We recently interviewed Miranda, entrepreneur, and jam lover based in Portland, Oregon. Her jams have been featured at farmers’ markets, in blogs and magazines, and even in Saveur. Today, we are pleased to share her entrepreneurial journey with you, in her own words.
I've been interested in food my whole life. After college, I apprenticed with a chocolatier here in Portland. I did that for 4 years, and then moved to New York in 2009 to pursue a MA in Food Studies at NYU. After that, I bounced around in the food media world, working at Food & Wine magazine and Food52.com, among others. I moved home to Portland in 2012, and was lucky to land a job at local cocktail magazine Imbibe, but after a few years there I finally allowed myself to realized that I didn't want to work in food and drink media. I missed the physicality of food.
In my chocolatiering days, jam was a hobby. I made jam for myself, for friends and for a brief while for Podnah's brunch back when they were super small and still on NE 15th & Prescott. They served my jams as Miranda's Jam. It was mostly just for fun, but years later, I found myself thinking about how I might dip my toes back into the world of food making. I decided to see if Miranda's Jam could be something I could actually bring to life and make into a career. I wanted to call it something that told a bit more of a story than "Miranda's Jam" and so I decided to call it Plum Tree Jam, named for my a plum tree in my mom’s backyard in northwest Portland. Her tree gave so much fruit one year that I decided to teach myself how to make jam to use up all the fruit. The rest is history!
The Business Outreach Program run by Portland State University has been huge in helping me get my feet on the ground as far as the world of business goes. My background is in food writing and food making, not business. I also took advantage of the Mercy Corps NW Business Foundations class, a six-week course that covers the necessary basics for launching a small business. I am also fortunate to have a small business accountant for a Mother-in-Law. She helped me launch the business on the right foot, as far as legal licensing and registrations go. I also asked friends in the food world for advice as I was just getting started. I have a lot of curiosity, and I think my background in writing and research was helpful in terms of figuring out the initial how-to of starting a business.. As the business grows, I find that my understanding of business concepts also must grow, so it's a neverending journey. I am never bored.
Every time sales take a dip, or I am in a slow, no-market season (usually January through March), I have fears that things will never pick up again or somehow I am just a huge failure. I push through by allowing myself a day off here and there to refresh. I'll plan to take a day off, which is unbelievably easy to forget to do when you are a one-person business. Allowing myself a day where I don't look at email, don't worry about social media, etc etc etc. can do wonders for my morale and for renewing my enthusiasm for Plum Tree.
Sometimes a great day at the farmers market will fix my mood, and so if that syncs up with a period of time when I am feeling blue, that's pretty lucky. If people are friendly and loving the jams, it'll renew my passion. I love to watch people try my jams for the first time. It makes me feel confident and so happy and purely satisfied.
Reaching the end of your day and feeling like you did work you're proud of is an incredible feeling. I also love starting the day and looking forward to what's on my to-do list (or at least not dreading it). If you are a woman thinking of opening your own business, I would advise you to reach out to entrepreneurs you admire and ask for help getting started. A huge part of entrepreneurship is about being afraid and doing things anyway. Get used to feeling a little afraid, and jump on in! Don't brain drain or waste someone's time, but see if someone you admire would be willing to meet you for a cup of coffee. Engage in the business community and find mentors. You'll be surprised how many people are willing to help out, or at least offer encouragement.
Quite a few people have helped me along the way, but in particular I have found a friend in Sarah Marshall of Marshall's Haute Sauce. She's generous and warm, and I really admire her. Early on, I introduced myself to her and asked her the occasional question here and there and she's always been kind enough to answer. I hope I haven’t used up too much of her time, as I know she’s a busy lady! I also hope I can help out other women who are just getting started in the same way that she has helped me. Many of our small local food businesses here in Portland are women-owned, and I am so glad to be a part of that particular community of women. It's an exceptionally supportive and inspiring—not to mention ever-growing— group of people.
To learn more about Miranda and buy some of her delicious jam, check out www.plumtreejam.com
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