Meet the Founders:
Jane Casey + Charlene Yeager
of Fancy Panz
Fancy Panz is like the little black dress for those less-than-lovely aluminum serving pans. Founder sisters Jane Casey and Charlene Yeager saw a need in their lives, which lead to a must- have for anyone who has walked into a potluck or party, wishing their dish looked as good as they did!
01 Why did you start Fancy Panz?
As cliché as it sounds, I found there was a need for it! I didn’t set out to invent something; I was grateful and happy as a full time cook, tutor, therapist, and housekeeper (also known as a stay-at-home mom)!
Fancy Panz was a product that I was searching for and couldn’t find. I had a vision of what I wanted and, when I couldn’t find it, I drew it out with a pencil on an index card (think stick figure artist!). Then, I enlisted the opinion and work ethic of my sister who was just as enthusiastic as I was about the idea and just as hard-working as me. We created a partnership and started our on-the-job training!
02 What obstacles did you face along the way?
Because we were totally unfamiliar with manufacturing, we had to learn how to navigate through every phase the best we could. Researching where to go, how to get there, and who to ask. I’m not sure that I would call this an obstacle, but it was time consuming and very frustrating at times. We tried to stay focused and kept our eye on the bigger picture.
Our first real obstacle resulted in a launch date setback. Our injection mold was essentially worthless. After three months of design and four months of building, the mold did not produce a useful part. Finished parts didn’t fit together. Tabs were either too small or too loose. The clear window didn’t snap in right. The mold could not be fixed, so we had to literally abandon it and have the factory melt it down. We had to start all over, invest in a new mold, and change factories in the interim.
03 What lessons do you have for other entrepreneurs?
I had to learn to be patient and humble. That meant posing questions to industry professionals, friends, family, and the general public.
My advice is to listen to opinions and advice from others while doing your own research. Be armed with as much knowledge as possible; it takes time, but it will prove to be your strongest weapon.
The invention itself is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s the foundation and your starting point – the real work is still ahead. Trust your instinct, remain confident and focused, and don’t let the fear of the unknown dull your passion.
04 What’s on the horizon for Fancy Panz?
2020 is going to be an amazing year for Fancy Panz! We will be introducing a beautiful deviled egg tray with a cold pack that can be placed in the Fancy Panz and used to transport these potluck staples to your next event while keeping them cool.
We do have something very special that we have a huge demand for, but we’re keeping it a secret until the great reveal this summer!
05 How do you keep work/life balance? What drives/inspires you?
Work/life balance is easier now that the five kids that Charlene and I have between us are either in college or have started their careers. We had to adjust to being empty nesters, but the time and energy that Fancy Panz requires actually helped in that transition! The timing was perfect.
Still, we both remain very cognizant of our priorities – family is always No. 1. We make each workday productive and use our time effectively so that when we leave the office, we know we gave it 100%. Tomorrow is a new day to conquer. We still make it a point to go on date nights and occasional weekend getaways with our husbands. And, every Sunday is family day, regardless of how old our kids get.
I would say the successes and endless possibilities of entrepreneurship are our biggest drivers. The challenges, the relationships, the constant learning, the failures, and our desire to push the limits – they all keep us going.
But, the greatest motivation of all is hearing my kids say “I’m so proud of you, Mom.”