Siméus, Dumas M. 1940–
Dumas M. Siméus 1940–
Food company executive
Since he was a child, Dumas Siméus has worked to achieve his goals. When he bought a food company in 1996 and renamed it Siméus Foods International, he set a goal of having a billion-dollar company within five years. His company, which is a leading producer of custom food products for the restaurant industry, was on its way toward that goal with revenues of over 200 million in 1999. Siméus Foods International was ranked by Black Enterprise magazine in 1999 as the largest black-owned business in Texas and the 11th-largest in the nation. His company also ranks among the Top 100 food processors in the United States.
Born to livestock farmers in the village of Pont-Sondé, Haiti, Siméus was the oldest of 12 children. He recounted to the Star Telegram (Arlington, Texas) how, as an eight-year-old boy, he would stand on a dock in Haiti and watch the ships that were bound for France and the United States, “I wanted to go where they were going. I created a vision of being in one of those countries one day, of going to school, of becoming an entrepreneur.” By listening to the “Voice of America” radio program, Siméus learned that the United States was a land of opportunity. He earned his high school diploma, and then worked for an American employee of the State Department in Haiti to earn the money he needed to emigrate. However, the house cleaning, irrigation projects, and many other jobs he undertook were not quite enough. Siméus’ parents gave him the rest of what was needed by selling a small portion of their land and, in 1961, he moved to the United States.
Siméus found that the glowing reports of life in the United States that he’d heard on the radio program were not entirely true. Things were different in the United States from what he’d experienced in Haiti. “In Haiti, it was more of a caste system than anything else,” he told The Star Telegram. “There, if you have an education, you’re integrated into society. But the extent of the segregation in the United States shocked the hell out of me.” Siméus attended Florida A& M for one semester. Segregation prevented him from enrolling at Louisiana State University, so he attended Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana instead. Siméus eventually enrolled at Howard University in Washington, D.C., a school that traditionally welcomed African American and foreign students. While attending college, he also worked at a variety of jobs. When Siméus received his degree in electrical engineering, he received 27 job offers. He went to work as an electrical design engineer for Standard Oil, and then worked for Rockwell International. Five years after receiving his bachelor degree, Siméus worked on his MBA, receiving the degree from the University of Chicago. He then went on to work as vice president of international operations for Atari, Inc., a 2 billion video game and computer company, where he was responsible for5,000 employees worldwide and over 1 billion in revenues. He also served as vice president of Latin American operations for Bendix Corporation, a 2.5 billion automotive parts manufacturer. Later, as CEO of Hartz Pet Food International, a 120 million subsidiary of Hartz Mountain Corporation, Siméus was
At a Glance…
Born in Pont-Sondé, Haiti, 1940; son of Mécène and Bonne Siméus, livestock farmers; married; children: four. Education: Howard University, Washington D.C, B.S., 1966; University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, MBA.
Career: Electrical design engineer, Standard Oil Corporation; Rockwell International; vice president of international operations, Atari, Inc.; vice president of Latin American operations Bendix Corporation; CEO, Hartz Pet Food International; Beatrice Foods 1984–90; president and COO, TLC Beatrice International Foods 1990–92; chairman and CEO, Siméus Foods International, Inc 1996–.
Selected awards: “Mr. Leadership” award, Howard University; Southwest Area’s Entrepreneur of the Year, 1999.
Member Board of International Food service Manufacturers Association (IFMA); Chairman, Caribbean\ American Leadership Council; member Haitian\ American Business Development Council; National Organization for the Advancement of Haitians; Dallas Urban League, Ine; DF\W Minority Business Development Council.
Addresses: Office —Siméus Foods International, Inc., 812 South 5th Avenue, Mansfield, TX 76063.
Beatrice Foods was Siméus’ entry into the food industry in 1984, and he was later put in charge of the Latin American division. He became president and chief operating officer for TLC Beatrice International Foods in 1990. In 1992, Siméus decided to realize a goal he had set long ago in Haiti of becoming an entrepreneur. He resigned from Beatrice and began to look for a company to buy. His friend, Don Lawhorne, chief executive of Mesbic Ventures Holding Co., a small-business investment firm in Dallas, Texas, invited Siméus to work out of his Dallas offices while he looked for the business he wanted. Siméus tried to buy Wise Potato Chips but, as he told the Star-Telegram, “We spent about a year on it and tried very hard. I spent a lot of my money on legal fees, but they took another offer. When it didn’t go through, I cried like a baby.” He also experienced bigotry during business negotiations. Siméus recalled in a Dallas Morning News story that his negotiations with a private company went smoothly until the face-to-face meeting. “They see Dumas Siméus, black as charcoal,” he said. While the owners “tried to be polite, a couple of them specifically said, ‘You know, we spent 20 or 25 years trying to build this company, and we started it from scratch. We’re well known in the community, and I don’t think we can sell our company, regardless of the amount of money, to a black person.’”
In 1996 Siméus formed his holding company, Siméus Foods International, and then bought Portion-Trol Foods, renaming it after his holding company. He set up a deal with the previous owner, Ragstar Companies of Spartanburg, South Carolina, a large restaurant holding company, to buy 500 million in products from Siméus Foods over the next five years. Mesbic Ventures Holding Company helped finance the 55 million deal. The Mansfield, Texas, food processor already had a strong sales base with 24 years in operation supplying frozen processed foods to national restaurant chains. Siméus set to work immediately to expand the company’s offerings from 27 to over 60 items. The company added customers and created a sales and marketing department.
In 1998, Siméus took the next step in his goal toward a billion-dollar business in five years when he purchased the Forest City, North Carolina roast beef and pork processing company of Fast Food Merchandisers. With this acquisition, Siméus added to his holdings a company with sales of 70 million and 350 employees. In 1999, sales exceeded 200 million. The company headquarters would remain in Mansfield, Texas. The company offerings included soups, gravies, sauces, salsas, steaks, roast beef, hamburger patties, sausages, pork products, chicken fried steak, breaded cheese sticks, spicy rice, frozen cookie dough and other products.
Siméus believes each employee is an important part of the organization, and refers to his over 700 employees as teammates. When he was honored as the Southwest Area’s 1999 Entrepreneur of the Year in the wholesale\ distribution category of a national competition sponsored by Ernst & Young, LLP, he gave credit to his teammates, “Although the award was presented in my name, it is shared with all of my teammates at SFI,” he was quoted as saying in a company press release.
After learning of Siméus’ ambitious five-year goal of a creating a billion-dollar company, food industry experts believed that he would find it difficult to reach that goal because of the fierce competition within the food-processing industry. Never one to back down from a challenge, Siméus seems to relish challenge and told the Star Telegram, “It energizes me to be under the firing line all the time.” He slightly reset his goal, which was to have a billion dollar company by 2001, five years from purchasing the company in 1996. His new goal is to reach 1 billion through internal growth and acquisitions by 2003. He also would like to return to the corporate culture that is found within a large company. “I want to go back to the culture I’m used to,” Siméus told the Star-Telegram. “Reaching the billion-dollar mark will be some kind of milestone. It’s not to make a whole lot of money, although that’s part of it. It’s the inner desire to be the best.”
Siméus won’t stop once he has reached his goal. On a more personal level, he has set another goal, “I wish to make a profound difference in the lives of those who are less fortunate than I am,” he said in public relations literature from Siméus Foods International. He formed the Dumas M. Siméus Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports efforts to distribute money and goods among poor Haitians living in the United States and Haiti, education and vocational training, and outreach efforts in communities surrounding the company facilities in Mansfield, Texas and Forest City, North Carolina. Siméus has a long-term goal of building a hospital in his native Pont-Sondé, Haiti, where he has already made donations for building a church and feeding center. Siméus is fluent in French, Spanish, and English, and is also conversant in several other languages.
Star Telegram, March 14, 1999.
—Sandy J. Stiefer
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