Thursday, November 15, 2012

handmade happiness | the jam stand

Handmade Happiness is a series featuring young entrepreneurs who have taken their passions and talents and turned them into full-time gigs. For more info on why I wanted to share these stories, start here!

First off, thanks to everyone who shared their excitement after yesterday's post about starting this series. I think professional happiness is a huge part of leading a fulfilled and joyful life, and I hope that some of you out there are inspired by stories shared here.

We're kicking things off with two jazzy jam-makers from the Brooklyn area! I met Jessica Quon and Sabrina Valle at UF when we were all in the same sorority, Delta Gamma. They were a few years ahead of me, but I was always struck by how bubbly and fun they were - personalities that would definitely shine through in their future business endeavor.

Introducing... The Jam Stand

The journey began when Sabrina took a study abroad trip to Argentina in college. While at a local market one day, she tasted jams made from berries in the surrounding area and decided that when she returned to the states she wanted to learn how to make such bold and flavorful jams. Jessica was up for the challenge too, and soon the two friends began experimenting with different flavors and recipe combinations. After graduation, their marketing degrees took them both to New York City for corporate jobs, but when friends and family expressed an overwhelming interest in their delicious jams, they decided to hop off the corporate train and start jammin' full-time. And so The Jam Stand was born.

A quick look at their website and you can tell this is no ordinary jam, though. They've managed to come up with interesting and modern flavor combinations, as well as new ways to incorporate jam into surprising recipes. I mean, come on, you can't help but smile when you see jam names like "You're My Boy, Blue-berry," "Razzy Gabby and a Side of Jalepeño" (after their friend who suggested the now popular raspberry/jalepeño combo), and "Drunken Monkey" (which includes sugar-coated bananas and a splash of rum. I've got my eye on this one!)

Now that you know a little bit about what Jessica and Sabrina do, let's hear a bit about how they got there!

Have you always been the entrepreneurial type, or do you find it surprising that you both are business owners before hitting 30?
We have always been the entrepreneurial type. We might not have known it at the time, but at 18 we both separately chose to go to school for marketing, propelling us in the business direction. As naturally crafty ladies, we've always gotten together to pick up odd projects and while we were at it would discuss the idea of starting a business together. We basically combined those 2 qualities and here we are---

At what point did you realize that you wanted to stop making jam on the side and start working on the business full-time?
We were making Jam as a hobby and planning on making a new flavor. We put it online and told friends that if they wanted to place an order we were accepting payments via PayPal. We ended up getting WAY more orders than expected and realized that it was something people were actually interested in. We then formed a LLC and started signing up for local NY markets. Everything just kind of took off from there.

What were your fears leaving your jobs to start your own business?
Leaving a steady job is definitely scary. NYC is an expensive place and there is a lack of security in owning your own business. We knew what we had to do and hustled to make it work.

Did either of you have experience selling a product when you started out? How did you learn about things like packaging, distribution, pricing, etc.?
Prior to The Jam Stand, Sabrina was working in retail buying and Jessica was working in social media marketing. Both of these things proved to be EXTREMELY useful. That being said, it was still growth by trial and error and connecting with the right people to assist us along the way. We turned to a lot of food producers who were in similar situations years prior and asked for their advice. It's amazing how friendly everyone has been in our food community. We've all been there at one point or another and want to help each other grow.

I see that The Jam Stand jams have made their way to several stores in New York. How did you first approach store owners to get them to carry your product?
We compiled a list of all of the stores we thought would be good fits for our brand/product and just started reaching out. There was a lot of showing up with jam in hand and asking to meet with the buyers or business owners. As we began to grow, so did our press. Now a lot of stores hear about The Jam Stand from one place or another and reach out to us.

I work with my boyfriend everyday so I know what it's like when a personal relationship becomes professional relationship. Do you feel like working together has changed your relationship at all?
If anything we've become a lot closer! We are like sisters and have actually begun to finish each other's sentences. We think alike and balance each other out.

What about your dynamic makes you great partners for each other?
We do a good kitchen dance together. While we are very similar people in general, some of the qualities one of us lacks, the other excels in. We think it is a pretty synergistic partnership. It's wonderful how our relationship just naturally grew to be so. So much, it can sometimes be creepy!

What has been your greatest challenge to overcome since you started The Jam Stand?
Finding personal time for ourselves. There is always work to be done, and convincing yourself to turn it off for a minute of relaxation is sometimes hard to do.

What advice do you have to someone a few years out of college thinking about starting their own business?
DO IT! It will be the best decision you've ever made.

There you have it folks - JUST DO IT!

My favorite part of Sabrina and Jessica's story is that they basically started with a vision that they believed in, and they knew they'd continue to learn and evolve the business part as they went along. It takes a lot of courage to go out on a limb and just start a business, but it looks like these two are using their friendship, their fun-loving spirits and their vision for sharing delicious and unique jam to fuel their success.

Thanks for sharing your story with us, ladies, and keep on keepin' on! I'll definitely be ordering a few batches of Drunken Monkey for some holiday gifts!

// Order some jam!

// Keep up with The Jam Stand: on Facebook | on Twitter | on Tumblr

// Watch the video on the story behind The Jam Stand!

// If you know a young entrepreneur that might fit the bill and want to be featured on CCH, please shoot me an email or leave a comment with their contact info below!

*All photos courtesy of The Jam Stand!


  1. I'm loving this series already! Do you follow It's a great resource for entrepreneurs as well. You should look in to doing a guest post for them!
    Also, inspired by your fall wreath post, I finally made my non-seasonally-festive felt wreath this weekend. It's purple and ruffled and beribboned since I didn't have to bow to the challenge of compromise.

  2. Erica, so glad you like the series. I had a feeling this would be right up your alley... And I love Inc. - it's actually one of the few mag subscriptions we have. I also love the feature on Etsy's blog "Quit Your Day Job." I always find it inspiring. And your wreath sounds splendidly girly! Glad you made one!