By Rhea Riley
Michelle Pitts is a woman of faith and determination who’s born and raised in the streets of Milwaukee, and she has worked her way up to owning and operating business after business. At the young age of 22, she vowed to never work for anyone else ever again and she didn’t. Through her faith and resilience, Pitts has become a local symbol for the modern-day Black female entrepreneur embodying empowerment, independence and strength.
Initially Pitts never wanted to be an entrepreneur instead she wanted to be a mother. Nurtured in the church, Pitts looked up to the women within the congregation, and at home she idolized her mother.
Pitts said her mother was the strength of her family. After being married at a young age and raising seven children, her mother went back to school for her high school diploma then her college degree to become a registered nurse.
“My mom, believe it or not, has always been my real true hero,” said Pitts. “That is where my real strength came from.”
Pitts’ plans into sole motherhood were shifted into entrepreneurship once she married her first husband, Henry Redd. Pitts and Redd began their business first ventures by selling popcorn and watermelons for $2 throughout the streets of Milwaukee. At that time, food was the only commodity not sold excessively within the Black community.
From then on Pitts and Redd established Redd’s Snappers Seafood. Within the business’s 30-year span, the couple opened five locations across the Milwaukee area.
Pitts later divorced Redd. In 1995 she married Terrance Pitts and this marriage again changed her life as a business woman, she said.
“God was getting me ready for what I go through today,” Michelle said about her full-circle moment while being married to Terrance. “Now I look at so many people and go through the hardship that I went through with him.”
Terrance later died that same year due to terminal cancer and left his family business to Pitts. In 1996, Pitts took over ownership of the funeral home, under a new name: The New Pitts Mortuary.
At the time, she managed both her Redd’s Snapper business and the funeral home. In 2004, she decided to take full reign of the funeral home and became the director. Back then, they were taking about 24 cases a year. In 2007, the business had up to 300 cases, even missing some due to the demand.
“I’ve always been a person that loved helping people, I’ve always known that I am a true server,” said Pitts.
Admittedly afraid at first, Pitts knew she had the challenge of becoming comfortable with death. Pitts states her time running the funeral has been a call from God.
Through Terrance’s passing, Pitts realized that her purpose was to care for people. She states that being there to comfort and support Terrance was her preparation for her life at the funeral home. Now she uses her guidance from God, and the care instilled through her life, to be a server to those in their grieving process.
“My faith is huge because I believe there isn’t a thing in this world you can’t accomplish,” said Pitts. “I believe if God put it here. He put it here for you to have.”
There have been challenges while running the 50-year-old business, especially with being the only Black female funeral home owner in the area. Pitts has also faced hardships with owning a Black-owned business and remaining in the community.
“I’m always looking for us to work with,” Pitts said about supporting other local Black businesses. “I’m always looking for us to support.”
Pitts continues to work through her faith to change lives one smile at a time. She hopes that her role as an entrepreneur adds to the conversation of representation for young Black girls aspiring to be businesswomen. She encourages those like her to keep pushing and believing in themselves because they will get there.
To learn more about The New Pitts Mortuary visit: https://www.newpittsmortuary.com