How to start a small jams business

Written by karen ellis
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How to start a small jams business
Jam and Jelly for Sale (Flickr)

Everyone who has tasted your homemade jams and jellies has raved and asked for more. That's why you know you have a great product with unique flavour combinations. The idea of running a business of your own has always appealed to you. After running your boss' business for the last 15 years, you have no doubt that you know what you're doing. You just don't know how to get started.

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  1. 1

    Brand your product. Come up with a name that not only says jams and jellies, but is something that people will remember. You'll also want a logo as unique as the name you've chosen. If you aren't good with graphic arts, have a professional put your ideas into something concrete. Use your logo on all of your labels, stationery and business cards.

  2. 2

    Visit your county extension office to find out if you can legally make your jams and jellies in your home kitchen. Some states actually allow you to do just that. However, other states require your home kitchen to be certified or that you make your product in a certified kitchen. If you must use a certified kitchen, there are some less expensive ways to accomplish your goal other than renting out one full time. Some restaurants, bakeries or coffee houses aren't open at night or in the morning. Talk to the manager about renting the kitchen facilities. Other possibilities include churches, community centres or senior centres.

  3. 3

    Apply for a business license and a tax identification number if your state collects sales tax. You will also need this number to purchase your materials wholesale.

  4. 4

    Price your product. Before selling your jams and jellies you must make sure you are making a profit. List all of the ingredients that goes into one jar of each type of jam or jelly you will sell. Include the rent for a certified kitchen, if necessary, and you may have fees for markets at which you will sell to the public. List all of your extra expenses. You must include these in your product price. After you know what your jams and jellies cost you to make, a good rule of thumb is to double that amount to arrive at a good starting retail price.

  5. 5

    Sell your jams and jellies at local farmers markets, Saturday markets and holiday fairs. Because you already look professional and you have a great product, your jams and jellies have a good chance of selling well. Word of mouth is a good start for free advertising.

  6. 6

    Make appointments with managers of gourmet food stores and gift stores to talk to them about carrying your jams and jellies. Be prepared with a good speech. Prepare a brochure, a sample jam or jelly and business card to leave with the manager.

  7. 7

    Create a website to sell your jams and jellies online. Also, contact websites you think might carry your products or that will allow you to sell on their site.

  8. 8

    Market your jams and jellies. Part of marketing are samples. Have samples on crackers for people to taste at markets and fairs where you sell your product. Get some free advertising by sending a press release to your local newspapers. Consider purchasing banner ads that will direct traffic to your website. Writing articles for your site about ways to use your jams and jellies in recipes and offering a newsletter are excellent marketing tools that will help sell your product.

  9. 9

    Keep good records. Your jam and jelly business will run more smoothly if your bookkeeping records are up to date. You will need to be able to find information easily without having to shuffle through a mountain of paperwork that you haven't taken care of. Besides, whether your state requires you to collect sales tax or you will need to file and pay income taxes, having your books in order makes a distasteful job manageable. Check with an accountant as to how and when you will need to pay your taxes.

Tips and warnings

  • When you start your jam and jelly business, keep a separate current account from your personal one. When you begin making a profit and wish to pay yourself, just write a check to yourself from the business account.
  • Another consideration is small business insurance. You may need "contents" insurance and liability insurance. Discuss this with a professional insurance agent.
  • Know your competition. Have you researched to see what others are selling in the your area? Do your jams and jellies stand out from theirs? Are your prices competitive? Do your best to offer something different, something more, something unique.
  • Keep good records. Your jam and jelly business will run more smoothly if your bookkeeping records are up-to-date.

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