Turning Cherry Waste Into Gold

Michelle White began her career working with cherries in a food processing plant, an experience that would catapult her development of Michelle's Miracle Original Tart Montmorency Cherry Concentrate.

White was dismayed by farmers having to dump their cherries on the ground to get paid for the chemicals they used to grow and fertilize. At the same time, there were several older people who were asking for the leftover tart cherry juice to help with their arthritis and various other ailments.

As White researched these claims, she found plenty of scientific evidence proving the health benefits of tart cherries. This is no surprise to most of us who live in the Cherry Capital of the world, but thanks to Michelle's Miracle, there are now believers nationwide who are buying into the power of cherries, too.

A 2011 promotion on The Dr. Oz Show about the health benefits of tart cherries didn't hurt either. Now Michelle's Miracle is available in Whole Foods stores across the United States and sales continue to grow.

Did you expect such rapid growth since you began in 2001?

This idea morphed into something much bigger than I ever considered possible. If you had told me it was possible to grow so fast that you can go out of business, I would have said you were crazy. If you had told me we'd become a national brand, I would have said the same thing.

I was just thinking that there was a need, and I have a solution, and I'd learn the rest as I went. What is a balance sheet? I had to learn it all. We hit every brick wall there is, not just once, but several times.

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs in northern Michigan?

Get some advisors that can help you anticipate the fires. I didn't anticipate the fires that we've had to face.

As an example, what are we going to do if there is a crop failure and don't have any supply? What if your only supplier decides they are not going to make your bottle anymore only three days before deliveries are due and you're already back ordered?

But I didn't have a backup plan, because we were too busy putting out fires. We were completely reactive instead of being proactive some of the time. We entrepreneurs are visionaries by nature, and we need realists to help us plan. I have come to realize that realist + visionary = sky is the limit!

Also, everybody says at some point, "I thought of that!" when they see a unique or interesting product. I continue to come up with ideas related to this business, and ideas that are not, and I might pursue some of them.

I think I am hard-wired to be an entrepreneur, and these thoughts continually come to me. Many of the ideas don't have anything to do with the topic at hand. I expect that I will continue to act on the good ones! Do something with your ideas; don't dismiss them!

How do you manage your time?

When I get into the day I tend to be all over the place dealing with what needs my attention. What I do now, though, is seek balance.

For many years I felt that I had to return that call or that email immediately. There was so much stress that it was affecting my health and happiness, and it was all self-inflicted. Of course, you need to follow through on what you commit to do and have integrity when dealing with people.

But like everything else in life you must have balance as an entrepreneur. It's OK to choose yourself and your family first. We are all a little crazy with our smart phones and the urgency we think we need to have in responding to each other. Working 24/7 is not a requirement, so don't make it one.

The list never stops. I used to feel like I was trying to go up a sand dune in a wheelchair. I have come to realize that if I get the top three things on the list done, then I feel good about what I've accomplished for the day.

Where does the company go from here, and what are your expectations?

We are rocking busy! We are distributed coast-to-coast in Whole Foods, and I expect that to continue. Dr. Oz's five-minute, 23-second segment on tart cherries was exactly what I would have said about tart cherries and their benefits!

Since then we have not stopped. I feel very good about where we are, and we have done it against all odds. I think we have helped thousands of people with their health. We have helped some farmers survive by giving them a market for their crop.

It's been quite an experience, and even if it ended today, I would not have a single regret.