How did Just Jan’s come about?
After years in the film industry, a light bulb moment happened for me after reading an article in “More” magazine (a magazine geared towards women over 40). A featured article was profiling a high powered attorney who gave up a six-figure income to change gears and follow her passion into the next chapter of her life. I remember thinking, “I could do something like that.” I didn’t know what “that” was going to be.
What I did know was that I was happiest in the kitchen. After my backyard Kadota Fig tree had exploded with fruit, I had to do something with the bounty. Pots of fig jam were endlessly bubbling on my stove and I started giving away jars of the jam to family and friends.
One of my friends especially loved the jam and introduced me to her friend in the food business. And that friend encouraged me to take steps to sell it. A bit of good fortune struck while we were meeting for lunch one day. A woman at the next table overheard our jam conversation and she happened to be a food buyer for a national store and asked to try my products. She loved the jam and was interested in selling it.
From that moment, it’s been a whirlwind of activity and learning. I’ve made so many great connections through word-of-mouth and cold calls and I now have 10 flavors available for purchase. Of course, my mind is always dreaming up something new.
What is unique about Just Jan’s jam?
My fruit spreads are lower in sugar with nothing extra added. Just pure fruit flavor. They are technically fruit spreads because of their low sugar content. Lots of small-batch jam makers are making infusions of flavors, but I prefer to keep the recipes pure with fresh fruit flavor. I make what I like.
What is your favorite flavor?
I usually say fig is my favorite flavor, but at the moment, my favorite flavor is my new Tangerine Marmalade. It pairs so well with fresh ricotta—any cheese really, in a vinaigrette, as a glaze on pork or chicken.
What is most popular with customers?
Our top sellers are the Seedless Raspberry, Kadota Fig and Meyer Lemon Curd. The creativity piece is what I love. It took me twenty tries to get the lemon curd just the way I wanted it.
What has been the most rewarding part of starting your own business?
Taking my passion of creating food from a hobby to a real business. A business I love. Even as a young girl I enjoyed spending time in the kitchen. Now my work is in a kitchen and I love creating new recipes to share.
Can you tell us about your name: Just Jan’s?
I named the company “Just Jan’s” because I wanted the flexibility to make and sell more than just jam and fruit spreads.
When I shared the name with my mother, she smiled. My father died before I was born but he had told my mom that she was going to have a little girl. He said, “I want you to name her Jan. Just Jan.” I had forgotten that story but at that moment, I knew the name was very special.
What learning experience has helped you most to succeed?
I’ve learned to trust my gut, hold my breath and jump. Learning how to ask questions, do research, and put myself out there even if I get a “no” has been key. The whole creating and selling experience has helped me to get my groove back. You can’t help but succeed if you’re doing what you love every day. Now I can’t imagine doing anything else.
What advice can you offer others starting their own business at 50 and beyond?
Figure out what you’re passionate about. What gets you excited? At 50 we know what our gifts are and truly understand the concept of “if not now, when”? You will find doors that will open. Be comfortable with who you are as a person. What do you have to lose?
Are you working on any new flavors or plans for the new year?
I am currently working on two new flavors. One I call “Not just another strawberry” and also balsamic caramelized onions. On the Just Jan’s website, we are always finding new ways to creatively use the products in recipes.
I’ve also partnered with a cookie company on a new venture. We make a shortbread thumbprint cookie mix and a baked cookie filled with my Meyer Lemon Curd and Seedless Raspberry Spread. It’s exciting to come up with new ways to use fruit spreads. It’s not just for toast anymore!
*Giveaway open to US Residents