9/06/13

               I’m on vacation at Crater Lake.  Although this time is about relaxing, it’s also time for reflection.  Although I can’t physically make jams, I’ve still got plenty of thoughts “stirring” around.  Yes, it is hard to turn the jam making hamsters-on-a-wheel thoughts off. 

               I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t written a blog in a while.  I get great ideas—lots of them—and then get caught up in the day-to-day stuff of my biz, and nothing gets written. 

               Anyway…what a booming time!  I’m much busier than last year and I feel my biz is starting to get roots in the local Portland Foodie Scene.  It’s a great time to be a foodie entrepreneur, but that’s another blog entry.

               The first cool thing is that I bought a 6 gallon steam kettle.  It is a piece of machinery with about a 3 x 3 footprint.  It is a stainless steel cauldron type vessel that has double walls with water vapor inside them.  The heating elements makes the vapor into steam and it heats the product (jam) evenly all around the kettle.  The advantage to this is that there isn’t a hot spot on the bottom like with a traditional cooktop.  Plus, it gets hot enough that I can fry off the bacon and then simmer it down with the rest of the ingredients for my bacon jam! 

               Yes, the 6 gallon capacity is awesome!  However, I have realized that it doesn’t take long before I have made more jam than I can package and process in one night.  I rent time in a bakery after hours and often drive home sticky and bleary eyed after a long night.

               Enter the helpers—Lisa & Ruby have been my main helpers as kitchen prep and babysitters for my daughter, Evi.  They and another helper, Leah, are the college-aged daughters of my tennis team mates.  I was lucky to have such a ready source of summer labor! 

               However, that pool is drying up as the girls, one by one, go back to school.  My next source of labor will be from the farmer’s markets.  As many vendors fold up their tents and hibernate for the winter, my second season kicks off. 

               I’m lucky in that way—I get two seasons—the farmer’s markets and then the holiday craft fairs.  Yep, I just put a bird, er bow, on it and voila!  October and the first part of November are so-so for sales, but boy, oh boy, things get crazy right up to Christmas.  I love to see the people swooping up armloads of jam not only for themselves, but giving it as gifts.  What great advertising around the country and the world!

               This year I’ve already been thinking about how I can maximize my time and get maximum exposure during that time.  Last year I ended up at a couple of dud shows by waiting too long to sign up for them.  I made the mistake of waiting until Oct/Nov to start my holiday preparation-but now I know I should really start in July and August. 

               I’m going to concentrate on making gift boxes of my best sellers so people can just grab and go.  This year I also have professionally designed labels with the nutritional information and bar code on it.  A fellow crafter made some really cool wooden boxes specifically for my jams.  He makes them from scraps from a pallet making plant.  I like that they are made from reclaimed wood and how functional they are long after the fruit spreads are gone. 

               Lastly, I finally have a steady retail location!  Ten of my spreads are at Local Choice Market, 9th & Everett, in the Pearl.  To me, this feels like the “Big Time.”  I usually end up doing a demo there a couple hours each weekend.  People are sometimes surprised to meet me, MeeMee, the maker of all of the Goodies.  The shoppers and especially the staff at Local Choice have been very supportive and appreciative of my hard work on the fruit spreads.  Plus, you can find Just Raspberry & Just Blueberry spreads only at this location. 

               The demos go well, but it’s usually during the time when I’m at one of my weekend farmer’s market.  I have had to trust my 100 sf of vendor real estate to others.  I feel like an over protective mother when I give so many instructions to my helpers!  It always turns out fine, but until now, my husband has been the only one to tread on this sacred ground. 

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