Growing up in El Paso, Texas, Stephanie admittedly came from a meat and potatoes family. The youngest of 4 children, her parents were school teachers and eating out at restaurants was simply not in the budget. She credits her husband, and by default her father-in-law, for expanding her palate. Her father-in-law was a restaurant reviewer for Texas Monthly magazine. Her mother-in-law is a very good cook who encouraged Stephanie by having friendly cooking competitions once a week. This was not only a challenge but a learning experience as well. Stephanie was able to perfect recipes by keeping detailed notes from each dish she prepared. Her husband has been supportive throughout the entire process and helped build her confidence on a personal level with cooking. When that passion was ignited, he went on to be her cheerleader in business as well.
Stephanie had the entrepreneurial bug early on. Her parents instilled a solid work ethic and while they may not have made gourmet meals, they did provide a lot of love and laughter around the table. Those feelings stuck with her when she left El Paso to attend the University of Texas in Austin, receiving her BS in textile and apparel. After realizing there wasn’t a future in that industry if she wanted to support herself, she pivoted and did HR work and bookkeeping on the side. Her creative personality was always in play, and coming up with ideas has never been a problem for Stephanie. She had a wedding cake business, a calligraphy business (she even addressed Laura Bush’s 60th birthday party invitations), and became a recipe writer for an online publication.
With 2 young children at home and her husband working full-time in the corporate world it is inspiring, to say the least, that Stephanie was able to push her goals into fruition. Sometimes the most unlikely events can positively shape your future. In this case it was the diagnosis of Leukemia her father-in-law received. Stephanie’s husband was going back and forth between their home in Austin to Dallas to be with his Dad. Knowing that was not sustainable and becoming a strain on their family, they collectively relocated to Dallas, her husband’s hometown. Thankfully they were able to provide support and care at the end of her father-in-law’s life.
They ended up liking Dallas more than they originally thought, and Stephanie never lost her passion for food. A friend taught her to make jam, and they decided to sell some at local Farmer’s Markets as a way to earn some extra money for Christmas. When customers began calling and requesting Jammit Jam for parties, gatherings and as gifts she knew she had a winning product. Not long after that in 2015, she was approached by Central Market, the mecca of specialty grocery stores and is currently in 120 store locations nationwide. You can find Jammit Jam in specialty gift shops, cheese shops and other gourmet stores as well as online.
When I asked Stephanie if she was scared or nervous at the prospect of fulfilling such an enormous obligation to Central Market she said, “Yes, but you can’t say no to opportunity.” Knowing she didn’t have all the answers, her husband encouraged her to just say yes and figure out the rest later. Like all businesses, growing pains are unavoidable. At the end of 2018 her friend who taught her to make jam decided that she wanted to get back to her life of travel. While splitting up is never easy in friendship or business, in this case it was necessary for Jammit Jam to grow into the brand it is today.
Stephanie acknowledges she is in a position where she can take some risks because of the security her husband’s job provides. However, it shouldn’t stop you from pursuing your dreams. She had a book keeping side hustle for years to afford her the opportunity to work on her own businesses. While it may seem like the ultimate goal to be discovered by a big company early on, she did lack knowledge of how grocery stores and distributors work internally. She admitted she was at a disadvantage not making more connections that may have benefitted her during the growing process. Her advice is to find like-minded small business owners to mentor you and listen to your customers. In fact, customer feedback fueled her desire to continue developing unique flavor profiles like her personal favorite, Cherry Clove Cabernet.
While Covid has thrown virtually every business for a loop this year, Jammit Jam has seen some positive outcome from an otherwise unfortunate situation. All the wholesale markets went online, furthering her brand and product’s exposure nationwide. Not having to travel has allowed her more time with her family and to work on developing new jam flavors like Holiday Cranberry Jam, Blackberry with Star Annise and Spicy Fig with Ruby Port Wine.
Her cornbread and biscuit mixes are her family’s recipes from her childhood, and they accompany Jammit Jam to make a perfect gift that anyone can appreciate. Coupled with the support of her family, the force behind Jammit Jam is one determined woman who refuses to give up. I hope you join me this year and beyond in supporting small businesses like Jammit Jam and the people behind them striving to bring you the highest quality products from sources you can trust.
To purchase products from Jammit Jam, click here.