My Empire: Makeda's sweet success - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

My Empire: Makeda's sweet success

(Source: WMC Action News 5) (Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Source: WMC Action News 5) (Source: WMC Action News 5)

Love and community helped the woman behind the world-famous Makeda's Cookies build her empire.

Pamela Hill is the woman behind Makeda's Cookies.

The foundation for Hill's empire was actually laid by her mother-in-law, a Memphis City Schools cafeteria worker.

"These cookies used to be in the public schools and people loved them," Hill said.

Hill's husband, Maurice, had a vision to start a cookie business with the recipe, so they bought a mixer.

"We didn't have any capital. We didn't have anything. We just had hope. We had God on our side," Hill said.

Click here to see Maurice explain why Pamela is so important to him and the business.

Many people don't know why the Hills cookies are called Makeda's Cookies. Hill retold the story of her best friend and niece, who died of cancer in 1997.

"[Makeda] was in the hospital. She said, 'Why are these people buying me all these gifts and bringing me all these toys?'--because she was sick. She said, 'They think I'm going to die, don't they? I ain't going nowhere, but don't tell them.' I was like, 'Oh my God, this little small little girl.' The thing was she was right. She's not gone. We are Makeda! We are Makeda. We are calling Makeda's name every day," Hill said.

Makeda's Homemade Butter Cookies was born two years after Hill's niece lost her battle with Leukemia.

Starting out, Hill kept her job as a lab tech at then Regional Medical Center, but Maurice pleaded her to quit and come join him full-time at the company.

Eventually, Hill agreed.

"I knew...if I didn't help him, he probably wouldn't make it," Hill joked.

Click here to see Pamela's complete interview with Kontji Anthony.

"I'm the machine with the cookies, and she's the brains," Maurice said.

The Hills never received a loan to start their business. They survived through each cookie sale at their Airways Boulevard location.

Hill took the old recipe and kicked it up a notch. She created new flavors and set her sights on getting Makeda's Cookies in Kroger stores.

"We had someone to mediate, but they never came through so [Pamela] went to corporate herself," Maurice said.

Hill walked into Kroger's corporate office and told them to try her cookies and call her back in a couple days.

"They said, 'We'll call you in about two weeks,'" Maurice recalled. "Pamela said, 'I look to hear from you in a couple days.' They called her in a couple days."

They're now in 34 Kroger stores, six SuperLo's, four Cash Savers, and a Montesi's Supermarket.

To keep up with demand, Hill secured a Community Unlimited grant to open a second location on South Second Street. That building is 2,400 square feet, whereas the Airways location was only 800.

Hill said building an empire starts with doing something you love.

"Be willing to work hard," Hill said. "Don't give up whatever you do, because if you give up, you've lost."

Hill hopes to share her success with the community.

"One thing we really want to do is create jobs for these young people who are out there. Some that we may be able to help put a little money in their pocket. Maybe that'll keep them out of trouble."

Click here if this story made you hungry for some delicious cookies!

Below is our Facebook Live interview with Pamela Hill where we let you ask her questions about her empire:

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