it to success.”
Since starting her business, word has spread about Hummus Goodness thanks to Becky DeYoung of the MSU Product Center, who first introduced Awada to the MEDC’s Pure Michigan Business Connect (PMBC) services. The MSU Product Center supports innovation and growth for business, industry and entrepreneurs in food, agriculture and natural resource sectors.
“Becky has been instrumental in [our] growth over the past three years. She has encouraged me to believe in my products and self, as well as connected me with wonderful resources from Pure Michigan Business Connect and the MEDC.”
At the Making it in Michigan show in 2021, the virtual matchmaking program hosted by PMBC and the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (MDARD), Awada met with Chartwells in a 1:1 buyer-supplier meeting. As a result of the meeting, Hummus Goodness was not only awarded a business opportunity with Chartwells, but also entered a new market they hadn't previously served – higher education institutions, specifically Central Michigan University (CMU).
“What was most amazing about this was our partnership with them opened the door to a new distribution channel giving us access to hundreds of more potential customers. After our meeting, my business partner Lara Lozser and I visited local university chefs at CMU where we introduced our products and helped inspire the chefs to create recipes featuring our products. To this day, CMU continues to be our largest Chartwell customer.”
Hummus Goodness needed to start producing higher volumes of their products in order to meet Chartwells' needs, leading to increased sales. The company has attended on-campus events at CMU and Eastern Michigan University, where they were able to engage with students and increase brand awareness. The distribution channel for Chartwells led Hummus Goodness to pitch to the chef at Detroit Delta Sky Lounges. Today, visitors of the lounge’s food bar can find Hummus Goodness flavored hummus.
Hummus Goodness has participated in several PMBC matchmaking activities, in partnership with MDARD and the MSU Product Center, over the past couple of years, including February’s Meijer Local Vendor Event at Woodward Corner. Dozens of Michigan vendors have found success getting their products on Meijer small-format store shelves thanks to the partner group’s Local Vendor Events, including Cheeky Spices.
In addition to the Meijer small-format market stores across the state, Hummus Goodness is sold at Nino Salvaggio, Plum Market, Papa Joe’s, and 130 Meijer Supercenter locations in Michigan and Ohio. Thanks to connections facilitated by PMBC, Hummus Goodness is making the Midwest more delicious.
“I did not know everything when I started Hummus Goodness. Actually, maybe I knew nothing more than how to make yummy hummus. The best thing I did was surround myself with very knowledgeable advisors and organizations. My team and I are so grateful that PMBC has opened the door for Hummus Goodness to have conversations with large retail partners and organizations.”
To access resources and connections that will help grow your business through the Pure Michigan Business Connect program, visit michiganbusiness.org/pmbc. To learn more about the many programs and resources MEDC offers to help businesses of all sizes thrive in Michigan, go to michiganbusiness.org/partnership.