Meet the Founder:
Jan Hogrewe of Just Jan’s
Sometimes a product can take you back in time, or to a warm feeling from the past. Just Jan’s is one of those. These are simple jams that remind you of home, yet they’re next level thanks to quality ingredients and care that you can taste in every jar.
01 Why did you start Just Jan’s?
I was ready for a career change and even though I was unsure what my new path would be, I was open to ideas. At the time, I was making fig jam for family and friends since my fig tree was super bountiful.
One day, when I was meeting a friend for coffee and bringing him a jar of fig spread, he introduced me to someone in the food business. After tasting a spoonful of my jam, he said he liked mine more than what was in stores and he asked if I’d ever consider doing this for a living. I said YES. No hesitation. The rest, as they say, is history.
02 What obstacles did you face along the way?
Not knowing anything about the industry beyond my love of cooking and experimenting in the kitchen, the first obstacle was getting to production at scale. It took me about a year to find a co-packer who could help me yield the same results in larger quantities. I also met with lots of fruit growers and different companies that made jams and jellies until I found one that got my palate and could do the jar sizes I wanted.
The next challenge was pricing out how much all of this was going to cost and finding customers who would take on my line. Before this, I was in the film industry and working with budgets in the thousands. Suddenly, I was in a business where I was trying to shave pennies – it was a big change. As for the customers – I was very fortunate in that my first few customers were the Cornell Winery, The Queen Mary, Blue Table- a cool restaurant), and Home Goods nationwide. That’s another story!
03 What lessons do you have for other entrepreneurs?
The first thing that comes to mind is trust your instincts. There is something to be said for the saying “trust your gut”. I truly believe that and have learned to listen and hone this skill. Be open to listening and learning and accepting help from others. Had I ignored that stranger in the coffee shop, I probably wouldn’t be where I am.
Learning is key in any career, but if you want to start something new and there’s competition in your field, you need to really dig in, roll up your sleeves, and learn everything you can about the industry . Don’t let your fear make you second guess yourself or your path. That’s a biggie.
In the course figuring out this business, I met a man who worked for a distributor and he basically tried to talk me out of starting this. He said it was a crowded field and he had so many reasons for me not to start that I left feeling a little discouraged. But, I licked my wounds and decided to move forward. I’m SO happy I listened to my instinct. There’s always room for more, especially when it’s better and unique.
04 What’s on the horizon for Just Jan’s?
We are always working on new flavors of fruit spreads. We’re also entering the gluten-free arena. Some of the products we’ve tasted when baking with our fruit spreads are just not that good. Our hope is to create a gluten-free flour blend that will make baked goods without the graininess you get from other GF flours and mixes. We are also working on another savory and spicy sauce to sit next to our award winning Tangerine Sriracha!
05 How do you keep work/life balance? What drives/inspires you?
Work/life balance is a work in progress! Since I love what I do, it’s really a lifestyle choice. Although I work harder than I have ever worked, I tend to thrive in challenging times. I have gotten better about making sure I take care of myself both physically and mentally. Taking time off, going for hikes with my dog, practicing yoga, and socializing with friends is a big part of the balance. So, I’m definitely getting better at this.
What drives me is seeing how this business keeps growing. Don’t get me wrong – there are times when it’s more than a little demanding, but the benefits outweigh the harder times. I am continuously surprised and honored by those who stop by when I’m at a public event or demo to say how much they like my products.
I think the nicest compliment is when I hear, “This tastes just like what my grandmother used to make,” or “This taste takes me home.” This makes my day and reminds me that I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. Or, as one woman said, she’s going to call me Stella, because I’m in my groove!