An entrepreneur who runs Black-owned grocery store Living Fresh Market in Chicago’s western suburbs has opened her doors not only to customers but also to aspiring Black entrepreneurs. With this groundbreaking initiative, she aims to provide a platform for Black-owned businesses to thrive in the community.

Melody Winston, senior executive of Living Fresh Market, held an in-store event on Saturday that served as a launching pad for minority vendors to enter the marketplace. She takes pride in providing space for small-business owners to highlight their services and gain more customers.

As one of the largest Black-owned markets in the United States, Living Fresh Market holds a special significance for Winston and the broader community it serves.

“We help get products to the shelves,” Winston told the Chicago Tribune. “Once they’re here, they can get to any store. It starts here.”

The event was bustling with vendors displaying their products; among them was Michele Hoskins, the creator of Michele Foods. She was passing out samples of her renowned breakfast syrup to attendees.

The special syrup recipe originated from America Washington, a former slave and Hoskins’ great-great-great-grandmother and the sole daughter in the family. In the 1800s, Washington devised this recipe as a replacement for molasses in the household of her plantation owner, according to the company website.

Hoskins recalled going through a divorce in the 1980s and attempting to figure out how to support her three daughters. Determined, she ventured into marketing the syrup, ultimately transforming it into a retail success.

“I used to pray that I would sell 12 bottles a month. Now I sell 12 bottles per minute,” Hoskins shared with the Tribune. “We started with three ingredients and now we’re at 10,000 stores nationwide.”

Hoskins has even more reasons to take pride in her business. This year marks the 40th anniversary of Michele Foods since its founding in 1984.

The event at Living Fresh Market also highlighted other entrepreneurs, such as chef Dominique Leach from Lexington Betty Smokehouse and Stephanie Hart, the proprietor of Brown Sugar Bakery, per the Tribune.

Winston’s efforts aim to increase visibility for Black-owned businesses and foster connections between minority entrepreneurs and potential customers.