One West Texas woman has unlocked the recipe to success, and it all started with a pair of red cowboy boots and a 40-acre pecan grove. Her success is evident through her 2016 induction into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame as well as her thriving confectionery business, Susie’s South Forty Confections, located in Midland, Texas.
Susie Hitchcock-Hall’s first career, in the mid-1970s, involved one of her favorite hobbies: dancing. This initial career included the aforementioned and beloved red cowboy boots as Hitchcock-Hall taught country western dance lessons for private groups, as well as churches and the YMCA. As Hitchcock-Hall taught dance lessons by night, she pursued other interests by day. Cooking was top of this list as she loved to “fiddle around in the kitchen,” thus leading to her second career.
It started in a pecan grove south of Midland on 40 acres. Hitchcock-Hall partnered with the owner of the pecan grove, the late Foy William Boyd, Jr., and created the recipes. This resulted in building a 1,500-square-foot factory.
Hitchcock-Hall crafted mouth-watering recipes, most of which were initially baked goods. Hitchcock-Hall reports to now “know why they sell three-day-old bread at a discount,” being hindered by the short shelf-life of baked goods. However, this bump in the road was nothing compared to her determination, so she began experimenting with recipes for candy, which could be frozen to preserve freshness. This was the golden ticket! To expand her knowledge, and learn how to scale the volume from small-batch to large-batch, Hitchcock-Hall enrolled in culinary arts classes at Odessa College.
As she honed her culinary skills, three candies soon came to the forefront as customer favorites. Texas Pecan Toffee was Hitchcock-Hall’s original candy and continues to be the number one customer favorite. Following the toffee are the Kickers® Pralines, which give a nod to her love for dancing. Third, in the line-up is a chocolate named Fudge Richey®. This candy was initially to be named Fudge Rickie after one of Hitchcock-Hall’s friends, but as the information came across the fax, the ‘k’ looked like an ‘h.’
“God was in the fax machine,” Hitchcock-Hall said and the name was determined to be Fudge Richey. The unique stories behind each candy and parts of her business create a personalized and genuine experience that Hitchcock-Hall’s customers have come to love and are foundational to Hitchcock-Hall’s brand. The naming of her products is intertwined in the love of storytelling as well. “Making candies is like having kids,” Hitchcock-Hall said. “You can name ‘em and dress ‘em however you like!”
Even the packaging of Hitchcock-Hall’s creations is thoughtfully connected to the items, the most famous being candy-filled boxes emulating her red cowboy boots. Additionally, items come in Texas-shaped baskets, as well as oil derricks and pump jacks, commemorating the West Texas oil industry. The Winners Caramels have an optional tin proudly depicting a gold trophy.
As business flourished, Hitchcock-Hall bought out her partner and became a certified woman-owned business by the Women’s Business Enterprise. She also outgrew the 1,500-square-foot factory and leased a new 20,000-square-foot production location in town. To celebrate this milestone, Hitchcock-Hall’s youngest son David was set on getting Susie’s South Forty Confections in the Guinness World Records. Not to be underdone, Susie’s South Forty Confections created the world’s largest piece of toffee, which was Texas-shaped and weighed in at 2,940 pounds.
Additionally, an item featured on the Food Network’s show Unwrapped was the brand’s Texas Trash, a custom blend of cereals and pretzels mixed with fancy pecans drenched in a creamy white chocolate flavored coating. Just the description of these candies can get the taste buds firing!
Creating in big-batch form, Hitchcock-Hall chooses to use only the highest quality ingredients in her products. She purchases butter by the ton directly from the dairy. She purchases pre-shelled, high-quality pecans, as well as chocolate by the ton directly from Belgium. These fine ingredients, along with Hitchcock-Hall’s creativity in recipe building and passion for the culinary arts have contributed to Hitchcock-Hall’s success and continued progress over the years. Hitchcock-Hall currently ships to all 50 states as well as 35 countries.
Hitchcock-Hall has since built a new factory and gift-shop in Downtown Midland, in a 15,000-square-foot location, which features glass windows down the entire hallway allowing customers to view inside the kitchen and watch the candy-making process. This location is usually open to the public for tours, and Hitchcock-Hall welcomes all to come visit, with the promise of free samples. Visit their website for up to date information regarding tours and operating hours.
Not surprisingly, Hitchcock-Hall has bright plans for the future. She is currently planning to add a soda fountain to the candy shop in Downtown Midland. Additionally, she is compiling a cookbook, with stories to accompany each recipe, called Dancin’ in the Kitchen with Susie, which is scheduled to go to production in the fall of 2020.
Up-and-coming entrepreneurs have much to learn from Hitchcock-Hall’s progress, hard work, and success. “When you start a business, they say keep your day job,” she said. Hitchcock-Hall kept her night job. She worked on her candy-making business by day and continued teaching dance lessons by night, in order to keep the bills paid. Hitchcock-Hall is also known to be an advocate for women, as she would arrange the work schedules of young mothers who worked for her to be in alignment with their children’s school schedules, and prevent them from paying for childcare.
Hitchcock-Hall shared her business tips for other entrepreneurs:
- Follow your dreams, but do your homework.
- Research the competition.
- Have a realistic business plan.
- Stay focused on what you are doing.
- Be honest with your bankers.
- Give back to your community.
- Be enthusiastic!
- Advertise, advertise, advertise!
Hitchcock-Hall is an example of a hard-working woman with an abundance of passion—both for dance and concocting in the kitchen—who whipped up a thriving entrepreneurship through determination and hard work. Her leadership is a significant example of creating a life around her passions and using wise business decisions to find success.
As Hitchcock-Hall continues using her creativity and passion in her business, Texans can all look for great things to come!