Entrepreneur’s Story: Hickory Harvest– April 16, 2019 by Randy Myeroff

In this installment of Entrepreneur’s Story, highlighting the journey of successful private companies and their leaders, we turn to Joe Swiatkowski of Hickory Harvest Foods in Akron, Ohio. Tapped to run the family business well before he ever expected, Joe has thrived and created an ongoing culture of growth and success.
Below is an excerpt from his story featured in the fall 2018 issue of Taxonomics.


Two years after he joined the company, his grandfather, the founder, passed away. Then, within four years, his father, George, died unexpectedly. “It was never supposed to be like that, but suddenly it was put on my mom’s shoulders because she was the surviving spouse, and it was early in the succession planning because my dad was just 51,” Joe says. “My dad and my grandpa were truly my mentors and the people I looked up to the most.”
Darlene Swiatkowski agrees that the succession had to be put into fast-forward. “Joe was in the business and basically had to step in and fill his father’s shoes,” she says. Joe’s brother, Mike, also joined the business after their dad passed and spent 14 years there before moving onto other ventures. Darlene still works three days a week, after 31 years. “The business will always be a part of my life and something I feel proud of and responsible for because the name represents our family, and we have employees who depend on us.”
Read the full story in Taxonomics to learn more about how Joe has helped the business navigate regulatory complexities and leverage opportunities to continue his family’s legacy.

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